That’s what the guy parked next to me said, when he saw the bird poop on his roof. “Stupid birds.” I smiled and got in the car. Even a casual observer of birds will know they aren’t stupid. Crows and ravens invent and play games. They develop and use tools.
They watch their environment and change with it. That’s what amazes me. They don’t do what I hear people do so often–complain about change and begin to struggle against it.
Coming out of the library, I saw a half dozen pigeons sitting on low branches of the palo verde. I’m not a big fan of pigeons, but I wasn’t planning on adopting these, I was watching them. They were big and plump and iridescent gray. They gurgled to each other on the low branches. I wondered idly where they found water. It hasn’t rained in a month or so.
The pigeon conversation picked up in intensity. I scanned the sky for the peregrine falcon, but they birds held their places in the tree, so it wasn’t fear they were talking about. It sounded like, well, excitement. But I do have to be careful about anthropomorphizing birds, so I just stayed still and watched.
Then it happened. The drip irrigation system coughed and began to leak its carefully measured water in
rapidly soaked-up drops at the base of the palo verde. The pigeons dropped from the branches, each at an irrigation station. They drank all they wanted. A few flew up into the tree and others took their place. They had been waiting for the water to switch on. It doesn’t do it every day. They know when and where it does, though. Because they aren’t stupid birds. They are adapters.
So when the guy muttered, “Stupid birds,” I just smiled. He’s not an urban naturalist. And he probably fights change. Because he parks under the same tree all the time, no matter if it’s watering day or not.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing, an a coach who helps people deal with change. She learns from pigeons, among other things.