We humans engage in two activities that kill millions of birds every year: We keep cats as pets and we erect buildings into the sky and cover them with glass that, to birds, is invisible. They fly into our glass encased buildings in enormous numbers simply because they can’t see the glass. To them it looks like an airy passage right through the building.
There are things we can do to minimize the slaughter, both from cats — keep them inside — and from the glass.
It is always good to look at a situation through the birds’ eyes. For that, we turn to James Thurber, who wrote fables based on the formula employed by Aesop; a story followed by a sentence or two explaining the moral of the story.
Here, paraphrased is Thurber’s tale.
Some builders working on a studio left a large pane of glass propped up in a field one day. A goldfinch, flying across the field, flew into the glass and knocked himself out. After he regained consciousness, the goldfinch repaired to his club for a drink and told his friends that the air had crystallized on him as he was flying through the field. Most of the birds laughed at him, saying such a thing was impossible. A swallow thought maybe the goldfinch was right so all the other birds laughed at the swallow as well. Irritated, the goldfinch bet the birds that the same thing would happen to them if they flew through the field. They took the bet and set off to the field. They tried to get the swallow to join them but the swallow declined, saying, “I — I — well, no.” The other birds took off and all of them hit the glass and knocked themselves cold.
Here is the moral of that story, according to Thurber:
He who hesitates is sometimes saved.
But the moral for our purposes is a little different: glass often acts just like a mirror reflecting the atmosphere, and birds can’t tell the difference. They think the air crystallized on them. And, we can empathize. Who among us has not walked into a glass door or accidentally tried to put our hand through a window?
We’ll be back with some practical suggestions for how you can help. (Here it is.)
Photography courtesy of EnSky.