On my bicycle travels in Detroit I see lots of birds. There are the proverbial pigeons that seem to hang out in the parking lots downtown. They never seem to move as I ride near them, almost standing in defiance, daring me to hit them. I also see them on rooftop overhangs doing what they do best, making a mess of the sidewalks below. Canadian Geese are everywhere along the riverfront and seem to have taken over many areas of Belle Isle Park. Like their pigeon friends, they too can leave quite a mess.
I’ve heard cardinals singing long before I spot them, and Red-winged Blackbirds love the cattail plants and bogs near the canals on the far eastside of the city. Plus, there are the everyday robins, woodpeckers, sparrows, grackles and many others that make Detroit their home.
Surprisingly, game birds, in particular Ring-necked Pheasants, are not that uncommon in Detroit. I see the plump, copper-colored, red-faced birds quite a bit as I ride through sparsely populated streets, now lined with fields and grassy prairies. Sometimes they are standing in the street, oblivious to their surroundings, pecking away at whatever it is they eat. As I approach them, they tend to scurry, rather than fly, into a nearby desolate field or overgrown lot. Once there, they stand silently and motionless in the brush watching me slowly pedal by, hoping I don’t spot them.
As I found out early on while riding along the city’s many fields, they are low flying birds. One of the first pheasants I saw on my bike rides nearly flew into my helmet. I was pedaling along, minding my own business, when one of the 2-lb birds sprang from the nearby brush and came right at me. It scared me half to death as I ducked low to avoid a possible collision. A bird of that size could do some serious damage to an unsuspecting bicyclist like yours truly.
Since then, I’ve encountered the flying birds many times. Frequently, I’ve been startled to a point of near heart attack, especially when I scare them up while riding across some field. Not so much because of their size, but the loud, distinct wing flapping sound they make upon takeoff. It’s a low piercing, shuttering sound that reminds me somewhat of rapid gun fire.