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Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Portlandia: "Put a bird on it" – but not a real bird!


In the second episode of Portlandia, we meet the Carrie Brownstein/Fred Armisen couple that puts birds on things: Lisa Eversman and Bryce Shivers. I didn’t really understand the phenomenon they were mocking until I saw what Lisa did to the “sad little tote bag.” Suddenly, I realized, the bag did look prettier to me.

But then, once there are birds everywhere and the store opens for business, the real birds fly in and wreak havoc. And Armisen yells: “Please go away! I’m allergic! You’re not wanted! Gross!”

I couldn’t help but think this could be a metaphor for how a lot of people think about wilderness and wildlife. It’s all lovely in our minds, and on our tote bags, but fewer people truly enjoy the real thing: Bugs, rain, extreme hot and cold weather, dangerous predators, lack of conveniences … and in this case, broken artwork. The way people perceive nature can fuel the divide between urban and rural communities on environmental issues. Yes, I’m thinking primarily of gray wolves.

Here’s an example of a place where I was not pleased to see birds:

Pigeons congregate under the heating lamp at a Chicago train station in late December. Smart little buggers. Territorial too. They flew at my head when I moved in to share the warmth.

Pigeons congregate under the heating lamp at a Chicago train station in late December. Smart little buggers. Territorial too. They flew at my head when I moved in to share the warmth.

On the YouTube page where the Portlandia video clip was posted, I saw a comment from someone who said they didn’t think the birds phenomenon had anything to do with Portland: “but then I realized I had a tote bag with birds on it … that I got from donating to public radio.”

It’s true: OPB gives donors a tote bag with birds on it!

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