1. That time a bird pooped on your hand while you were riding your bike to school.
Riding your bike to school by yourself when you’re in the first grade is a joyous kind of freedom, a brief intermission between parental supervision and the constraints of a school day. You are cherishing this freedom with the wind and a smile on your face. You look up as a bird flies lazily overhead and you feel carefree. But then you feel confused as you register an alarmingly wet impact on your hand. Then horrified. Having bird excrement on your handlebar, between your fingers, and running up your jacket sleeve while you ride your bike the rest of the way to school puts a damper on the joy. This is basically your first personal encounter with a bird.
2. That bird report you had to write in the fourth grade.
It’s a lot to ask of a fourth grader to write a whole report with pictures and facts and everything, especially over Christmas vacation. You want to write your report about the very cool Black-capped Chickadee, but apparently it’s also a lot to ask of a fourth grade teacher to allow two fourth graders to turn in reports on the same bird. For some reason you are assigned the Golden-crowned Kinglet. Your protests are noted, but ignored.
3. The Bus Stop Disaster.
At 15 your self-esteem is pretty fragile. But there is safety in numbers, even for a nerdy kid like you. So, you and your nerdy friends are going to the mall together. This is the mid-1980s, so going to the mall is essentially like a holy pilgrimage for teenagers. You put on your new jeans and your most fashionable shirt, and you despair that your hair isn’t straight enough and that your glasses make you look like a dweeb, but you are going to the mall with your friends, and maybe, possibly, if you can get up the nerve this time, you will finally talk to that sophomore who works at the Orange Julius and makes your heart hurt. Maybe this is the time you’ll introduce yourself after you order your third Orange Julius. Maybe you’ll say something funny and they’ll laugh. Maybe you’ll end up going out. Maybe you’ll kiss. Maybe... uh, wait, what? You snap back to reality. Why are your friends laughing right now? Because you sat in bird poop at the bus stop. Spoiler alert: You will never talk to that beautiful sophomore. You will never go on a date. You will never kiss.
4. That friend from freshman year of college who lived off campus and whose housemate kept a Cockatoo as a pet.
Living in the dorm is okay, but it kind of sucks because your RA is a stickler for the rules. Lucky you have that friend who lives in that off-campus rental house. He and his housemates throw great parties all the time, and they always have good weed, so there are usually girls to talk to. Too bad one of his housemates keeps that big white bird as a pet. It’s never in a cage. Aren’t birds supposed to be in cages? This one flies around wherever. It’s also kind of noisy and aggressive. It tries to land on your shoulder and climb onto your head every time you stand up. “It’s okay, dude. He just wants to be perched on the tallest thing in the room.” The bird is very pushy about it. You don’t like feeling those big claws on your scalp while it flaps its wings and shrieks. You are pretty sure the bird is establishing its dominance. You guess you will just stay in the bean-bag chair and crawl to the door when you’re ready to leave.
5. That time your cat bent the Venetian blinds trying to get to the hummingbird that felt it necessary to hover two inches from the window in the guest bedroom.
You know that technically the cat is to blame, but you can’t really fault him. He was provoked. Taunted.
6. That time you had to put tape over your window because some dumb robin thought its reflection was another bird.
It keeps smashing into the window over and over. It is unbelievable. The damned thing just keeps flying into the window, attacking its own reflection. It is going to give itself brain damage. You are worried it is going to crack the window. You do some research online and read that this is not uncommon behavior for many birds during breeding season. You find an article that says young robins can be especially aggressive and persistent. The article suggests you cover the outside of the window with stickers or paper, so you put strips of painter’s tape across the glass. This is the moment when the true depth of bird stupidity really begins to sink in.
7. That time your cat knocked everything off the coffee table and spilled a potted plant on the white carpet trying to get to the hummingbird taunting it from the side window.
You wonder if it’s the same hummingbird. You wonder if you should let the cat out, just this once.
8. The Poolside Affront.
You are poolside at a resort hotel. You are on a vacation getaway. You don’t do this sort of thing often. It is hot, and you are basking in the sun. You have a tall, cold drink, and a plate of snacks delivered because you are too relaxed to get up. There are a number of juvenile Grackles running around the pool, making noise. You are so hot and relaxed that this doesn’t even bother you. It almost amuses you. Then one of them hops up onto the chaise next to you and steals a beakful of food right off your hummus plate. It looks at you like you don’t matter.
9. That time you were trying to sleep in on a Saturday, but a woodpecker mistook your metal rain gutter for a tree, for like an hour.
Is this bird for real? It can’t be that difficult to distinguish between thin aluminum and a rotted tree trunk. You are starting to feel like this is personal.
10. The Cherry Situation.
You have two cherry trees in your backyard. You have lived in this house for four years, but you have never eaten a single cherry from either of those trees. Why, you ask? Because freeloading birds gorge themselves on the fruit before it is ripe. You are not sure if it is your imagination, but you think you once saw a crow wink at you as it plucked the last of the cherries off of a branch.
11. The Picture Window Provocation.
You are fortunate. You are blessed. You look out your large, west-facing window, past your cherry trees, at the water and islands of the Puget Sound. You are in a deep state of awe as the setting sun begins dipping behind the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and lights the sky on fire with hues of pink and orange that can’t be properly described. You are filled with a sense of serenity and gratitude. Or at least you would be, if some bird had not somehow managed to land a big messy load right in the very exact middle of your 12-foot picture window. You are going to have to get a ladder to clean it.
12. That time you finally spotted a Golden-crowned Kinglet.
You are on a winter walk with your spouse down by the water. It is a crisp but sunny day. Unexpectedly, you see a small bird in the brush near you. You instantly recognize it as the Golden-crowned Kinglet. How could you ever forget that bird? Remember that bird report in the fourth grade? You had wanted to include field observations in your report. You had tried, but failed to spot one in the field. Until now. Somehow, you feel that if you can just snap a picture of it with your phone as proof, you will be vindicated in some small but important way. It won’t stop moving long enough for your phone to focus. You end up with multiple pictures of a blurry, nondescript shape among the leaves.
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was introduced to amateur ornithology in the fourth grade and has never gotten over the trauma. A designer, writer, and illustrator, he lives with his wife in Seattle, where they enjoy gazing out the window at the beautiful waters of the Puget Sound and making fun of birds. The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America
is his first book.