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The Birds on My Balcony Have Taught Me a Lot About the Pandemic

The New York Times: “…Nature has been an escape for many of us during the Covid-19 pandemic. The freedom of wild animals has seemed especially wonderful when our own movements and associations have been clipped. If you watch wildlife closely, however, you will eventually witness the uncontrolled spread of illness — the worst-case scenario we have spent more than a year of our lives now trying to avoid. The sick greenfinch on my balcony was suffering from ulcers on his throat that made it painful to swallow. Probably he starved. Had I recognized his illness at the time, I should have dumped the water and taken down the feeder to prevent him from infecting other birds. Ever since the greenfinches returned to my balcony this spring, I clean the feeder every week, change the water daily and sweep fallen seeds from the ground. My relationship with birds has come to resemble the rest of my life, with its many routines and anxieties around the detection and avoidance of disease. Animal pandemics have much to teach us about our own. Last summer, when most of us were still finding our footing, I spoke to a crow ecologist at Binghamton University named Anne Clark, who mentioned “our pandemic,” sounding as though she had lived through this before. She was talking about the West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that killed nearly 40 percent of the crows at her study site near Ithaca, N.Y., in 2002 and 2003…”

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