The neighborhood I live in is void of birds. It’s strange. Especially in summer. Raised on the east coast, my summers would entail early morning bird song outside my window. Hermit Thrust, Sparrows, Bluebirds – they would congregate beyond my bedroom curtains straight to the back yard. I wasn’t Snow White singing to little angelic birdies perched on my finger while we whistled in tune. But they were around, and I would fall into dozy afternoon snoozes in the heat of the day to the hypnotic sound of birds. Mix that with the rattle of cicadas sitting in trees and grass, and I had myself a summer – a dreamy one at that.
But here in the area of Los Angeles where I live, there is a stillness in the air. Faint bird song is interrupted by the grouchy collective craw of a murder of giant black crows who’ve claimed their stake in this territory. They are ominous. They are either chasing away the song birds or they are having it out with a pandemonium of parrots who screech through, hoping to inhabit a giant sycamore tree over on Irving and 4th Street.
That is one of the first things I noticed when I moved to L.A. five years ago. Birds, sweet tweeting singing birds – are scarce. There is a silence interrupted by the sound of a speeding car, a crazy terrier barking with ear bleeding frequency, or the hissing of many dried palm leaves slapping together.
And then you hear the craw and guttural vocal rattles of crows. They are everywhere. The scavenger bird. A murder waiting for a murder so they can swoop in to feed on the dead animal carcass. I can hit you over the head with the obvious Hollywood metaphors and correlations, but the imagery speaks for itself. Murder. Scavengers. Running the goodness out of town.
The crows must have chased all the sweet singing birds away, leaving random undeterred little birds singing faintly and prancing on hot pavement to branches, not giving into the crow’s eviction notice. Neither are those screeching Parrots perched on telephone wires, cackling together like chatty old ladies talking about the price of groceries. They stick together, holding on with their strength in numbers.
Indeed, the state of California is filled with majestic birds – the commodore, loons, boobie and gannets, gulls and ducks galore. The state bird is the California Quail. They must soar and sing in Northern California where the air is cool and nature is allowed to flourish.
But in this highly populated and preening part of the state – with lack of watering holes and plentiful scavengers – these creatures are turned away. Much like young hopefuls are turned down from roles in commercials, a television pilot or film.
There are peacocks in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. They are kept under the care of groundskeepers. If crows get to them, they will be shooed away. Or at least I think they will. There’s enough death in that space for a murder of crows. Enough sadness to fill a field with birds singing. But they don’t sing. Peacocks don’t have a song. They mustn’t wake up the dead.
Here is how you refer to different groups of birds:
A murder of crows.
A pandemonium or company of parrots.
A dule of doves.
A flock of birds.
A brood of chickens.
A siege of cranes.
A mob of emu.
A gaggle, skein or flock of geese.
A cast or kettle of hawks.
An exultation of larks.
A richness of martens.
A charm of finches.
A convocation of eagles.
A brood of hens.
A hedge of herons.
A tiding of Magpies.
A sord of mallards.
A muster or ostentation of peacocks.
A bouquet or nest of pheasants.
A parliament of owls.
A host of sparrows.
A pitying of turtledoves.
A mustering of storks.
A rafter of turkeys.
A descent of woodpeckers.
A fall of woodcocks.
An unkindness of ravens.
…and A covey of partridges (in a pear tree).
(Source: A Group of Critters -> http://home.comcast.net/~ray.ammerman/groups.html )