Gilbert is a special boy. He’s an American Kestrel who was “rescued” by some well-meaning people when he didn’t need to be rescued. He became a “human imprint.” Perhaps you’ve heard stories about ducks following around a person after seeing them immediately after hatching, but imprinting behavior applies to all birds and isn’t limited to the first thing a newly hatched bird sees–a young bird can imprint on whoever its caretaker is after it hatches.
Besides not being able to survive in the wild, there are some other problems associated with human imprints. Gilbert is experiencing one of those right now–he has biological urges. But, as a bird who thinks he’s a person, this is rather complicated.
Poor Gilbert wants a girl, but he’s more interested in humans than he is in other Kestrels. This seems to be true in spite of the fact that it’s not clear Gilbert can distinguish between a female human and a male human. He talks continuously as soon as he hears a voice, clamoring for affection.
If Gilbert were a dog, we would say he was barking up the wrong tree. Gilbert isn’t so different from humans in this respect. While he may be suffering from species confusion, many of us humans suffer from equally self-destructive confusion when it comes to selecting a mate. From what I remember, Gilbert could relate to human dating confusion such as:
- Confusing being liked by someone with liking someone. These are not the same thing.
- Trying to chase a potential love interest without appearing to chase. This usually results in the kind of humiliating goofiness responsible for the creation of the movie genre called “romantic comedy.” It’s much easier to maintain our dignity by just being direct about our interest. Even if we get shot down, we don’t have to waste a lot of time delaying what was inevitably going to happen anyway.
- Becoming someone else. If Gilbert could morph himself into someone much taller with longer legs, lose the beak, feathers, tail, wings, and, perhaps most importantly, trade his talons in for feet, he would have a better chance at landing himself a hot woman. While we might laugh at the prospect of a tiny Kestrel transforming himself into a handsome, human prince, it’s amazing how often humans try to make similarly impossible transformations to win their love interest. Really, the secret to happiness is to love someone who can love you back just as you are.
I wish I could explain to Gilbert why he needs to either figure out how to be attracted to female Kestrels or join the priesthood, but I don’t speak Kestrese. In the meantime, Gilbert sings to me, telling me how handsome he is, how energetic he is. He tries to convince me we will make a beautiful couple. I don’t have the heart to tell him that he and I can never be together.
Instead, I make cooing noises and hope he finds it comforting.
*Note: All photographs in today’s post taken by my husband; edited by me.