One of my jobs is at a store selling bird seed, consequently I get to talk with a lot of people who are adamant that their bird, squirrel, or skunk is something exotic. Species belonging to California, the Southwest, or Mexico are the most popular ones. Probably because general guides will list them. But try explaining that the large skunk is not likely to be a hog-nosed skunk, that it is a Northern Cardinal in an odd stage of molt and not a Pyrrhuloxia*, that the squirrel with the odd tail is not a ring-tail ground squirrel. Sometimes it is even simpler, the pride in seeing a flock of blue birds or a bear; it is a ‘new’ thing to be told and retold. The trick is to never let on that the last ten customers have been equally proud of the same thing….
I understand, of course, we all want to be connected to that once-in-a-lifetime exotic event. To be part of something rare and greater than oneself. In an everyday world, to be special, even if it is just by having more birds in the yard. I certainly am not going to forget the first Indigo Bunting that I saw.
But I wonder, why is it only the flashy ones, the rare ones, the exotic ones? It is glorious that all birds aren’t sparrows, of course; the hundreds, thousands of bird species are an awesome display of nature’s complex beauty. But isn’t the humble, common sparrow itself something of a miracle? What I find is amazing is just how much life is out there, surrounding us, even in a parking lot. Even there, surrounded by the cars a flock of doves rise; the sparrows are in constant motion; the nuthatches, the woodpeckers, the chickadees they know their trees even if they are just street trees. Oh, we lured them in with food, but they were there before that; before we were looking.
Now, to be honest, some birds are annoying, some I would rather not have around, and some (chickens) have a very specific purpose and it isn’t a long life. But none of them are boring. It is life, a miracle and never mundane.
But maybe that is just me.
*I can’t even pronounce it. But ‘generally non-migratory in Texas and Mexico’ is unlikely to be in New England.
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