A New Bird

There is a new bird in the courtyard that my windows look out on.

The courtyard is usually filled with pigeons (and the occasional dove). Every now and then, a tiny songbird appears on the fire escape across from me.

But now there is a new bird. I haven’t seen him yet but I hear him every morning, for a few minutes just as the sun comes up. He has a liquid voice, as if he were speaking Spanish with the accent of someone from Barcelona. He calls, then there is a pause, then he calls again.

This morning I realized why he pauses. In the relative silence between his calls, I heard faintly, from a distance, a reply: another bird of the same kind, answering with the same call. Bright, piercing, liquid, they ask a question and then reply with another question.

They start their conversation just as the sun comes up, continue for about 15 minutes, and then fall silent or maybe just move on. It may be that they continue their discussion, their voices drowned in my ears by the sound of my building waking up around me, the noisy water rushing through the pipes; or the city awakening, gates sliding up, traffic increasing as people make their way to work.

But I do not think that is the case. I can hear pigeons cooing on the ledge across from me, the flutter of their wings; and distantly, in the little vest pocket park on the other side of the building across from me, other birds singing.

My own bird has fallen silent, perhaps he just greets the dawn; perhaps his mate indicates that it is time to stop announcing himself to the world and get on with nest-building or worm-gathering.

He is a new bird, this one. I’ve lived here 21 years this year and this is the first I’ve heard him in all that time. Perhaps climate change has made living in this neighborhood possible for him, has changed his migration pattern, or something.

A couple of weeks ago I looked up while I was walking in a different neighborhood. Having grown up out west, my eye immediately caught the motion of a huge bird and labeled it: Eagle. Then my brain cut in: Eagle? In Manhattan? Don’t be silly! I continued to watch, he didn’t come any closer, and my eye and my brain continued to argue. My eye insisting it knew what it saw; my brain insisting that my eye was wrong.

It is true: Eagles have returned to NYC.

I can see that birdwatching here is about to become much more interesting, even for my very casual participation.

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