Friday, February 27, 2009

The Acrobats

March is nearly upon us and our resident birds are singing. The tufted titmouse is looking smart in its gray suit, short, stout bill, orange sides, and short, gray crest. The male is whistling loud and clear, Peer, Peer, Peer. Its cousin the black-capped chickadee is also whistling a clear tune, fee-bee-ee. Donald Kroodsma, professor of ornithology and author of The Singing Life of Birds, insists that the male chickadee is singing hey-sweetie, hey-sweetie. I like that.

The black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice roam about in bands in winter. Handfuls come to the feeders together. They are quick and acrobatic, their strong legs allow them to hang upside down even at the tip of a small twig. Their calls are similar, the titmouse sounds a bit more like it is complaining or scolding.

To quote Donald Kroodsma again, "It's all in the eyes." Seeing birds as they sing helps hear the details of their songs and makes it easier to identify birds later by song alone. Before the flush of warblers, thrushes, and other migrants, this is the time to learn the spring songs of our resident birds.

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