Can True Bird-Lovers Eat Turkeys?


A bird refuge in the inland valley of California has a fund-raiser once a year – a barbeque where they grill turkeys.

They invite the townspeople to buy tickets to this event, slaughter the birds, help consume them, clean up their bones, then spend the rest of the year nursing birds with broken wings and other infirmities back to health.

I spent two days trying to stop laughing as I envisioned the bird-lovers gnawing on drum sticks. Were they aware of the irony of what they were doing and were they laughing too? I guess we all do things like this all the time in different ways: “Stop the violence!” as we munch on a cow’s bone not so different from our neighbor’s arm.

My friends Mary Beth and Wayne recently visited the Sand Hill Cranes in the Sacramento Valley in California where lots of birds go to get away from Alaska’s coldest months. Tundra Swans will come later. You can see these huge beautiful creatures in the marshlands taking off and landing in flocks. I first saw them when I was a teenager tagging along with my parents on bird watching trips with the Audubon Society. Experienced bird watchers can impressively identify dozens of birds, including different kinds of hawks, fly-catchers, song birds, and many varieties of shore birds.

When I was a kid, I used to gather up little baby birds fallen out of nests and try to feed them until they could live on their own. They never made it. Living in an apartment house, we wanted a pet, so my parents let us buy parakeets. We nailed a large tree branch to a piece of wood where they spent most of their time. When mine were new, I’d take them in the dark closet to tame them and teach them to land on my finger and rotate around my finger on command. I didn’t think at that time whether this was good or bad for the birds. I just wanted a pet.

When we were first married we bought a parakeet and named him Eldon. Once he flew into Gus’ wet oil painting, which had deadly white lead in it. We cleaned him off with paint thinner and he almost died from that. We were always listening to radio station KPFA in those days and he’d repeat “KPFA-KPFB Berkeley” throughout the day and night. Our cat Miggles was more interesting, to be replaced by four phenomenally more interesting children.

Now Gus feeds the birds in our garden out of two bird feeders: one for small goldfinches and linnets and the other for a bigger variety of birds, including titmice, nuthatches, and chickadees. He feeds them seeds, I feel compelled to tell you. You may be surprised, but I’m not going to try to attribute Enneagram types to the birds. I don’t think liking to bird-watch has much to do with personality type.

You can expect some of these behaviors from specific Enneagram types, however:

1 Perfectionists might save their habitat and protest against using insecticides.

2 Helpers might save baby birds fallen out of the nest.

3 Achievers might build bird houses.

4 Romantics might admire their beauty and use them in poetic symbolism. Some might write poetry with a quill.

5 Observers might learn scientific facts about them. Feeding them is a hobby lots of introverts especially like.

6 Questioners might fear the raptors, admire the most beautiful ones.

7 Adventurers might wish they had their freedom to fly and dream about being a bird themselves.

8 Asserters might protect them.

9 Peace Seekers might appreciate birds for being universal. But all birds aren’t as peaceful as we might like. I gave up on a hummingbird feeder I had outside my window once because they were too territorial about it.

I’ve been eating less and less meat. I’m open to becoming a vegetarian but it doesn’t seem to happen. Happy Thanksgiving!

One Response to “Can True Bird-Lovers Eat Turkeys?”

  1. Margaret Harrison Says:

    Hi Elizabeth, I’ve done all of the above except actually build a bird house. My parents were both avid bird watchers–my Dad especially good at recognizing bird calls. I remember my Mom participating in Audubon bird count from my early childhood–maybe the rose-breasted grosbeak? I was fortunate to have the wonderful Dr. Mehner in college who taught me ornithology–it was my favorite course, even though we had to get up at dawn and traipse through the woods in search of baltimore oriole nests, etc. He was the most passionate teacher I ever had and will never forget the sighting of the Snow Bird in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia when he said it belonged way farther up North ( I can’t remember where right now).


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