They start, swatting at it and waving their hands in a useless attempt to make it go away.
"I can smell it."
It stays there, innocently dipping it's head into its body.
The pigeon, perhaps done with preening it's wings, takes flights, only going so far as to land across the railing on the other side of the balcony. The girl, content with it being far away enough, returns to her work.
I used to think ibises were magnificent creatures. Honoured by the Egyptians with their ibis-headed god Thoth, they were always the first thing I'd see upon entering the zoo. There in their man-made natural habitat, they stood on rocks and dipped their long beaks elegantly into the water. Ibises were a magnificent, exotic creature, full of beauty and grace. It surprised me when I learnt that ibises existed beyond picturesque lakeside habitats and that they were a common occurrence in the "everyday world". Usually they were to be found with their long beaks stuck down a garbage bin and their white feathers covered in dirt, and they were as far removed from the exoticness of the zoo as could be. They were a common, dirty bird that took your leftover sandwich out of the bin.
I must admit I have a soft spot for birds. I think they are gorgeous creatures and I could watch them all day. Regardless of whether a bird is a budgie, or ibis, or kookaburra, they all still have the same qualities and features, and they all still, perhaps crudely putting it, fall under this category of "bird".
Which brings me to the point I want to make. All birds are birds but people are inclined to see a pigeon, or seagull, or ibis, or other such birds and immediately think of them as dirty and gross and diseased. They aren't going to be sparing a few crumbs for these birds, they're going to be shooing it away and calling it all manner of bad things. However people see lorikeets or cockatoos, or galas and will happily throw it their crust and let it peck at their knee. There are "good" birds and there are "bad" birds, and that decision is made right off the bat just by looking at it.
A lot of people say it's not right to look at a person and judge them on their race, or gender, or socioeconomic circumstances without first getting to actually know them, and yes it's not right to do this. However this is something we do every day without realising it. Maybe it's ingrained in our minds to immediately think that a pigeon is dirty and so we shouldn't give them food because it's a waste. I hear people say that they won't give money to homeless people because the money will just be used for alcohol or drugs but we don't actually know that. We look at them, think they don't look clean and that must be because of their awful life decisions and presume the worst.
People look at seagulls and think they're violent and going to try and steal your food. Likewise people can look at a particular type of person and be worried that they might steal from them. I won't lie, some seagulls can be quite ravenous at times, but it doesn't mean all seagulls are like that. It also doesn't mean that a sparrow won't steal your food either.
When I went to choose a budgie the store keeper looked at it and said "it's probably a male but it might not be." I don't know about all birds but with some birds the way it's gender is found is by the colour on its beak. Of the four birds I've had, they've all had male names but not all of them were males. None of their genders were decided by the way they acted or what they were like. We don't look at a budgie, see the pink on its beak and think that that bird is going to be any less of a bird. Nor should we do the same with people.
Perhaps birds as a comparison to humans may be stretching it a little but I don't think so. Different people have different opinions on the mental capabilities of animals but I would say that birds do have more of a natural animalistic instinct than people do. However I have owned three budgies and all of them have been very different. They all had their different quirks which made them unique.
It can be easy to say to not judge people, to not presume because of what we see. It can also be easy to say that we don't presume but constantly in our everyday decisions, not just about people, we are making judgemental choices, whether we notice it or not.
I'm not saying we should all go out and start feeding the ibises or trying to pat the pigeons, but next time you see a bird that you consider "dirty" or "bad" have a think about whether that's actually true. Then the next time you see a person that's "dirty" or "bad" think about whether it's true or a presumption. It's easy to make judgements, especially when it doesn't seem like it will matter; who cares if you glare at an ibis or not, but it can also be easy to make judgements when it does matter. Perhaps we don't realise the importance our decisions can hold, especially if we've already made our mind up from the beginning.
I know it can be easy to make presumptions about birds, and about people, but maybe next time we'll all think twice about whether the ibis is dirty or actually magnificent.