Monday, December 18, 2006

Dirty Bird and Other Obsessions

Humans have always formed close relationships with birds. The domestication and husbandry of fowl (for their eggs, meat, and feathers) dates to the very beginnings of human society. Junglefowl and guineafowl were probably among the first animals to be domesticated by man. People in many Third World communities still live in extremely close association with their flocks of domestic chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys.

The sport of falconry has a history that dates back to at least the 1st century BC. Other birds that humans have domesticated and bred in captivity for sport, recreation, and companionship include doves and pigeons, parrots, and finches of various species.

Of more recent origin, perhaps, is the keeping of semi-domesticate ornamental waterfowl to enhance the ambience of parks and estates with their grace and beauty. Perhaps the ultimate of the ornamental waterfowl is the Mute Swan, a species that has been imbued with many imagined human qualities through the centuries as an object of fanciful works of art, dance, poetry, and literature.

This woman’s unusual obsession with an adopted Canada Goose named "Dirty Bird" is an example of the extent to which the bond between birds and humans can be stretched. The photograph evokes images of the eroticism of Leda and the Swan, a motif from Greek mythology that has been immortalized in the art of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and others, and in the poetry of William Butler Yeats; for a scholarly artistic and literary review of the imagery inspired by this myth, click here.

Credits: The photograph is attributed to Diane Scharle, and is used here courtesy of The


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirty Bird and I are flattered by your references to Greek mythology and the poetry of Yeats, but our relationship is strictly platonic. His ability to appreciate human touch, voice, and close proximity makes him one of the most unusual birds I have come across.

October 01, 2008 6:56 PM  

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