Pop Culture
Feb 17, 2011, 05:20AM

Everywhere, Birds

All those flocks you watched fly south? They're in my neighborhood now.

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The golden arches. Telephone wires. Bank roofs. Man-made gullies. Undeveloped fields. Look there, and there, and here, and up, and over, and recoil inwardly as several hundred beady pairs of eyes gaze impassively back at and through you.

They are everywhere, a wintertime given down here in central Texas, these anonymous obsidian birds, these ruffians, these disheveled curs, rolling six or seven or 20 score deep, alighting briefly in loose clusters or throwing themselves in various formations through deceptively gray skies that will crack yellow like eggs once last evening’s pallor fades and the new day breaks.

There they are. Twitching, hopping, pecking at worms, at trash, at one another, crowding saplings that stagger beneath their massed weight. Then, there they go, somehow psychically and suddenly making the collective decision to evacuate, usually to a site several yards distant, where the cycle of neurotic, short-term loitering begins anew.

They won’t injure anyone, these birds, though any number of high-end automotive paint jobs will likely be compromised, but it’s impossible to watch these flocks without feeling a ghost of a chill, because, well, if a gang of 200 birds wanted to badger, cajole, or eat you, what could you do about it? Even assuming that you could retreat to the safety of a windowless compound from which you could somehow—perhaps via surreptitiously placed video surveillance equipment—monitor the birds and their proximity to the entrances and exits, eventually you’d need to leave that compound for one reason or another, and it isn’t like the birds, if they unmoored themselves from the rigors of herd instinct, couldn’t wait you out, you know?

They could, couldn’t they? And when they’re huddled across the street on the eaves of a Dunkin’ Donuts watching you warily watch them, it’s hard to escape the sense that maybe they’re taking your measure. Sizing you up. Hiveminding plans. Waiting for their chance.

  • A magnificent short article. It's like this in Florida now, especially if you go out to the Glades.

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  • My neighborhood in Baltimore has been completely carpet bombed by avian detritus. My car has escaped mostly unscathed, but I've seen dozens upon dozens of cars with more spackle than original paint.

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  • The grackles here in Dallas are the worst. You'll get 100-200 in one tree and that tree is always over a car or walkway. Within an hour, the ground is slick with crap. It often causes me to wonder "with so many birds in one tree, why aren't any of the birds covered in crap? Do birds refuse to crap on their own kind or do they have a gene which allows them to dodge crap before it falls on them?

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  • Tex, it's a question to ponder for the rest of Civilization. I suspect it's less genetic than behavioral: there's a designated deuce time for the flock, and if another bird sees that flock posting up in a tree, it knows to stay away. And now I'm reminded of this not-entirely-relevant recent Family Guy clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbd3yqMygow

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