For the Birds – The New York Times

By Elise Coroneos

When I was in New York, I lived with a Dominican-born, Bronx-raised New Yorker. He had guided me through the ‘ins and outs’ of local and American life. So when we traveled to Sydney to hang in my native land, I looked forward to reciprocating the tour guide aspect of our relationship.

It is interesting to think about what someone will find unique about your native land.

Yes, there were the beaches. He was amazed at the sheer number of them. But I expected that.

Yes, he was impressed by our visit to my local doctor. When I pulled out a Medicare card (an Australian universal health care card) in order to ‘pay,’ it was like he’d just witnessed a new and wonderful world. But again, I expected that.

Yes, he was seriously surprised with just how multiethnic Sydney is. But I expected that too. The growth of Asian-Australian as an ethnic group is an evolution in motion that has not translated to the outside world quite yet.

But then there were the things that I didn’t expect, the largest of which was … the Australian bird life.

It seriously blew him away.

I had taken it for granted. As a person who grew up in suburban Sydney, I did not for a moment predict the impact it would have on him.

On our first day in Sydney, after freshening up after the long flight, we took a stroll down the street on which we were staying — about 15 minutes by car from the city center. While on this walk, we saw a cockatoo land in a small tree. Immediately, my partner said, “Look, someone’s pet got out.”

Of course, while trying not to laugh at his presumption, I immediately said, “No, they are native here. You will see them around.”

But it was such an alien idea to him, he could not accept it as fact. “No, no, that must be someone’s pet,” he said.

Suddenly, a flock of 12 or so cockatoos landed next to their mate in the same small tree. Vindication on my part. Sincere surprise on his.

Some may call it divine intervention, but I call it simply the reality of living in suburban Sydney.

Over the next couple of weeks, the cockatoos, the lorikeets, the kookaburras and other bird life blew him away. I had not expected this. For my Bronx-raised partner, who only knew animals in controlled environments such as zoos or as pets, it was sincerely amazing for him to witness the extent of free and thriving bird life in suburban Sydney.

“It’s like an aviary opened its doors and just let its contents out on this country,” he said.