The Crested Drummer

The Australian Crested Pigeon

Where we live, far from the noise and confusion of big cities, bird life is in our faces at any moment of the day. To wit, the kookaburra, the magpie, the black cockatoo, the pelican, etc. And the crested pigeon, shown above.

This bird is commonplace in eastern Australia and, in contrast to the other species I have mentioned, is typically shy, timid, unobtrusive, and loathe to display itself in public. So, why should I go out of my way to feature such an avian nonentity in words on a page (or on its electronic equivalent).

It’s because a particular member of the species that hangs around our place – let’s call him/her Peter/Peta or Pete for short – is choosing to charm us every morning with his/her behavior. Starting at about 7:30 a.m., Pete begins to drum with his/her stubby little beak on a discarded stainless-steel tumbler from a clothes dryer whose shell went to God some months ago. We kept the tumbler because we had been persuaded that somebody someday might want to recycle it as a hangi.

But now, apparently, it serves as a kettledrum.

Once Pete starts up, there is no stopping him/her. He/she keeps the performance up for at least a couple of hours.

As with a lot of bird behavior, it will likely remain inexplicable to us. Birds, I have found, adhere to an agenda not fully comprehensible to us humans. But we can speculate.

Could it be Pete’s form of music making? Or an ingenious mating call? Or a homage to his/her own image reflected in the shiny stainless-steel surface? Or all three? Or none of the above?

Whatever the case, it’s keeping Pete happy. And keeping us, his/her accidental audience each morning, delighted.

What Pete has taught me is that there are countless species in this world (including ourselves) all running parallel agendas that, like parallel universes, are all unknowable and unattainable by those not in the loop. We humans should have respect for these other agendas, even if we don’t fully understand them. It is not at all clear that our agenda is superior. Where is it so ordained?

Examples abound.

Take one conspicuous example. What are the orcas – in the Mediterranean and elsewhere – up to, for example? Why do they ram our boats? I believe the way to go is to let these amazing creatures keep at it, while making the necessary adjustments to our own behavior. Then sit back and enjoy their performance. It’s their agenda after all.

Allow me one further example closer to home. Another avian example. This winter, we have seen swallows in unprecedented numbers, flights or gulps of them I am told. These tiny birds fling their tiny bodies at a (presumed) task with great zeal and at the speed of light. What are they up to? Sometimes, they are building nests, that much we can know, but at other times we can only guess.

A modicum of life on wing, forever slight,
yet swift and certain in its missioned flight.

We live in an amazing world, if we only allow ourselves to be amazed.