Birds. They're all around us. They are wonderful beings of pure bliss. I love them all.

I've wanted to write about "birds" as a general topic for a long time now. There's a lot to say, I have so many bits and pieces of drafts, ideas, thoughts. On birds themselves, on my personal relationship with them, on their cultural significance and how humanity treats them. This is my attempt at actually putting all of that into a semi-coherent text for you to read, or just to have actually written it all out. I don't know if anyone will get that much out of reading this, but I care about this topic deeply and I need to get these words out.

Why I love birds

I spend a big portion of my free time watching birds, feeding birds, hanging out with birds, admiring birds.

This started in 2022, during a pretty hard time in my life. My then best friend - now wife! - had recently started carefully feeding the crows that hang out around her favorite spot, and introduced me to her new friends.

At first they kept their distance. They watched us throw the peanuts (unsalted!), waited for us to turn away, and then carefully picked them up. Over time, they started to trust us more. They ate while we were looking, they came closer and closer, they started approaching us before we got any peanuts out. Weeks and months passed, we visited the crows more regularly, and they noticed. They now come flying straight towards us long before we reach our spot, they jump around next to us, they follow us around, and they look at us with the cutest pleading eyes we've ever seen.

The first time I ever paw-fed a crow was a life-changing experience, and I'm not exaggerating. There was one crow that came even closer to us than the others. At some point I just tried holding my paw out for it, not really expecting much. Of course it didn't immediately eat out of my paw, but it did get curious. I repeatedly tried many times over the next weeks, and one day it just clicked. This "wild" animal decided that it now trusts me enough to walk right up to me, and eat peanuts out of my paw. We named that crow Bill. Bill regularly eats out of my paws and out of my wife's hands now. It's just a thing he does. He's a bird, living out in this big world, able to fly wherever he wants to, and he decides to fly up to us and eat directly from us. I appreciate this trust so goddamn much, every single time.

Similar relationships of trust have evolved with other birds too. There's a group of seagulls that has us throw food in a high angle and catches it mid-air, with a few of them even flying by close enough to snatch up peanuts that we're holding up towards them.

There are ducks and geese that regularly come quacking at us and eat out of our paws/hands. We have pigeons who knock on our window in the morning or when they hear us arrive at home. Even swans, those majestic big birds that everyone always keeps describing as "dangerous" and "aggressive" come walking up to us calmly, nicely ask for some food, and patiently wait for us to give it to them.

Birds treat you the same way you treat them. Show them respect and trust, and they'll give you the same.

How birds have changed my life

Now, in 2024, I basically don't leave the house without at least a pack of peanuts in my bag. These birds have changed how I go through my daily life, how I view the world around me, how I think and feel. I pay so much more attention to my surroundings, I notice the pigeons hushing in-between the crowds in the city, I notice the alarm calls of the crows when they spot a falcon high up in the sky, I notice the beautiful chattering of the magpies, I notice the tiniest little bird singing at the top of their lungs, echoing through the neighborhood. When I feel down, I spend time with birds. I watch them do their thing, I go "nyawwww" at their cute behaviors, and they make me feel better.

And I appreciate it all so much. These wonderful beings are all around us, and we don't appreciate them nearly enough.

Humans. People. Society.

In fact, unfortunately, a significant part of the society we live in, doesn't appreciate them at all. Pigeons are often considered "dirty", described as "pests" and treated as annoying nuisances by the very same society that bred them for fun and games, brought them into their cities, kept them as pets, and then discarded them.

Crows are often described as "bad omens" and "signs of death", or associated with witchcraft and other so-called evils. People hate them for their loud calls, while claiming to enjoy the sounds of other songbirds (which crows also belong to!). Those same songbirds that they most likely can only hear because the nearby crows keep them safe from predators like falcons and hawks.

I wish I could claim that everything is always good and nice on my bird-feeding adventures. Sadly, there are negative experiences too. Those are never the birds' fault though. All the bad stories have to do with interactions with other humans.

Here's an anecdote from a few months ago: We're standing outside, off from the main path, and feeding a group of pigeons. A child and their parent approach from afar. The child sees us, turns to their parent, says "Isn't that forbidden???" and immediately proceeds to chase right through the group of pigeons on the ground, scaring them away.

Kids grow up learning that kindness towards "wild" animals is bad, but random acts of violence are okay.

Feeding birds, especially pigeons, is in fact illegal in many places. Destroying their habitats is "fine". Violence against them is "fine". But decide to do an objectively good thing, an act of pure kindness, helping some animal out, and suddenly you're a criminal.

Another time, a person walked up to us and started rambling:

"Hey I live over there in that big building, and the crows that you feed here always shit on our balconies. Can you please stop feeding them here so they stop doing that."

I was baffled at first, replying only with a "no?". Apparently they didn't like that answer, so they kept going on about how these disgusting animals are creating so much dirt they have to clean up and how that is our fault for feeding the crows right here, and how we should just feed them somewhere else so they stop shitting on their balcony. I tried calmly explaining to them that those crows have been here long before us or them, that the ancestors of those same crows have probably been shitting on trees where that house now stands centuries ago, and that crows are highly territorial animals that won't just leave the area they live in, but they didn't seem to care. They got angry at my oh-so-rude language (I basically said "crows just shit wherever the fuck they want") and walked away at some point.

It's a common occurrence that I'd talk about one kind of bird on social media, and then get comments like "Oh yeah I love crows too, but we should really get rid of pigeons!!!" and the cognitive dissonance of these kinds of disgustingly hateful comments fills me with so much anger. Just because I was talking only about crows in one post, someone deems it appropriate to approach me and tell me about how they want to destroy the lives of another bird species I hold dearly? Hell, I made a post recently being upset at exactly that behavior, and shortly after someone replied with weird conspiracy-theory-adjacent explanations of why pigeons are supposedly evil.

I don't think I will ever be able to understand the way people think about the animals we share this world with, and frankly, I don't want to understand such a bleak and hateful view of the world. Most of them were here long before humans, and they will probably still be here long after them. People destroyed their natural habitats, forced them to adapt to urban architecture, unleashed sickness and violence on them, and now they literally can't even shit anymore without being shunned for it. All they want to do is live their life, have a nice time, eat and shit and breed and sleep in peace, and apparently that's already too much.

The parallels here are hard to miss. Many people look at wild birds, and feel the same way as when they look at other people they deem inferior. When I see someone mistreating a wild pigeon, I know they'd probably treat a disabled queer person of color like me the same way if nobody was looking. The only difference is that mistreating wild animals is even more socially accepted than transmisia, ableism, and racism are. Cowardly fascists can play out their violent fantasies on defenseless birds because they might be too scared to target another human that might be able to fight back, or is more likely to have someone come to their defense.

So, I consider open hatred and mistreatment of wild birds as a gigantic red flag. If I see you talking shit about pigeons, you're just as bad as if you were talking shit about me and my queer siblings, and I will unleash my army of birds on you.

A caw to action

Go out, feed some birds.

Make some avian dinosaur friends.

Break the laws prohibiting acts of kindness.

Do something nice for yourself and the wildlife around you.

And remember, All Crows Are Beautiful, All Cops Are Bastards, and if you see a Seagull stealing food from a restaurant table, no you didn't.

Thank you for reading through all this. As a "thank you"-treat, here are some photos of my beautiful bird friends :3

Bill, a black crow, sitting on top of a railing with water in the background.

A pigeon sitting on top of my paw, with a peanut in its beak.

Two pigeons sitting on top of my paws, held in a small cup shape, and eating.

A majestic swan in water, glistening in the sun.