Wednesday, September 12, 2012
That Time I Got Attacked by a Bird
So, the summer of working with Rustic Pathways has come to an end and I have had an opportunity lined up to be a Research Assistant on a PhD study involving toucans. Back in May, I came out to Turrialba, the town where I will be doing most of the research, to do a few days of work and learn all about tracking toucans and araçaris. So, when I returned from my visa run to Mexico, I expected to start tracking again. However, I got an amazing opportunity to travel out to ‘The Toucan Rescue Ranch’ to do seed trials with another volunteer on captive toucans. That is basically a technical way of saying I got to feed caged birds wild berries and wait for them to either vomit them or crap them out. The upside to the experience was being in such a great place- literally filled with all sorts of animals and beautiful birds. The downside (other than the obvious of staring at bird poop) was having to deal with the group of 5 araçaris, particularly the blue banded one. Araçaris are in the toucan family, have large bills, and make loud, sharp noises. Because they live in groups and are all in an enclosure together, each bird has a different colour band around their legs so that we can tell them apart. The blue band Araçari just didn’t like me. I would step into the large enclosure and immediately it started flying past me as close to my face as possible without actually hitting me. A few times it even flew by and bit onto my wrist as it passed. Soon enough, I was terrified of the bird. I would look down, normally at some poop, and when I stood back up, I would find the bird right next to my face. ‘Uncomfortable’ isn’t accurate enough. The other volunteer it would more or less leave in peace. Maybe it was my red sweatshirt, maybe my bracelets, but the unavoidable point is that the bird would deliberately attack me to the point that I would shriek when the blue band Araçari was near me. A couple of the toucans would nibble on my finger every once and awhile, but only after I would offer it forward as a token of my appreciation for their cooperation. In general, we were able to collect a lot of data about the toucans and their diet in the wild. I got to see baby sloths, hold a baby silky anteater, and see a lot of cool birds up close. I even named a toucan Suzie May, and no, I do not know if it is a female, but it LOOKS like a Suzie May. I had toucans play with my rubber boots, parrots bite my sweatshirt, and a toucan even tried to steal fruit from me. A spider monkey held my hand, I fed baby toucans, got to pet two-toed sloths. But, only the blue band Araçari was able to make me cry.