HomeNature JournalThe Names of Birds

(from Wikipedia)

Yesterday Renee and I were hanging out upstairs when we heard a kabonk. It’s rather amazing how quickly our brains can decipher the meaning of a particular sound, in this case the kabonk was immediately deciphered as the sound a bird’s body makes when it decides to fly headlong into a window.  This interpretation was affirmed by the sight of our little black cat hurriedly slinking toward the same window.  We dashed outside but were a little too late, so we chased the sweet feline around and within seconds (thanks to Renee’s opportune slap on the kitty’s back) we had retrieved a small olive-green bird with a splash of yellow and brilliant orange upon its cap.

It lay in my palm dazed, its claws curled and eyes closed.  “Is it dead?”  Renee worried.

“We should know in a few minutes,”  I replied.  “Quick, get the cats inside.”  McKinley had joined us and he grabbed Frost, terror of the bird world, while Renee grabbed the slinky Spark.  They were hastily thrown into the house.

We were lucky, and the bird even more so, for slowly the little thing regained the use of its legs, opened its eyes, and then for some minutes perched calmly in first my hand, then McKinley’s, and then for a long while in Renee’s.  I ran inside to get my bird book and my camera.  Alas, my battery was dead.  But I quickly confirmed my suspicion–the bird was indeed a golden-crowned kinglet–and the cutest little thing we had ever laid eyes on.  We all remarked upon its lovely yellow cap with near-neon orange feathers underneath.  How festive his headdress, how endearing his thin black mask!  And then, with a flurry of olive feathers, he whisked himself into the air and flew into the pines.

Renee was completely taken with this experience and recorded it in her journal with a fantastic drawing.  She exclaimed on several occasions how much she loves birds, and I’m glad she came to the realization of her genetic heritage, for not only does her mother love birds, but her grandmother loves birds, too.  Many we know by flight patterns and feathers, or by their raspy calls or fluted song.  As a child I sat with my mother in front of the big picture window in the breakfast room and watched the myriad birds come to our feeder:  greedy blue jays, flashy cardinals, rambunctious chickadees–with our handy blue bird book she taught me the names of every bird that came to our feeder.  Now it’s my turn to do the teaching.


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