If you’re impatient for the New Year’s fireworks displays, here are some explosions of color in bird form.
I just noticed that I forgot to post the last bycatch of the season. Whoops! Here it is—only about three months late.
Adult Green-tailed Towhee
When I saw my first Green-tailed Towhee, I had only just moved to California and was not at all familiar with western birds. I remember looking through my binoculars at the bird singing from the top of a tuft of sagebrush, memorizing traits in order to look it up in my bird guide, and thinking “No way am I going to find this. This is going to be one of those birds that I’m seeing in a weird light so that I’ll never be able to ID it, and I’ll tell people, ‘I swear it was green with a red cap!’ and they’ll never believe me.” But then there it was in my Sibley’s: green with a red cap. I love these birds.
At the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago recently, I got the chance to see some particularly charismatic birds, including a colony of squabbling flamingos, and Sophia the young Cinereous Vulture. Abandoned as an egg, Sophia was raised by humans—with a vulture puppet—until she was old enough to rejoin her parents.
The morning I saw her was overcast and cold, but she was in high spirits: a man was raking her enclosure, and while her parents mostly ignored him, Sophia was fascinated. She chased the rake; he shooed her away; she stalked it. “I helped to raise her,” the man said; then, rolling his eyes, “It’s impossible to get anything done with her around.” Eventually he dropped the rake, and Sophia got to investigate.
I think we can all agree that the junco is pretty much the Ideal Bird. Ask any small child. Brownish, feathers all over, small round body, short neck, cute twiggy legs, little triangle for a bill: that’s what a bird looks like.
Or not. None of the following birds look like a small child’s quintessential Bird, because these birds—with their spoonbills, mustaches, and scary dinosaur feet—are awesome weirdos.