It happened that, in the course of a hard-fought pursuit, a sparrow tricked a hawk into diving at its reflection in a human window. The sparrow, which had eaten seeds from the yard for many weeks, knew of the window’s presence and pulled up at the last second; the hawk did not know and was killed on impact.

Such a situation was quite unprecedented. Hawks were killed all the time in botched pursuits, but never in such a way that their prey could be blamed for the deed. The hawks claimed that their ancient prerogative as predators, recognized by all the avian elders who implicitly acquiesced thereto, had been upset by the act. They demanded the offending sparrow be surrendered to them for summary execution along with its kinsfolk–enough to equal the weight of the dead hawk.

The sparrows, for their part, held that they were well within their rights as prey to trick hawks–only the most foolish or clumsy birds would actually die or be injured, and weeding them out would actually be doing the hawks a favor. The hawk elders, they argued, implicitly recognized the right of prey to flee or defend itself.

Squabbles over the dispute continued for months; eventually the sparrows and the hawks were forced to agree to an outside party to review the situation and mediate. That was easier said than done, though, as the raptors would not countenance prey birds standing in judgement over them and the sparrows maintained that any bird of prey would be unfairly biased toward the hawk.

Eventually they agreed to ask the vultures, who ate meat but did not kill it, to mediate. Geier, the elder vulture of the area, agreed to study the case on the condition that whatever judgement he rendered be accepted without question. When the time came, this is what he said:

“We vultures can soar on thermals as well as any raptor and our talons are just as sharp, yet you have long derided us as weaklings as we do not kill. We are as clever and adept at locating food as any forager, yet the sparrows and their ilk shun us because we eat not nuts or berries but the honored dead. Our own view, that we are purifiers who guide the souls of the dead to oneness with the land, has never been seriously entertained by any but our own.”

“We will therefore carry a petition to the Creator to ask that the offending sparrow and the nestmate of the slain hawk be made to change places. Since they despise each other so, this will serve many constructive purposes from punishment to enlightenment. If they return after one full cycle of the night orb, we will hold the matter settled.”

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