Tuesday, July 22, 2014

That Cuckoo flew under the car! ~ by Leah St. James

I had a hard time coming up with something for this month’s theme without getting too dark. (I tend to go  dark to begin with, and the “cuckoo” topic lures me even darker.) But something happened this morning that made me think of cuckoos in a different way, and I figured I’d share.

I was driving with my son near our home, and as we approached an intersection, a small, dark bird kamikazed itself at our front grill. We were only going about 30 MPH to begin with, and he attempted to stop, but it happened so fast, there was nothing he could have done to prevent it.

Photo Courtesy of morgueFile
As we continued forward, we both checked the mirrors to see if there was any evidence of dead bird in the road—but nothing. Then we wondered if it was actually stuck in the front grille. We checked when we stopped the car, and thankfully it, too, was free of bird guts.

Then my son said, “What is wrong with these birds in Virginia?! They’re crazy! They’re always flying right at the car, or the tires! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve swerved to miss one of the stupid creatures.” (He's like his mother. He gets a little melodramatic when confronted with something compelling enough.)

Having seen no proof of a dead bird in this case, I told him not to worry about it. But he had a point. It's happened to me many, many times, and it got me wondering. Why do birds do that? Is it coincidental—they’re flying along (like three feet off the ground), and a big, old car happens along and gets in their way? Or, like my son seems to believe, do they see the car from a perch high above the roadway and purposely aim for it?

So I did what I always do when an intriguing puzzle comes along…I Googled “Why do birds fly in front of cars?” I found an online forum on straightdope.com from Julyof 2002 where someone had posed this exact question. There were a number of theories posited, like:  Birds are playful, and maybe they’re playing chicken. (:-)) Or they perceive the car as a giant threat to a nearby nest so go on the attack. 

The one I found most plausible claimed that cars create an updraft, a current of air that birds ride, like we might ride a wave in the ocean. What a neat idea, but so potentially hazardous to our feathered friends! 

I hope that little bird made it across the street just fine, but if he didn’t, I hope my car’s updraft gave him the ride of his life. (Ouch? Did I really just write that?)

Happy reading and writing, all!


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the enduring power of love. Learn more at LeahStJames.com.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Another burning question answered in a unique way! Thanks, Leah. Nice to know someone else puts on the brakes for those darned little critters.

Jannine Gallant said...

Maybe California birds have more brains than southern birds because I haven't noticed this trend. However, our squirrels are morons. I swear they wait to see a car and then go for it! Yep, I hope your bird survived to fly again.

Diane Burton said...

Something similar happened to my daughter--only it involved a deer. You know deer and dawn. She knew not to swerve, esp. on a narrow country road. The deer sideswiped the driver's side. When she got to school, she was so afraid of seeing deer "guts" she crawled across the gear shift, got out the passenger side, & cried on a fellow teacher's shoulder & begged her to go out & look. Her fiance's dad asked her why she didn't bring home the deer. :)

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Margo - Yep, the thought of crushing a bird is upsetting! Even if it flies right into you.

Leah St. James said...

Too funny, Jannine! All I can think is that squirrels are just plain...squirrely.:-)

Leah St. James said...

Diane - A deer is a way bigger mess than a bird, or a squirrel! Your poor daughter! Those things can take a car out! I'm glad she wasn't injured. (And my husband would have said the same as her fiance's dad! ... Men!)

Alicia Dean said...

Ha! I do the same thing, google anything I wonder about. Very interesting about the updraft, althuogh birds should probably find another method of getting a boost. Like Diane, I have a deer story. When I lived in Kansas City, I was on my way to work at 5 a.m. on a narrow dark road and a deer literally leapt out of the trees alongside the road and into my car. I saw him limping away, but I don't know how he fared after that. I can understand if they're trying to cross the road in front of you and you hit them, but he literally dove into my car, and hit the right front quarter panel. What an awful feeling!

Leah St. James said...

That must have scared the you-know-what out of you, Alicia! I'm fortunate that I've never had a collision with a deer. Although when I lived in New Jersey (yes, Jersey), I was driving down a local road one day and spotted this ginormous Great Dane-looking dog sort of galloping down the middle of the street, coming straight at me. I was at a red light so had the luxury of waiting, and as it approached I realized it was a deer! Then it leapt over the cement jersey wall into the other lane of traffic and galloped away. That was really weird.