Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ornaments On The Wing

Sitting at the window viewing the congregation about our bird feeders and bath, I was impressed once again with the beauty and cheer that songbirds bring to us, especially this time of year.  The day was rainy and cold.  Bright red cardinals caught my eye.  They are so called because the color is reminiscent of the red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.  Winging among the Southern Magnolias and feasting on the sunflower seeds we provide, I thought of them as Christmas ornaments.  It seldom snows here in south Georgia, but I remember enjoying the wonderful contrast of red against white that I've seen during winter visits to the snowy north.  They are no less beautiful against the monochromatic shades of a rainy day.

Within moments, a blue jay appeared in his royal splendor.  Like kings, they tend to dominate the scene, but they are beautiful, indeed.  Other species displaying silver, black and white reminded me of tinsel.

This is the time of year when birds are on the move, migrating as cold weather approaches from their summer playgrounds to far-away places.  If you watch carefully, you may see some of the following colorful species passing through that are not often seen in your area.
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeaks - The black head and red breast patch on white distinguishes the males.   Females are heavily streaked with brown and white.  They winter in Mexico and northern South America.
  • Purple Finches - These raspberry-colored friends, about the size of sparrows, love bird feeders during winter months.
  • Rufous-Sided Towhees - You'll find them kicking up leaves and debris on the ground.  Their black heads, backs, white undersides and orangish sides are quite handsome.  They don't go far during winter, shifting only a bit southward.
  • Orioles - Northern and Baltimore, are quite striking with their bright orange bodies.  They're headed to southern Mexico and beyond.  They love fruit and jelly.
  • American Goldfinches - Their bright yellow colors fade in winter, but remain very attractive.  They spend the winter near the Gulf Coast and in Mexico.
  • Painted Buntings - These gaudy creatures tend to be shy.  I don't know why.  You may find them around feeding stations in the South.  They go to the Gulf Coast, Bahamas, Mexico and onward to Panama during our winter months.
  • Indigo Buntings - These gorgeous birds appear to be dark blue, but they are actually black.  The blue results from light diffraction on the feathers.  They're also headed to Mexico, Panama and the West Indies.  Wouldn't it be nice to go with them?
These are but a few of the many wonderful species I could mention.  If you would like a better chance of enjoying them, provide something for their journeys along the way.  Add a few more bird feeders to your station.  Stock up on bird seed, fruit and other favorite foods.  Don't forget to keep your bird baths filled and warmed.  If you experience freezing weather, heated baths will be especially welcome.

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