A ring-necked pheasant has taken to paying court every morning, every evening, and a few times in between breakfast and dinner as well. I wish he were coming to see me. I wish he even knew I existed. Being a realist, I am aware that he only comes around to see what’s tumbled out of my birdfeeders--and when the pileated woodpecker has visited, that’s a lot of seeds. I have never seen a messier eater than the woodpecker. Being a romantic, I am besotted.
I have never had a pheasant in my life before. He announces his arrival with a creaking call that sounds like an old door on rusty hinges. He’ll stretch onto his toes, swell his russet chest, flap his wings, and let everyone know he is in the neighborhood. The doves ignore him, the finches don't want to lose their places in line, the cardinals are unconcerned. No one seems to care but me, but oh how I care! I drop everything, and creep to the window to watch him.
The pheasant never rushes, except when he is pecking full throttle at the ground. He struts at a regal pace. His tribe was imported to our country from China, so perhaps his noble demeanor is bred in the hollow bone. He even manages a slow hop on to the edge of the stone birdbath, where he fills his beak with water, and lifts his head to let it stream down his throat. I am quite certain that if he knew I were watching he would be prolonging this choreography just to let me admire his distinguished crimson jowls, his adorable teal ear tufts, his elegant pearl choker, his dotted shoulders and his striated tail plumes. But like I said, he doesn’t even know I exist. He probably thinks bird feeders grow on trees.
He is gorgeously feathered and he knows that, of course. All handsome types tend to know it. So I think he is probably conceited. But underneath that suave, devil-may-care exterior is a vulnerable soul--I just know it. And this knowledge has made me vulnerable. I suffer. I worry about him all the time. If I haven’t heard that door creak in a while, I wonder what’s become of him? No good will come of such strutting of stuff. Someone is going to get hurt. And all I’ll have left is a handful of feathers, and the memories. Is this what happens when you fall in love with a dandy?