On a Decade of Getting Pooped On By Birds


I know you're planning something, bird

1. Washington, D.C., 2004 or so

A bench around a circular planter, with a tree in it. I was eating my lunch. I felt something on my arm.

We call it poop, but the stuff that comes out of birds’ behinds is more complicated than that. Birds, like most vertebrates that aren’t mammals, have a single all-purpose exit called a cloaca. From that hole they expel eggs, the leftovers of their meals, and the products of their kidneys.

I assume that’s why the waste is two-toned.


2. Washington, D.C., the same era

Walking from work to the metro station. A poop on the front of my shirt. In my memory, this and the first poop both happened on the same day, but they couldn’t have. Nobody’s luck is that bad.

When you get pooped on a lot, people like to tell you that guano used to be worth a lot of money.

The word guano comes from the Spanish, who got it from the Quechua word huano, which means poop. In the 19th century, the guano of Peru was a major source of nitrogen for the crops of the world. That guano was significant enough to world history to be the subject of a book called Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History by an environmental historian at the University of Kansas. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of this book, but a review in Science suggests that it is awesome.


3. Paris, March 29, 2013

A pigeon in a tree near the Seine.

My companion enjoyed telling people later that it looked as if someone had upended a yogurt pot on my head. I think he was exaggerating, but I was glad I was wearing a raincoat. Unfortunately, the hood was down. Fortunately, the companion had tissues. Unfortunately, our Airbnb had no hot water.

Yesterday that same friend shared this message: “200 Years – The average amount of time that you have to wait supine before a bird poops in your mouth (source: Wolfram Alpha).” Some of that Paris bird’s excreta got, not in my mouth, but certainly near it, and that is close enough. It didn’t even take me 40 years, and I was indoors for most of that time.


4. Silver Spring, Maryland, later in 2013

Walking down the street, phone in hand, texting a friend that I was on the way, a bird pooped on the phone. This time, no tree was involved; it fell from the sky. At least it missed me. My phone made a full recovery.

An informal poll of Facebook friends finds that I have been pooped on more in the last decade than everyone but a dog walker and a biologist, who has been pooped on by a spotted owl, which is awesome. I am proud to also count among my friends people who have pooped on by bats and flying carp, although the carp were not flying at the time.


5. Washington, D.C., September 23, 2014

I was wearing a beautiful new jacket. I looked at the pavement. As I registered all the white splotches, I heard a familiar sound, inches from my left ear.

I think all this proves is that I spend a lot of time under trees. I didn’t think I spent that much time outside, but maybe I do. At least that makes me feel like I’m living my life right.

Even if I am a walking bird toilet.


Photo: Eric Isselee, Shutterstock

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13 thoughts on “On a Decade of Getting Pooped On By Birds

  1. Can’t resist mentioning that songbirds collect their babies’ poop and take it away from the nest. It’s way cool. Parent comes with food. Baby gulps it down, turns around, sticks little tush in the air and excretes a tidy white package which the parent plucks directly from aforesaid tush. Neat. Sadly for this author, when they grow up they no longer bother wrapping it up before delivery.

  2. Awesome! I think I’ve only been honored once; in Eugene, while taking an African dance class which had been moved out on to the lawn because it was a nice day. Someone (of course) told me it was lucky (good or bad, not sure).

  3. If I was wearing socks I’d have laughed them off. I guess, if you work outdoors or with animals, you have to expect unsolicited offerings. I think my cow poo probably trumps your birdies…

  4. I got pooped on by a pigeon in Spain in 1999. A massive, liquidy shit. I was on my way to class, and wearing a white T-shirt. I ducked into McDonalds to try and clean myself off, but it was no use. So I turned around and walked home. Then a couple of months later I was at a cafe in Barcelona and a bird pooped right into my friend’s coffee. Awful.

  5. Of course there’s an xkcd! I should’ve known. I love hearing everybody’s poop stories – they’re so funny. (In retrospect. That darn pigeon in Paris just about made me cry.)

  6. Walking at Fresh Pond Reservation one day, a bird is flying right at, but a bit higher than the top of my head/hat. Turning the brim down just slightly, closing my eyes and my mouth, just for a moment, there’s the sensation of something both fluidy and solidy hitting my lips. Keeping the lips shut, and hurrying towards a nearby bathroom, a mirror tells me it was a bullseye. Then there was the time, kneeling down to take a closeup photo, coming to rest on one knee… in a dog poop pile! Birds of Fresh Pond Reservation: http://flickr.com/photos/rlg/tags/bofpr calendar: http://rtuh.com/fprc

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