Once great flocks of hornswoggles swept out from their swamp, and the rest is history. Frequently and understandably mistaken for the closely related, equally opportunistic red-white-and-blue tub-thumpers, the hornswoggles called attention to themselves with the same loud squawk and had the same habit of fouling not only their own nests but also, when given half a chance, much of the countryside. This misidentification was furthered by the long-standing debate among those who devoted themselves to keeping tabs on such strange birds about whether red-white-and-blue tub-thumpers should in fact be renamed “yellow-bellied tub-thumpers,” given their extensively documented habit of seeking cover at the first sign that the racket they raised might have unwelcome consequences for themselves. Whenever people grew tired of the deafening clamor and assembled to end a red-white-and-blue-aka-yellow-bellied tub-thumper’s non-stop assault on their peace of mind, it could be counted on to flap its way off to safety within the thick camouflage pro-vided by the more lightless reaches of the swamp. Whereas tub-thumpers might be a frequent nuisance and at times posed a passing concern, though, hornswoggles proved themselves a genuine and abiding cause for alarm. Swooping out of the same noxious murk, often from a nest shared with a tub-thumper or two and flashing its own yellow-gold belly shaped like a bulging moneybag, a hornswoggle was constantly on the alert for the slightest chance to profit from others’ vulnerability or inattention. Its sharp raptor eyes took in any advantage to be gained, and its even sharper talons seized with dazzling speed upon whatever the prize might be. Every hornswoggle had a special appetite for gulls, who, as a species, were spellbound by the predator’s mesmerizing moves and yielded themselves up again and again to its guile as if they longed for a quick killing. Lack of vigilance against such a constant peril was what hornswoggles banked on and what they never failed to exploit without mercy or remorse. Fears that the noisome duo of red-white-and-blue-aka-yellow-bellied tub-thumper and rapacious yellow-gold-moneybag hornswoggle were here to stay became widespread as pessimism deepened with time that much of anything could be done about the situation. Red-white-and-blue-aka-yellow-bellied tub-thumpers would likely always be a problem, and thus learning to live with them while keeping their numbers under control might be the best that could be hoped for, perhaps through a combined program of restricted breeding habitat and advances in chemical sterilization where needed. Yet without a serious and sustained commitment by those who were the potential prey of yellow-gold-moneybag hornswoggles, this loathsome species would never be driven back into the baleful haunts from which it had emerged to wreak such ruin countrywide.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans