These are merely my experiences of what it’s like to be a bird, particularly a bird of prey. Some other bird therians may relate to me with regards to other things – even if they are not bird of prey therians. But being that a lot of therians just don’t seem to “get” us, I just thought I’d tell what it is like. I do not, by the way, claim that this is how it is for all bird therians.
It can be hard, sometimes. You don’t get people. At all. And people don’t get you. Part of you wants to be your own person – that’s all you can be. But another part of you wants to feel accepted, just like any human. These two sides battle constantly. I cannot and will not change who I am – to me, that’s an impossibility. But yet, I find that a lot of my life – most of my life – has been friendless. That’s why I value my friends online so highly – the ones that I trust, that I hold close, I hold close to and am deeply hurt if I should lose one of those friends – which has happened before. I also love my mate deeply and honestly don’t know how I got by for so long before I met him.
It’s socially awkward. People seem to find it odd that you’re so into birds – that, even though you don’t tell them that you’re a therian, they seem to think it odd that you relate to birds so much. They may be nice to you, think it’s cool that you like birds, but they won’t get close to you, ever. Also, there are those not-so-nice people who think that just because you love something, that that’s their invitation to tease you relentlessly and say mean things about your theriotype, and suggest killing it – not that they would actually do those things – but they do it just to get a rise out of you. And this is really hurtful, because they don’t understand just how you relate to birds, or that you are one. It’s like walking up to someone with a dog and suggesting killing their pet, unprovoked. Except it’s like that person is threatening you personally.
Even other therians don’t get you. Most therians are not bird therians, and seem to completely misunderstand birds. No offense meant to anyone here, but it’s true. You may not fall into that category, but believe me, there are plenty who do. You get left out of things because most therians only think of the mammal-related therian-related stuff. So the cool signatures and design ideas and all of that… pass you by. When you voice in a nice manner that you’d like to be included, people tell you to stop getting so upset, that it’s a silly thing to be upset about. It is not. All therians should be included in one way or another, because they are therian. The term Therian is all-encompassing with regards to animals. It does not just include one kingdom of animal or the other.
As a bird of prey therian, I have a tendency to mantle my food. I do not like large crowds of people, though I will tolerate them if I want to be at a certain event badly enough. I’ll take breaks away from people if I have to. But part of that’s probably because I’m an introvert, too. But I’m getting somewhere with this. Back to food. When I’m at a restaurant and people walk in behind or beside me, I can feel my phantom hackles (feathers at the back of the head/neck) go up. I kind of put my arms around my food, on the table, though I do my best not to make a big show of it. I’ll keep looking in their direction until they move. If they just walk by, that’s fine. But it really does bother me if they just stay there. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to be rude to them, or tell them to go away – I am certain that they don’t realize how standing close by makes me feel. Fortunately for me, my mate understands, as he’s a golden eagle therian, and he can sympathize.
You kind of have to keep reminding yourself that no one’s going to take your food. Humans – unless starving to death or something – don’t want your half-eaten plate. They don’t want to eat after you. But with birds of prey, it’s different. Birds of prey have to protect themselves, and their food, from other predators and scavengers in the wild, some of which are other birds of prey. Being that it’s a lot of hard work to catch prey sometimes, they are extremely protective of their food. Birds of prey are all about food – it’s why food is usually used in training them. They respond to food. I love food. I do not sit around all day eating potato chips, but I love food. I love all kinds of foods, I’ll try most things, and I like most things. Granted, I do not defend my food as tenaciously as many birds of prey would, but I am defensive of it, a lot moreso than most humans tend to be. I do dislike that feeling, though, that someone’s going to get my food if I don’t protect it. I dislike not being able to actively do something about it – move away, or tell them to move away. That can be frustrating, sometimes.
Birds of prey are very territorial, and I am also very territorial. Sure, I’m not going to hurt you for knocking on my door, but I don’t like having people in my apartment, even people who I like (aside from my mate, of course). At work, I’m very picky about my things, and I can’t stand it when people run off with something and don’t return it. Granted, I know a lot of non-therians are annoyed by this too, but it really puts me on edge until I get my item back. On top of it, I have to handle it in the way that they’d prefer me to handle it at work, and not the way I want to. Part of me screams, “They took your stuff! Take it back! Assert that it’s yours and they can’t take it, ever! IT’S YOUR TERRITORY!” But obviously… well, I can’t just go yelling that at people. It’s not that I’m mean or intolerant or spoiled. I’m just very particular about what’s mine. If you ask me nicely if you can use it, and then return it when you’re done, I handle it fine, although even that still puts me on edge, sometimes. And I have to keep that side of me quiet.
My eyesight is about average, and I don’t need glasses or contacts as of yet, but I still find my vision lacking, sometimes. I am very observant, and tend to notice things that other people don’t. But sometimes when there’s something that I want to read that’s far away, or I want to see something closer, I try to focus in with my eyes (I’ll even do that little head-bob or side-to-side movement which indicates a bird of prey that is focusing on something, sometimes) – and it just doesn’t work as well. Sometimes it helps a little, but it’s frustrating that it’s not coming into focus and appearing much closer to me and more able to read or see.
One of the hardest things for me to deal with, as a red-tailed hawk and peregrine falcon therian, is the inability to fly. I kind of have what I feel is a memory of what it’s like to fly. I fly in my mind, sometimes, and it’s amazing. It would be even more amazing if I could physically experience it like the birds do. I’m not talking about an airplane. I’m talking about it being just you and the wind in your feathers. I’m talking about real flight. When I’m around a lot of people I don’t know, I have the urge to fly away sometimes. I’m nervous, tense, and just want to open my wings and jump into the air. Sometimes too, when I’m upset, I want to fly away, and I can’t. And sometimes, I just want to fly for fun, to stoop like a peregrine and soar thermals like a red-tail. Sometimes I watch my friends up there doing the same, and it hurts me that I can’t be up there with them. I’ll talk to them, sometimes, tell them how beautiful they are and that I really wish I could be up there flying in the air with them.
I can really sympathize with birds who can’t fly, and who want to. There’s a red-tailed hawk that I know, named Sammy. She’s an ed bird at our local raptor center, and she’s been at the center for 19 years. She is blind in one eye, and this happened to her when she was very young, either still in the nest or just fledging – she fell out of her nest in a storm and was injured. They ended up keeping her and training her as an educational bird. She is treated very well, as are all of the birds there, but sometimes, I can tell that it is hard for her. She wants to fly. She wants to be free. She wants to be herself and not follow rules and do her own thing. She has a very strong will. And as frustrating as it can be when she gets moody, I have to be patient with her, because I know how it feels. I have always felt a closeness to this particular bird, and I’ve always felt like I could sympathize with her. I may not be in the same exact situation as she is, but I see myself as quite like her – a bird of prey who cannot be free, and cannot fly.
Some people would say that I am free, because all humans are free, but… that really doesn’t seem true to me. They have to get jobs, go in for a certain amount of hours each day in order to obtain green paper and metal pieces, which they use to buy food and have living quarters with. And there are a lot of us who can’t have jobs or careers that we want to be in forever. A job’s a job, and you’re lucky if you can find one at all. So you often end up being stuck in one job that you don’t really want to be in, wasting each day away, and that’s very frustrating. Though I’m sure some would disagree, I can’t understand at all how this is freedom. I just can’t comprehend it. I fully realize a raptor’s life isn’t easy. They are susceptible to a lot of things, and prey is not always easy to come by or catch. But I guess I could say that their situation’s simpler, rather than easier. They need shelter? They have to find it. They need food? They need to hunt it and kill it. Of course it isn’t easy, but it’s less complicated than our lives are as humans. Also, they have the freedom to decide when they want to do something, and how. We don’t necessarily have that.
I get broody. I personally have no interest whatsoever in having human children – it just isn’t my thing. But I want to have baby birds every year during the spring. I have a nest that I built at home – granted, it’s not as awesome or sturdy as one a real bird of prey would build, but I do love it and think it’s nice. For the past couple of years, I’d go outside and pick up sticks that I liked, or just felt gravitated towards, and I’d bring them home, and add them to my nest. Aside from that, though, I can’t physically have baby birds, and it bothers me that I can’t. My motherly instincts in regards to baby birds are strong. Whenever I feed babies at the raptor center that I do volunteer work for, I have the urge to take them home and care for them there. Of course, I’m not going to do this! It’s illegal. But that’s not to say that I don’t want to, sometimes.
For whatever reason, when I get broody, I get very cranky and have a lot of mood swings. I don’t think that it is necessarily affected by my physical hormones, but it could be likened to hormones throwing everything out of whack. This is the bad thing about this time of year – it can be very hard for me to keep my emotions under control.
It aches sometimes to not be understood, and to feel excluded even by other therians. It hurts so badly to just want someone you can relate to, and have one person after another misunderstand and just pass you by. It’s terrible to have people make assumptions about you just because you’re different, and act a little differently from the way they do. Some of these things that I’ve mentioned can make life very hard.
At the same time, though, I like being a bird therian, and wouldn’t change it for the world. It makes me who I am, and I am proud to be that. You can only be who you are, you know?