I deny it. Just as I refuse to choose between being “a cat person” or “a dog person,” I refuse to limit my interest in animals to, say, Class Aves (birds), Class Mammalia, or Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes).I do mention birds more often than, say, primates. But that's because my circumstances are so sadly limited that I wake to bird song, not chimpanzee pant-hooting. The creature atop the nearest power pole may be a raven or a starling (or twice, a merlin), but so far hasn't been a colobus. And when something hurtles across my path it might be a squirrel or a lizard, but it is more likely to be a bird. Never a gibbon. Damn it.
I gladly mention apes and monkeys when I have an excuse.
Right here I have a passage from Ludwig Koch-Isenburg's 1963 work, Through the Jungle Very Softly, about Koko, a white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) he raised in his Frankfurt home. Koch-Isenburg had tons of exotic pets, toward whom Koko took a lordly attitude. Koko liked to release the African skink from the terrarium, but would drag it out if it tried to sneak under a cupboard.
One of Koko's favorite companions was a male golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). Koko found the pheasant fascinating and often grabbed its tail and dragged it along with him. The pheasant, reluctant to quarrel with his childhood playmate, permitted this, “and resisted only feebly when Koko tried to carry him up a tree.”
The pheasant “would scurry away..., but Koko would catch up with him and clutch him by the tail,” Koch-Isenburg writes.
The pheasant tried to be nice. One day Koko went too far and the pheasant gouged him with the spurs on its legs. Koko screamed in outrage, but never bullied the bird again.
It can be difficult, even painful, when the interests of childhood friends diverge. One individual is increasingly involved in active sports like swinging through branches, while the other enjoys finding food items scattered on the ground and meeting like-minded ladies. I think we've all seen this happen. That doesn't mean it hurts any less.
I was hoping this effort might avert the “bird person” accusation, but now I'm afraid I've failed. I try to write about a primate, and the primate himself drags in a bird. Och, what's the use?