The Bird Man told us that there would be a terrible dearth of birds in Florida this winter owing to the catastrophe in September when hundreds of thousands of birds hurled themselves against the Empire State Building in New York, and whole feathered populations were wiped out.
“They were all on the way south for the season,” he said sadly, “so don’t take out the bird-houses or build bird cafeterias in the trees. There will be far fewer occupants. An awful thing, all those warblers and oven-birds, from all over the North-eastern United States and from Canada, hurling themselves against the tallest building in the world.”
“What made them do it?” we asked him, for the bird man is a philosopher as well as an ornithologist. His obsession is birds, just as some people down here in Florida pursue tree snails, sea shells, orchids, or Seminole Indians. There was no theory to account for such a tragedy, he told us. The scientists were baffled, particularly as the same thing had occurred simultaneously on the same morning in cities all the way from Boston to Nashville. It was just as though the bird world, all over America, had suddenly grown tired of living and had decided on complete mass suicide.
“We might lay it down to fog, or atmospheric pressure,” he continued, and his voice trailed off into the murmur. “Of course, there are always superstitions among the Indians and other primitive peoples…”
“Perhaps they were dazzled by too much light,” contributed my husband; “they might have crashed into the Empire State Building just as they so often batter themselves against light- houses all along the Atlantic Coast.”
“There couldn’t have been fog in all those cities at once,” I pointed out; “in Nashville and San Antonio and Philadelphia, for instance. And birds have been avoiding the great buildings for generations. One of the first things their mothers must have taught them is what they learned from their own mothers. ‘Watch out for tall buildings when you are flying.’ Just as we tell [our] children to watch out for traffic.”
“Thousands of them must have been on their way south,” said the bird man, “to warmer climates, perhaps to the mahogany forests of Yucatan or the silk cottons of the Bahamas. They asked nothing of life; they were bothering nobody. It was not necessary even to give them transportation, for they furnished their own. All they wanted was to spend the summer where they could see the sun. A natural wish, surely, peculiar to human beings as well as to birds. Why should they be punished for it?”Comments (0)