Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The House Finch is native to Mexico and the American Southwest. A hundred years ago that was the only place you would find them. Then in the early 1900s, pet dealers in the eastern U.S. started selling House Finches by giving them the sexier name, "Hollywood Finches." Trading in House Finches was illegal, but the laws were only sporadically enforced. In the 1940s, when enforcement efforts relating to songbird regulations were increased, pet stores in New York released the birds to avoid prosecution. Within a few years, people noticed House Finches breeding on Long Island. By the 1960s, they were common all along the East Coast. From there they spread rapidly, and by the 1990s, the eastern population had rejoined the western birds.
Monday, February 23, 2009
One of the leading adherents of acclimatization was Eugene Schieffelin, a wealthy New York businessman. In addition to acclimatization, Eugene Schieffelin was also a lover of the works of William Shakespeare. These two passions collided disastrously when he decided to introduce into the United States all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. He first tried releasing bullfinches, chaffinches, skylarks and nightingales, but none of them survived in New York’s climate. Looking back now we could only wish that Schieffelin had not read King Henry IV, Part I, Act I, Scene 3 – Shakespeare’s only mention of the starling. There the Bard tells us that Edmund Mortimer is being held in Wales by nefarious persons. A character named Hotspur wants King Henry to ransom Mortimer. The king responds, “Let me not hear you speak of Mortimer.” Later, out of the king’s presence, Hotspur declares, “Speak of Mortimer? Zounds! I will speak of him.” Hotspur ponders sneaking into the king’s bed chamber and hollering “Mortimer!” but instead thinks of starlings. He knows that starlings are mimics, and can be trained to repeat almost any sound. So Hotspur finally utters these fateful words:
“I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but ‘Mortimer,’ and give it him.”
So, can the starlings teach us a lesson? Well, I think the lesson is obvious: Selfishness, arrogance and short-sightedness can lead to disastrous results. The question is…are we listening?
Sunday, February 22, 2009
“Who provides food for the raven?” Job 38:41
Bird feeding is a big industry in the United States. Millions of people spend millions of dollars to feed millions of birds in backyards all across the country. Almost every supermarket, discount store, home center and hardware store sells bird seed and the feeders to put it in. We put out food to attract many different species of birds, but who would purposely set out to feed ravens? Therefore, to the question in today's verse, “Who provides food for the raven?” we can add another question, “Who would want to?” Ravens are not exactly cuddly little creatures. Yet, the author of the Book of Job asks the question, and of course we know the answer. Matthew 6:26 records Jesus’ words, “Your Heavenly Father feeds them.”
The Common Raven is found in Canada and in the western mountains and extreme northern parts of the United States. The raven is all black and quite large, about six inches longer than its cousin, the American Crow. Ravens have a diverse and opportunistic diet of shellfish, rodents, insects, seeds, fruit, food scraps, carrion, bird eggs and nestlings. Differentiating between a crow and a raven can be difficult at first unless you are lucky enough to see both at the same time. I have discovered that if I see a large black bird and wonder whether it is a crow or a raven, it is almost always a crow. When you see a raven, the larger size, massive bill and somewhat shaggy appearance usually make the identification easy.
Jesus told the people, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (Luke 12:24). And in Luke 12:31, Jesus said that God knows our need for food and clothing and that we should, “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” We are indeed more valuable than ravens; God will feed us.
Dear God, as you provide food for the birds of the air, even the Common Raven, we know you will provide for us as well. Amen.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Ravens are prominent in literature and popular culture. The Bible mentions ravens many times. Edgar Allan Poe made the raven so famous that 200 years after his birth, his home town named their NFL team The Ravens. Ravens are among the most intelligent birds. Some researchers rank them as more intelligent than dogs and cats. Here is a wonderful video that shows a raven doing a very intelligent thing--horsing around just for the fun of it!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Drake Green-winged Teal and Drake Mallard
Common Goldeneye Females
Drake Hooded Merganser and Canada Goose
Canada Goose and Drake Common Goldeneye
Wood Duck Surrounded by Mallards
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Just then the cop comes down the streetCrazy as a loon.He throws us all in jailFor carryin' harpoons.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
“West…toward the setting sun, near the great trees.”
We were waiting for the restaurant to open, and were sitting on the grand, covered porch looking out at the beautiful Colorado scenery. There were several bird feeders hanging from the porch roof, and my wife and I were entertained by a typically bold Clark’s Nutcracker. We both looked away for a moment, and when we glanced back at the feeder, there nibbling suet was a bird that looked like a feathered sunset. Its head was a bright orange-red; its underside was bold yellow; and its back was black mixed with yellow and white. Though I had never before seen one, I knew instantly that it was a Western Tanager, the “cover bird” of one of my favorite bird books.
The Western Tanager is one of a large group of birds that gets its family name from tanagra, the name given these birds by the Tupi tribe of the Amazon basin. The Western Tanager is one of four tanager species that migrates as far north as the United States. They are found west of the Great Plains, or as today's verse says, "West...toward the setting sun, near the great trees." That verse is part of a larger passage that contains instructions for receiving God’s promises. “You are about to…take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today” (Deuteronomy 11:31-32). We have been given many promises in God’s Word. Sometimes the fulfillment of these promises may seem far off—as far away as the “west…toward the setting sun.” However, God has told us in Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Our job, according to today’s passage, is to obey God. God’s job is to fulfill His promises. Trust Him to do just that. Along the way you might even get to see a few Feathered Sunsets.
Heavenly Father, as we observe the sun rise and set each day, help us to remember that as we obey your Word, you will honor your promises. Amen.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand." Deuteronomy 28:49
Bald Eagle Coming in for a Landing
Monday, February 16, 2009
Today's simile is taken from the song "Honey Bun," from the musical South Pacific, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II. Nellie sings:
My doll is as dainty as a sparrow.
Her figure is something to applaud.
Where she's narrow, she's narrow as an arrow.
And she's broad where a broad should be broad.
So what do you think? Is the White-crowned Sparrow dainty or not?
Come back later this week for more Bird Similes!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
“Give us seed so that we may live and not die.” Genesis 47:19
“If you feed them, they will come,” could be the motto for those of us who enjoy feeding birds. In most parts of the country, winter means finches at the bird feeders, and that means purchasing seeds, lots of seeds. The most common finches in the eastern United States are American Goldfinches, House Finches, Purple Finches, Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins. They come in large groups to feast upon thistle and sunflower seeds. The Pine Siskin is not brightly colored and is not as showy or noticeable as most of the others. It is, however, an energetic, acrobatic little bird that is small, trim and fun to watch.
Pine Siskins spend the summer in the southern half of Canada, extreme northern United States, and in the western mountains. In the winter they will wander throughout most of the United States. Like other winter finches they are “irruptive”, that is they are found in large numbers some winters and may be entirely absent the next. Pine Siskins are active foragers and climb about nimbly when foraging in forest canopies and hedgerows, often hanging upside-down. They also occasionally scour for food on larger branches, much like a nuthatch.
In today’s Bible verse, the people of Egypt were faced with death because of severe famine. They had lost all their money and livestock already. Ultimately they sold both their land and themselves to Pharaoh in return for seed. With that seed they were able to plant crops in order to survive. Seed meant life to those ancient Egyptians just as it means life to Pine Siskins. Without it they will die. Seed is like hope. When planted, it offers the prospect of life continuing into the future. Ask God for that seed. Without it you will die.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The flashy Northern Cardinal is a common and beloved bird in the eastern United States. In earlier times the cardinal was considered a southern bird and was rarely seen north of the Ohio River. Cardinals now live quite happily in the northern tier of states and parts of southern Canada. Two factors, both involving food availability, have been responsible for the northern and western expansion of this bird in the past 150 years. The first factor is the change in the landscape of the continent. The cardinal thrives in “edge habitat,” areas which are full of tangles and thickets, but will not inhabit dense forests or open grasslands. The settlement of North America created prime cardinal habitat through the clearing of forests and through the ornamental plantings in towns and suburbs. The second factor is the proliferation of backyard bird feeders. With plenty of available food, twenty-first century cardinals will happily live far north of the range of their eighteenth and nineteenth century ancestors.
The bird we know as the Northern Cardinal has had many names through the years. It was formerly known as the Virginia cardinal or Kentucky cardinal, or simply as cardinal bird. In the early nineteenth century it was sometimes called Virginia nightingale, a name used by Lewis and Clark when referring to the bird in their journals. The term cardinal refers to the colorful crimson robes worn by the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. Our familiar red bird is called Northern Cardinal to differentiate it from two other members of its genus, the Pyrrhuloxia of the southwestern United States, and the Vermilion Cardinal of South America.
If you ask anyone to describe the Northern Cardinal, the two words most commonly used would undoubtedly be red and crest. The cardinal’s distinctive crest is its crowning glory. Because of their crests, both male and female cardinals can be easily identified in poor light simply by their shape. The crest is a common feature of many birds throughout the world. It is composed of a few longer feathers on the top of the head. Crests may be useful in making the bird look larger or fiercer in the eyes of a potential predator, or more appealing to the opposite sex. Most birds can raise their crests slightly when they are excited or alarmed, or displaying for a potential mate.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
“He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’” Job 37:6
Snow Buntings love the snow so much they are often observed taking baths in it. These birds are aptly named since they are seldom seen anywhere that is not covered with a blanket of white. They spend the winter feeding in harvested farm fields and other open areas. During very cold weather, when temperatures are 20 to 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, the birds burrow into loose snow to stay warm. They form large flocks, sometimes with a few Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs mixed in. The flocking birds stay close together and fly near the ground. They take refuge in plowed fields near tufts of grass, stones, or clods of dirt, where wind and sun have blown or melted away some of the snow.
In its breeding plumage the male Snow Bunting is mostly white with black on the back, wings and tail. The females have less white, and the winter birds have brown streaking on the sides and back. The summer diet is mainly composed of insects, while the winter diet is mainly seeds. They feed and roost on the ground and along roadsides, but seldom perch in trees. Snow Buntings nest farther north than any other land bird. Each autumn they leave their homes in the far north and migrate south to winter in southern Canada and the northern United States.
In today’s passage from the Book of Job, we have a glimpse of God’s awesome power of creation. “He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth.’” Some of us who live in northern climates complain about snow and wish that God didn’t say, “Fall on the earth” quite so frequently. We may not like the cold weather that accompanies snow, the dangers it can represent or the hard work involved in getting rid of the stuff. God sends the snow and the cold to cleanse the earth and renew it. Maybe we do not all enjoy the snow as much as the Snow Buntings, but let us all try to appreciate the changing seasons as God has created them for us.
Father, we thank you for the wonderfully diverse world you created for us. Amen.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
Did you know there are birds in your pocket? Well, there are! Go get all the loose change you have around the house -- from the nightstand, that old fruit jar, and the dark recesses of your purse. Separate out all the quarters and take a look at them. For several years the government has been honoring each of the fifty states with a special quarter. Eight of those coins have birds on them. Here they are.
California's quarter has a California Condor, a bird that has recently been brought back from the brink of extinction.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
You'd better duck. That merganser is flying right toward your head.
I don't want to hear you grouse and complain when I awaken you at 6:00 A.M. to go see the prairie-chickens.
I'm traveling to that owl festival to see if I can hawk some of my bird photographs.
by Paul O. Roisen
I had to really crane my neck in order to see the egret nest.
I was quite surprised to see the Orioles bunting six times in their game against the Blue Jays.
And you didn't think bird was a verb!