A Blacktip Island brown booby, diagnosed with bipolar disorder by visiting mental health professionals on island for the weekend’s pro-am bird watching tournament. (Photo courtesy of Sula Beakins)
Blacktip Island’s annual bird identification tournament turned into an avian psychology exercise Friday morning when more than a dozen mental health professionals, who had misinterpreted the tournament’s name in an advertisement, stormed the registration table.
“It read, ‘Blacktip Island Pro-Am Bird ID Tournament,’” said visiting psychiatrist Carl Skinner. “The assumption was it was a tongue-in-cheek continuing education junket mocking antiquated Freudian structural analysis. You know, the old Id-Ego-Superego triumvirate.
“I spent days coming up with ways to quantify Freudian takes on tropical birds,” Skinner said. “To get here and find out I just read it wrong, well, it made me angry.”
Tournament organizers, faced with irate therapists, opted to run an impromptu avian analysis contest concurrent with the planned Pro-Am.
“Oh, the looks some of them got in their eyes when we explained the mistake,” Blacktip Island Audubon Society president Sula Beakins said. “When the third one started twitching, we told them to go ahead with their diagnosing, or whatever it is they do, and we’d come up with t-shirts for the winners.
“We agreed to sign off on their con-ed units, too,” Beakins said. “Their accrediting bodies won’t recognize us, but they’ll be off the island before they discover that.”
Tournament participants are excited to test their diagnostic skills on the island’s birds.
“Psychoanalysis supposedly only works with humans,” psychologist Anna Fromm said. “But that’s so exclusionary. People, birds, they’re subjects, each with a distinct personality.’
“We’re observing them and interacting with them like we would any other patient,” Fromm said. “And, not surprisingly, our findings jibe with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifications.”
Some therapists started early to get a jump on the competition.
“Blacktip Island’s famous for mental instability,” said pet psychologist Siggy Young. “So far the birds here have proved every bit as bat shit as the people.
“Since dawn I’ve found two bipolar boobies, three night herons talking to invisible friends, and multiple ground doves with generalized depression and panic attacks,” Young said. “There’s also a big grackle down at the Last Ballyhoo with textbook antisocial personality disorder. If we can help any of these birds live happier lives, our trip wasn’t wasted.”
Most competitors, however, are have taken a more relaxed approach after their initial shock.
“We’ll get laughed at back home,” Skinner said. “But, end of the day, it’s a free tropical vacation. And if this works out, next year we may branch out to psychoanalyze fish, too.”
The American Psychological Association refused to comment on the tournament and had not returned The Blacktip Times’ calls as of press time.