I had a conversation with a friend about my favorite birds.
#1 Ducks. The way you feel when you see a human baby? That’s the way I feel when I see a duck. That makes me weird, I know, but I grew up handraising ducklings and taking walks in my garden with my Indian Runner, Sebastien, him heeling perfectly beside me, while we discussed the flowers and the work that needed to be done. He had a lot of very insightful things to say. If I’d understood Quack, I’d have picked up a lot of helpful tips.
#2 Crows. How can anyone not like crows? They’re so gothic and clever and interesting and opinionated – more like people than a few people I know.
#3 Seagulls. And here’s where my friend stopped believing I was telling the truth. He simply couldn’t believe that anyone would choose seagulls over something like, say, a meadowlark.
So partly for George, here’s a list of why:
1) Seagulls are art on the wing. It fills me with pure wild happiness to watch them soaring and balancing on the wind, their long and delicate wings tipped to catch the blue of the sky. No other bird flies with such grace. I could watch them for hours – and I have.
2) Songbirds may have prettier songs, but the cry of a seagull is melancholy given voice. It tears into me and sends shivers through me. I count the seagull’s call as one of my favorite sounds – and not just measured against other birds’ songs, but against the world itself.
3) Seagulls have such personality. Sit and throw french fries to a group of them, and after twenty minutes you’ll be able to tell each bird apart just by its personality. Some are bullies, some shy, but even the shyest has a brashness, a bold belief that, yes, he is a marvelous bird, and deserving of respect. We humans could learn from that.
Seagulls are a glory in this world, and people who think of them merely as “garbage birds” miss out on seeing so much. People are conditioned, I think, to love songbirds, admire eagles, respect owls, and be charmed by chickadees and hummingbirds, but none of those birds are any more marvelous than a seagull. It’s just that seagulls are so common that we overlook them, the way we overlook the reflection of mud puddles, and the magic of every ‘commonly’ exquisite thing. That’s a great pity, and our great loss.
For myself, I never fail to look up in parking lots and parks, beside the water, and over the asphalt, seeking the glint of a soaring white wing, and listening for the shivering lonely cry.
If I could be any bird in the world for a single hour, I’d choose to be a seagull. They fly the way my soul flies.