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The Catbird Seat: Phone Tree

By Pete Dunne, Illustration by Jeff Sipple
Autumn 2012 Catbird Seat column

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Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds. The organization that takes bird watching to the nth degree.”

“Yes, hello. I’m a beginning bird watcher and I’m trying to meet—”

“Please listen carefully because our menu has changed. If you are calling about joining our BeakBook Family of bird enthusiasts, press 1…

“Receiving our ecofriendly, hormone-free, gluten-free, childproof, flame resistant, postdigestion recycled birdseed, press 2…

“Sponsoring a struggling young birder trapped in a cycle of grade-boosting studies and afterschool activities, press 3…

“Traveling to the most inaccessible, insect-ridden, snake-infested, amenity-impoverished birding sites in the known universe, press 4…

“For all other inquiries or to speak to a real live birder say or press 0.”


“Please wait while I transfer your call.

“Hello! Thank you for calling Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds, Birds.”

“Yes. Hello. I’m a new birder and I’m trying to locate a local bird club, so I—”

“We’re sorry. All of our birding service associates are busy assisting other callers. Your expendable income is important to us. Please stay on the line and enjoy our avocationally calibrated music selection. Your estimated wait time is: Twenty. Six. Minutes.”

Yellow bird,
Up high in banana tree,
Yellow bird,
You sit alone like me.
Did your lady frien’
Leave de nest agai—?

“Feeling life bird deprived? Did you know that as a BeakBook member, you can count the life birds of other members? That’s right. Register online, pay a nominal fee per bird and, faster than you can say ‘credit limit,’ we’ll have you in the 5,000, 6,000, even 7,000 club gloating over a life list too good to believe.

“Your estimated wait time is now: Thirty. Eight. Minutes.”

I am the eagle,
I live in high country,
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky—

“We’re sorry. Due to heavy retiree interest in our early-bird-special membership plan, we are experiencing higher than normal caller volume. Please stay on the line. Your estimated wait time is now: One. Hour. And. Four. Minutes.”

I don’t care for walking downtown
Crazy auto-car gonna mow me down.
Look at all the people like cows in a herd.
Well, I like birds—

“Have you ever heard the expression ‘time is money?’ Did you know you can use your wait time to raise money for extinct bird species conservation? Even a small pledge for every minute you are on hold can help to reverse the clock on some species for which time has run out! Press 5 to learn more.

“Your estimated wait time is now: The next millennium plus or minus a couple of ice ages.”

Just like the white-winged dove
Sings a song, sounds like she’s singin’
Ooo, baby, ooo—

“Don’t look now, but there could be a life bird right next to you. As a subscriber to BBBBB’s Bird Tracker Global Positioning System you’ll be instantly alerted to the proximity of life birds, and can even have the bird counted automatically if you choose the ‘Power of Attorney’ option. Just Press 6 followed by the pound key and you’ll be on your way to a life of challenge-free birding. Your estimated wait is from now until hell freezes over.”

Listen to the mockingbird,
Listen to the mockingbird—


“What? Oh, HELLO! I’m a new birder and I’m trying to—”

“I’m sorry but all the people who work in this office are gone for the day. I’m the custodian. I was just walking by and noticed that the phone was blinking.”

“Darn. You see I’m just trying… Say, are you by any chance a bird watcher?”

“No. How do you get to be that?”

The Cornell Lab

All About Birds
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Available for everyone,
funded by donors like you

American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library

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