I’ve been bird watching lately. Not the kind of bird watching with a field guide in hand, trying to identify various migrating fowl, listening for their distinctive bird calls.
No, I’m observing my local birds for signs of insanity. Specifically, this can be seen by their behavior in traffic.
How many times have you seen birds walking across the road? It’s senseless, these small vulnerable creatures walking as fast as they can on their spindly legs — as if they cannot fly.
Think about it. Flying is something humans achieved only after thousands of years of evolution. Now we fly whenever we can, mindful of the speed, the ease, the breath-taking beauty of flight.
Birds, however, are born to fly. Yet, oddly, they opt out, and walk across the road.
Why? They go through no baggage checks, there are no long lines, they don’t get searched by security.
It makes you realize why birds are birdbrains. What are they thinking?
To be fair to our feathered creatures, maybe it’s not all birds who behave this way. Maybe there’s just that occasional bird who lives for the high he gets by cheating death. Hey Fred, look at me! I’m walking across the road — I’m NOT gonna fly!
Maybe some of them are just very easily distracted. You often see birds preoccupied by that worst of all foods, white bread. A stale hamburger bun will be in the road, and these birds will be gathered round like it’s Thanksgiving buffet, all unaware of the hazards of dining in traffic.
Imagine if humans behaved this way. There’s Melvin, eating a piece of Wonder bread on the center line of U.S. 68. Melvin, get off the road!
You never see birds get hit by cars. Do they warn each other of impending doom? Do they have some amazing system of communication, some intuition, kind of like their ability to fly south at the right time, that saves them from death by automobile?
There’s always the lone bird still trying to eat the white bread after the others have flown the coop. What do they say to him? The buffet’s closing, buddy. Look out!
Clearly I’m nurturing a superiority complex when it comes to birds. When I see a bird carrying a twig in its mouth, mindlessly meandering along the side of the highway at rush hour, I feel a sense of the pre-eminence of my position in the natural order of things, behind the wheel of the earth-bound Buick, sanely obeying the rules of traffic.
Yet, occasionally a bird will come along with such death-defying feats that I do stop to think, is it madness or divine inspiration?
The other day I drove down a neighborhood street when, of course, I came upon one of these insane birds who lives for the cheap thrill of facing down cars and darting away at the last second.
This, however, was no ordinary bird. He didn’t skitter away stage left or stage right as I approached, beating a hasty retreat into the safety of a suburban front yard.
No, he came right at me!
He took off at precisely the right moment so that his tiny body was lifted by the fierce flow of air over the body of the Buick. He glided right over the hood of the car and on … up, up, up over the windshield, just a feather away from being smashed onto the glass.
I got a close-up view of his belly before he flew on over the top of the car, the macho daredevil of a bird.
Can you imagine him telling the tale at the birdbath afterward? “You should’ve seen the look on her face, guys. I glided right over the car, right over it, gave the lady an unprecedented view of my underbelly, wink wink. It was the ultimate rush. Try to top that, Fred.”
“Aw, quit your bragging. Hey, look — Wonder bread!”