This may be my favorite picture I’ve ever taken - so much so that I was reluctant to post it. Those who don't find ornithology particularly interesting will sometimes ask me why the fascination with birds. It's not what I do for a living, by the way - hardly. I don’t know that I have a favorite - I’m partial to many species, both common & rare. But to answer why…
I once watched an Egyptian Goose feign a broken wing to lure a predator away from its goslings. I watched for twenty minutes as a cardinal taught her ball of fluff to fly when he was quite reluctant to do so; her patience outmatched what mine is at times. More dramatically, China’s Mao once ordered the killing of sparrows as pests. Absent sparrows to feed on bugs from crops, the country spiraled into one of the worst famines in world history.
There are species who use the stars to navigate at night. A murmuration of starlings is so complex it takes complicated physics calculations to understand it. Nutcrackers can store seeds for winter in up to 5,000 different locations with no external markers and remember where they are a year later. And bowerbirds - well, just google it.
I suppose I’m drawn to the quietness of these winged things’ intricate, complicated, intelligent lives; that they thrive - mostly unseen - in the chaos that we humans have created around them. There’s a humility there that’s admirable, though admittedly anthropomorphized. There’s so much we can learn from nature, and this is the lesson that Aves can teach: to go about your business doing that for which you were created, regardless and without the need of a grandstand or audience. And in the course of that, while you’re going about your way, if you're doing what you were born to do, then you are changing things for the better - even for those who disregard you.
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