The Birdman of Starbucks & Alfred Kinsey 0


I noticed a man with a stern face turning around and staring in disbelief before I saw what he was staring at: Two parakeets resting in a cage placed on the table between two chairs at the Starbucks.  They were mostly tranquil, but occasionally squeaked and ruffled their feathers, drawing everyone’s attention.


The birds belong to a man in his twenties, with sandy blonde hair and a goatee. He stared at the animals lovingly, occasionally touching the perch they rested on.  “It’s their first time out,” he told me when I approached him and asked about the birds. He acquired the birds a month ago, and does not like to leave them alone.


His grandmother, Alfred Otto Gross, was a biologist and well-known ornithologist. He published hundreds of scientific papers. A book about him said “he did not like the confinement of the laboratory,” and preferred to be out in nature doing life studies.

[pullquote]”When they’re alone, they sing more. When they’re together, they don’t seem to need anybody else.”

His grandson prefers freedom too. He allows the birds to fly free around his home. “It brings a lot of energy to the house,” he says. “But I get worried about the dog. He gets less attention from me since I got the birds.”


His grandfather taught for many years at Bowdoin College and one of his students was Alfred Kinsey. Gross said Kinsey “was very varied in his biological interests,” but he didn’t know the half of it. Kinsey would later become famous for his who later became famous for his sex studies and Kinsey Report, which was considered a precursor to the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s.


They would go bird-watching together and Kinsey would come to the professor’s house and play classical music on his piano to entertain his family.  Both Kinsey and Gross reveled in direct observation of nature. And so does Gross’s grandson, who rarely takes his eyes off the birds.


“When they’re alone, they sing more,” he says. “When they’re together, they don’t seem to need anybody else.” He says this a bit wistfully.