That albatross round your neck is a loyal dog, but adultery rules in the avian kingdom. Bird-watching has got a fresh connotation in an upcoming book The Bird Detective by Bridget Stutchbury.
This might not have ruffled my human feathers at all for the simple reason that the concept of institutionalising relationships is the trait of homosapiens and the world of fauna is fairly liberal, if we see this as one aspect of liberalism, and not tied down by any moralistic constraints. It is true that birds too try their best to attract the opposite sex; they too cohabit like good people of religion for mainly procreative purposes, although their faith rises when the heat in their bodies does; they like building nests, laying eggs, taking care of their young. But we also don’t expect them to be steadfast since no one is going to sit in judgment and shame them.
Therefore, I do not understand the purpose behind such a book venture and, more importantly, the findings. Take this one example:
The book shows male Acadian flycatchers fertilizing females far away from their home nests, and female blue headed vireos premeditating divorce by checking out new mates before they abandon their young.
The main discovery is that so many birds do divorce for what humans would describe as selfish reasons, Stutchbury said, noting that females may seek out males that are more colourful and better singers, or look to step up in the world and move to areas that are safer and have more food.
How can the word divorce be used here? Abandonment, yes. Multiple partners, fine. Glad eye, okay. Selfishness, true. How do birds divorce? Does the erring partner make it clear that s/he is quitting the home-nest? Is there an understanding about territory? Who gets custody of the children? Now, in this respect there are anyway fairly clear ideas regarding who does what that Discovery Channel tells us.
From the little bit that one has read, it seems the females are really on top. Some choose the rakes; others the security. And they plan their moves.
99 per cent of the flamingoes have broken marriages and the wandering albatross merely wanders and returns to the spouse.
I don’t think I will be able to look at any of the birds in the same manner. I know there is a crow that keeps staring at me while I write. He perches himself on the cable wire outside my window and looks. I blush sometimes, but all along I thought he was being a moral support. Or that parrot that occasionally sits on the kitchen window sill? Does she want a bite or does she want me to help her out of a sticky situation? There is a kite that appears rarely. Now I know why. Fidelity is not on the cards. As for the pigeon, I can hear him moaning and groaning and I get irritable or listen quietly depending on my frame of mind. Now I wonder whether he was in desperate need of counselling.
And for those whose cuisine includes fowl, have we ever thought that the bird must have been suicidal anyway after Monsieur Cock gave Madame Hen the documents to undo their ‘I do’?
I am warming up to the author’s effort. I think it should qualify as chick lit!