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The more I learn about birds, the less I mind seeing them die by flying into windowpanes or ricocheting from windmill blades. They truly are vicious creatures.
I’ve arrived at this conclusion because my wife, Jennifer, has become somewhat of a proficient nature photographer. As such, she has learned quite a lot about birds. I’ve become accustomed to her breaking a conversation mid-sentence by shouting out the name of a bird she’s just spotted. It usually goes something like…
“So, I was talking with Wendy about the four of us getting together for din—red-tailed hawk!”
Hurrying to her camera, she’ll add, “You know, these birds are known for…” and then relay something horrific about their behavior. And it’s not just the birds of prey. They’re actually somewhat intriguing. It’s more the usual suspects, the birds everyone sees every day.
The plentiful house sparrows flittering around most neighborhoods are an example. They murder other birds just for fun. That’s right. It’s not an issue of territory or food. They just kill other birds. In fact, I learned they’re so rotten that it’s legal to kill them in most states. For the record, the Thoma family doesn’t refer to them as sparrows anymore. We call them murder birds.
By the way, it’s likely not coincidental that a flock of crows is called a “murder.”
One day we experienced the joy of robins hatching in a nest under our deck. While they are probably the ugliest newborn creatures I’ve ever seen, it was quite the ethereal moment. However, within minutes of their birth, a blue jay flew to the nest and pecked them to pieces, eating pretty much most of them. A crow came and cleaned up the mess that fell to the ground below.
Are you familiar with cowbirds? If not, the only thing you really need to know about them is that they’re the deadbeat parents of the bird community. They lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, leaving the care to others. If I remember correctly, they use their freedom on weed-smoking gambling binges at the local casino after doing this. Unfortunately for their offspring, and because the bird sphere is a darkly place, if the foster parents figure it out, they destroy the eggs, usually by knocking them from the nest. Other birds come to make sure the deed is done.
Redwing blackbirds spend their whole day shouting at everyone. They remind me of the handful of homeless people I experienced in Los Angeles. Cardinals are bullies. Mockingbirds are the escaped psychopaths of the bird world. They attack everything—other birds, animals, people. If a mockingbird doesn’t like a rock, it’ll try to kill it.
I could continue describing the vile nature of countless species of birds most folks would consider beautiful or majestic. But in the end, they all have one thing in common: evil. I’m willing to submit that perhaps their ability to sail upon the breezes has less to do with the science of flight and more to do with being carried in the leathery palms of unseen devilish specters hovering in the in-between.
Birds are cruel. Birds are vicious. What’s more, I think it’s safe to say they actually do crap on our newly washed cars on purpose. That’s something a demonic beastie would do. It would wait for just the right moment to steal someone’s joy. Perhaps that’s why the Michigan-made Varchas Straight Bourbon from Shankar Distillers has a bird perched atop its cap, ready to strike. Not so much a nod to the bird’s intent as it is an acknowledgment of what the whiskey inside will bring: joy.
With a nose of freshly plucked honeycomb and spice, it promises a crisp enjoyment that the darker entities in this world don’t want for us. A sip confirms this, bringing an undertow of warm molasses mingled with espresso along its easy current sourced by the Great Lakes. There may even be a chocolate chip or two in there, too. The finish is a medium jaunt of allspice and burnt pepper.
These are all wonderful things making for a pleasurable dram, things a vile flock of murder birds would love to snatch away from us. For that, it’s good that humans exist within buildings—and that they keep their better whiskey editions indoors, too. Although, keep an eye on your parakeets and cockatoos. I can assure you their bloodlines are innately tarnished by bad manners born from evil intentions, and they’re not to be trusted.