Bird Wondering

I’m not an ornithologist, but the other day I followed a bird for about forty yards. I was only following by default, because I was walking along the sidewalk and this particular bird _ I know it was a robin _ was walking along in front of me. It wasn’t walking so much as running, in order to move forward at the same speed I was or better. What got my attention was that the bird maintained its course down the sidewalk in front of me. At any moment I expected it to take flight, or divert from its course onto the adjoining lawn. But there it remained, running along leading a parade of me.

Obviously, it was just trying to stay out of my jaws of death, or whatever danger it perceived I might be. Finally the sidewalk crossed a wide paved driveway and the bird turned ever-so-slightly to the right. It stood in the driveway as I continued straight along my way. Without trying to anthropomorphize too much, it occurred to me, perhaps the bird thought I had turned and it had outrun me. I don’t know.

As I continued walking to my office I thought about this incident. Perhaps the bird couldn’t fly? Not at all likely, as our neighborhood sports a wealth of free-ranging cats and dogs. Any earthbound bird would do just as well to turn themselves over to the nearest feline, unless they’d really rather succumb to a heart attack while getting a crash course in fangs and claws.

Why did the bird not fly? Clearly, I’m so used to the fact of a bird flying off as I stride down the sidewalk, that this deviation became the most bird-wondering I’ve ever done. As I walked and wondered, another thought struck me: that I was enjoying the wondering more than I cared to know the real answers to the questions. I’m sure there are people out there who could fully inform me about all this, but I’m also sure I’d remember more about the person who informs me, than the information about birds they’d provide me.

– David Greenberger

(aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, ??????)