Serious birders are an odd sub-species of home sapiens sapiens. [Actually, since birders will reproduce with non-birders on occasion, perhaps they should be called a breed rather than a sub-species.], A while back, Susie and I went on a bird-watching trip organized by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The other members of the group were very amiable, but the real birders among them were fanatics. There are roughly 10,000 species of birds in the world, so far as anyone can tell, and a real birder will keep a personal life-list -- which is to say, a check-list of the species that he or she has actually seen. Just to put this in perspective, when we lived in a house in the country in western Massachusetts, I kept a mental list of the species of birds that came to our back patio, where the bird feeder was mounted on a pole. I was pretty impressed with myself for tabulating maybe twenty-seven species of birds [including a flock of wild turkeys and a Northern Harrier that did not actually come to the feeder but did fly overhead.] Twenty-seven out of ten thousand. Serious birders will have life-lists on which five or six thousand species have been checked off.
On this trip, a good deal of excitement was generated by sightings of Cisticolas. There are about 45 species of Cisticolas, and since all but two are native to Africa, American birders do not get to see them very often. Now here is the thing. A Cisticola is a small utterly unremarkable bird of no intrinsic interest whatsoever, save that it is relatively rare. Birders do not seem to get excited when they spot a truly spectacular bird, like an African Fish Eagle, which looks very much like the American Bald Eagle, nor do they ooh and aah over gorgeous birds like Lilac-Breasted Rollers. These species, and many other magnificent species besides, are fairly common, and get checked off early in a birder's career, after which they seem no longer to hold any interest.
But it is not just birders who have what I consider odd attitudes toward birds. You might think, a priori, that a bird would be interesting as a consequence of being large or being colorful. But one of the largest and most colorful birds in Western Massachusetts is the Blue Jay, which everyone dismisses as what we might call a trash bird. I cannot ever recall anyone rushing up to a gathering and blurting out, "I have just seen a Blue Jay." But people will go gaga over Evening Grosbeaks, which are quite uninteresting [although Rose Breasted Grosbeaks are rather beautiful], and a sighting of a Downy Woodpecker is considered worth a mention.
Another large impressive-looking bird is the crow. Here in Chapel Hill, we have quite a few crows. Sometimes as many as fifteen or twenty will gather on the roof ledges and trees near our condo building. Crows are rather menacing, in their way, a fact that Alfred Hitchcock put to good use. And Pigeons are large, colorful birds as well. But although old folks like to feed pigeons, the general run of birdwatcher will not even consider them worth a turn of the head.
Blue Jays, crows, and pigeons don't get no respect.