The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

In search of ponies: Despite dangers, birds keep on flying


Sharna Johnson

The small flock of birds dove in with purpose, headed on a collision course with the front end of a tractor-trailer, paused at a traffic light.

Just as it seemed they were about to crash, they began swooping and pecking at the grill of the truck — enjoying a feast from the smattered bugs it had picked up on the road.

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Elsewhere, precariously positioned on the dotted line between rows of waiting cars a red light, the little bird took no head of the danger it was in, instead focusing all its energy on a French fry that was nearly as large as the bird itself

Even when the vehicles began moving, the bird continued its efforts to heft the meal into the air, seemingly unaware of the danger that passed with each rolling wheel that went by.

They are so omnipresent; they are virtually invisible at times, yet birds are all around, even in the most unlikely of places.

If a morsel hits the ground, they swoop in to capitalize on the opportunity for an easy meal.

And nothing is sacred, with anything from benches to statues, utility lines, signs and windowsills serving as perches.

They actually meld quite well with the hustle and bustle of human activity, adapting exceptionally well to a pace that the greater majority of animals avoid at all cost.

It’s easy, with growing urban sprawl worldwide, to assume that birds are merely adjusting to a changing environment, something that other species can’t always manage in the face of human encroachment.

But it may actually be more than adaptation, according to the findings of researchers from around the globe who teamed up to study birds in 54 cities around the world. From New York and Baltimore to Jalisco, Berlin, South Africa, Stockholm and many more cities, researchers found consistency.

Four types of birds — water fowl, pigeons, raptors and sparrows —haven’t just adapted to city life, they actually choose it and prefer it over more natural alternatives.

In fact those four types of birds were found in every city studied, according to a press release from Charles Nilon, co-author of the study and professor of fisheries and wildlife at the University of Missouri, College of Agriculture.

Sure it’s easy to see how all the diverse, lovely and sturdy roosts are a draw to pigeons and sparrows, who are also likely to find the deal sweetened by the food scraps people discard — pigeons haven’t become known as flying rats without reason.

For waterfowl, the fact that humans have a tendency to include in their cities parks and natural areas complete with bodies of water is a heck of a lure, but what’s great about man-made parks is they don’t tend to have the same predators as their natural counterparts, so while humans may have to worry about being mugged, the birds are safer than they’ve ever been.

And that lack of predators is something any smart raptor is bound to take advantage of, finding life in the city to be prime hunting real estate with few competitors, the study concluded.

Of course not all species can adapt or even rise to the level of choosing human environments for themselves and concern for biodiversity in the face of growing human cities is definitely warranted.

But it’s nice to know humans aren’t completely toxic and in some cases, might just build things even nature can appreciate.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: [email protected] or on the web at:


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