Victor was on his
feet. "Oh my God," he said. "This is terrible! We've invented a
bird I won't be able to see. The superb song swift." He looked into the
surrounding darkness. "I can hear that song coming out of the air. Oh my
God! Now we'll have to organize a special expedition!"
euphoria of constructing the superb song swift, it was difficult to redirect my
two companions to the composite of a "worst bird." Rowlett began by
suggesting that perhaps the solution was to construct a bird out of the
features one doesn't associate with birds—feathers that look like stiff hair,
like a kiwi's or a cassowary's. "It should prefer not to fly," he
"Certainly one of its distinctions is that it gets in your way all the
time. You see it when you're looking for another bird. When you're focusing
your glasses on something in a bush, on what you think might be a Swainson's
warbler, or something special and wonderful, suddenly out comes this
giving it the flight of the groove-billed ani," I suggested, mentioning a
bird that in the air looks as though it's coming apart, a wing fluttering down
here, a tail floating off there.
"If it does
fly, it should have a lumbering and ungainly flight," Victor said. "It
has rounded, short wings. It sort of pumps along."
defecate like a night heron taking off from a tree," I suggested. "And,
of course, it should do that an unconscionable amount of time."
said Victor. "But I don't see the bird as being as large as a black-crowned
night heron. It should be a chunky, medium-sized bird, without distinguishing
Rowlett said he
felt that the bird should have almost no coloration. The entire plumage should
be shiny black, because black was the color of birds that most associate with
man: starlings, grackles, cowbirds.
"It should be
a cowbird type," Victor said. "Definitely. In fact, why don't we start
with the cowbird as a model and add onto it?"
I said. "What about giving him one of those big ugly beaks? How about a
razorbill's? Or a puffin's?"