Bangkokians fall to their deaths from high-rise apartments with some regularity. These incidents are often ascribed to suicidal impulses, the next most popular hypothesis being accident, as in, “Wow! Look at that moon—it’s almost like you could reach out and touch…”
But read on, because I have a new, improved theory. Recently, in fact, I myself almost fell victim to an especially devious homicide attempt.
A couple of myna birds have taken to nesting in a cozy niche outside my eighth-floor kitchen window. Enthusiastic progenitors of their species, they raise new broods at the rate my Sara tends to need new shoes. They are also strongly territorial, especially when they have young. Thus Nigel, the male, flies shrieking at my head every time I stick my head out the window, which is at least once a morning because I like to annoy him. Sometimes he’ll swoop three or four times in quick succession, close enough I feel the wingwash brush my face, before he settles on the ledge outside. At that point, he cocks a calculating eye at me all the while he makes rather pleasant chuckling sounds.
Slowly but surely, in fact, I felt we were becoming friends. I was wrong. This was merely Nigel in plotting mode. Never trust a chuckling myna.
I’ve long had much respect for the intelligence of certain birds (see, e.g., “Big bird brains rool, OK!”). But Nigel stands in a class of his own. This day, after the usual vicious dive-bombing raids, he parked just outside arm’s reach. Nothing new there. But then he started hop-skipping in a strange way—the feathers on his head gone all punky and him peering awkwardly back over his shoulder at me—till he was three meters away along the ledge. Then he stopped to perform an admirable impression of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, toppling up on one leg, if you can believe that, and gazing back over a shoulder with great malice.
In Canada, when I was a kid, we’d sometimes come across partridges in the forest that would feign a broken wing, dragging themselves away from their nest as though to say, “This way for an easy meal.” (This neat, and entirely instinctive, trick actually gave the game away, of course, telling us exactly which way their nests lay). So my first thought was this: Given the consistent failure of intimidation, Nigel has conceived this all-bunged-up act as a means of diverting me from his nest.
I retreated to make tea before sticking my head out again. This time he performed just one pro forma diving-bombing and then went straight into his new schtick: “Look at poor me, I’m a twisted wreck of a bird. Yeah, and why don’t you just come out here and try to get me, eh?”
My blood ran cold, his plan revealed to me with brutal clarity. As I climbed out to sidle in pursuit along this 10cm-wide precipice, he planned to whirl up and go for my eyes.
No question. Nigel intended to kill me.
It was only later, over breakfast, that it struck me. How many other unwitting residents of this fair city have been lured by mynas out onto window ledges and then sent plunging to their untimely deaths?
I neglected to get video footage of this behavior (of which, incidentally, I can find no record on the Web). But I’m going to encourage Nevil to try again, and, supposing I do get it on film, I’ll post it here.
“Just be careful,” says Sara. “I’ll bet Nigel’s working on Plan C already.” And her voice tells me the smart money’s on Nigel.