In honour of the S3.0 blogging contest about evolution, I’ve included a photo of finches from the Galapagos.
As a geneticist, I should have been ecstatic about visiting a home in the Galapagos where I could ‘interact’ with lots of finches. But I was TERRIFIED!
Yes, I suffer from Ornithophobia. It’s a real thing! It has a name and everything. Most web definitions describe as a fear of the birds attacking but I’m not sure if that is my fear. I just really hate the flapping. When I hear the flapping, I go into panic mode = there is no thought about why I might be afraid.
I seem to have inherited this fear from my mother who got it from her mother. Is it inherited as a biological trait or a learned behaviour? I don’t think we’ll every know. I don’t want to spend any time around birds to find out! One interesting thing, the trait does seem to be diluting each generation. I can at least pretend to be carefree when there are birds around (but I’m always watching).
So, onto the photo. There is a tourist stop on the island of Santa Cruz where you can spend some time with a longtime resident of the Galapagos. Jacqueline deRoy knows a lot about the islands and her home is welcoming and interesting. Many people from our boat were birders (*shudder*) and they were all excited to spend time with the finches. One of the photos:
So, at this wonderful house, we were all supposed to put birdseed in our hands and let the birds fly all around us. Really?!? I am proud to say that I did it and it was one of the most scary things I’ve ever done. And I’ve kayaked in white water and over waterfalls, gone hang gliding, and other adventure things.
There is photographic proof of my daring act – but the fear has distorted my features so badly that I just can’t share it. I’m grateful to the birds and their adaptations for their contributions to my chosen field – but why are they so scary?
My mom was too frightened and had to stay indoors. I respected her decision and tried to hide her anxiety from the others who were delighted to be close to all these flying birds. I guess I’ve outed her now though.
But I do wonder – do I have half the anxiety of my mom? If it is purely biology, I should only have half the fear. And if it is learned, why is my fear not equal to hers? What do you think? Are phobias adaptive and partially biologically determined?
Is anyone else afraid of birds? It turns out that many will admit this fear once someone else has taken the first step.