Birds want glory days

Change is hard — particularly in contrast to the comforts of familiarity.
Comfort can equal safety too, for instance, never rearranging the furniture greatly reduces risk of stubbing a toe in the dark.
Then again, take a trip to the flip side and there can be found proponents of change who argue “change is good” and to avoid it is to stagnate and stunt growth – to miss out on opportunities and better things.
When staking out a territory in which to live, hunt and ultimately raise children, those opportunities and better things have long been believed to be at the core of where animals decide to settle down.
Prosperity and prime real-estate — those who study these things have long held – push creatures into the unknown in their great exploration aimed at forwarding their kind.
Lacking an adventurous spirit and failing to embrace new opportunities, it turns out, is the stuff loons are made of.
Not the crazy kind, mind you, but rather, the feathered water fowl kind.
More than two decades of careful observation of the water loving not-a-duck-nor-a-goose birds revealed a lot of valuable information to Walter Piper, a biology professor at California’s Chapman University.
Drawing the most attention is his discovery that rather than choosing based on location, amenities or possibilities, loons select the territory where they will mate and raise their own little ones based on how similar it is to where they were raised in their youth.
Specifically, they choose lakes that are of similar size and pH levels to the one in which they spend the post-hatchling days, even passing by higher quality lakes to settle with what they know.
There is any number of reasons why, among which, the availability of food sources they are familiar and know how to obtain and an understanding of predators and environmental threats and challenges.
Loons aren’t the only ones who prefer the safety of what they know over the great unknown. Piper notes that older research suggests some ground birds increase their chances of mortality by as much as seven times just by wandering down a different path.
After all, when life is short – about 30 years for a successful loon — and your window for starting a successful family even shorter, there is little room for risk.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t – sage guidance in most applications including used cars, and, apparently, lakefront picket fence selection.
Of course, to be truly slave to the familiar, a loon would never leave home, but alas they do.
Perhaps when travel weary they get homesick, touching down on the first rock that looks like one they knew before.
But it is hard to imagine that it is only loons which take enormous risk and explore the unfamiliar only to discover and more often than not fight dearly to obtain something that is a far removed reflection of the very thing they left behind.
So there is a little bit of a body count associated, but without new-worlders and destiny manifesters, there would be no tea in New England’s nor vintners in Napa Valley, even if they did go from “here” to “there,” miraculously finding “here” in the “there” whilst standing under the flag of adventure.
Sure, the risk junky may live to land on the premier lake and after a while, the homebody is likely to find themselves swimming in a shallow gene pool, but somewhere in between the two, there can be found a loon.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com

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