”Everybody knows that the bird is the word.”
It’s a phrase repeated almost ad nauseam by The Trashmen in their 1963 hit Surfin’ Bird. It was also a phrase that came to mind several times during a walk Sunday morning.
My avian adventures started when I came down the stairs from my apartment to the parking lot. I spotted a few small birds, sparrows of some sort, I think (but hey, I’m not an ornithologist) sitting behind my car.
As I approached, they hopped under the car. It made sense from a desire to give themselves some cover, but as I had thought several times in the past, it didn’t make a lot of sense if I was going to be driving away.
The chances of them sitting behind one of the wheels when I started moving were slim, I keep telling myself, but I still worry about the little ones.
As I continued my walk, the most common bird I saw was (surprise, surprise) a crow. The first one I saw was sitting on the sidewalk just ahead of me. As I got closer, it gave me a sideways look, then hopped a couple of times to get off the sidewalk – barely.
Something in the way the bird moved made me realize it was acknowledging the fact I was bigger and therefore had the right of way, but it wasn’t happy about having to make way.
As I passed by, I nodded to the bird and thanked it for allowing me passage. It sort of looked at me and as I passed, I glanced back over my shoulder. The bird had already reclaimed its spot in the middle of the sidewalk, eyeballing me in a way that told me, “I gave way this time. Next time might be a different story.”
A few blocks further on, and I heard a crow in a tree to my right caw. Almost immediately, I heard another crow caw in a tree to my left.
My first thought was, “They’re planning a coordinated attack on me.”
Then I realized how silly a thought that was. If they were planning an attack, there would certainly be more than two of them.
Then I heard the third caw, from a different tree.
I quickened my pace a bit. Not out of fear, you understand, but just to give myself a slightly better workout.
When I got back home, I saw a couple of crows sitting in the parking lot, pecking at some food. As I got closer, they watched me until it became clear that I did not want any part of their ‘feast’ and they graciously allowed me to pass.
As I returned to my apartment, I thought about what I had seen, and wondered where the term ‘bird-brained’ came from. Most of these birds had a better idea of sidewalk etiquette than a lot of people.