Not much going on today — well, actually, there’s plenty going on, but it’s not your business — so I’ll share my feelings about some birds.
I was raised by birdwatchers, and I actually like birds, quite a lot in fact. But you can’t honestly love the best things in life without hating the worst, and there are three kinds of birds that I despise with an intensity that many people reserve for professional sports teams or religious infidels. Here are My Three Most Hated Birds.
3. Seagulls. These Sphincters of the Sea might seem noble at first glance. People who live inland tend to romanticize them, besides which, they’re unafraid of humans and you can feed them. Foolish landlubbers. People who live around them know that seagulls are shrill, nasty, entitled little jerks that scream at you if you don’t give them food. They’re bitchy, stupid, obnoxious, and they shit all over everything. Come to think of it, they’re a lot like the kids Californians are bringing up these days, and lord knows nobody wants them around.
I was once at a beach resort in Florida where outdoor diners regularly heard a belligerent piercing squawk. I remarked to a waitress that something must be making that seagull very angry. She surprised me by saying that the noise was artificial, put there to scare away real seagulls, because the real thing is far worse. She’s not wrong.
Here’s a photo of me, taken in Seattle last year, that distills this essay into a single image.
2. Pigeons — AKA feathered rats, or gutter birds. These vermin are known to carry over 30 diseases that are infection to humans, plus several others that can infect your pets. Even if that weren’t so, you’d only have to be shat upon once to desire their immediate extinction. One source I found estimated that the worldwide population of pigeons is around 450 million, and I wish they all had a single head so I could whack it with a shovel. I am aware that there are those who admire these birds, and feed them, and even breed them. My reaction is like that of the little boy in The Ring, who gapes in horror at his mother after she has freed the devil child from the well and says, “You helped her??”
Pigeons are not your friends.
1. Grackles. “Invasive species” is usually an unfair term, because in nature’s extravagantly violent history, every species that lives was probably invasive at one time or another … but with grackles, concepts like “fair” just do not apply. I never imagined anything could displace pigeons at the top of this list, until I moved to Austin and found that these natural-born pieces of horror film scenery have displaced them literally — because these feathered servants of satan actually destroy the eggs of other birds.
They truly are scary-looking, hopping around on one leg with feathers falling off and their mouths evidently stuck in the open position, looking like bird zombies, transforming the entire town into a Hitchcock film. If you dare to venture under the trees, you’ll find that nothing is too sacred to be covered in grackle filth. If you look at the comments for some stores on apps like FourSquare, you’ll find tips that have nothing to do with the store, but instead give advice like “Don’t park under the grackle tree.”
There are automated car washes here that have special sponges and squeegees specifically for grackle shit, because an automated car wash isn’t powerful enough to remove the stuff. Austin residents quietly accept it as a tax imposed on them by the birds. I try hard not to park under trees, no matter how unbearable the heat.
Even the naturalists who wrote my bird guide (Sibley) seem biased against grackles, going so far as to use the word “unpleasant” to describe their noises. There’s an understatement for you. If grackles spoke English, every word they uttered would be unprintable.