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what makes a bird a bird

I don't know, Keesey. So many tests left out. Where's the "tastes like
chicken" rule?
Where's the little two-year-old's knowledge, the one I saw on the Equitable
Plaza in Chicago chasing up pigeons in ecstatic glee and crying, "BirD-uh"?
He knew how to classify birD-uhs. They were Columba liviia, end of story.
And then there's the landlord who told me when an old man died in his
one-room apartment and the landlord went to ready it for the next occupant,
he found pigeon legs six inches deep in the man's closet. That old man knew
that Columba liviia tasted like chicken. And then there's the Emily
Dickinson test ("Hope is the thing with feathers"). Since all birds have
feathers, maybe hope is a bird. (I know, I know, a logical disjunction
there--all birds are feathered but not all feathered creatures are
birds--although I need to say that Encyclopedia Britannica Educational
Corporation in the 1970s printed a little story booklet for 2nd graders with
the title "What Makes a Bird a Bird" and triumphantly announced at the end
that it was feathers! So who you gonna believe--Encyclopedia Britannica or a
paleontologist's poll? And then there's the little cerulean warbler female I
found in my garage this afternoon, dying. Probably tried to fly through and
bonked herself on the window. I had no inclination to taste her, but did
mourn her. Which brings me back to pigeons. In the great die-off of species
going on right now, pigeons will be the last birds to go, I bet, so they
deserve their spot in any definition of Aves.
Scott Perry
High Mountain Writers' House
Irasburg, VT