What is the reason behind the strong affinity of middle-aged individuals towards birds? This question is posed by Emma Beddington.
I often question why birds have such a universal appeal to those in their middle-aged years, becoming a comical cliché of rapidly shifting from casual bird-watching to intense pursuit of specific species.
What is it that attracts people to birds? Is it the lack of health risks, financial obligations, or tax deadlines? Or is it the appreciation for life and the acknowledgement of death that comes with observing them? Whatever the reason may be, I am completely infatuated: spending money on bird food, constantly observing their actions in my garden, and decorating my home with bird-themed items, just like the popular Portlandia skit “put a bird on it”.
During Christmas, I couldn’t help but think about a specific bird named Flaco. Flaco is a Eurasian eagle owl with the scientific name bubo bubo, which I find to be the most interesting Latin bird name. He had escaped from Central Park zoo almost a year ago and I have been closely following his every action from afar, including swallowing rats, hooting, and preening. When I recently visited New York, my main goal was to catch a glimpse of Flaco. Instead of planning to visit popular restaurants or exhibitions, I had a map of places where Flaco had been spotted. I even reached out to one of his dedicated and skilled photographers, David Lei, for advice.
Each day, I rode my bike around Central Park, searching every tree, but with no luck. Flaco has become hard to find and adventurous, preferring to explore air-conditioning units and fire escapes in the East Village and Upper West Side. Lei mentions that he only goes out to search for Flaco when he hears him hooting. Flaco has been captured on film perched on windowsills, a striking and untamed creature in the midst of a bustling city. His large orange eyes scan apartments for what, exactly?
Some suggest a mate, in which case he is likely to be disappointed: eagle owls aren’t indigenous to the US. There has even been a suggestion that he might see humans as potential partners, having grown up in captivity. Would I drop everything if Flaco “suggested nesting sites” to me with his giant fluffy talons, or emitted “staccato notes and clucking sounds” (yes, I have read up on his mating rituals)? Instantly. Middle-aged people and birds: it’s a powerful inter-species love story.