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24 May 2007

Birds Swim, Fish Fly. But very few birds walk. Which ones? What's your favorite bird?[More:]

Birds Swim, Fish Fly*, but what birds walk instead of hopping? Sure, "the blackbird walks like a man."** I think the Native Americans said that first. But sand darters walk too. I just saw one. Are there any other pedestrian birds I should know about, or is that it?

*(Tim Finn said that. I should usendit to you, it's a cool song, but I'm on dialup, so you should LimeWire it, LOL. Wow, Finn's site got cool recently with audio and video [and animation] from a new CD. [Not Pepsi Blue.] )

**(The blackbird family includes grackles and many other cool wingkids).
I love the snowy egret and the blue heron. They both walk, and fly of course, and make visits to my backyard. I also love cardinals, and the bald eagle. Sighting a bald eagle is a thrill for me. I've seen more and more these past couple years.
posted by LoriFLA 24 May | 08:36
I like peacocks for their iridescence, but I'm superficial that way.
posted by phoenixc 24 May | 08:44
Ostriches and emus are pretty much only into walking. Blue footed boobies do it with color, but they're not good at walking. Then ya gots yer flamingos and your Sandhill cranes, the latter having been flying into western Nebraska to dance and walk around and get a mate for at least 10 million years.
posted by paulsc 24 May | 08:47
And let's not forget turkeys, who trot and walk and strut, or their ground running cousins pheasants and grouse.
posted by paulsc 24 May | 08:52
Dark-eyed junco, because I used to see them all the time on my hikes and they were so quiet and elegant.

Cedar waxwing, because they are beautiful, and a flock showed up once in a tree in the backyard of an apartment building where I lived on the day I knew my first marriage was over (in a very good way).

I really miss my birdwatching days. I had much more time and liberty on my hands then, and would disappear into the woods for hours with my guide book and see if there were any new birds I could identify.
posted by tr33hggr 24 May | 08:56
Birds are cool! There is a pair of kestrels nesting in a corner of our building. mrs chewie is out in the parking lot now with her binoculars. :D

I really like junkos, too, tr33. And wrens, and herons. Someone's parakeet escaped from their house about 2 months ago, and she's been living in our backyard since! She stands out terribly - she's aquamarine, and the sparrows, finches, cardinals, grackles etc don't even notice & think she's one of the crowd. She looks like she owns the yard as she zips around. mrs chewie named her Hope. Here she is, hanging out under our window.
≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by chewatadistance 24 May | 09:10
I worked on an ostrich farm, and I can assure you, they are dangerously stupid animals. Unless they're really well-trained pets, I'd avoid going near one without a ten-foot pole for punching its sternum when it mistakes its feeder for its foe.

On big ostrich farms, the birds are penned in groups of three to five: up to three females, a dominant male, and a submissive male. The submissive male is there to have his shins kicked and his plumes plucked by the bigger, more virile male, so that the females react and offer up more eggs. It's kind of like a Puff Daddy video.

The male does an ornate dance, hunkering down on his heels (which are at knee level), swaying back and forth while flapping his wings, and whacking its chin against its sternum with a hollow slap. Then he'll stand tall and extend his neck straight up in the air, his throat will swell, and he'll issue a thrumming sound that can be heard for miles. Then he'll dance again, and if the female likes it, she'll back up to him, and his dong will flop out (it's about a foot long, six inches wide, and has an elbow) and they'll couple to their hearts' content, while the whipping boy watches and wishes.

Don't get kicked by an ostrich; it'll shatter your bones.


Once I saw a fledgeling red-tailed hawk in a tree on the edge of a wide meadow. Its movements were clumsy enough that I thought it was a parrot or something else exotic to central Maryland. But what caought my attention was not the young hawk, but all the other birds around it.

There were about fifty birds of all different species sitting on branches nearby, or flying, or darting around, or divebombing, from sparrows and wrens to grackles and even a crow (which kept its distance). The hawk bobbed arround on its branch, ducking its harrassers and occasionally snapping at them.

The cacaphony was amazing: I've never heard so many different birds in alarm mode at once.

It looked like, from the size of this hawk, this was the last chance the wee sparrows would have to get theirs. I wonder what happened when mom got home.
posted by Hugh Janus 24 May | 09:15
Kiwi, of course!

posted by gaspode 24 May | 09:25
Check this out.
posted by Hugh Janus 24 May | 09:26
And this.
posted by Hugh Janus 24 May | 09:28
Hugh, that first image reminds me of the movie The Falls.
posted by BoringPostcards 24 May | 09:34
You know, I like pigeons. Just common or garden ordinary pigeons (or rock doves, to give them their proper name). They walk and waddle, and although they look dull and grey, catch them in the sunlight and the feathers round their necks and throats have an iridescence that's breathtaking in its beauty.

If I were a bird, I'd be a pigeon. Like a pigeon, I have little short legs, a big butt and I can't sing. I'll eat all kinds of crap and I often have this sort of stupid expression on my face. But put me in the right light, and, like a pigeon, I will shine with a glow that'll surprise you.
posted by essexjan 24 May | 09:43
Your comment has made my day, ej.
posted by BoringPostcards 24 May | 10:19
Boy, you're in for a treat, ej... pigeons abound round here.

I rather like the toucan myself. I watched a male trying to feed a female a grape once, and she kept turning her nose up, so to speak, so he finally just tossed the grape back and ate it himself. (See gals, can't play too hard to get. : ) He did try again and was successful a short time later though.

Plus, there's the Fruitloops commercials. Gotta love those. Follow your nose...

(Lori, I loved the Florida birds when I lived there, too... ever notice how their knees bend backwards like elbows? Anatomically speaking, I wonder if they are actually "elbows," of sorts, rather than knees... I don't get out much.
posted by Pips 24 May | 10:23
Huh. According to this page, the "knees" are actually ankles. Learn something every day. Except last Tuesday. Didn't learn anything last Tuesday.
posted by taz 24 May | 10:39
Birds are great. I too have spent my time with the binoculars.

Owls are a special bird for me - I've had a few interesting owl encounters in my day. Great Horned Owls are my favorite of those, but Saw-Whet Owls are adorable too. I like the downy woodpecker and the cardinal and the yellow-shafted flicker. I love watching tree swallows swoop and swirl in the evening. No matter how much they shit, I adore all the types of seagulls because they are associated with my natural habitat, coastline. Out West I had a great time discovering that red-winged blackbirds are common as dirt (they are bit more exotic here) and meadowlarks are beautiful. Pheasants astound me, and the sheen of grackles is beautiful. Turkeys have become really common on New England roadsides, but they used to be far more rare. Ravens are fun and crows are mysterious when they gather in mobs. Baltimore orioles are strikingly gorgeous.
posted by Miko 24 May | 10:47
essexjan, I love love love your comment!

I don't have a favorite bird. Though I'm very happy to report that the first pelicans of spring have arrived. I wonder why no one writes songs about THAT? Probably because they look like creepy bombers all angular and in formation.

And does anyone else think it's funny that this thread came after this one? or was it on purpose.
posted by small_ruminant 24 May | 11:33
OK, somebody photoshop my head on a pigeon's body and my life will be complete. But it has to be a really fat pigeon with stubby little legs.
posted by essexjan 24 May | 11:35
It is my fervent desire that I be reincarnated as a barn swallow (hirundo rustica).

Watching them fly, I am intensely envious.
posted by Triode 24 May | 12:06
It is my fervent desire that I be reincarnated as a barn swallow (hirundo rustica).

I love swallows. They spend their entire lives either in flight or hanging in a nest--you'll never see one on the ground or even on a tree branch. It's great to watch them in a cloud over an old chimney, flitting about crazily like bats but never touching each other, then one by one zooming down into their home. I often visit an old schoolhouse at dusk to watch that:

dark clouds are anvils

above the schoolhouse chimney

swallows dance, weightless

Ostriches, herons and water birds, turkeys... I guess I was thinking of smaller birds. All of the large species seem to walk. I'd love to see an ostrich that hops, though
posted by shane 24 May | 12:41
What about those little birds that roll and and out with the waves like little ball bearings?

They probably fly but you only ever see them on the wet sand looking for goodies.
posted by small_ruminant 24 May | 12:53

This is a fun thread.
posted by shane 24 May | 13:47
Last visit to my mom's, in her back yard we saw:

house finches
red-bellied woodpeckers
piliated woodpeckers
an indigo bunting
mourning doves
blue jays
red-tail hawk (overhead)
screech owls (heard, and how!)
chuck-will's-widow (heard)
ruby-crested kinglet
a bunch of stuff I'm forgetting

Near to her house is a prairie:
great snowy egrets
blue herons
prairie chickens (they sound so funny!)
grass hawks
red-tailed hawks
sandhill cranes
tons of tiny little seed-eating things that are too numerous to identify
what we think was a juvenile golden eagle

I think my favorite bird is probably the hummingbird, although I'm partial to hawks and red-winged blackbirds.

All the walkin' birds you've already mentioned. I was thinking about grackle like-things...

posted by Specklet 24 May | 13:53
Ducks walk! Did someone say ducks yet?
posted by Specklet 24 May | 13:56
We've got all kinds of birds in our yard. None of them really walkers. We've had an exceptionally large amount of orioles this year. They're such a bright shade of orange that at first I thought someone had lost an exotic pet.

I love the hummingbirds, but they scare the hell out of me because it always takes me a minute to realize they're not enormous insects.

And I mentioned this in another thread, but on the way home today I saw a hawk fly off with an enormous snake in its talons. Like I'm not afraid enough of snakes on the ground. Now I have to worry about one falling on my head.

Last year, a hawk got successfully mobbed by a flock of smaller birds who knocked it right out of the air. It went plummeting through the maple tree right next to the garden where I was working. It was pretty cool.
posted by jrossi4r 24 May | 14:14
Thanks for the info., taz... ankles, wow.

Yes, penguins. I love penguins. I used to stand and watch them for like forever at the zoo. I loved the ones with the funny yellow hair on their heads.

And hawks... once, when I was on a backpacking trip in high school, we got up before dawn to hike Bear Mountain on the Appalachian Trail and watch the sunrise. It was an overcast day, and the sunrise wasn't much, but we were high enough that we were above the clouds, and we could look down and watch the hawks circle in and out of the clouds. Quite something.

And Miko, have you ever read Margaret Craven's, I Heard the Owl Call My Name? It's technically a "young adult" book, I suppose, but one of my favorites. Very meaning of life and all that, in a way that stays with you.
posted by Pips 24 May | 14:24
Speck, I also love red-winged blackbirds. They say "summer" to me here in central Illinois.
posted by tr33hggr 24 May | 14:39
I didn't know they were ankles. Neat. I always thought of them as knees.

There is a whippoorwill in my backyard that drives me batty. The song is pleasant enough, but at about the hundredth whip-poor-will you start to lose your mind.
posted by LoriFLA 24 May | 15:00
Robins! We've had a few in our backyard. We also have a pair of Stellar Jays that like to tease Kaylee, but I don't think they walk much.

My favourite is probably the whole line of hawks. Gorgeous, fierce looking beauties, they are.
posted by deborah 24 May | 16:07
We have a deck attached to the back of the house. Since we live on a hill, the deck sort of extends into the bushes and trees on either side of our house. It kinda makes it feel like a treehouse, and the birds treat it as such. (Well, they like the feeders we put out, too.)

We get finches, various sparrows, nuthatches, flickers, blue jays (steller's), hummingbirds, Oregon juncos (in the winter, mostly), black-capped chickadees, bushtits, band-tailed pigeons, and probably a few others I'm not thinking of at the moment, on the deck. Also in the neighborhood are crows, pileated woodpeckers, all sorts of swallows, a couple of sharp-shined hawks, etc.

My faves, I think are the Bewick's wrens. We have a couple that hop around on the deck, eating bugs and just generally flitting hither and yon. (Actually, there's never more than one at a time on the deck - they're pretty territorial, I guess.) I don't know why, but they always make me happy when I see them. And their song is just amazing: these tiny little birds throw back their heads and let loose this full-throated warble that sounds like it's coming from a much larger bird.

Also very cool are the families of bald eagles that live somewhere down near the lake. Just last week I saw one, maybe 15 yards overhead, while I was walking the dog. That made my day. Last winter, our neighbor had five of them land in her back yard and just sorta hang out for about twenty minutes.

I guess the only birds I don't really like are the starlings. They squabble so much they scare off the other birds, they're loud, and they shit all over everything. Plus they vaccuum up the seed in the feeders like there's no tomorrow. Feh.

posted by bmarkey 24 May | 21:54
I have five hanging feeders, a bird bath, and a platform feeder. Every winter, and occasionally during the rest of the year, I keep track in a notebook the different species of birds we get. One snowy day I had 17 different kinds of birds. I get happy every time a hummingbird lands on my feeder (another couple of weeks and I'll be hanging a couple more). I adore tufted titmice, and chickadees, and for the first time this spring I saw a rose breasted grosbeak on my feeder. I can spend hours watching birds. I'm not crazy about cowbirds and the way they lay their eggs in other birds nests. Their offspring usually hatch first, and push the other birds' eggs/hatchlings out of the nest. Then they are raised by "foster parents" who don't seem to notice the difference.
posted by redvixen 26 May | 20:42
Walkin' Out Yo Girlfriend || They've turned Trafalger Square into a lawn.