The Bird Meme: Day 11

Day 11: A bird you hated

A particular Northern Flicker

Perhaps it's a consequence of my personal political beliefs, but I've never worked up any kind of hate for a species of bird. Even European Starlings, for all the damage they've inflicted on our ecosystem, aren't evil. I'm unhappy that Eugene Schieffelin saw fit to bring them to the USA for a really dumb reason (see The Verb 'To Bird', chapter 6, for the full explanation), but I don't hate the Starling as a species. I don't hate the Canada Goose for spreading our nation's landscape evenly with goose poop. I don't even hate the Plain Chacalaca for hiding from me and making me spend an entire day wandering Sapelo Island in frustration that I couldn't get a life bird in Georgia.

There have, however, been a handful of individuals who have crossed me. These are typically birds whose behavior has directly interfered with my lifestyle in some way--defecating on me or my possessions, for example. But I think the only bird I ever actually wanted to kill was one that I encountered back in high school, when my family lived on Chapel Hill's Smith Avenue. My folks had bought a freestanding bank of five condominiums, then knocked a hole between two of them to make a house for us. My brother and I had bedrooms upstairs on the outer side, with my room lying in the back corner, close to the woods behind us. That gave me a pretty good look at any bird life that came into the yard, but it also left me vulnerable in a way I hadn't expected.

Like many teenagers, I was a fairly heavy sleeper, but the sound that jolted me awake in the early grey light of one spring morning was like nothing I'd heard before: a heavy, metallic rattling that seemed to vibrate every wall of the building. After a few seconds, there was a pause, during which I tried to identify the gigantic machine that was making the sound--was someone running a pneumatic staple gun or something?--and then a moment or two later it sounded again. This time I was awake enough to be analytical, and I realized that it sounded like a woodpecker's drumming, only far, far louder, and with a very definite metallic quality. 

After lengthy peering out the window, I still wasn't any more able to explain the noise, but there was no question of going back to sleep, so I staggered through my morning routine and headed to school.

A morning or two later, it happened again, and this time I was at the window looking for information as soon as I was awake. If this wasn't a woodpecker, I wanted to know what the hell it was, and if it WAS a woodpecker, I wanted to know how it was making such a ruckus. I still didn't spot any likely suspects, but I did begin to think that the noise was not coming from anywhere in the neighborhood. It seemed to be coming from right outside my window.

As you may have guessed, the culprit eventually revealed itself after a few more days of early-morning banging: a male Yellow-shafted Flicker, eager to proclaim its territory to the surrounding birds, had discovered the wonderful resonance of the aluminum rain gutter that ran along the edge of the roof above my window. I spotted it after losing my patience and doing some pounding of my own on the glass, then opening the window to yell at whatever was out there. I saw the bird winging away from the house, put two and two together regarding the gutter, and started making plans for retaliation. 

I never had to bother with the eventual plan, which would have been purchasing a plastic owl model to fix to the corner of the roof, because I had apparently scared the Flicker into finding a new surface for drumming. Instead, I just went back to bed with a certain degree of mistrust in the avian world, and a knowledge that while birds as a whole are good, every species has its assholes.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on September 24, 2017 8:46 AM.

The Bird Meme: Day 10 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Bird Meme: Day 12 is the next entry in this blog.

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