Notes on Birds

In 1939 the Florida newspaper mini-mogul David Breed Lindsay opened a Florida themed amusement park on the state’s gulf coast. Opening only a decade after The Ringling Brothers Circus had established their off season home there, Lindsay meant to capitalize on the new flux of tourism that the circus attracted. The experience offered by the park was unlike any found in Florida. It offered a version of Florida that was more Florida-like than the state could ever offer in nature. Lindsay imported exotic plants and animals from locations between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, a region beginning 77 miles south of Florida’s south most Key. Today the park exists as a nostalgic representation of a place that never existed. Alligator shows create a caricature of a Florida Cowboy, wrangling their reptile buck, while the parrot performances introduce us to the locals – slight of hand hustler Caesar, the South American Macaw, or a cockatoo native to Australia named Frosty, who was once a guest on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Since its establishment, myths have developed about a flock of fugitive birds that are thought to have escaped the park. The birds in question are easily determined as non-native, sporting brightly colored feathers that stand out from the beige hues of most local birds. The people of this community have digested and projected the imagined histories this myth inspired onto their interpretations of the myth. Some have said that the green parakeets found in the parking lot of Winn Dixie escaped the park during a hurricane in 1926, others report that the peafowl in their neighborhood snuck out after vandals cut a hole in the fence in the 1980s. As they lived with this myth for a few generations the community transformed something incredible into something mundane.