(circa 2002, Florida)
To folks who live in Florida, I’m sure cowbirds (often misnamed and known as Snowy Egrets) are no big thing. In some communities they’re even considered nuisances. But I think they’re a hoot.
Snowy Egrets look like miniature white storks, comical almost with a short, staggering stride and bobbing crooked necks. The other day while cruising a cobblestone section of Sun City Center in Mom’s electric cart, I discovered one of them stepping into a marked crosswalk directly in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop a yard or two away. The bird cocked its head in my direction, looked me up and down. Then, unhurried, it strutted across the road while staying within the crosswalk’s painted lines. The cowbird looked just like a little old white-haired man crossing the street in bare feet.
I cracked up laughing.
Ignoring me completely, the egret hopped onto the sidewalk and stabbed its beak into a stand of palm fronds, retrieving a wriggling lizard. With a single flip of its head, the bird flicked the flurry of green down its gullet. The flashing yellow beak made a few hollow clicking sounds, and the lizard was gone. The cowbird hopped back down into the cobbled crosswalk and strolled nonchalantly back to the other side of the street.
A car horn honked from behind my paused golf cart — an obnoxious sound given my quiet commune with Mother Nature. The white cowbird-little-old-egret-bird-man-thing paid it no mind and ambled down the sidewalk. As I continued my afternoon electric cart ride, a gleaming red Cadillac swept past like a stroke of coarse sandpaper.