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The Latest Brooklyn Trend: Being Bullied by a Two-Ounce Bird

You never really understand a mockingbird until you consider things from its point of view. 

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The latest chapter in the eternal battle of man versus nature brings us to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Apparently the fading hipster boomtown has turned into a lawless dystopia where bird-on-person crimes is a part of everyday life. Aggressive two-ounce mockingbirds are terrorizing visitors to the very new Transmitter Park, reports Chadwick Moore of the New York Times's City Room blog.

"It’s so ridiculous...I’m scared of a bird. " Arthur Henry, 44, a children’s book author, told Moore. But being scared of a bird is understandable: Henry details how one of the tiny bird's pecks drew blood. Ornithophobia is real. And it's well-known that one of the signs of the apocalypse is that the destroyer of worlds will be riding on the back of an emu. In the face of danger, some Greenpoint residents apparently resort to hipster eyewear. "He [Moore] had brought along Ray-Bans to protect his eyes should the bird come back for a third round," Moore writes.

The attack on Henry isn't the only one. Moore found other people with similar stories. And, it appears, the birds are smart and understand the concept of strength in numbers:

Angela Golinvaux, a 30-year-old salesclerk from Bushwick, also felt the sting of a pointy black beak recently, near the Kent Street entrance to the park where she usually eats her lunch.

"I had my hair up in a bun and I felt something hit it and I was like, 'What the heck?'" she said.

The next day, also on her lunch break, multiple mockingbirds greeted Ms. Golinvaux mid-trek to the waterfront. 

So what's the deal? Do these birds have a taste for the blood of hipsters (this isn't too far-fetched since there are bees who love hipster sweat)? Are these Brooklynites antagonizing birds? (Moore interviews one woman who yelled at the birds in English, which seems absolutely futile.)

Well, it turns out mocking birds actually have a reputation for being the Chris Browns of the avian world. KCET calls them the "Noisiest, Most Aggressive Small Bird You'll Ever Meet" and notes these two-ounce terrors have a history of attacking humans. Video below:

Unlike Chris Brown, these birds have a good reason for fighting: they're protecting their kids. Mockingbird chicks usually are easy meals for hawks (we have them in New York City) and ravens, and these parents have learned to fight and attack animals that come near their nests. So the Brooklyn birds may just be protecting their chicks. But there's a study that the creatures actually can recognize humans. (If you want a reason never to move to Brooklyn, add human-recognizing birds to the list.)

According to a 2009 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mockingbirds have the ability to hold grudges against people and recognize people who had previously disturbed them. The Guardian reported:

...volunteers walked up to the mockingbirds' nests and gently reached out to touch the nest edges. The same individuals repeated the act for three more days. On the fifth day, different volunteers approached the nests.


Video recordings of the birds' reactions showed a dramatic change in the birds' behaviour when they recognised someone who had recently approached the nest.

So it's conceivable that these birds are holding grudges against Henry and Golinvaux. An expert told Moore that nesting season will be ending soon, meaning that the attacks should die down—good news for anyone who hasn't been previously attacked.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.