What’s the sitch with birdhouses?
It is pleasant to watch animals, from tawny house cat, to basking lake turtle, to giraffe munching treetops on the savanna. Their natural forms are attractive, and their instinctual decision-making reminds us of simpler times. Unfortunately, wild animals are scared of us (likely because we are systematically trying to kill them all). So, in order to observe, we either have to shoot them dead and stuff them in museums, trap and put them in cages, or we have to be very patient and quiet and lucky, in order to get the chance to watch from afar in their natural environment.
Birds inspire a particularly devoted group of watchers, perhaps because of their bright colors, their variety, their ability to fly, their ubiquity… I suppose you’d have to ask the birdwatchers why they watch, I’m just guessing here.
Many lovers of watching birds will dangle binoculars around their neck, put on a floppy-brimmed hat, smother themselves with insect repellent, and traipse through the woods, stopping intermittently to watch a chickadee flit to-and-fro. Sounds enjoyable, but also quite labor and time intensive. At some point, one smart birdwatcher (and there is only one… jkjkjk) decided to lure the birds closer to civilization with the promise of food and shelter. And that innovative bird watcher was named Orville Wright, one half of the famed Wright brothers, who built and flew the first airplane.
Just kidding about that also. I don’t know who invented the birdhouse, and to be honest, I don’t care. Maybe they deserve recognition, but it surely ain’t coming from whatsthesitch.com, not today, not never.
That said, it turned out to be a successful idea. Anecdotally, and from personal experience, placing birdhouses or bird feeders (or even bird baths) in one’s yard does lead to higher concentrations of birds in said yard than before the bird-attraction device was placed. This reduces wear on birdwatchers’ knees, as well as saving on wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen expenses.
This seems like a rare win-win: birds get cool, sturdy new digs, humans get to watch. Unfortunately, that is a Westernized anthropocentric view of this situation. Notice the form of the most commonly built “birdhouses.” They resemble a human cottage, more suited for a Hansel & Gretel witch than a mourning dove. Did anyone ask the birds what type of homethey’d prefer? We are imposing our ideals on these disenfranchised creatures, and then patting ourselves on the back when they accept the one-sided agreement.
We try not to get too PC around the offices here at whatsthesitch.com; drawing lines that shan't be crossed does not encourage creativity and pushing boundaries. That said, if we don’t speak for the birds, who will? All they can do is tweet. (And tweet they do, in beautiful, headachingly repetitive melodies.)
How would you feel if you were between apartments, wandering the streets in search of a new place to call home, and you stumbled across a gigantic nest made of twigs and discarded string? Perhaps you’d decide to settle there temporarily, until something more traditionally “human” opened up. Then, after a few days making this 600 sq ft nest your home, you’d realize a gigantic beaked crow has been watching you while sipping his morning cup of coffee. Personally, I’d feel used and I’d feel offended. To be fair, I maybe wouldn’t have made my bed in an uncovered basin of sticks, but some aren’t privileged enough to be able to refuse an open place to live.
Birdhouses also portend a future where human constructs are the only place left for “wild” animals to live and start a family. Maybe right now they aren’t such a scary creation; they do, after all, provide a labor-free spot for birds to take residence, at least until they can save a nest egg [;-)] and build a place of their own in the suburbs, to their avian specifications.
But in 50, 100, 300 years… will there be any branches left for birds to nest in? Or will they all have to fight for the Home Depot-brand boxes on the sides of peoples’ decks? Will gophers make their own tunnels anymore? Or will tunnels be included when pouring concrete for a new apartment complex? Will bears hibernate in caves? Or will we have “bear-boxes” on the side of a steel “mountain” covered with manmade snow for the new ski resort outside of Phoenix? When we stock the local reservoir with a monoculture of GMO lake trout, will we still have to catch and release?
I’m just asking questions. And pointing out the slippery slope we are peering over. Birdhouses seem wholesome, at face-value. But they may be offending the very animals we are hoping to befriend. And they may normalize the idea of an artificial world, one devoid of animals capable of making their own decisions or fending for themselves.
Should we outlaw birdhouses? Probably. Would that put a halt to the dangerous path we are on? Probably. I don’t think in the current political environment this type of legislation would pass, let alone be reasonable to enforce… But it is something we will all wish we had beenmore vocal about, when our children’s children have disposed of the last twig and are forced to fend off the bird revolt in a plastic covered world.