Reinhardt’s Cowbird

There’s a cowbird on the feeder. They don’t usually show up, so I haven’t ever looked at one closely before–I know some people are plagued by them, they’re a bad, parasitic snuffer-of-bluebirds, and visually just another dusty black bird.

And yet, up close, the cowbird is really rather pretty. It’s subtle, and it has the overhanging brow that gives it a hostile glare to human eyes, it eats savagely, spraying crumbs of suet everywhere, but still, the feathers are nothing like uniform. They go in bars and blazes. They’re matte and shiny, brown-black and dark black and grey-black and blue-black, a Reinhardt canvas rendered in feathers, having escaped from an art museum and come winging by to grab a beakful of suet and roll mad, glaring eyes at the finches. The finches bunch up together on the deck, chirring and squeaking to each other, possibly discussing the artistic interpretation of the cowbird, the deplorable state of modern art, anybody could have done THAT, it’s barely art at all. Certainly not worth the price tag. The fledglings could have done it, for god’s sake. It’s just black.

Maybe that’s why the cowbirds look crazy. Museum curators probably look the same after awhile. Perhaps they’ll show up at the feeder eventually, thin, watery-eyed men with glasses and threadbare suits, and the cowbird glare, pecking savagely at rendered suet and sunflower seeds, unable to explain that black isn’t just black, it’s complicated and deep and layered, like a cowbird’s feathers, but you have to really SEE it, in person, there’s no ink on earth that can show you the layers of light breaking through the depths of black. Peck. Peck.

The cowbird lunges off the feeder and arrows away. The finches regroup, to go discuss something a little more approachable, thistle seed or Monet, maybe, and life goes on.

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