Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blackbirds Baked in a Pie

    Childhood is wonderful. A child can listen to a nursery rhyme, or recite it, or sing it, and just enjoy its silliness. A nursery rhyme like:

    Sing a song of six pence,
    a pocketful of rye.
    Four and twenty blackbirds
    baked in a pie.
    When the pie was opened,
    the birds began to sing.
    Wasn’t that a dainty dish
    to set before the king?

A child can just enjoy that. An adult, with an adult mind and an adult curiosity, begins to wonder about such a nursery rhyme. How do you bake birds in a pie without cooking them beyond any ability to sing? And why blackbirds? - since every black bird I know of can’t sing worth a toot.

As an inquiring adult, you undoubtedly recognize that this nursery rhyme comes from a very different time and place, with its sixpence and its king.

Like most of our nursery rhymes, its origin is England. It first appeared in print in 1744 in Tom Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, but its origins are far older. Shakespeare may have alluded to the rhyme in Twelfth Night, where Sir Toby Belch tells a clown: “Come on; there is sixpence for you: let's have a song.”

It certainly came from the era when kings ruled, and no expense was spared to indulge and entertain the ruler. “A sixteenth-century amusement was to place live birds in a pie. An Italian cookbook from 1549 (translated into English in 1598) contained such a recipe: ‘to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up’ ....” (Wikipedia) At the wedding of Marie de Medici and Henry IV of France in 1600, the first surprise at the banquet came when the guests sat down, unfolded their napkins and saw songbirds fly out.

That probably deals with the perplexing part of the rhyme about baking birds in a pie. Those who catered to over-indulging the king were always on the lookout for ways of providing the monarch with new amusements. But why blackbirds?

Most of the black birds we know, cannot carry a tune to save their feathers. The Red-winged Blackbird’s “conk-a-reeee” is the closest thing to a song by a black bird - loud and distinctive, it will soon be carrying across the marshes and grassy fields in our neighborhoods. His cousin, the Common Grackle, is a step down the musical ladder from the Red-winged. He creaks and cracks and zzzts and chaas. As lame as the grackle is when it comes to singing, his musical ability outranks the Brown-headed Cowbird with its weak bundle of gurgles and thin, whiny zzzzzzzs.

Now we need to be fair. These black birds are in fact, blackbirds; they are all in the New World Icterid family. Also in this family are the meadowlarks, the orioles, and the Bobolink, and these are all “blackbirds “ - Icterids - which are not completely black and which can sing. Indeed, they are among the best songsters when they are busy with their breeding activities.

Other black birds which cannot sing are in the Corvid family: the crows and the ravens. Our local crow, the American Crow, serenades with variations of a tenor scaled “caw.” Our Common Raven is the baritone or bass voice: “Cronk, caa-rack, cu-ruck.” Both of these songbirds (yes, they are songbirds) have tremendous variety in their language, but none of that language would be considered musical except by those with the most perverse taste in music. I do realize there are some people with such perverse musical tastes.

European monarchs knew the big black birds. The raven is familiar in Europe. So are many other Corvids: crows, choughs, rooks, and jackdaws. Can you imagine the size of the pie that would be required to get four and twenty crows inside? Even at an oversized banquet for newly wedded monarchs it would overwhelm the royal table.

Those same European monarchs knew nothing of our blackbirds - Icterids - until voyages of discovery began returning with specimens. Those specimens would have been remarkably unfit for a pie, much less capable of singing.

The European black bird that got baked in the pie was the Common Blackbird. That was, and is, its name. When you see a picture of the Common Blackbird you might think you are seeing an American Robin that has been spray painted black. Our robin is in the Genus, Turdus. The Common Blackbird is also in the Genus, Turdus. Both are in the thrush family, Turdidae, which also includes such North American songsters as the Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, and Veery of our woodlands, and the Eastern Bluebird.

Here is the description of the Common Blackbird’s song in Birds of Europe: “Song well known for its melodic, mellow tone, a clear and loud fluting (almost in major key) at slow tempo and on wide, often sliding scale, with soft twitter appended; verses rather short ...”

Having been confined in a pie, I can certainly imagine that these birds would burst into song upon being released, a song worthy of a monarch’s chamber music gathering, or even a joyous wedding banquet.

I cannot resist one final footnote about this dainty dish of blackbird pie. British experimental chef Heston Blumenthal attempted to create the dish for an episode of his television series “Heston's Medieval Feast.” When he discovered that blackbirds are a protected species in the United Kingdom, he switched the recipe to pigeon. The pie and pie lid were cooked separately and allowed to cool. The live pigeons (I don’t know if there were four and twenty pigeons) were inserted only moments before presentation. Initial attempts resulted in the pigeons refusing to fly out. This was solved by using trained homing pigeons to fly to their cages suspended in the ceiling. When the pie was opened, the homing pigeons flew to their cages, whereupon they defecated on the celebrity diners beneath.

Good for you, birds!

Note: The blackbirds in the painting look like grackles, not Europe's Common Blackbird. The painting comes from a very old book which I own of nursery rhymes and I believe is in the public realm. The photo of the Common Blackbird is not mine; the credit on the photo is I believe the photo is in the public realm; mI I am wrong about either, I will remove it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

In the category of," Be careful what you wish for," is today's storm. It has varied greatly around southeastern Vermont, depending, it seems, on elevation. We are high enough that today's precipitation has been all snow - about 27 inches, although it has been so heavy and wet that it bent my snow gauge (a 3 foot plaster ruler) - At the moment the gauge is almost completely buried. There was about 8" before it started snowing.

Early this morning I cleared the platform of snow, and repeated the task at about 2 hour intervals. The Mourning Doves are always wary and ready to take flight, so the snow on the back of this gives an idea of how fast it was falling ...

From the kitchen window, this is a mid-morning view of our solar clothes dryer, before it collapsed beneath the weight of the snow ...

Our home has a metal roof, which I consider almost a necessity on an old house in a normally very snowy area. The metal roof sheds the snow quickly, keeping weight and stress off the roof. However, that means that piles form right next to the house. This thistle feeder hangs on the side of the house outside the kitchen window ...

More doves on the platform. The fuzziness along the bottom of the photograph is from the piled snow that slid off the roof. Even so, inside I had to stand on tiptoe. The platform has been crowded all day, with many face-offs among the birds.

The goldfinch was one of the few spots of color on an otherwise very white day ...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sounds of Spring

Last week's snow has disappeared and hints of Spring are beginning to be seen - dirty snow and mud. February can often be the snowiest and most brutal month, but that doesn't look like the case for this year.

The most certain signs of spring, however, are not what is in weather forecasts, temperature, or what can be seen. The first signs of spring are what I hear.

And what I have been hearing is the "peer, peer, peer" of the Tufted Titmouse ...

The wonderful cheerful song of the Northern Cardinal ...

The first tentative songs from the American Goldfinch, still in the drab winter wear ...

... and American Crows which are moving around the village in ones or two, a sign that there wintering flocks is dispersing, and that they are busy with nest building. They noisily talk about their work ...

... and best of all, I have begun to hear the drumming of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - best of all because they go southwards for the winter, so when their drumming is heard it means they are beginning to drift northward again, and beginning to think about the activities of spring ...

A final note - these photos are from the past year, not the past week. I am hearing the sounds of spring, but not necessarily seeing them. But soon ....

Good birding!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Due to the Absence of Birds

Last week I wrote briefly about the absence of birds at birds feeders, perhaps due to lots of natural food in the Canadian range where many winter birds come from, or the lack of natural food in our neighborhoods, or both, or neither, or something else. Whatever the reason, many people seem to have fewer birds at their feeders than in normal years, whatever normal may mean.

I am not being flip when I write, “whatever normal may mean.” It may simply imply, “what I expect, or what I want.”

Around my feeders, wintering finches have been absent. Except for a very brief visit by five Evening Grosbeaks three weeks ago, and a few random visits by a couple of goldfinches, there have been no redpolls, no siskins, no purples, no house. There have been no sparrows. An absence of birds.

But, all winter there have been 60+ Dark-eyed Juncos that forage through my yard every day. Last week the largest flock of Mourning Doves ever to visit my yard started coming several times a day - 50+. Blue Jays have been present all winter (about 15). Last Monday their numbers grew to at least twenty-five - had numbers been added to the original flock, or was this a new flock? The same day a flock of 15 goldfinches appeared.

The pattern for this winter’s feeder birds seems to be that the pattern can suddenly change, but I can only speak for my yard.

Due to the “absence of birds,” last week I wrote about one of our year-round resident birds, the White-breasted Nuthatch. I included John James Audubon’s opening sentence in his account of the White-breasted Nuthatch in Birds of America. Audubon knew all four North American nuthatches, but speculated that there were two more nuthatches to be discovered: “one larger than any of those known, in the high wooded plains bordering the Pacific Ocean; the other, of nearly the size of the present species, towards the boundary line of Texas and the United States.”

Audubon was wrong. I speculated that Audubon was trying to balance North America with Europe, which has  six nuthatch species. Why would he be concerned? Some background first.

Audubon was born about 1785, the acknowledged illegitimate son of a French merchant in Haiti. He was sent to Paris to study. Then at the age of seventeen he was sent to his father’s farm near Philadelphia, and from there began his continental wandering as a businessman (unsuccessful), painter, ornithologist, and American woodsman. He returned to Europe to publish his double elephant folio, Birds of America, based upon his paintings. As he promoted his publication to European high society, he carefully cultivated the “woodsman” persona with long flowing hair and fur-trimmed clothing. Later he also published an elephant folio of his paintings of Quadrupeds of North America.

Audubon was also promoting the wonders of North America. He was continuing the long effort to bring the New World out of the cultural and intellectual shadow of the Old World, a shadow which even extended to the flora and fauna.

One of the earliest deliberate efforts to defend the New World against the Old World’s superiority in all things was mounted by Thomas Jefferson during his tenure as ambassador to the French count, 1784-1789. Joseph Ellis, in his biography, American Sphinx, writes that “Jefferson decided to refute the leading French naturalist of the day, Georges du Buffon, who had argued that the mammals and plants of North America were inferior in size, health and variety to those of Europe. Buffon’s theory, silly as it sounds today, benefitted from his reputation as France’s premier natural scientist; it also had the disarming implication of rendering the entire American environment as fatally degenerate, a kind of laboratory for the corruptive process.”

Jefferson responded to Buffon by arranging for specimens to be gathered from the White Mountains of New Hampshire - skin, skeleton, and horns from moose, caribou and elk - animals larger than any in Europe. Eventually a seven foot moose carcass was put on display, shipped from North America without the modern convenience of refrigeration or deep freezing. “Buffon, who was himself a minuscule man less than five feet tall, was invited to observe the smelly and somewhat imperfect trophy but concluded it was insufficient evidence to force a revision of his anti-American theory.” Jefferson tried to refute Buffon, but the facts did not matter; Buffon’s mind was made up. America’s plants and animals were inferior and degenerate.

Buffon’s status as the leading French naturalist resulted from his monumental Natural History, a vast encyclopedia of the sciences, parts of which were not completely published until 1804, fifteen years after his death. An assessment of Buffon in the Encyclopedia Brittannica (11th edition) concludes that without “being a profound investigator, he possessed the art of expressing his ideas in a clear and generally attractive form. His chief defects as a scientific writer are that he was given to excessive and hasty generalization, so that his hypotheses, however seemingly brilliant, are often destitute of any sufficient basis in observed facts ....”

In his day, Buffon’s scientific encyclopedia was a staggering achievement and gave him a colossal reputation; both survived as the standard of truth for decades following his death.

When Audubon wrote his Ornithological Biographies, first published in 1841, the scientific world was still in the long shadow of Georges du Buffon. Audubon had the hummingbirds and the colorful wood warblers, but apparently his psyche needed to counter Buffon’s European superiority with an equal number of species match. Out slipped Audubon’s assertion that there are six American nuthatches just as there are six European nuthatches. Audubon’s assertion was based on no more evidence than Buffon’s assertion for degenerate North American animals.

Audubon picked a very minor nit. For whatever reason Audubon felt compelled to defend North America. His defense was unnecessary. He provided plenty of evidence for the richness and variety of the New World in his paintings of the birds and large mammals. Today Audubon is remembered, and Buffon - who’s he?

To the historian who may happen to read this far, I apologize if I have pushed facts too far, or have flown off with flights of fancy. It is all due to the absence of birds. I’m sure they will be back soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow - finally!

Finally we are getting some snow. Feeders have been busy today. Here are just a few quick photos of the loyal birds that have been patronizing my bird tables

One of two American Goldfinches that have come occasionally, though yesterday a small flock of 15 stopped briefly ...

The Blue Jay on the suet feeder has often exhibited the acrobatic talents of the nuthatch. But I chose this undistinguished upright jay  because of the Hairy Woodpecker which joined him on the back of the basket ...

The American Robin was not on the feeders, but was feeding on dried crabapples in the side of the yard ...

A large flock of Mourning Doves have appeared, or joined up with the smaller flock that has been around all winter - 50+ birds.

Never underestimate the ability and determination of the Blue Jay to get the seeds - sunflower seed feeders like this one are supposed to be for the small finches.

The feeder is on a plant hanger on the side of the house, inches from the glass - a favorite for the titmice, nuthatch, and Black-capped Chickadee - they don't have to vie with the larger birds. The photo of this gentleman (or gentlelady) is uncropped.

And finally, our single wintering sparrow of any kind - Song Sparrow ...

Good birding wherever you are and whatever the weather is doing to you, at you, or for you!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Devil Down-Head Bird

Many people have asked me, “Where are the birds this winter.”

Birds that we are used to seeing around our bird feeders have been absent this year. My bird seed bill is lower this winter than last year. Winter finches are missing; occasionally I have had a few goldfinches, but nothing like the hoards of goldfinches and siskins that were around in ‘09. My thistle feeder, a favorite of the finches, has not needed refilling once this year.

There are two possibilities. I saw a brief notice somewhere that the natural food supply in Canada, where many of our winter finches come from, produced an abundant crop last year, meaning that the birds did not have to engage in energy expensive travel. Canadian siskins, finches, redpolls, and grosbeaks stayed home. From further south in New England, the reports of finches seems normal. Our summer finches have gone south, while northern finches have stayed north. Apparently.

I’ve had a banner year for juncos with a foraging flock of 60+ making several visits every day. Beyond these small snowbirds, my feeder birds have been limited to the year round residents - those hardy birds that live and breed through the seasons.

One of those birds is the “Devil Down-head,” a little gray and white bird, that is delightful to watch. It “is a droll, earnest little bird, rather sedate and unemotional. He is no great musician .... He is short-necked, broad-shouldered, sturdy, quick and sure in his motions, suggesting an athlete, and as we study him on his daily round, as he hops up and down over the bark, we see that he is an athlete with marked skill as an acrobat, like the tumbling kind, as much at home upside down as right side up.”

That description opens Bent’s Life History and describes characteristics of this bird which give it some of its folk names. It is a songbird that can’t sing. Its song can be accurately rendered as a nasal “ank, ank, ank,” leading many birders to refer to it as the ank-ank.

It is the upside-down bird. Many birds can run up a tree trunk. This bird can run up and down a tree trunk with equal alacrity. “They seem to have taken lessons from the squirrel,” wrote Edward Forbush, “ which runs down the tree head first, stretching out his hind feet backward and so clinging to the bark with his claws as he goes down ....” With only two feet, this little bird “hitches nimbly down the tree head first - something that other birds hardly attempt - and it runs around the trunk in the same way with feet wide apart.”

I am, of course, talking about the “topsy-turvy,” rather boringly named in common parlance as the White-breasted Nuthatch. Banding studies have shown that they return to the same wintering grounds in succeeding years. Although I have no way of proving it, I am quite certain that the ones that patronize my feeders in the winter are the same birds that breed in the neighbor. In the summer time, a topsy-turvy will perch upside down on a tree trunk and watch as I fill the feeders. As I go in the kitchen door, I hear “ank, ank,” and through the window I see the nuthatch hurry in to grab a seed. The same routine is played out in the winter; the only difference is in the temperature and the color of the ground. In all seasons, I like to think that my nuthatch neighbor is politely saying “thank you” with its “ank, ank,” and I always respond, “You’re welcome.”

There is nothing mysterious about the nuthatch name. “Hatch” derives from “hack.” The nuthatch often flies off with a nut, or seed (like a sunflower seed) that needs to be opened. It wedges the seed or nut into a crevice and hacks the hull open, or hacks the nut into small pieces. The same lack of mystery is true for its genus name, Sitta, which comes from the Greek and means “nuthatch.”

Europeans moving to North America were familiar with nuthatches (there are six species in Birds of Europe). Consequently, the early naturalists gave them descriptive names, by which I also mean boring names. Audubon, for example, described the White-breasted Nuthatch which has a white breast, the Red-bellied Nuthatch (now known as the Red-breasted) which has a reddish belly or breast, the Brown-headed Nuthatch which has a brown head, and the Pygmy Nuthatch, which is the smallest nuthatch. Ho-hum.

Audubon speculated that there were two more nuthatches to be discovered: “one larger than any of those known, in the high wooded plains bordering the Pacific Ocean; the other, of nearly the size of the present species, towards the boundary line of Texas and the United States.” He was wrong, but I wonder if he was trying to achieve a balance between Europe with its six nuthatch species and North America.

Today the White-breasted Nuthatch is our most common nuthatch, a reversal of what Audubon observed. He knew the White-breasted as “the least numerous; there being to appearance more than three of the Brown-headed, and two of the Red-bellied, for every one of the White-breasted.” The White-breasted inhabits leafy forests, but also frequents large trees in parks and suburbs. The Brown-headed is found in southeastern pine forests, while the Red-breasted (Red-bellied) prefers dense coniferous forests of the north and high mountains. The change in the relative populations since Audubon’s observations reflects the vast changes in the landscape which humans have effected.

The White-breasted Nuthatch which frequents my feeders grabs a preferred sunflower seed and flies off. Most of the time it is probably taking the seed to a tree where it can wedge it in a crack, and then hatch it open. But not always. Forbush again: “In winter the nuthatches have a habit of storing food in the crevices of the bark of trees or in cracks of poles, under loose shingles, clapboards, etc. I have seen quantities of chestnuts thus stored by them under the flakes of the bark of a shag-bark walnut tree. Seeds and acorns are often so stored and are used by the birds in time of want when ice storms coat the trees, if the jays and squirrels have not already stolen them.”

Yesterday I watched a nuthatch on a bell feeder just outside the kitchen window. Its feet grasped the ring at the top, an upside-down-bird clinging acrobatically to its perch while it picked off the seeds.

Head first, the Devil-down-head creeps down the trunk of the tree outside my window. The folk name is often reported by writers, but parsing its origin has been difficult. The Devil is said to turn everything upside down, so I guess the name suggests that this bird which creeps down head first has been turned on its head by the devil. The nuthatch has become a victim of the Devil; there does not seem to be any animosity toward the bird due to its having been victimized. I should hope not. Watching the acrobatics of the nuthatch during the winter is what I imagine keeps the angels entertained.

Good birding!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another tribute to the hearty winter birds that stay year round in my neighborhood.

Tufted Titmouse

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

How to Walk When It Is Snowy and Icy

Some helpful advice from the ducks in the north to the folk further south unaccustomed to snow and ice, but about to get some more:

The Mallards along the Whetstone are happy to share their knowledge about how to walk on snowy and icy walkways..

Go slowly ....

... and keep a low center of gravity.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Faithful Winter Friends

Although I sometimes make fun of the "softies" to the south, I truly hope they are coping with the recent record snow storms. It really is too bad that the heavy snows could not have fallen here in Vermont instead of the mid-Atlantic. We are use to it. We fire up the snowblowers, clear the drive and go about our business, rather smug in our toughness. However, to be honest, after digging out my preferred demonstration of toughness is hot chocolate next to the wood stove and a nap.

Anyway, I do have a particular warm spot for the birds that hang on around my home for the winter, even though as Vermont winters go, this one has been rather tame. So here's the first of several posts featuring (one at a time) the hearty winter birds that are regulars in my yard.Stay warm ....

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Wild Turkey Is No Turkey

“You turkey!” Those words are not a compliment. You are dumb! Stupid! Like that dumb turkey.

I once asked a farmer, “How dumb is a barnyard turkey?” She told me that a barnyard turkey is so dumb that it will stand in a pouring rain, with its head up and beak open - and drown. If she wasn’t joshing this city-bred transplant, then I have to agree that barnyard turkeys are astonishingly dumb.

Even a popular naturalist and author calls the barnyard turkey “a rather stupid creature,” but hastens to add that “the original wild form is a wary and magnificent bird.”

The domestic turkey and the Wild Turkey are the same species, Meleagris gallopavo. A distinctively American bird, its scientific name is derived from the Latin names for an African guinea fowl and and Asiatic bird. The occasional domestic turkey which might wander off can be distinguished from its wild relative by the white tail tip of the original Mexican subspecies from which it was domesticated. Wild turkeys have chestnut-brown tail tips. They are also thinner than domestic turkeys.

Turkeys are large, mostly ground dwelling birds. They forage in the morning after leaving their roost and again during the few hours before sunset. With their long, powerful legs, they scratch the ground and leaf litter for seeds, nuts, and acorns. They also eat the fruit of junipers, dogwoods, and grapes, corn and other grains. In summer they may eat grasshoppers, frogs, salamanders, toads, lizards, fiddler crabs. In winter when snows are deep, they may fast for up to a week. Seed and corn around bird feeders may attract wandering flocks.

The male Wild Turkey (called a tom, or a gobbler) is about four feet long, the female (hen) about three. The breast feathers of the male have black tips; those of the female are brown. The tom’s head and neck are blue-gray with pink wattles. During spring display, his forehead is white, face bright blue, and neck scarlet.

Turkeys usually travel on the ground by walking or running. In spite of what sometimes appears to be a reluctance to fly, and an awkwardness when airborne, they are remarkably strong flyers. Flight speed has been timed at 32-42 miles per hour on one occasion, and 55 miles per hour on another. They typically roost overnight in tall trees.

Several people have commented to me this winter about seeing turkeys in same-sex flocks - all females or all males. This is typical of turkeys during most of the year, although the young will stay with their mothers. Within the flock, there is a pecking order. The oldest and biggest birds rule over the younger and smaller birds.

Courtship and breeding begins in late February in the southern states, in early April in the North. Toms may gobble in any season, but in early spring, any loud noise may stimulate gobbling - an airplane roaring overhead, the hooting of an owl, or the slamming of car door. Gobbling may be heard a mile away. Spring gobbling season is triggered by the increasing day length and warming temperature.

In the Spring, the gobbler gobbles to attract a female. Once he has attracted one - or preferably, several - hens to his vicinity, the gobbler does his courtship display. He struts around the hen. His tail is fanned and held vertically. His wings are lowered and drag on the ground. He raises the feathers of his back, throws his head back onto his back, and inflates his crop. He makes deep “chump” sounds, then hums while rapidly vibrating his tail feathers. During the strut his facial skin engorges and the colors intensify. In the presence of the big, wily old tom who knows the strut, the hen swoons and her resistance vanishes.

Having done the deed, he gobbles and struts for the next hen. Toward the end of mating season the harem breaks up, the hens wander off by themselves to complete the task of raising a brood, with no further assistance, care, attention, or concern from the self-important gobbler. The nest consists of a shallow excavation scratched into the earth then hastily lined with leaves and other forest-floor debris. But even if they're slovenly builders, wild turkey hens always conceal their nests carefully, and cover their eggs with debris each time they leave the area to feed. A single hen often lays over a dozen eggs, and several hens may share one nest. (Audubon reported finding 42 eggs in a single nest, with three hens in attendance.) The incubation period is 28 days, with a hatch success rate of 35%.

The poults can walk and feed themselves when they hatch, but cannot fly for about two weeks. Clearly this whole period is fraught with great danger and vulnerability for the mother, her eggs and her young. The list of predators is long: raccoons, red foxes, striped skunks, crows, snakes, opossums, chipmunks, squirrels, owls, hawks. We are most likely to see turkeys fleeing, but a nesting or brooding hen will not hesitate to attack a predator threatening her eggs or her young.

The turkey was once so common in North America and so highly regarded, that it was considered a choice for our national emblem. At least, Benjamin Franklin so proposed. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin objected to the choice of the Bald Eagle. He thought it “a bird of bad moral character ... too lazy to fish for himself,” often robbing the “fishing-hawk” (osprey) of its prey. “Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country ... The Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America ... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Franklin correctly described the character of the Wild Turkey. The sum of it is - a Wild Turkey is no turkey, except in the mind of some turkeys!

Good birding!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - At the End of the Day

Purple Martins - Cape May, NJ, June, 2009

Red-crowned Parrots, Harlingen, TX, November, 2009

Ring-billed Gulls, Salisbury Beach, NH, January, 2010

Good Birding!!


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