Trust me (for I am a journalist) when I report that each fowl of the latest batch of Bush Stone-Curlews introduced to the Mulligans Flat Woodland fox-proof Sanctuary has been given a human name. So for example there is a Kay, a Macca, a Malcolm and even (please trust me in this for I belong to a profession dedicated to the truth) a Myfanwy.
It is hoped that Myfanwy will breed with one of the male curlews but if she is looking for a partner as Welsh as her then she may pine in vain for there is not a male curlew called Bryn, Dai or Gareth among her sanctuary peers.
And each of the named curlews has, too, supplied to us by Woodland and Wetland Trust, a human-sounding pen-portrait of its personality. And so of Myfanwy we learn "This girl can often go unnoticed, but don't be fooled, she is one slippery eel".
Already left a little uncomfortable by this (for anthropomorphism, the notion that animals are furred or feathered editions of humans, rather ruffles my feathers) I came in for a further feather-ruffling shock at Tuesday's launch of Leila Jeffreys' book Birdland.
Launched at the National Portrait Gallery (the author spoke from a spot next to her vastly enlarged portraits of a male and female Gang-gang cockatoo) the gorgeous book turns out to be a book of photographic portraits of birds. These birds too all have human or pet names. There is Neville (a Major Mitchell's cockatoo), Darcy (a Brown Falcon, who you can tell from his expression is embarrassed by his pet name), Dexter (a White-bellied Sea-Eagle), and, pictured here, Chicken an Australasian gannet, understandably confused by being a bird of one kind now labelled with the name of another. The male Gang-gang in the book (pictured here) is called Commander Skyring.
And the book's pictures are, literally portraits. Most of them are very much like the formal portraits a professional portrait photographer makes of human subjects' heads and faces. Plunging into the book to browse through it and knowing it to be a book of birds there is an expectation of the birds being set in bush or garden surroundings and of them doing wild and birdy things. Instead, almost every bird is photographed, often presenting its best side to us, framed by the same same plain ivory sheet behind it.
The effect of this although weird (for it makes so many of the birds look like plumaged humans and in the case of the two Gang-gangs makes them look like bright-eyed Liberals posed for their election campaign posters) is also rather striking.
For, in the complete absence of any of the usual visual distractions (foliage, dappled light, outdoor goings on of any kind) of orthodox wildlife photography the intricacy of the birds' plumages suddenly gets a whole new guernsey. Stickybeaking (no pun intended) at the two Liberal Party Gang-gangs we were transfixed by the detail. So for example, as someone pointed out on Tuesday, the feathers immediately behind a Gang-gang's bill are impossibly tiny and exquisite. They have the texture of a mouse's fur.
Most of the birds are not in bush or garden setting because, the Sydney-based Jeffreys explains, they are overwhelmingly birds she photographed indoors, at sanctuaries where they arrived after injury (in circumstances of rescue, rehab and release), in homes where they are companion animals or in wildlife parks and zoos. Chicken the gannet look a little bedraggled in his pictures in the book because he's just emerged from a kind of hydrotherapy pool used in the rehabilitation of his ocean-dwelling species.
In many cases the extraordinary tameness of the birds, often cultivated by Jeffreys over time so that birds knew and liked her, is what made them quite human-like as subjects. At Tuesday's launch the photographer discussed individual birds and their personalities with great fondness, in ways and words one is more used to hearing humans use to rhapsodise about sweet dogs and cats.
Jeffreys is as engaging as anything. One of her loveliest stories told on Tuesday was of her audience with Sirocco, a New Zealand Kakapo. Sirocco is an enormously famous celebrity ("he has his own mobile phone number ... he's the George Clooney of birds" Jeffreys marvelled). She recalled yearning "Please like me! Please like me!" as she waited for his highness to swagger into her lowly presence, "Because it's up to him whether he wants to be photographed or not."
The jury of this anthropomorphism-averse columnist is still out on Jeffreys' book of endearing photographs, in which she told us on Tuesday she's looked at birds "to focus on character and expression, on our [humans'] similarities with birds, not our differences".
But arewe similar to birds? Isn't it the extreme differences between eagles and gannets and us that makes wild birds and their study so magical? Are they, perhaps, our superiors, so that to compare ourselves with them is a kind of narcissism? Can we really talk about a White-bellied Sea-Eagle in the soppy way in which we talk about our English springer spaniels and our nephews and nieces? Will Commander Skyring, a Gang-gang cockatoo, win Liberal Party pre-selection for a safe seat in the ACT Legislative Assembly?
Leila Jeffreys' handsome and thought-stoking Birdland, published by Hachette Australia (hardback RRP $49.99), is available from discerning emporiums. They include the National Portrait Gallery's store The Curatoreum.