I got a little excited this morning when I saw on Facebook that someone down around Alexandria had taken a photo of a special bird on his feeder. It’s a bird I start watching for about this time every spring.
Rose Breasted Grosbeak. I’ll start getting texts and calls from folks around this area who will send me a photo, asking what kind of bird this is. If you see one as they pass through and they stop for a bite on their way to their northern breeding grounds, I can guarantee it will get your attention because of the striking colors – black back, white under belly and a crimson patch on the upper chest.
As a novice birder, it all started for me as a youngster with my mom. She would hear an unfamiliar birdsong, pick up her tattered bird book as my brother, sister and I would follow her outside to find the bird she was interested in. This triggered something in me that has captivated my interest since those boyhood days.
I may be sitting on a deer stand and see a particular bird and for a moment would forget why I was on the deer hunt. I wanted to know what bird it was and I’d try to get a photo and dig out my bird book when I got home to try and identify it.
My wife and I keep our bird feeders filled with the anticipation that we just might see one that has alluded us for the past several years. In my opinion, the Painted Bunting is the most beautiful bird the Good Lord ever created. He must love birds a lot to have created one with red underparts, blue back with a bright chartreuse patch on the upper back. I can guarantee you, should you spot one, it’ll take your breath away.
Our introduction to Painted Buntings took place years ago when I spotted one on our feeder one mid-April morning. Incredibly one would show up in our yard within a few days of the same time each spring, usually around April 15 for ten years straight. For some reason, these handsome birds have shunned our feeder for the past several years but we have memories of those special times when they graced us with visits.
As beautiful as the male is, the female Painted Bunting has the distinction of being the only song bird we have with the coloration of a brilliant yellow-green. To see a pair on the feeder was a treat indeed.
This time of year, the cousin of the Painted Bunting, the Indigo Bunting is a frequent visitor to our feeders. Coloration is described in my bird book as an iridescent blue.
Another that is likely to show up is the Blue Grosbeak, slightly larger than the Indigo, blue but with rusty colored wing bars.
During winter, folks in our part of the world have visitors that usually run in packs and they love to feed on bags of thistle seed we hang. They’re rather drab in color and you wonder how they get the name Gold Finch. However, these birds undergo a transition as they head north and if we’re fortunate we get glimpses of them as the drab gray transitions to a brilliant bright yellow. Some of the birds wintering south of us are passing through now and I have seen a couple on my feeders showing off their bright yellow coloration.
There are some who can legitimately be called “birders” who are much more adept at bird identification than I am, making annual birding trips and keeping life lists of birds they identify. For novices like me, I just enjoy trying the best I can to identify those I happen to see.
My old tattered “Birds of North America” is a constant companion as I flip through dog-eared pages to see if I can correctly identify the latest little bundle of flit and feathers I see in my yard.
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