Though I would never classify myself as a “Birder”, I do love to see and watch birds. In NJ we had a plethora of different birds, blue jays, starlings, robins, wrens, sparrows, nuthatches, goldfinches, cardinals, and the occasional hawk. The birds in NJ were bird-size. They were small. I remember seeing a Great Blue Heron twice in NJ. I saw a few more hawks, but still, if not for Sesame Street seeing a big bird was rare.
But, the birds in the North can’t even compare in size to the birds in Florida. The birds down here are HUGE, hence my title, and they are abundant. Aside from the wonder of seeing Bald Eagles soaring the skies on a regular basis, I have way more than doubled my sightings of Great Blue Herons. In fact, I get to see them every day! As great as they are, they’re not even the biggest. When we first moved here, I honestly thought I was seeing pterodactyls. They looked enormous even from the ground and they made a weird prehistoric honking sound, especially when they were flying. They’re called Sandhill Cranes. These birds stand as tall as I do. Maybe not a great accomplishment for a human, but for a bird? They’re very social creatures always in groups of 2 or 3. A friend of mine calls them “Martian Birds”. I think that’s a good description. They definitely sound and look somewhat ‘other-worldly’.
I’m thinking because of the gentle climate we also have quite a few emus and ostriches down here. They don’t actually run loose, but they are kept. Our vet keeps some emus at his home/office and Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a few ugly ostriches. If you’ve ever done the Safari you’ve probably seen the display of three never-hatching, but always intact, ostrich eggs. I have now committed to memory the fact that “they weigh up to 3lbs. each and a grown man can stand on one without breaking it.” If Disney says it, it must be true.
Once, while selling real estate, I was chased by an emu. Really. It was during a time when I had quite a few clients that were college students. One particular student/client had had his fill of looking at condos and decided he wanted to live in a tree house. Amazingly, I found one. It was a little off the beaten path, but it was there. We went to the address and there in the front yard was an emu.
I had called the owners in advance telling them when we would be arriving. They didn’t tell me about the bird, but I assumed it was harmless since it was loose.
As we pulled up, I have to admit the tree house was, in a word, in-tree-guing (Get it?). An elevated home with a large tree growing up through the middle, the home was built haphazardly around it; not like anything on Treehouse Masters, but still. I was as excited as my client to see how it looked inside.
My client was a little reluctant to get out of the car because of the emu. As I said before, I assumed it was harmless and so, I got out. As I walked toward the house, the emu looked at me. I talked nicely to it, trying to make friends. It seemed to listen, but then it began to slowly move towards me. I stopped, waiting to see what its intentions were. I knew soon enough, turned and ran. I’ve never yanked a car door open so fast in my life and was ever so grateful that I hadn’t pressed the door lock button.
Then I opened the sunroof of my car and I and my client, who was wearing his pajamas, popped our heads through the top. He wanted to look at the emu, I wanted to talk to the owner, who had heard the commotion and come out the front door. The owner told us that the emu was harmless, so we tried again because my college student client thought it would be “cool”. He got out first. I warned him that I was not responsible if he became emu fodder. But, he was a kid and insisted all would be fine. And it was…for him. Seeing that the emu was kindly towards him, I decided to give it another try. I confidently opened the car door hoping to appear unafraid. I know you can’t show fear to dogs, and decided maybe emus are the same. I closed my car door and proceeded to follow my client avoiding eye contact with the bird, but very aware of its location. That stinkin’ emu waited until I was far enough away from my car and then, ignoring my pajama clad client, ran after me. In a pinch, I can move very quickly and jumped into my car again. This time the bird didn’t just chase me to my car, it was pecking at my window. It really didn’t like me.
The owners were old hippies and very perplexed by the bird’s behavior. They discussed this with my client for quite some time. Please keep in mind that I was still trapped in my car with an emu trying to attack me through the glass window, but no matter. They came to the very astute decision that the bird must not like red hair. Well, of course, what else could it possibly be? They finally corralled the emu and locked it up in the backyard.
My pajama clad client thought the inside of the tree house was “cool” (his favorite word) in spite of the fact that the roof wasn’t sealed around the tree and it leaked when it rained. His father refused to pay for a leaky tree house. He ended up living in the dorm. Much safer, no emus. I didn’t get a sale, but I did have an adventure and something new to add to my list of “Weird Redhead Anomalies”. After all, how many people can say they were chased by an emu while trying to sell a leaky tree house to a pajama clad client? I may be the only one, but it’s really not that big a deal.