Bird brain — (noun, informal): an annoyingly stupid and shallow person. Being called a bird brain is rarely a compliment unless you are speaking to John James Audubon. And if you are speaking to John James Audubon you have more trouble than you realize because he’s been dead since 1851. Birds are not known for their intellectual prowess. True, some species are able to find their way by air to a given destination and arrive intact, on time, and without lost luggage — a feat many major airlines find it difficult to duplicate.
A human brain weighs around 1,350 grams. This is 2.976 pounds for the metrically challenged. Oddly enough, this is also just about my daily requirement for chocolate. Your normal Ohio bird has a brain that weighs 0.9 grams. Again, the math is included at no extra cost … 0.001984 pounds. No matter what you read on Google, I cannot believe there are more than four or five synapses inside a 0.9 gram organ. One synapse tells the bird to eat. One tells it to fly south. The third one indicates to the bird it should build a nest. The fourth, and apparently largest synapse, says find the nearest newly washed car and splat all over it. If birds are so deficient in smarts, why can’t I outsmart one?
There is a workshop here, see? It holds a few tools, several pieces of sandpaper with absolutely no grit remaining, and many wooden airplane wings under construction. Item three is largely responsible for item two. The most alluring aspect of this workshop, though, from a purely avian point of view, is the sheer number of shelves.
Ohio summers and autumns are not too bad, especially if you don’t mind temperatures in the nineties. As Yogi Berra said, it ain’t the heat, it’s the humility. The winters and damp chilly springs, however, are not for the faint of heart. Even if that heart is surrounded by a beak and a tail. Not all birds trek south for the winter. The smart ones set up condo living in my workshop. I am pretty darn diligent about keeping the large door down. And I make sure the whole building is all closed up when I leave for the day.
But more and more often when I arrive in the morning I find, shall we say, evidence that a feathered friend or two has spent the night. Apparently, those birds are experiencing some rampant gastro-intestinal distress because things are not…er…tidy. It’s bad enough that some airplanes have bird doo-doo on the outside. Having bird droppings on the inside is beyond my admittedly high threshold of uncleanliness.
So I set about to deny access to the squatters, so to speak. The first thing to be addressed was a small gap at the bottom of the walk-in door. This tiny slit didn’t look big enough to allow an anorexic snake to pass through but a nest-building bird is a powerful force of nature. On went the door seal, slam went the door, in the house went myself to look forward to a bird-less tomorrow.
Tomorrow, as you might guess, was not as precisely bird-less. A bird itself was not in residence but its housekeeping chores were. A box full of nuts and washers had its contents scattered artfully on the floor. In place of the hardware were twigs and moss and other elements of a nest-in-the-making.
Bigger door seal, bigger slam, same size refuge house but larger intent. Next morning, of course, there was a bird perched on one of the many shelves with a curious look on its little beaked face as if to say, “What kept you?” That evening before the shop was closed up I made sure all non-humans were evicted. Birds don’t seem to like noisy environments so noise is what I made. I clapped, I stomped, I did not conquer. Either the bird was deaf, immune to the aggravation of noise, or totally assimilated into 2017 living. Oh, it would flutter-fly up a little bit, take a mini-tour around the shop, make a deposit, and light right back on the shelf.
My initial intent was not to harm the bird but this feeling of goodwill was decreasing in inverse proportion to the amount of guano on my wings.
As a researcher once said, the production of guano is falling. Isn’t it always?
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.