I’ve never been fond of birds. When I was a child, magpies swooped down from gum trees to peck my head as I walked home from school. Some of my friends wore plastic ice-cream containers like helmets to make their commute less hazardous. At home, miner birds screeched at our cats, and cockatoos argued with one another all through summer. In the city, pigeons and seagulls made outdoor eating a trial, and monuments and cars were regularly splattered in unsightly white poo.
As an adult, I grew to love gardening. Birds were not my friends in the garden either. They scratched up seedlings in my vegetable patch and wantonly, wastefully, sampled all the best fruit on my trees.
I do have a soft spot for rosellas, rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras. At holiday houses in the country my brother and I would leave scraps of ham in a line on balcony railings then watch the kookaburras whack each piece into submission before gobbling it up, smiling all the while. I don’t know why we fed them ham but they seemed to enjoy it. Sometimes we threw bread at the ducks and swans in the lakes at the botanic gardens. I liked it best in spring when the downy pale grey signets trailed behind their parents. And although magpies can be vicious I love their warbling songs.
When I was in Banff in October 2011 I heard many of the people in my writing group talk about the intelligence of crows, the beauty of starlings. I was fascinated. Two of the women in my course posted this incredibly beautiful video to their sites (birdsandwords.wordpress.com and poetsandthenews.wordpress.com). It is made by Sophie Windsor Clive, and it is astounding.
I am reconsidering birds, with respect and awe.