Afterthoughts: No Fly Zone

I used to like doves. Then I found out they can’t take a hint.


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illustration:  hanam mun

The Hawaii state Legislature passed a new law this year that was for the birds. Or against them, rather. It classifies the feeding of feral birds as a nuisance, allows the public to report any such feeding to the Department of Health, and further authorizes the director of health to abate, destroy, remove or prevent the problem.

Some laws are controversial. I can’t imagine this one got much opposition, though.

Because we’ve all seen the bird people. Every neighborhood has one or two of them, the houses that look like Hitchcock movie scenes waiting to happen, flocks of birds hanging from every window sill and roofline. The man who lives down the street from me throws so much bird seed on his front lawn that his neighbors have resorted to hanging shiny compact discs in front of their windows to repel the ever present dove hordes. (The CDs don’t seem to work at all, but hope springs eternal.)

I guess the appeal is supposed to be that you get to commune with animals without the responsibility and hassle of walking a dog or cleaning out a fishtank. For the cost of a few breadcrumbs, you can be the most popular guy on the block!

But, man, are there downsides. See, I’ve got a wild bird of my own. Let me clarify: It’s just the one. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a bird feeder.

The thing just kind of showed up on its own. One day, I walked out onto my lanai and there was this bird, a dove, sitting on a newly built nest above my laundry sink. I was SO EXCITED. You would have thought I had wandered into a National Geographic special. Look at it, all fluffed up, cute  and cozy! It trusts me!

For the next couple of weeks, I tiptoed around my lanai, so as not to disturb the miracle of life unfolding in front of me. I broke out a zoom lens to document every precious moment with close-up photography. And when those first fledglings hatched, I couldn’t have been more proud if I had been sitting on the nest myself. The scrawny chicks got bigger and bigger by the day, and then they were gone, off to explore the rest of Honolulu.

Talk about cathartic. It was at this point that I came closest to buying a sack of bird seed.

But then the bird returned and set up shop again. (Or at least a bird returned. I can’t really tell one dove from another.) And I quickly learned a few things about birds. One, they’re terrible parents. That first batch of chicks must have been supremely lucky, because the next few either got knocked to the ground while they were still eggs, or straight up abandoned after they hatched. Nests look a lot less cute when they’re holding a pair of fossilized baby birds.

After I scraped the crap-covered batch of twigs and death into the trash, I discovered the next thing, which is that birds will not leave. It took less than a week for the dove to assemble another nest, littering my lanai with twigs and feathers as if I had never evicted her. This happened a few times: scrape, build, scrape, build. I stopped tip-toeing around, and started actively shooing. The dove would not frighten.

Some people have suggested a BB gun, but I can’t help thinking that shooting an international symbol of peace and innocence is asking for bachi. And so I’ve resigned myself. I tolerate the dove’s chortling with its friends in the morning outside my bedroom window, I sweep up the fallen twigs and broken egg shells, but otherwise, I pretend there’s not a filthy squatter on my back porch.

So, trust me, Department of Health, I’m not about to start feeding this freeloader. It probably gets take-out from bird-man down the street anyway.

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