Pest Birds on Trial
Not for people--no, you actually have to go to law school and take the bar exam for that. No, I am going to pass verdict on a few birds who are often “on trial.” Most birds are very well-liked by birders and non-birders alike, but these species are accused of all sorts of crimes, and are actually hated by some. Are they guilty?
Defendant #1: Canada Goose
Charge: Pooping, aggression, generally being annoying.
It is hard to find these birds anything but guilty of the three charges. They are annoying and can be aggressive (I think all birders have been chased at one point by a hissing goose, with its tongue sticking out.) Geese caused that plane crash into the Hudson in early 2009. And their green feces is rather disgusting. I once went to a speech given by a very politically-correct eco-minded gentleman. In the middle of the speech, he went off on a tangent about the horrors of goose poop on his favorite golf course. He could hardly play golf at all anymore, poor thing.
Sentence: Suspended Sentence
Why? Believe it or not, Canada geese are actually very nice birds. They take turns flying in the front of their V formation, so that no one bird gets too tired or expends too much energy. Much of their aggression comes from defending their goslings. And they are monogamous, and don’t cheat on their mates. When was the last time a Canada goose flew into a tree at 2:00AM because his wife found out about his ten other girlfriends? Never, that’s when. So while they do soil golf courses, they are actually of higher moral character than at least one golfer that’s been in the news lately. They get time off for good behavior. Case dismissed.
Defendant #2: Starlings
Crime: Taking over the country, out competing other birds
Verdict: Past the statute of limitations.
Why? Starlings were introduced into Central Park in the late 1800’s by a literature lover who wanted one of every bird mentioned by Shakespeare to reside in New York. Most of the species died, but starlings, who have no natural predators, multiplied very quickly, forming huge flocks in some cases. According to a New York Times editorial in 1990, they have also caused plane crashes, eaten feed, pooped too much, and driven away beautiful birds like bluebirds. Still, none of us here on Earth can remember a time before starlings. I would like to see a flock of bluebirds outside of my window instead of a flock of starlings. I’d also like to see passenger pigeons. But what’s done is done. Starlings are here to stay. Case dismissed.
Defendant #3: Pigeons
Crime: Rats with wings, causing disease
Verdict: Not Guilty
Why? Bats could be called rats with wings, not pigeons. Pigeons are birds, rats are mammals. And according to urbanwildlife.com and the NYC public library, the link between pigeons and disease is very exaggerated.
I am not suggesting that there are not problems with these three birds. Nor am I opposed to humanely culling them, if their numbers get too big. The next time a goose gets sucked into a plane engine, the captain might not be as talented or as lucky as Sully Sullenberger was.
But don’t hate them. They don’t mean any harm.
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