Sunday, January 28, 2007

Birds, Home Improvement Stores and Adaptation

I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself.

I was making my weekly pilgrimage to Lowes today, had my cart full of 90% of the things I needed for my tiling project (the remaining 10% to be discovered mid-project) and headed toward the checkout.

Since I go to this Lowes quite often, it was no surprise to see a few birds flying here and there. If I was a bird in Seattle, I could think of worse places to start a family than in a home improvement mega-store. I was imagining a sturdy nest with vinyl windows and radiant heating when I saw one bird head toward the exit.

'This could be grim,' I thought to myself as the bird swooped toward the glass doors. My home (the one I try to improve) has a couple panoramic windows that, every summer, cause a major headache for a few unfortunate winged friends. But just as I was anticipating the 'thwack', the bird did something amazing.

It dove low to the ground and then performed a hammerhead stall... right in front of the doors motion detector! The doors opened and the bird flew out!

And the bird didn't just get lucky-- nobody was entering or leaving the store. I believe it was actually a learned behavior, hammered home after many, many headbutts. But the fact of the matter is one bird figured it out, and I can only assume these birds talk-- or at least observe what works for their brethren.

I mentioned this to the cashier and she just said, 'Damn birds, always letting the cold air in!'

Perhaps being called a 'bird brain' isn't quite the insult it used to be.

1 comment:

tom said...

What a great story! Thanks. I'll be watching for that when I visit home improvement mega caves.

Long ago, milk was delivered in glass bottles with thick paper disks as stoppers. The milkman would leave it right out on the stoop. That ended when English sparrows learned to pull the disk and dip into the cream at the top. On old houses you will still see the cure for the problem in the form of a "milk chute". It's a cupboard with one door on the outside of the house, and one inside.

Thanks again!