Małgorzata Rutkowska



The Wings of Love: Women and Their Birds in Contemporary American Memoirs

Books on bird-human relationship are rare among popular pet memoirs, as most of them are devoted to dogs or cats. The present article discusses two books, whose authors, American biologists, have decided to fill in this gap with accounts of their intimate bond with an adopted pet bird. Mingling memoir and science, Joanna Burger in The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship (2001) and Stacey O’Brien in Wesley the Owl (2008) present stories of love which transcends the boundary of species. For a biologist, sharing a life with a bird offers a unique opportunity to study wild birds’ social behavior in the domestic environment. Unlike dogs and cats that share with humans a long history of domestication, a Red-Lored Amazon (Tiko) or a Barn Owl (Wesley) are inherently wild and can be befriended only on their own terms. Over the years, the birds come to treat their women-owners as closest companions or even mates, proving with their complex behavior that they are indeed intelligent, emotional and caring creatures. To strengthen the bond, Burger and O’Brien willingly participate in daily preening sessions. Much less willingly, they acquiesce to become the objects of the bird’s courting rituals. In the memoirs, Tiko and Wesley enjoy the status of family members, of thinking and emotional individuals whose needs and feelings deserve to be respected. Both authors are aware of the anthropomorphic point of view they adopt, however, they defend their perspective on the grounds of personal experience and scientific research. Thus, by showing the similarities between emotional and social life of human and non-human animals the books question the main assumptions of anthropocentric approach.

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