Now that we know that the birds called coots can count (see story on page 8), ornithological experts from all over the globe are trying to identify other hitherto unknown avian talents. One of the most dedicated researchers is Professor I. M. Byrdbrane, founder and sole member of the Kittiwake Ornithological Order of Knowledge, also known as KOOK. Byrdbrane has spent countless (a coot would estimate more than three) hours in the field, patiently listening to what, he says, “the little birds tell me.” Thanks to careful observation, dogged persistence, and rampant overuse of cold medicine to ward off a fierce allergy to feather mites, Byrdbrane has made some amazing discoveries, which he is reporting in KOOK’s monthly newsletter, Fowl Play. He writes and edits this publication from a giant nest of twigs, sticks, and marsh grass he built atop KOOK’s headquarters, which also happens to be his garage. (Local authorities are trying to get him down, but Byrdbrane is refusing, saying his flight feathers haven’t come in yet.) Anyway, here are some of his recent findings.
The marbled godwit, with his superb visual acuity, can instantly tell you if your clothes match or not with a nod of his beak.
The kookaburra sits in an old gum tree because he can chew old gum. But, hard as he tries, he can’t blow bubbles.
The common moorhen, related to the coot, can also count, but only in binary.
The northern bobwhite does not whistle his name “bobwhite,” as commonly thought. Instead, he whistles his name in Elvish, “Betheneol Nithrillion.”
The tern is sick of people telling him, “One good tern deserves another.” He says the joke wasn’t funny the first time, and it isn’t funny now. (So what if the laughing gull laughs at it — she’ll laugh at anything.)
The masked booby really hates his name and wishes to be called the Masked Avenger from now on.