Sunday, November 16, 2008

Birds in France

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The short story is that there are precious few birds in France. Hunting is a huge part of French culture, and because gun ownership was such an important issue during the French Revolution, the French are even more gun-crazy than Americans. (I don't think the French own anywhere near the number of handguns or assault weapons as Americans, but it is very common to see guys walking down the road, shouldering rifles.) We are in the midst of hunting season, and the hunters are literally everywhere. There don't seem to be any rules about private property, when it comes to hunting, so you had better imagine that I was wearing my orange scarf when we went out mushrooming.

According to what I've been told, the French hunters shoot and eat anything and everything, much to the chagrin of conservation groups. I'm told that the French eat sparrows. I mean, you've got to expend more calories preparing the bird than you gain from eating it! There's a French expression Faute de grives, on mange des merles, which means literally, "If you can't find thrushes (birds the size of an American Robin), you'll have to make do with blackbirds." Another way of understanding this expression is "half a loaf is better than none."

Anyway, because of this, or perhaps because I suck as a bird-stalker, I've not taken any decent photos of birds since I've been here. I've been trying to get photos of the Eurasian Magpies, but they're too cheeky for me. They let us get almost close enough for photography, and then fly off, laughing.

Magpies are beautiful intelligent birds, and I think they really do have a devious sense of humor. I'm glad this one bird sat still long enough to let me take this photograph!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

before I knew what they were really called, I called them Tuxedo Crows.
There are some around the Yuba River (Marysville) but don't know if any more cooperative about being photographed!

Sorta strange the conservationists have not gotten more into it; esp with bird being migratory, you would think the surrounding countries would not want their flocks decimated as they pass thru France on way to warmer winter climes.

You know, there are even all those internat'l laws about migratory-bird feather products.

Guess it doesn't apply to shooting birds for dinner though

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