The strangest bird I saw at Key West was a bit of a conundrum. Key West is overridden with something called the Key West Gypsy Chicken and I heard them all the time and saw one outside by balcony at the guest house standing there wearing nothing at all. This chicken, or junglefowl, as far as I can tell isn’t mentioned by the American Birder Association. But it is worthy for a discussion.
First, it is a bird, despite my grandmother Lucille’s confusion about that fact when playing our family ‘animal, mineral, vegetable twenty questions guessing game’ in the car once when our kids were smaller. She adamantly protested that a chicken was a fowl and not a bird. She had stumped the lot of us about what she was thinking when she sanswered “no,” to the question of ‘is it a bird?’ I never knew what she was thinking. The city of Key West which is a bird sanctuary has declared that these chickens are birds as defined in Webster’s dictionary and as such are protected. Their status has been officially declared.
They are also established, wild, and a self-supporting populations in every sense of the terms. They find food themselves, breed out of captivity and in all sense are as wild as any other bird. These birds have been in Key West since at least the 1950s, when it is believed they were escapees from Cuban refugees emigrating from the island ninety miles to the south but wild chickens have been a part of Key West for almost two hundred years but no one knows if the wild chickens mentioned back in the 1820s are the same breed. But they are there now and have been documented as established for at least fifty years. This is above the ten years required by the ABA and even if they raise that to fifteen, these birds have that beat. The ABA recognizes as species birds like former captives including parakeets and parrots and even the common myna is a species here in Key West that has made the list. Which came first, the chicken or the myna bird?
The chicken is wild, they breed here, they are not fed, have been around for decades at least, and they are a bird, therefore in my opinion, they count. The ABA also recognizes this same bird in Hawaii, as Junglefowl, so they have already set a precedent. I will write them a letter, but for the nude birding record anyone trying to best my record in the future can count one of these birds but they need to come to Key West and they need to be naked outside, and hear or see them.