Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."

            “You are dwelling on this deception business far too much,” St. Armand told the governess over breakfast. “I am paying well for staying here, Miss Burke.  Now, finish your bacon so we can get on the road again.”
            He picked up a well-polished spoon and paused, distracted by his own reflection.
            “You are like a magpie, Captain. Stop admiring yourself in bright, shiny objects and tell me where we are going!” she snapped.
--WIP [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby, aka The Pirate's Governess 

I'm fortunate to have a lovely yard that is bordered by woods and undeveloped property. My favorite room in our house is the screen porch that faces the yard. I eat lunch here everyday and enjoy the antics of the birds flocking to my feeders and birdbath. The hummingbirds are back and sucking down nectar like it's their personal juice bar. The cardinals are pleased that I cleaned my fountain, because cardinals love splashing in running water. Finches, doves, jays, wrens, sparrows, woodpeckers and mockingbirds are feasting on the food I've set out at the bird feeder, and the squirrels are still suitably baffled by the squirrel baffle keeping them from the birdseed.

There's a wren exhausting herself feeding her chicks in the nest she built in my hanging planter. I know when mom's back from the frantic "cheeps!" as the three little ones jockey for tidbits.  I've also noticed that cardinals travel in mated pairs. If I see the flaming scarlet male, with a little effort I can usually find the female nearby. He may be at the feeder while she sips from the fountain.  The male hummingbirds look like little flowers flying around the feeder, but the poor females are just brown dabs.

The point of this is, clearly, that chicks dig guys with fine feathers. In the animal kingdom it's obvious with the plumage sported by the males, and it's also true in the human species. We're hardwired to be attracted to beauty--symmetry of features, height, healthy appearance--all factor into decisions we make about mating. That doesn't mean an unattractive person doesn't have a chance, far from it.  When I see the male birds preening in my yard, however, I'm reminded of the Smithsonian magazine article "Why are Some Feathers Blue?" : "What if birds, like humans, have a sense of beauty? Rather than being cold, calculating egg-laying machines, what if female birds just like pretty boys?"

My magpie pirate would certainly understand.

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