For the Birds Radio Program: Bentsen State Park, and Crow Hunting Controversy

Original Air Date: July 29, 1988

Today Laura Erickson talks about the many complaints she received about her crow-hunting program, and talks about Bentsen Rio-Grande State Park in Texas, which has ties to a Vice Presidential nominee.

Duration: 3′51″


Bentson State Park

(Recording of a Chachalaca)

Up until two weeks ago, “For the Birds” has never been a particularly political or controversial program. I’ve been blithely ambling along, producing over 300 programs in the past two years without ever touching a nerve anywhere—at least not enough to arouse anyone to write or call in a complaint. But the minute I breathed the term “Saturday Night Special” in a program about the new crow season in Minnesota, I was accused of being anti-gun and mean-spirited. For four months of the year, crows can now be hunted as limitlessly as Passenger Pigeons once were in Minnesota, and crows aren’t even eaten; yet the only phrase in the whole program that registered for some people was “Saturday Night Special.” I was told that it’s just an anti-gun buzzword and that in reality such a weapon does not exist, despite the fact that the term is defined in standard dictionaries as any cheap short-barreled handgun.

I stand by my program—inaccurate handguns by any name have no place in the out-of-doors where they can cripple animals more easily than they can kill them. Whether or not they belong in the indoors where they can kill human beings is a question I wasn’t addressing on the crow program and one that I won’t address now.

I don’t like offending my listeners, and for that I’m sorry. But, anyway, as long as I’ve suddenly become controversial, I guess it’s about time I got political, too. I usually spend more time reading journals about birds than news about politicians, but last Friday “All Things Considered” did a story about Lloyd Bentsen which grabbed my attention. Actually, it was only a sentence in the story—the rest pretty much went in one ear and out the other, but the line that registered was that Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in Texas is named for Lloyd Bentsen Senior. Now that’s the kind of news that can make a birdwatcher sit up and take notice, because Bentsen State Park is one of the best places to go to find an assortment of Texas birds.

Back in an earlier life, that is, before I had children, I spent a couple of days at Bentsen. It was the only place I’ve ever seen a roadrunner sitting in a tree, which was reason enough for me to keep it on my favorite places list forever. It’s also where I first met the Green Jay. This bird has to be seen to be believed, with its comical blue and black face markings, its tropical green back, and its lemon-yellow undertail feathers. The Great Kiskadee was another striking bird I found there. I saw Black-shouldered Kites, White-tipped Doves, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Tropical Kingbirds, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrashers, Hooded and Altamira Orioles, and Great-tailed Grackles–all birds we can only dream of here in the Northland. The funniest birds were the Chachalacas–tropical game birds that look a bit like plain brown pheasants only with a kindly expression. Chachalacas get their name from their call, which they make frequently while begging for food from campers at Bentsen.

Although there are no birding meccas named for Michael Dukakis, he at least had the sensitivity to choose a running mate with an appealing name. Perhaps George Bush can persuade Busch Gardens to change the spelling of their name, at least until after the election. Or maybe he can convince the American people that he is the bush a bird in the hand is worth two of in–a savvy political move to attract the vote of non-thinking birdwatchers everywhere.

(Recording of a Chachalaca)