(Meghan Bartels; 3 April 2017)
We’ve all been there: That moment when you catch your own reflected gaze in a nearby windowpane and find yourself transfixed. Last month, in Brisbane, Australia, a Bush Stone-curlew had the same experience. But when the time came to continue on its journey, the bird remained hypnotized by itself.
For hours—eight hours, by some estimates—it checked out its own reflection in a glass building while occasionally shuffling from side to side. The episode was so prolonged that Caitlin Raynor, a volunteer with the rescue non-profit Wildcare Australia, posted a hand-written explanatory sign above its head.
“I’m a bush stone curlew,” the sign read. “I’m fine. I just like to stare at myself in the window.”
The image went viral. The internet rather predictably dubbed the bird a narcissist, launched a Facebook page, and turned it into a series of memes.
As it turns out, this birdie wasn’t crushing on itself: It likely believed its reflection was another Bush Stone-curlew. Birds perceive and process reflections as continuations of their world, which is why every year, hundreds of millions of them collide with windows and buildings, often fatally. From a bird’s perspective, the reflection of green leaves is indistinguishable from actual green leaves; likewise, the reflection of a stone-curlew is indistinguishable from an actual living bird.