Corvid Week: Against Birds

My grandparents live on a farm in central California, in a small ranch house surrounded by rolling hills. The house is shaped like an L, with a long hallway stretching one way, and a short stubby kitchen and living room not-quite-stretching the other way. In the long hallway there are paintings and photographs on the […]

Guest Post: Begging Babies

Two birdfeeders hang from the deck of my house in the woods, a waystation for locals and migrants alike. They are a locus of activity — except when I forget to refill them. That happened again last month. I grew too distracted by the daily feeding and maintenance of two small humans, both of whom […]

Mourning the Dove

There’s great dignity in the mourning dove. Rarely does one demand attention. A pair’s gentle cooing is a pleasure, the whisper of parents trying not to wake the baby. The whir of their wings in flight (called sonation) recalls a wind-up toy. A couple of them, in velvety gray-brown with daubs of black low on […]

Stop Underestimating Chickens

One of my favorite things about my usual writing beat (living things) is that we humans never stop learning new things about animals. We’re even still discovering species that are new to science. (Check out the glorious ruby sea dragon, previously known only from beach corpses, and Hoolock tianxing, a gibbon just determined to be its own […]

Update: On Getting Pooped On By Birds

I originally wrote about getting pooped on by birds on October 23, 2014. Recent events call for an update. 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 […]

Birds and Songs and Bird Songs

I walked along the edge of a cliff. Under my feet, grass. To my right, a hundred-foot drop to the waters of the English Channel. A strong wind blew off the water and over the cliff, blowing the loose ends of hair in my face, obnoxiously. To my left was a field, planted with something […]

We Are Still Arguing About Jonathan Franzen

Since Jonathan Franzen’s essay “Carbon Capture” went live on the New Yorker’s website last week, environmentalists and the journalists who write about them haven’t been able to stop bickering about it. Whether Franzen was wrong-headed or visionary, dumb or prophetic, he clearly touched a nerve when he asked, “Has climate change made it harder for […]

On a Decade of Getting Pooped On By Birds

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 […]