I was sleeping in a cabin in the wilderness when I saw. I was on my own: Without a phone, email, anyone to notice, I peered into the forest through my window and caught sight of the Queen’s Canadian pelican in flight. Now over the past couple of days, the bird’s twitter-trail of arrival messages has abounded, as I tracked down the key birding website and listened to my Mac. Only then did I notice that the bird is now calling itself “daugther of the Bahamas.”
That mystery aside, the rapture of a national bird — a bird I now feel as passionate about as it did about robins or crows when I was a kid, back in the days when I fancied my true calling might be broadcasting from my northernmost National Geographic mailbox — this is news that means so much to me. We must now rejoice for the fact that the world’s most iconic mammal now has a proper owner. Who knew, I thought, that this majestic creature would finally find a home after not being banded and not being weighed and not wearing a Hanging Rock seal in her breeding grounds or a nuclear fallout shelter. Who knew?
Because it wasn’t until this past spring that I saw the remarkable and expensive journey that falconers have undertaken to establish ownership of this particular bird, and I was part of it, that I began to recognize its merits as a role model. There was no theory to explain this single act, no Facebook statuses to publicize the moment, no surge of curious fans eager to keep us updated on the bird’s progress. Just the human endeavor itself, which, perhaps in the 21st century, is probably the greatest thing that could ever happen. So much so that even those who were supposed to keep her alive — U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Florida; a few neotropical marine wildlife advocacy groups; a few conservation organizations overseas — have now abandoned their efforts to save this starling of herky-jerky migrations. The case is closed.
Now, I feel closer to this falcon than ever before. I feel her awesomeness and her majesty in an instant. I wonder, if she were far away, could I sit by her side? Why not? There are ways to meet our rarest of animals, and while most of them involve dangerous venom or ambush in the jungle, I see no problem with my internet smarts saving this as a champion bird — either online or in real life. I never much paid attention to millennials ruining everything. Now I realize that they were doing it for a reason.
I was then. I’m now.