Thursday, March 13, 2008

Offending Birds

Mere birds: Domestic chickens, House Sparrows and Red-shouldered Hawks. From a strict biological view these birds are indeed genetic cousins. Because we eat chickens, what's all the fuss that there's one less raptor in the world? Via direct or indirect human causes, federally protected birds perish by the multi-millions each year. Why cry out about this one? This seems to be the sentiment expressed by sports columnist Clay Travis in his op-ed piece "Lawyer: Tripp not guilty of fowl play." I've never witnessed a more bizarre chicken dance around the intentional killing of a protected bird.

In an age of changing and vanishing wilderness, many wild creatures have adapted to how we've transformed the landscape and there's a particular sense of admiration most of us afford birds like Lola and Pale Male; the Red-tailed Hawks of New York's Central Park. So when their nest was removed from a building a few years ago, the "get out of my way" locked horns with the "they've adapted to us, so let's adapt to them" crowd. What warranted their eviction? Lola and Pale Male were charged with littering on the sidewalk. And this Red-shouldered Hawk’s offense? Disturbing the peace on a golf course (and got the death penalty).

I can almost buy the puerile 'I didn't mean to shoot the bird with my BB-gun' defense proffered by Tripp Isenhour. On his 10th swing targeting the hawk, nobody knows what was going through Tripp’s mind but him. A child stands before a dead Tree Swallow, stunned by improbability of an aimed BB having found its mark, then saddened with remorse over a lifeless bird that flies and sings no more. Did Tripp experience a similar sequence of emotion after the hawk fell dead to the ground? Following this realization, what thoughts then raced in his mind? How could he possibly explain his odd behavior? Instead of a lesson on personal accountability and responsibility, Clay Travis wants us to suck up his piffle with gooey chicken gravy in the hope that it will all just go away.

It will take a clever piece of fiction to exonerate Tripp!

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