In 1963 an American rock group called the Trashmen, released the hit single Surfin Bird.
“Well everybody’s heard about the bird/Bird bird bird, bird is the word.”
That is pretty much the entire lyrics of the catchy little ditty, it just gets repeated endlessly. If you don’t know this song, I suggest you watch it on YouTube. I can remember when it came out. There were teenagers driving about in their parent’s cars, playing it as loud as they could and singing it with gusto. The lyrics were certainly easy to remember, and it was one of those songs, people either loved or hated. For good or bad, once you hear it, it will probably be stuck in your head for a while.
For some strange reason, that song often pops into my mind during the spring migration. The maniacal glee in the song is the same thing many people feel when they witness the spring bird migration. This year in particular, because of the Covid-imposed isolation, it seems that more people really want to get out and watch the birds.
The spring arrival of birds is mighty impressive on a local level but when you consider it from a continental perspective, it is truly mind boggling. Every year in the spring millions and millions and millions of birds, from hundreds of different species, suddenly decide to head North to their summer breeding grounds. Big ones and small ones, some travel in flocks numbering thousands and others come on the journey individually or in mated pairs.
Once the lakes open up, wave after wave of birds arrive. Some come from the southern USA, central and south America, while the loons come from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
If you were doing a critter count of birds in the NWT in the spring their numbers swell by the millions. That is impressive and it happens over all of Canada. It’s called a migration, but it is also an unregulated massive invasion, when you think about it. If the government were trying to keep a record of them, they would no doubt be called as “seasonal undocumented transient non taxpaying summer residents.” Also, almost all of these birds were originally born in Canada, so by birth I suppose they are all Canadian citizens.
Every year, I have a couple of robins who claim my yard as their own and every year I seem to have a flicker or two trying to build their nest inside my walls. Ah spring.
If a bird happens to poop on your head, I can tell you from personal experience, it is not all that pleasant but folklore says it is a blessing and will bring you good luck.
When you consider the number of birds flying around, many pooping as they go, it is a miracle more people don’t get blessed. You could consider all that bird poop, which is rich in nitrogen, as a gentle rain of fertilizer that helps the forest, grass lands and farms, grow their crops. So, in its own way, it is a blessing.
I think we should celebrate birds more. Imagine if city hall had a flagpole and every time a new species was spotted arriving, their flag was raised.
It might help people appreciate the birds more but since we have around 300 species arriving, it would have to be a really big flagpole. I find it a little sad that some people don’t take in or appreciate this truly remarkable aspect of nature. Just try to imagine what life on the planet would be like without birds or as I like to think of them, the cute little feathered dinosaurs. Even if they do occasional poop on someone’s head. Consider it as a blessing or a small price to pay.