Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Know Why the Migratory Bird Sings

...with apologies to Miss Toni Morrissey, I find non-caged birds to be ever so much more interesting than caged birds.
Today's 'blog post marks our first-ever Did You Know Thursday, and we'll learn something astonishing about some pretty impressive winged beasties.
When your Miss started work at Audubon magazine, years and years ago, she thought "birders" were little old ladies who stood outside staring up at trees. More likely than not, I thought, they used binoculars because they just couldn't see without them.
But then I started work there. And I realized that birding, as it was called, was a darned fine activity. You got outside; you got to learn something about the world around you, and if you were really cool, like an acquaintance of ours named Kenn Kaufman, you could do really cool, slightly sexy party tricks, like naming a bird from just one note of its song, without even blinking an eye or even looking at it.
Anyway, here's your fact of the day:
Purple martins, a species of bird, have been known to fly an average of 358 miles per day over 13 days during spring migration from Brazil to Pennsylvania.
I think about this bird particularly because it's an early migrater, and, here in Chicago, we sit smack in the middle of the Mississippi Migratory Flyway (below).

Now, while the purple martin does not specifically follow our migratory flyway, some other very impressive birds do: The American Golden Plover, for instance, flies over 50 hours straight--that's no sleep!--over 3000 miles, to get to where it needs to go. And the Eastern Kingfisher, a feisty little critter, summers in our area, starting its migration from South American in mid-April. (In fact, the Eastern Kingfisher is such a cranky bird that its scientific name is tyrannus tyrannus.)

Eastern Kingfisher. Cranky-pants.

So now that we've given you a sampling of some of the great birds you can find out there--and the amazing things they can do--feel free to share some of the knowledge with some young people. I don't think an entire generation of kids who think that birding's, well, for the birds would do anyone any good.
Here are some great birding resources to get you started:

Audubon's Great Backyard Bird Count
Cornell University's All About Birds

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