For the Birds

In response to a suggestion from Sister, I realized that I have to write a post about birds.

For not being avid birders, my siblings and I can identify a fair number of birds.  Sister is currently taking a course at college in which she is learning to recognize several dozen birds by sight and sound, and all her practice at home has made this much easier.

Think about it.  How many birds would you recognize if you met them on the street?  Probably a cardinal, or a blue jay, and most people know a crow when they see or hear one.  You might know it’s an owl, but would you know what kind?

Almost as long as I can remember, we’ve had feeders where we feed the birds.  While we get the most birds in the winter, the feeders are full most of the year, and we get visits from the sparrows almost year round.  Yes, we get House Sparrows, aka the English Sparrow, Chickadees (my personal favorites), Cardinals, Blue Jays, House Finches, American Goldfinches, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and Juncos.  Not all of them stay year round, but we see quite a few of the smaller birds throughout the winter.

Then there are the Robins who come to greet the spring.  I usually hear these guys before I see them!  Yes, I can recognize a Robin by its song, as well as the Cardinal (who has several calls), Chickadee, and and others.  Summer also brings the Red-Winged Blackbirds, the Cowbirds, and the Starlings.  Grackles are neat looking black birds with iridescent heads.

And don’t forget the hawks!  We saw a Cooper’s Hawk and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk within a couple hours of each other just this past week.   A pair of Red-Tailed Hawks has been nesting in the woods behind our house for years.   We’ve even seen a Peregrine Falcon and an American Kestrel at different times.  And yes, we saw an owl once, being chased by a noisy bunch of crows.  It was too far away to identify exactly which owl it was, but we tried.

Whenever we see a new bird, we hit the bird books until we can figure out what it was we saw.  That happened when we saw our first White-Crowned Sparrow and White-Throated Sparrow, which look very similar.  It happened again when we saw the Kinglet that accidentally flew into our sliding glass door.  And we even had to resort to the internet when some of us saw a Green Heron fly across the back yard.  We see Blue Herons all the time, but the Green one was new to us.

And I shouldn’t forget the Mourning Doves that love to perch on the top of our roof or on the top of our swing set and sing their sad song.  Or they will bustle around under our feeders, looking for the seeds that other birds drop.

We’ve also made sightings of a few rare (for our locale) birds, like a Red-Bellied Woodpecker (normally all we see are the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers), a couple of Flickers, and once or twice some Cedar Waxwings.  Before we moved to our current house, we even saw a couple of Common Redpolls.

Some birds like to feed in the woods, so we rarely see them, like the Rose-Breasted Grossbeaks.  Others visit our pond for a few weeks, like the Mallard Ducks we get in the spring.  Other birds we’ve only seen while away from home, but we know a Bald Eagle when we see it.  And the Gulls that love to occupy parking lots and devour any fast food we humans carelessly leave behind.

I love the many different kinds of birds.  Each one is so different, and each one is so beautiful.  Next time you get a chance, why don’t you take a pair of binoculars or just your own two eyes (or four, if you’re like me) and go to a park or some wooded area and watch for some birds.  Maybe you’ll discover a new pastime.  Maybe you won’t see anything in feathers.

I realize that in some areas of the country, temperatures and ground cover (aka snow) may get in the way, and many of the birds may be gone.  But not every bird flies south for the winter!  Or you can wait till spring, when they’re all at their best.

I don’t know where you live, but I think anyone could benefit from taking an hour or two to just sit and watch the birds.  You’ll see different birds, probably, than I’ve listed, but you’ll have fun anyway.  Listen too, because birds are some of God’s best songsters around.  It won’t all make sense at first, so don’t expect to be able to recognize every bird at once.  Just watch, listen, and think about the amazing God who had not only imagined all these creatures, but made them all just so, so we can enjoy them.

Happy birding!

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