that one?" I asked after repeating his description.
ater," Victor said. "A good idea."
calls could be combined," John suggested. "The peter, peter, peter,
peter, peter, peter would drift along for maybe an hour or so, and then
suddenly—and you'd never know when it was going to come up, or why—this great
horn barrage of the caracara would boom out, and when the echoes would die away
you'd hear peter, peter, peter, peter, peter, peter...."
suppose," I asked after a while, "do you suppose the bird can
"Naturally," Victor said. "And with a vengeance. It should
reproduce almost vegetatively, like a water hyacinth. If you kill one, 10 more
seem to spring up overnight." He stirred the fire again. "I'm truly
beginning to dislike the cacophonous. He encroaches. He's heading inexorably
for the wilderness area. I can see him marching up the highways into the
mountains." He shook his head sorrowfully.
I suggested that
we might get back to the superb song swift for a while, just for a shift of
mood. I pointed out that we hadn't defined his mating habits. Victor brightened
immediately. "The mating display of the superb should be spectacular,
absolutely awesome!" He snapped his fingers. "An aerial lek!"
lek?" I asked.
"It's a scientist's term for the area, sometimes a clearing in the forest
or, in the case of some grouse, a plot of natural prairie, where a number of
male birds stomp around on the ground and do their mating displays in front of
a female, who then chooses one of them. The most famous leks are those used by
the manakins, a family of plump, brightly plumaged sparrow-sized birds found in
the American tropics. In fact, some male manakins spend 90% of every waking
hour in a kind of frantic display dance, which the females visit periodically.
The males do this all year round."
"Do we want
the superb to be quite so desperate?" I asked.