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Birdwatching

November 5, 2009

It’s been an auspicious day so far.

STRAYER’S ETYMOLOGY CORNER: Contrary to popular belief, “auspicious” is not a portmanteau of “autistic” and “suspicious.” I know, right? Surprising! Actually, “auspicious” comes from the Latin avis (“bird”) and specio (“to observe”). An auspex was a guy who predicted the future by looking at birds. A bird on your right-hand side was usually a good omen, and a bird on your left-hand side was often a bad omen, depending on its species. Eagles were the best kind of bird to see, and in ancient Rome as in School House Rock, three was the magic number. Three eagles to your right was like the royal flush of omens. I saw it one morning in Seattle in 2005 and I’m just waiting for the payout…

On my way to drop off my recycling this morning, I saw some kind of woodpeckery or kingfishery type bird that was happy to let me stare at it while it rooted around in someone’s flowerpot, making a hilarious mess that I’m sure is going to be the highlight of the day of whoever owns that house. And when I got home, a chickadee showed up at my empty bird feeder. I felt bad for her (it’s my understanding that all chickadees are female, just as all manatees are male). Chickadees are sad little bundles of nerves and it takes them forever to work up the courage to approach a feeder. The least I could do would be to keep some seed in mine.

One of my earliest memories is of an ostrich biting me on the face. It happened at the Vancouver zoo when I was three years old, and I still haven’t gotten closure on that. If I end up moving to Vancouver in the near future, the first fucking thing I’m going to do is take the bus to the zoo and avenge that insult. How long do ostriches live? I hope at least 26 years, but if my attacker is no longer there, then I’ll bite the face of one of its descendants instead. As long as some representative of ostrichkind pays the price for my injury, I’ll be able to forget the past and get on with my life.

And geese, don’t fucking get me started. When I was four my family went on what was supposed to be a lovely afternoon visit to the park. We took along some old bread to feed the geese. When I ran out of bread, one of the geese went berserk and chased me without mercy until I was stuck between two slats of a revolving gate. Then the bastard stood there hissing at me until my parents got their fill of pointing and laughing and my dad scared it away with a stick. I love animals, but since that day, I’ve never trusted a goose. They’re assholes. Further evidence: one time in Seattle – almost exactly four years ago, as a matter of fact – I was reading on a bench by the Drumheller Fountain and one of the geese that had been tranquilly floating in the fountain suddenly emerged from the water, strutted over to where I was sitting, jumped right up in my face and grabbed half of the mini Kit Kat bar I was eating. Yanked it right out of my hand with its greedy beak. Which I imagine was probably a bad omen, although I don’t think there’s anything in the ancient texts that covers avian chocolate theft.

Little birds are cool, though. And they have great names. Talking about birds gives you an excuse to use all kinds of filthy language. In fact, this gives me an idea.

CREATE YOUR OWN BIRD SPECIES!

Choose one word from each of the four columns to invent realistic yet ridiculous bird names.

Lesser        Feathered        Horny        Swallow
Brown        Spotted            Breast        Pecker
Tawny        Rumped          Water        Cock
Greater      Beaked          Downy       Booby
Red             Canadian        Wood        Loon
High           Tipped           Golden       Tit

Little          Ringed          Bush        Dipper

Well, men of Athens, I’m going to get some food for the chickadee. It’s +18 outside for some reason and I should be out there appreciating it. And I’ve got my fingers crossed that the ’05 eagle sighting will demonstrate its significance sometime next week…

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sleepless in TO permalink
    November 5, 2009 7:42 pm

    Just one word from each column? Because I came up with the name Horny Swallow Breast Pecker or Golden Loon Tit.
    Although Red Tipped Golden Tit is pretty bad/good in bad way.

  2. Sleepless in TO permalink
    November 5, 2009 7:44 pm

    Also, birds are for eating in my world. Get those ostrich and cook the biggest baddest drumstick you’ll ever have. And then eat his children for full out revenge.

    • Kate permalink*
      November 5, 2009 9:04 pm

      I want to bite its face. I want that bastard ostrich to feel the pain and humiliation that I felt.

      But I have nothing but respect for the little Canadian bush dipper and the red-tipped golden swallow…

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