By Robert A. Vella
One of the many pleasures living in the U.S. Pacific Northwest is bird watching. With its rainy climate and abundant trees, the region is a perfect habitat for numerous bird species. And, you don’t have to go anywhere special to watch them. The birds are everywhere. In fact, they live with us.
There are so many various individuals living in close proximity with humans that our communities up here in this lush temperate forest could be considered as interspecies cohabitation. The daily interactions between birds as well as with people are absolutely fascinating. The ever-present house sparrows occupy the lowest rung of our shared community, I suppose, constantly chirping and zooming around with incredible speed and agility. Doves coo rhythmically searching for mates while, unfortunately, attracting predators. Brilliantly colored hummingbirds dart about like high-performance drone aircraft. Robins and starlings poke through the grassy grounds hunting plentiful earthworms and munching on ubiquitous seeds. Packs of blue jays regularly descend upon our community apparently to cause trouble. They’re like mischievous teenagers who can’t seem to leave anything alone. The crows are our wise elder-statesmen and local police who pretty much run things as they see fit, chasing away red-tailed hawks and other raiding raptors while squawking their profound opinions to any human who might listen. Even mallards hang-out with us when the grounds are wet enough. Unlike other ducks, they are quite comfortable around people (except small children, of course); although, their mating behavior leaves much to be desired. Over at the corner mini-mart, seagulls loiter in the parking lot waiting for people to drop their favorite food – potato chips.
I’m not sure why we humans want to see ourselves as special, unique creatures different from all the rest. Perhaps it’s the same reason why we want to see ourselves as different from each other. The birds here in our residential community are constantly talking, but most humans do not listen. To them, the myriad of sounds are just gibberish – like the languages of indigenous peoples must have been perceived by European colonists centuries ago. People who do take the time to watch and listen usually come to another conclusion. We are not as different as most of us would like to believe; and, on some fundamental level, we are all the same.
Take the case of the kamikaze crow. Yesterday, he or she repeatedly dodged through four lanes of highway traffic just to get a cookie someone had thrown out onto the median. Back and forth it went, landing on the telephone wires on either side of the street, swooping in low between the moving vehicles hoping to snatch the cookie on a successful pass. Time after time it barely avoided getting hit. Time after time it tried, getting little more than a few measly crumbs. I was puzzled because the crow looked plump and healthy. Why would it take such an unnecessary risk?
“You fool, you’re gonna get yourself killed,” I warned.
Squawk, squawk, squawk (“Mind your own business, jerk!”), it retorted.
A few blocks down the road, I saw a group of teenagers in a car stopped at an intersection. One of them took off his shoes, tied the laces together, and flung the pair neatly over the cabling above the crosswalk.
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked.
“Up yours, asshole,” he replied.
The crow eventually got the cookie. The teenagers got pulled over by a cop. Happy Sunday, dear readers.