Monday 22 June 2020

How You Use It

How do birds know where to find food?

I sort of understand that a woodpecker knows that if he or she pecks the bark of a tree long enough and deep enough then if it is the right kind of tree there should be some tasty bug to be found. It would be odd if the woodpecker didn’t know where to find those tasty bugs after hundreds of thousands of years. The same goes for Robins that strut across my lawn, cocking their little heads every now and then and when the time is right they use their beak and somehow pull up a worm. The worm seems to be struggling. But how much struggle can you put up without and arms, legs, eyes or ears? How did the robin know thew worm was there? It isn’t as if the worm was making a lot of noise slowly working through the topsoil. He didn’t have any shovels, earth movers or dynamite to help get by that pebble in his way that the bird might have heard. It’s a mystery to me.

Picking up ants or grain from the dirt would be a pretty simple lesson for Mother Nature to teach our feathered friends. I mean, the food is just sitting (walking) there. I imagine that starvation is a good motivator in finding food.

I can remember standing on the beach in Fort Lauderdale Fla when I was a teenager and the seagulls that would hover at the waters edge waiting for me to toss a piece of bread in the air. More times than not the bird would catch it and a scuffle would ensue as the other birds tried to take that hunk of bread from the lucky bird that caught it. I had never seen anything like it. I eventually ran out of bread. The birds didn’t know that I had run out of bread and if anything they became more frenzied, hovering, dipping, climbing and hovering once again following me down the beach. The birds wanted more food! I am of an age that Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” was terrifying in 1963 and continues to worry me well into my sixties.

Standing on that beach I could picture there birds pecking out my eyes and ripping any soft part of my body. I liked the soft parts of my body and wished to keep them as parts of my body. I reached down and grabbed a handful of wood chips, cigarette butts and small shells off of the beach and tossed them to the birds as I slowly backed away towards safety. They soon realized that I didn’t have any real food and most of the birds slowly flew away to find some other sucker with a few slices of bread. One particularly vindictive bird shit on me.

So anyways, today I was watching a crow and he/she landed close to a garbage bin and flew up to stand on a plastic bag in the bin. He pecked at the bag until making a hole and within moments had pulled out something that looked like a small slice of bread. How did he know there was food in the bag? Is that how evolution works? We have only been using plastic garbage bags since 1950. A longish time for humans, but a drop in the ocean for evolution. I wouldn’t have known and my brain has to be twenty times the size of the birds.   

I guess it is true what they say, “it isn’t how big it is, it is how you use it.”