The red-legged seriemas were flipping out as I walked into the bird house in the St. Louis Zoo today. I don’t know if they were protesting systemic injustice, or the fairness of their own incarceration or if they had been watching CNN or Fox News, but they were upset and making their displeasure known. The noise they were making was worse than a frat party and a lot more shrill. I stood for a minute and watched, then did what I always do to calm situations down; I whipped out my phone and started to record their antics, saying,
“OK, you two, I’m putting this outrageous display on Youtube so the whole world can see just what kind of birds you are!”
They went silent almost immediately and just stared at me. I guess they didn’t want to be getting any hate mail from their people back home in eastern Brazil.
Mr. Toucan also had his feathers ruffled a bit as he kept flying back and fourth clacking his bill in a threatening way, as if to say,
“If I were substantially larger, and a carnivore and free from this restraining cage, you would definitely be in a lot of trouble, buddy!”
This was almost too much to take as I had already been laughed at by the Kookaburra, so I wandered off to have a conversation with the Buff-crested Bustard, who was by the wires of his flight cage, craning his neck at me. He gave me a “What did you just call me?’ look and I had to explain that I said “Bus” not Bas”.
It was as I was wandering past one of the central lakes where the invaders from the north were hanging out that I noticed the sign for Canada Geese. I thought about the categories of plenty that the zoo uses and noticed that these honkies from another country are listed as “common.”
The categories, by the way, are, from worst to best, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Threatened, Near Threatened, Common, and Unknown. Considering the case of Canada Geese, those aggravating creatures so guilty of leaving green goose goo in all of the places you are likely to walk, and that of the European Starling, starting with a mere 60 birds foolishly released into New York’s Central Park in 1890 but now numbering a reputed 200 million across the USA, and some other avian species, such as the House Sparrow and the Rock Dove (AKA common pidgeon), allow me to suggest that two other categories be added to the above 7.
The first shall be “Annoying”. Canada geese definitely belong in this category. To call them “common” is too benign for creatures that chase cars, nip children and pollute the environment so egregiously. The only thing really good about Canada geese, is that they sometimes provide our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
The second category shall be “Shoot on sight”. Into this group belong the nefarious pigeon (known to the discerning as “air rats”, not to be confused with Ararat, the mountain where Noah is reputed to have parked his ark), starlings, which drive out many of the native species of birds (gosh, 200 million of them?!?) and house sparrows, those thieving little rascals that will steal your french fries right off your table as you dine at your friendly neighborhood sidewalk café.
Of course today was not a good day to be eating outdoors.