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"What about the legs?" I asked. "Could we give him more substantial legs than the swift's, which are so tiny, and have them sort of let down like an airplane's gear when he lands? Think of a swift standing in a field on a curlew's legs!"
Victor was skeptical. "Legs like that would have to trail out behind him. We're getting grotesque. The swift has evolved to catch insects in the air, and that's why his legs are tiny and out of the way. If we put long legs on him and pufflets, and a big bill, why the whole specimen becomes as ungainly as a helicopter. It could no more catch insects than a boomerang. No," Victor concluded, "now our bird is beginning to look like a Chinese pagoda. Let's stick to Danish architecture."
"A tail wouldn't burden him," said Rowlett. I had the feeling that John wasn't as disturbed by the disassembling and reconstruction of birds as Victor. Or perhaps he was just reacting to his pufflets being dismissed so peremptorily.
"Well, we could give him the fork-tailed flycatcher's tail," Victor said. "Or even the quetzal's—that lovely emerald tail that the Aztec Emperor Montezuma used in his headdress. A replica hangs in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. He would have to be a very large swift to handle such a thing. Of course, not being much on agile insects, he would feed on the more ponderous butterflies."
"Do we want a crest on him?" I asked.
"A titmouse crest might do," John suggested. "Or the tufted flycatcher's."
Victor said, "Of course, there is a crested swift. It's probably best to give the swift his own crest." He leaned forward and stirred the fire. "The most important thing about him," he went on, "is that the bird should be rare. Anyone who wants to see him has to struggle to do so. Only after great effort, preferably climbing high into the mountains, into the canyons of the highest Andes, would one be rewarded by the dazzling sight of this bird. First you'd hear the song and then it would sweep by, this incredible vision.... I mean the bird shouldn't be anything you'd just swing open the back screen door and walk into the yard to see by the feeder."
Rowlett said he had a name for him. "The iridescent song swift!"
"The iridescent song swift! Oh my God, that's terrific!" Victor exclaimed. He could barely contain himself. "Wait a minute," he said. "Iridescent is wrong. It gives away the look of the bird too much. The iridescence should be a surprise when the birder sees the what...the..." he snapped his fingers "...the superb song swift. That's it. The superb song swift!"
"Yip! Yip! Yip!" Rowlett cried.