Beacons of Hope _Birds!

If you’re anything like me, you’re spending a lot more time at home these days. We’re all adjusting to new routines.

When I let Louie out this morning, (this particular routine remains the same!) the birds were singing. It made me feel better to hear them! Then I realized the obvious; birds are going about their feathery business, unperturbed by humans. And I also realized that I’ve been –justifiably–so preoccupied and lost in my own thoughts, that I haven’t taken a look around. Nature is out there.

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

Want me to read to you? I can do that. Click above to listen.Louie and Microphone
Louie woods
LOUIE! (at the park, not in our yard)
Kingfisher with his dinner
No, this Kingfisher
wasn’t in our yard!

Birds also play a large role in my middle grade fantasy work-in-progress. I’m finding myself lost in research more than usual. 

I decided that sharing some of the wonder of birds with you was a perfect idea! I hope talking about birds will distract you and help you feel a bit more grounded. Forgive me for mixing metaphors.

Kite hawk in flight
This Kite hawk wasn’t in our yard, either. I bet you want a picture of our yard now…

I want to begin with owls

Statue of goddess Athena flying her owl

I love owls! Athena agreed. The Greek goddess of wisdom is often seen with an owl. She and I have much in common! (being intelligent, bird-loving, and beautiful.)

The statue (on the left) is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The copper statue and the drawing (both below) are also at the Met. The statue is adorable. The drawing? What do you think?

Owls have arresting eyes, they fly silently, and are often heard but not seen, adding to their mystique. They’ve lived beside humans since ancient times. Owls are intelligent and sociable.

  • Snowy owl
  • Snowy owl w owlet
  • Snowy owl female
  • Eastern Screech Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl near cavity in tree
  • Boreal Owl with squirrel
  • Boreal owl

Identifying males from females gets complicated. (doesn’t everything?) With the Snowy Owls (slideshow above) males are whiter than females. As males grow older, they get whiter. Females are larger. (Maybe I’d rather be a different owl species…) Snowy owls breed in the treeless Arctic tundra. Because of their living conditions, these owls need more insulation, making them among the heaviest species. (up to four pounds) Snowy owls are diurnal. (diurnal = active during the day) So not all owls are nocturnal!

Screech owls  are small, about seven inches. (Robin-sized) They are masters of disguise, and like to nest in hollow tree trunks. The one in the picture below is a red variety and rarer. Okay, and not in a tree trunk. (Go ahead and laugh at me) They’re in decline, so if you have some free time, (!) consider building a nesting box for one of these little cuties. 

The adorable owl pictured with the pushy squirrel is a Boreal Owl. They are also small, like their screech owl cousins. They are sit-and-wait predators, hunting from perches. If you’re looking for one of these owls, it’s good to know that they roost in a different tree every day. Gaze 15–20 feet above the ground and close to the trunk.

The wing span of the Great Gray (Starting slide show below!) is impressive, as is the photo. (Thank you, James!) Grays are big owls, which means taking in calories. In winter, they eat up to 7 vole sized mammals/day. Despite weighing only 2.5 pounds, they can break through hard packed snow to grab a small mammal. They have a broad range, found in North America, Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, and Mongolia.

  • Great Gray Owl
  • Great Gray Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Barrred Owl
  • Burrowing owl chicks

The Great Horned Owl is aggressive and powerful in its hunting. It’s a huge owl, and can take prey as varied as rabbits, hawks, snakes, and even skunks. Great Horned Owls are  nicknamed The Tiger Owl for their demeanor and striping. 

Barred Owls have been around for over 11,000 years! Pleistocene fossils from Florida, Tennessee, and Ontario prove this. They’re homebodies. A recent study tagged 158 of these owls, and a few seasons later, none had moved farther than 6 miles away. If you can attract a pair to your yard with a nesting box, they wouldn’t abandon you! They look similar to the Great Gray. You can distinguish between them because of the Barred Owl’s dark, soulful eyes. (like Louie’s eyes!)

Remember, not all owls are nocturnal. Burrowing Owls actually live underground in burrows (hence the name!) that they’ve either dug themselves or taken over from a prairie dog, ground squirrel, or tortoise. Burrowing owls hunt during the day, and on the ground! Just look at those long legs. 

Crescent Moon w Jupiter and four moons visible
Barred Owl call! It does sound like ‘who cooks for you.’
Who cooks for me? I’m the chief chef at home. I also use my phone, aka take-out! Okay, one item is chocolate. I can’t help myself!

 

I thought I’d add a bit about songbirds. They are often overlooked in top ten lists but they shouldn’t be! There are so many lovely songbirds out there that I could never include them all. I had to cap it off.

The orange bird below is a Varied Thrush. (I know, I always think orange = Oriole, too) Their call is a haunting series of long, eerie whistles. You only need to listen for about twenty seconds. (link highlighted) Not sure why the recording is eight minutes long…

Cedar waxwings have the silkiest looking feathers, ever. They got their name from the drops of red on their wings. They adore fruit and can survive on fruit alone for months. 

The American goldfinch is a welcome summer sight. The males are bright, females still recognizable as yellow but less so. I used become excited in spring, thinking ‘the goldfinches are back.’ In fact, they never left!  (I was little…cut me some slack!) They change plumage as the seasons change, actually molting twice a year. Most birds molt once.

Any list I’d create would include a blue bird! I love blue. (read more about how blue is rare in nature at the link highlighted)

Indigo Buntings are finch-sized, like the goldfinch. Indigo Buntings nest in dense shrubs or trees. The female constructs the nest and incubates the eggs on her own. Maybe the males are too vain to help out.They sure are gorgeous. (Okay, I don’t want to be an Indigo Bunting, either.)

There are over a dozen different types of wrens. They are small, shy, and mysterious, often creeping about among fallen logs and dense tangles, behaving more like a mouse than a bird. I think wrens resemble mice, too! (Ironic because I was just talking about owls…. ahem…owls do eat mice.)

Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks have lovely singing voices. (the link is to Cornell’s website if you care to listen) They are members of the cardinal family. They lay pale greenish-blue eggs, spotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by both parents. in the winter, rose-breasted grosbeaks migrate to Central and South America.

I was going to stop but I couldn’t leave out my favorite, the Black-Capped Chickadee. (slideshow below) They are known as the world’s friendliest songbirds. With a little patience, you can get them to eat seeds out of your hand. Literally!

And of course, the beautiful (blue!) Eastern Bluebird. That’s a male feeding his hungry baby in the first picture. They’re family-oriented. They won’t come to a feeder, you need to attract them with mealworms. They are facing stiff competition lately from invasive sparrows and starlings for nesting space. (Here is a nesting box plan for these little beauties)

  • Girl hand feeding a Black capped chickadee
  • Black capped chickadee
  • Male Eastern bluebird feeding his baby
  • Pair of Eastern Bluebirds

Want to attract more birds to your yard? You can manage this without the mess of feeders or any carpentry skills. How? With a birdbath!

All birds need a dependable supply of fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing. Putting a birdbath in your yard may attract birds that don’t eat seeds and wouldn’t otherwise come to your feeders. (Like those beautiful Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Bluebirds. And hummingbirds! Butterflies!) 

There you go. Second pic above was taken in my yard! 

Interestingly, birds prefer baths that are set at ground level, where they typically find water in nature. For a great STEM activity with your kids, put a saucer on your deck with clean water. That’s all you need! You’ll even attract those butterflies if you put a brick or rocks in the bath, so there’s a shallow spot for them to rest! (If you want to read about how butterflies see flowers, click on the link!)

Try your best to keep the water clean. Birds get sick from bacteria in water, too.

monarch butterfly on asters
Monarch butterfly in my yard! That’s two!

While birds are bathing they can be vulnerable to predators, especially to cats. If you have a cat, please keep him or her indoors! 

You may feel isolated but you aren’t alone. I’m here! Email me on my contact page! (And please forgive me for all the exclamation points.) The birds are around, too. They didn’t provide me with an email address. But you can head outside and look for them. 

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” –John Muir

What do you see in your backyard right now? Or if you take a walk, look for birds! Take a pic and we can try to ID the bird together. I’d love for you to share with me. 

Speaking of sharing, if you know anyone who likes birds, I’d appreciate you using the share buttons below. You could email my post to a friend! 

Which bird did you like the best above? 

May you all fly free from stress today. And every day.

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32 thoughts on “Beacons of Hope _Birds!”

  1. This is such an incredible post that you don’t come around often. I’m glad I did. Birds are amazing creatures, I must say I haven’t seen an owl before only through pictures and I find them mystifying. I will look around for birds and take pictures when I can so we can ID it. Thank you for sharing this💜

    Reply
  2. Hi Sue,
    I, too, love birds and I’m working on a spring column about how their songs evoke memories for me. Your barred owl video was impressive. While playing it, my dog got very excited. I once imitated the barred owl call in the woods and got an owl to answer me back.

    Reply
    • That is so cool about the barred owl! We see red-tailed hawks and eagles, but owls are difficult to spot! A great horned owl lives near us, or rather we live in its territory! I haven’t been able to photograph him, though…yet!

      Reply
  3. I love how you ended this post! May you all fly free from stress today. And every day. Amazing – this was such a joy to read and the pictures are so impressive, thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  4. You can’t beat the sound of birds singing. That is when you know you’re in peace and nature, hehe. I love that there are so many different birds and the different symbols they carry. Thanks for sharing all of these fun facts!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    Reply
  5. Beautiful pics and so good to appreciate the outdoors (even from my computer!). It’s been a while since I’ve though about birds too! Thank you.
    Also, I think No Name just needs to keep that name (“No Name”). It kinda suits him and is a bit funny.

    Reply
  6. I love birds too! I love being outside in the spring / summer and birdwatching in my backyard! This was such a fun and informative post to read, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    melissakacar.blogspot.com

    Reply
  7. You sure gave us some lovely distraction in these difficult times. Birds are joyful and interesting. Thank you so much. Kids stuck at home sure might enjoy this. Actually, so might adults stuck at home. Great post.

    Reply
  8. This is such a beautiful and inspiring post. I always love to listen to the birds chirping in the morning. It calms me down when I am feeling anxious with everything going on right now. So my routine has been to fix me a cup of coffee and go outside and sit for a little bit and listen to them. I also love owls too and think they are so beautiful and majestic!

    Reply
  9. Beautiful photos and thanks for including my grandcat, Fry.
    The no name cat looks a little like Billie Eilish. Perhaps that should be her name?

    Reply

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Susan Berk Koch
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