Birds in the Hand


bz panel 09-17-13bz strip 09-17-13Bizarro is brought to you today by a Banner Ad That I Saw And Was Afraid To Click On So I Have No Idea What It Means.

I have a deep and abiding love of birds. I can’t stand to see them in cages and have on many occasions considered freeing them, knowing I would be risking arrest. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never quite had the courage to do it because I don’t want to end up in jail or court.

When I mention this, people often say that a bird in captivity for a given amount of time has no ability to survive in the “wild.” Assuming they are capable of flight, I can’t help but suspect that their instincts would take care of them but even so, I know I’d rather live one day free than spend my entire life in a cage. I’m pretty sure every other animal would, too.

One of my fondest fantasies is that I will one day befriend a wild bird, (ravens and crows are usually the object of this fantasy because they are so smart and, in my opinion, beautiful.) In my fantasy, a crow drops by my house every day and we spend a little time together on the patio, I feed him by hand, he sits on my knee or shoulder, and I tell him how things have been going since we last visited. It’s a simple desire but one I’m guessing will never happen. If I sat motionless in one spot for months and months, holding a piece of baloney over my head it might happen, but I have deadlines to make and bills to pay.

When I was younger, I seriously considered getting a parrot but I was smart enough to read up on them before committing. Consequently, I read what parrots are like in captivity and realized I could not deal with taking its freedom or the profound responsibility that keeping a parrot entails. For the most part, without the kind of constant attention a human toddler requires, they go insane. Still, I find them fascinating in every way. As most people know, they are the closest things to dinosaurs that exist today. Without their feathers, it’s pretty obvious. Without my feathers, I’d just look like a skinny, hairless ape.

bz print 04-21-04 ParrotWEBVINTAGE JAZZ: Here’s a cartoon from ’04 that illustrates a caged parrot’s difficulty in surviving in the wild.



47 thoughts on “Birds in the Hand

  1. I consider freeing small children from the cages of their schools, but they’re even less likely to survive on their own. They’d go right back to their cages, although they were clearly evolved to run around plains and jungles, not sit at desks and learn things.

  2. I feel the same way about birds. I do know someone who had a parakeet and they let it out of the cage most of the time. It was very friendly and could be taught lots of stuff. Much easier than a Parrot. Most people will not live as long as their parrot, unless, I guess, they may not live as long with in captivity. We had a neighbor with a parrot and they did let it go. It stayed around their house for months and finally left. It was pretty obvious they had him and let him go cause you could hear him all over the neighborhood. He must have done fine cause we live close to Mexico and he could have gone there.

    • If you click on the title of a given post, it should then open a page with that post and all moderated comments at the bottom. Just scroll down.

  3. I know what you mean about wanting to free birds from cages. I still regret not taking the opportunity when I saw several of them in absolutely tiny prisons whilst travelling.

    Love your work.

    • In a bizarre way he also frees our minds from cages… Perhaps only Nicholas Cage would be resistible to that influence ;)

  4. I agree; no animal should have to live in a cage. After my bunny died some years ago, I was overcome with guilt about how much of his life he spent in a cage prison. I loved him so much! I decided that I would no longer keep animals in cages.

    I love the idea of developing friendships with “wild” animals (a crow or raven today, an octopus tomorrow)….

  5. My favorite all time Bizzaro was done years ago. It had the Star Trek Enterprise in front of a farm tractor’s headlight. Course it was captioned, ” It’s no use Captain, we’re caught in a tractor beam.”

  6. Awwwww! This is one of the sweetest cartoons ever! We had a parakeet when I was young and one day, he did escape his cage (we were playing with him at noon on break from elementary school). My 2 siblings and I went crying out through the neighborhood for “Budgie,” but no luck and had to walk back to school. In the early evening of the same day, “Budgie” hit the bathroom window while our dad was in there shaving. He wanted back in! ; ) But I do understand the sentiment. And my sister did once release a canary for all those reasons. A friend who illustrated and wrote books on evolution for kids who once showed me the ungainly but noble dinosaur walk of grackles (brown-black birds) and now I can’t look at them without seeing dinosaurs. P.S. Our mom was a true birdwatcher who knew the families of birds that returned year after year to our backyard and kept some of the official logs of bird counts.

  7. Be glad you have resisted your urge to have a captive bird. We took on two tropical birds from a kid of ours who got more than she could bargain for. We loved them, they loved us and brought us great joy for about 3 years. Then our lives changed and we could not give them that constant attention they need and thrive on. They became vicious and jealous to the point of injuring us and others if we didn’t meet their needs immediately. Fortunately found some folks who take captive birds around to classrooms and gave them all the attention they desired. It was tough parting… but I was able to take back our study, replace the ceiling tiles and sheet rock they destroyed and feel good about where they went.

    As a kid in 50’s and 60’s I had wild birds for a short time… a raven, crow, magpie that fledged too early so I fed and cared for them and then let them go. Much nicer that way… I am sure one of them hung around for a couple of years just to leave deposits on my 64 Ford Falcon!

    • While being responsible I am still free. Beings in cages are not. I’ve often said that if I were facing a prison term of more than a few months, I would likely commit suicide instead. I’m not sure I’d have the courage to go through with it, but I feel strongly about it.

  8. I just came from a Friends of San Diego Wildlife Refuges meeting and finally got to read today’s comic page. I LOVE today’s panel. As usual, you have a particular knack for “hitting it on the nailhead”. Sometimes, though, I wonder what you’ve had for breakfast!

  9. Dan, people abandon dogs all the time, assuming they will learn to live on their own, but as you know, many die prolonged and horrible deaths from starvation, dehydration, exposure, disease and predators. I don’t have research to back this up, but I suspect many caged birds would suffer similar fates if released.

    Hey, if you want a wild bird buddy, you’ll have one… or several… within a week or two if you set up a feeding area and put a small amount of food in it at the same time every day. Wear the same color clothes during feeding sessions to make it easy for the birds to recognize you. Then, according to research, you can probably wear whatever you want because the birds will learn to recognize your face! Read and be amazed!

  10. Crows and jays like dog food, kibbles & bits. For a feeder I bolted a large solid plant coaster on top a post chest high off the ground to keep the kibble away from dogs. The crows come in every morning. They recognize me and the sound of the garage door opening. They come in through out the day and allow me to sit on the patio and watch. I share your wish to have them tame enough to sit with me.


  11. We have several ‘groups’ of crows that frequent our property. I was going to include a “murder” story, but I changed my mind and I’ll keep it light. They are big, fun to watch, smart, and skittish (no hand-feeeding here). Their calls are one of the few sounds that set our fawn pug to barking. If you ever want to birdwatch, Dan, just drop by ( No crow posts yet, though — have to work on that.

  12. I’ll always remember when you released a dove from beneath your robe as you crossed the stage at commencement. It was an awesome and magical moment.

  13. With respect to birds and dinosaurs — you might enjoy this xkcd cartoon wherein the author, Randall Munroe claims that birds aren’t merely descended from dinosaurs, they are dinosaurs. Watching the behaviors of the small birds at my window feeder, it’s easy to believe. People think of song birds as these sweet little creatures that make beautiful music. But if you watch them at the feeder you quickly learn they are very competitive and aggressive when dealing with their own kind. And those beautiful songs? Most often they are singing either “here, chicky, chicky, come mate with me” or “you other males stay the f**k out of my territory!”.

    I read all of the comics in my daily dead-tree newspaper (The Concord Monitor), even the ones that I hope, any day now, may actually produce a funny gag. But the only two comics I make it a point to read regularly on-line are Bizarro and xkcd. These two cartoons couldn’t be more different in visual style, on the one hand Bizarro features lush artwork verging on photo realism, while people in xkcd are literally drawn as stick figures. But behind both strips are very smart men with a delightfully skewed sense of humor. As for the “Monitor”, they recently changed their comic lineup. They added Baby Blues in the color Sunday Comics supplement and from the weekly pages have dropped Shoe, Marvin and Dennis the Menace. Shoe at least would get off a good pun every once in a while. But the good news is that Bizarro has a new home on the daily comics page, moving from the Classifieds backwater.

    As I recall it was many many years ago, when Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” retired, that the “Monitor” ran a set of proposed single panel comic replacements for a week for readers to vote on. Bizarro was one of the choices and it won in a landslide. It’s nice to see Bizzaro finally make the move to the daily comics page, but I still will read it on-line for the color and the color commentary!

  14. My Grandpa had a Seagull with a broken foot. Charlie would fly in for some bread and water every morning. He wasn’t as friendly as your fantasy raven, but he always came in like clockwork.

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  17. Dan –

    No way. I’m the same with the friendly crow wish! Mine’s mainly due to envy. On our elementary school playground a tame crow some neighborhood kids had raised up from a fledgling would land on your bike’s handlebars occasionally and say, “Good morning!” I kid you not, it made my day every time! If any ’70’s Windsor Park grads can corroborate, that would be very cool because I may have been drunk. It was the Chesterman’s bird, I believe.

    If you’re freeing any budgies or parakeets, please hang those seed bell thingys outside your house. I’m not sure that starving is very pleasant!


  18. I grew up in the wilds of Santa Barbara (the neighbors were a cattle ranch and a lemon orchard); we were visited regularly by a murder of crows. One day I noticed that the flock had an odd sounding crow in its midst. Turned out, a parrot had gotten loose, learned to mimic the crows, and joined them.

    The parrots of Telegram Hill disappeared for a short while; about the same time there was flock of them hanging out in Alice Keck Park Gardens in “downtown” Santa Barbara. So, even parrots like to play tourist.

    • Cool story. A couple of days ago I saw a young hawk seemingly playing with a murder of crows in my neighborhood. They’d chase each other around then light in a tree, then resume. Sometimes the hawk was chasing, sometimes the crow. Nobody seemed very aggressive, it really looked as though they were just fooling around.

  19. I actually have freed birds from a cage. It was on my daily three mile walk through exurbia to community college. I noticed a cage by the side of the road containing two small birds, probably budgies. It appeared the cage fell off a car rather than being dumped there, because otherwise they looked well cared for. I had to tilt the cage back for the door to stay open, because the birds weren’t leaving while I was standing there. I never saw them leave, but they were gone by the time I walked back home.

  20. When I was a kid in the 60s & 70s, my maternal grandparents had several generations of a scrub jay family that would come when called to get peanuts, several even brave enough to come into the house. Some would even sit and “chat” for a bit before politely taking the peanut from one of our hands and flying down into the backyard to cache it away. And jays are in the crow family.

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