A few posts ago, I wrote that I did not agree with recent research that suggested birds were more intelligent than previously believed. As an example, I shared a story about a pair of doves attempting to construct a nest in an area that under no circumstances should support a nest. Each day, I would walk past all the twigs and branches that had fallen to the ground because these doves insisted on building their nest on a small pipe that sloped downwards on two sides, and I'd think, "Those stupid doves will apparently remain nest-free throughout eternity." Jackson had spoken.
About a week later, I noticed the doves had proven me wrong. Somehow, one of them went out and obtained an engineering degree. Practically overnight, they managed to build what appears to be a stable nest exactly where I said they couldn't. While walking past the nest that first day, I stopped for a moment to admire the fruits of their labor. "Way to go, birds," I thought to myself.
Apparently, not only were these birds smarter than I'd originally imagined, but they also must have had access to a computer with an Internet connection. They didn't care that I'd recognized their intelligence in my own mind. All they knew was that I hadn't published a retraction, so they started sending me messages that I should do so. Like, immediately.
A day or two later, while I took a break from work to call someone from the privacy of my car, a dove landed on a rail inches from where I was parked. Then a second one. Then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. All standing on that rail, motionless, staring at me. I'd never seen this many birds hanging out in the parking garage at one time since I'd started working at Genentech, and now they united simply to lay a guilt trip on me.
When I walked back to the office, a dove -- perhaps their leader -- flew in front of me and then landed directly in my path about a foot away. I stopped to look at it. It glared back at me. I took a step towards it, then a second step. The bird did not budge. I changed my path and gave this 10-ounce bird a wide berth. I wasn't entirely certain because I don't speak bird, but I think this dove was threatening to beat me up.
The next morning while I was driving to work, another member of the winged brigade expressed its displeasure with me by leaving a souvenir on my windshield as I passed under an overpass. A big souvenir, splattered strategically at eye level so I could stare at it for the duration of my 90-minute morning commute. Another fan.
Finally, over the weekend I was driving through the town of Campbell, which is far from being a wilderness preserve, when a trio of ducks slowly crossed a busy street directly in front of my car. As the duck bringing up the rear crossed my path, it turned its head in my direction, paused for a moment, and quacked at me. At least it sounded like a quack at the time. Now that I think about it, though, the duck may have told me to "retract."
I'm not taking any chances. With the birds of the world displaying enough intelligence to follow my every move just so they can pick on me, I do believe a retraction is in order. Birds, I apologize. I meant no harm, and I am honestly impressed that two doves can build a nest that surpasses the construction quality of my apartment. I hope you both have a regular supply of hot water in the morning, because I sure as hell don't.
There, that should do it. Now, please hope for my sake they do not discover I've been eating more chicken lately.