But Wait, There’s More!

Last night I went to Liberty to hear a lady from the Houston Audubon Society talk about bird migration.  Which she did, with many  slides, in the dark. It was very interesting.  But my eyes were heavy.

When she finished her talk she called for lights.  And then, behold, she lifted a covered birdcage from the floor and set in on a table.  From the birdcage she drew forth a beautiful Purple Martin, name of Emilio.  Seems Emilio smacked into a window as a youth and sustained brain damage.  He can’t see, he can’t feed himself.  But he can sing, like an angel.

After telling his story and giving us time to admire him, she put darling Emilio away and lifted a large box to the table.  From this box she drew forth…a swallow-tailed kite.  This creature had fallen from her nest as a baby, mangling herself, but surviving.  She’s grown now. One wing is useless, she hasn’t got much of a swallow tail, she has zero coordination.  But oh that sleek, noble, beautiful white head!  Those fierce orange eyes! I was pleased to hear she shares quarters with a rescued Mississippi kite.  An interspecies friendship.


After her story was fully told, back she went into her box.  Another box even larger was hoisted to the tabletop.  There was a great commotion going on inside it.  The bird lady said it was this bird’s first time to be shown in public, and it could be a disaster, but she’d had a chat with the bird about proper behavior, so they were going to try it.  Quoth the audience, “What kind of bird is it?”  She wouldn’t tell.  She opened the door of the box, struggled mightily with the creature, and brought forth … a turkey vulture.  This we were not expecting!


This two-year-old young lady had a close encounter with a car in west Texas, necessitating partial amputations. So, like the other two birds, she can never live on her own.  Instead she gets mice and rats without having to work for them, and lots of human attention — a burden she must bear.
The bird lady pointed out her huge nostrils.  Turkey vultures have a keen sense of smell.  Black vultures, not being quite as blessed, follow them around.
One thing that surprised me was the color of her feathers.  I had pictured  a rusty musty black.  Not at all.  She’s a dense sooty black, a look that suits her.
Another surprise:  vultures have long been considered raptors.  But now we’re thinking they’re more closely related to storks.
Hmmm.  The stork bringeth, the stork taketh away?
The bird lady had withheld her food all day, because a turkey vulture’s inclination when overburdened by life is to throw up.  Sure enough, when the bird lady went to stuff her back in her cage, the bird tried to throw up on her.  But it was only a dry heave. I admire the spirit of both ladies.
To have a vulture in the room was strange.  You could see her intelligence.  And her keen appraisal of us, turning her eyes from one face to another.  I tried to look as alive as I could!

Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

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