One of the features of recent Golden Grenades podcasts has been the Zero Punches Pulled segment. A daft question that I ask the guest that I suspect they have never been asked before, and are unlikely to be ever again. The kind of question you might ask your mates to kill time in the car on an 8 hour drive to look for a Catbird. The sort of question I spend an awful lot of time thinking about myself.
You know the sort of question I mean; those life or death questions that keep you awake at night. If you had to dress like any species of bird for the rest of your life, which would it be? If you decided to have a sky burial after you die, which bird species would you like to dispose of your earthly remains? If you had to lose an eye to an attack from a bird, which would it be? That sort of thing.
But I probably think about one of these dumb questions more than any other: If you could make any species of bird the size of any other species of bird, which would it be? The possibilities are endless. A Great Grey Shrike the size of an Ostrich (just imaging the larder)! Hummingbirds the size of Jackdaws. A squadron of Swifts screaming through the summer sky the size of Ravens! I asked Lucy Lapwing this very question in episode 17 of Golden Grenades and she gave a fantastic answer which I wont spoil, but you can listen to it here.
Episode 20 of the podcast was basically just a daft chinwag between myself and my GGC partner-in-crime, Will. He flipped the tables on me and asked me a variation of the size-switch Zero Punches Pulled question:
“Two new birds have evolved onto the scene. Which of these two would you choose to frequent the British Isles? The most boring-ever looking gull, but has all the abilities of a Peregrine; it can stoop at 200mph ands actively seeks out and eats other gulls. Or, a Coot that has all of the markings of a Peregrine that it uses to ward of predators, but it has no other skills other than Coot skills.”
Obviously this needed to be given serious thought and discussion, as a question of that magnitude cannot be taken lightly. After considering all of the pros and cons in detail, I plumbed for the Peregrine Coot. It looked amazing in my head, and would be a complete menace on pond scrapes.
This tomfoolery of a discussion was not enough for one man though. He wanted to see what this incredible hybrid would look like. He needed to see it. And so, with the aid of state-of-the art genetic hybridisation technology (citation needed), this innovator created the bird at the top of this blog. This bird no longer just lives in our imagination. Thanks to Clay Billman, a Golden Grenades Collective member from Oklahoma, US, Fulica Peregrinus is now a reality. And just look at it! This bird is spectacular, “the jewel of the Animal Kingdom” as Clay calls it. I, for one, find it hard to disagree.
Huge thanks to Clay for doing this. I’ll sleep better at night now.
Clay Billman is an avid birder and photography enthusiast from Stillwater, Oklahoma. He enjoys craft coffee, sports, podcasts and dad jokes. Clay says his favourite birds are Dark-Eyed Juncos and irrupting Red-Breasted Nuthatches at his rural backyard feeder. As a “side hustle” from his day job at Oklahoma State University athletic department he founded Oklamerica, an apparel brand celebrating Oklahoma and the coolest state bird in the USA, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!