I and the Bird

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Most Remarkable Thing I Have Ever Seen

Randy Johnson is a major league baseball pitcher. You may also know him by his nickname, the no-less-unfortunate "Big Unit." He is famous for his intimidating stares, his tall awkward ganglieness and, most important, his ferocious fastballs.

In 2001, while in spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Randy was part of the most amazing confluence of circumstances in, I believe, the history of the universe. Watch it HERE. Note: There are other versions of this video on YouTube.com, but I think this French version, with its slow-mo and lack of babbling meathead commentators (at least English-speaking ones), is the best.

Can you believe that? I saw this video in 2001 and I am just as amazed now as I was then. I think about it all the time. How many things had to come together for that! That bird decided to fly at that specific altitude, at that specific moment, on that particular day, in the middle of a baseball game (when have you ever seen that?) and the sum of those decisions put the bird in an exact 3 square inch location in space-time THAT WAS ALSO OCCUPIED BY A 95MPH HEATER FROM THE HARDEST THROWING PITCHER IN BASEBALL. Unbelievable.

What does this have to do with birds, you ask? Well one thing I've never been able to figure out about that video is just what species of bird is the one to meet its incredible demise. Most all of the stories written about the incident refer to the bird as a generic 'dove.' Is it? The size of the bird and the uniform whiteness of the feather explosion rule out pretty much everything Sibley's got for me as far as doves go. Mourning and White-Winged Doves (and pigeons) are about a foot tall, while the video bird is probably half that. The smaller Arizona doves, Inca and ground-doves, have red wings. The video bird clearly is all white.

Upon further internet research (no need to call in Mr. Luneau...) I suspect that the dove killed by Mr. Johnson was an escaped White Dove, the kind that is usually released for weddings and other lame events. Apparently these birds are used to meeting hilarious deaths, as they were the same species that, after being released during the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Olympics in Korea, promptly flew into the olympic flame and were burned to death.

One question is raised, though. You can clearly see another dove flying in the top right of the video, making this a pair of birds. If these are wild birds living in the stadium and presumably reproducing, doesn't that qualify them as a new ABA list species? I think we should look into it. I know it's just a short, blurry video, but it's way better than this or this.
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