Monday, July 25, 2011

Bird Brained? We Wish

There are a couple of sayings which negatively portray our bird population. If you want to insult someone's intelligence, call them bird brained. If you want to say that something is not worthwhile or is a poor choice, say it's for the birds. Frankly, I think our birds are getting a bum rap with these sayings.

I've been observing the bird population in my yard rather closely. Forthwith some observations about bird behavior that we in Klal should consider emulating, rather than denigrating.

First, territoriality and exclusivity. A whole slew of different types of birds all share our yard. Granted, many of them fly down in groups and may congregate in those groups as they eat. However, the boundaries are highly flexible. Not all members of each group rigidly stick to only their own kind as neighbors. Right now there is a mix of about 6 different types of birds out there enjoying a snack. There are blackbirds mixed in with starlings, robins, quails, bluebirds, and a couple of wrens. No one is pushing or shoving, trying to get the "other" to leave the area; there's plenty for everyone. Further, the squirrels and chipmunks are also on the lawn, and clearly so different from the birds there. And yet, they, too, aren't acting all territorial and exclusive. Live and let live seems to be the motto.

Second, survival for all. A few neighbors on the block have cats that they let roam freely. I admit it: I'm not a cat person. I am even less a cat person when I know that I have lots of feathered visitors in the yard. A few of the birds sitting on the fence noticed one of the cats slinking around the side of the house, clearly intent on attacking the birds on the lawn. Those bird sentinels raised the alarm so that EVERYONE could escape safely. They could have sat there without making a sound or giving a warning; after all, the birds on the lawn were not of their particular type. But clearly they understood an important fact: what threatens one type of bird threatens them all.

Third, birdlichkeit (think mentchlichkeit in humans). One of the quails who formed a group of three that has basically been spending their days in my yard had a mortal accident. Somehow it flew into the house side and broke its neck, falling to the patio dead. I would have expected that its two other mates might have come to investigate, to help out, and yes, they did. But what was so heartening, given what had happened, was that other birds of different types also came over to see if they might help, to investigate what was going on. One for all, and all for one.

So yes, the next time that you are tempted to call someone birdbrained, make sure that it's a compliment you want to pay that person. We could do a lot worse than to emulate the bird behavior seen in the wild.


alpidarkomama said...

Have you seen David Attenborough's Life of a Bird. MARVELOUS! Really puts me in awe of Hashem's creation. :)

JS said...

Another quality some in klal should try to emulate "eating like a bird" - especially those who eat at kiddush like they've never seen food before (e.g., the type who squeal with delight when they hear it's a FLEISHIGS kiddush) only to walk 2 blocks home to have a large lunch after which they take a nap, return to shul and have a nice shalashiddis (and complain about the paucity of food if there's only some crackers, herring, and some cakes).

Abba's Rantings said...

maybe where you live birds don't poop on windshields?

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

We have a cardinal that keeps crashing into our dining room window, no matter what we do. I even tried opening the window the other day - but it still charged the glass...