Do Birds Smell?
Is this the same cardinal that was at my feeder last year?
Can robins “hear” worms?
Bird expert David Sibley answers frequently asked questions about the birds we see most often in What It’s Like to be a Bird.
In a large-format volume displaying more than two hundred species including the familiar robin, blue jays, nuthatches, and chickadees, Sibley examines birds in action with 330 illustrations.
And while the text is aimed at adults–including fascinating new scientific research on the myriad ways birds have adapted to environmental changes–it is nontechnical, making it the perfect occasion for parents and grandparents to share their love of birds with young children, who will delight in the big, full-color illustrations of birds in action.
Another Bird Expert
Krista Tippett of the On Being program interviews Ben, who doesn’t just watch birds, he “attends” to them, watching their habits, noticing their colors, and listening to their songs. She says, “His mimicry is exquisite.”
What if you don’t remember the names for birds?
That’s okay, Ben Lanham says. First, watch the bird, observe its beauty. When, and if, we get to know the name of the bird we love, then we’ll remember it well.
Tippett reminds us that we are part of nature “telling our stories to each other, and in this conversation, we hear a call to new stories.”
Emily Dickinson’s story in verse. She includes bird song!
A “Sunday morning” congregation of eastern bluebirds happily pecking away at their breakfast perhaps before church. EcoWatch points out a new study that shows that human happiness may correlate with a number of bird species in a community.
Bonus: Friend and author, poet Merril Smith blogged about birds in a recent post, where one commenter remarked that her words fly “like tiny birds”!
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land. ~ Song of Solomon 2:12
Are you a bird watcher?
Besides birds, what in nature has nurtured your soul during the pandemic?
Have the restrictions this past year altered your “going to church” routine?
Good morning, Marian! Thank you for the shout out! I suppose I do write a lot of bird allusions in my poetry.
I love watching the birds outside my window, in the yard, and wherever I go walking. I’m not very knowledgeable about them, but I’m learning. I will have to get that Sibley book. Thanks!
“Grandma of the Birds!” ❤️❤️
Merril, I notice you write about birds — and the heavens — frequently, which keeps your head angled up, away from the posture-punishing computer gaze, at least in my case. Along with the poetry, I always enjoy your photos on your posts and on Facebook.
If you get the Sibley book, some of the most fascinating facts are in the section “How to Use This Book” – ha! 🙂
Thanks, Marian! 😀
Nice post and interesting questions! One of the things that attracted me to my husband when we first met was that he was a keen birdwatcher and taught me to recognize birds I didn’t know existed. Since our life together started, we’ve been feeding birds in our garden and even bought some whilst on our year-long trip through Europe.
We have recently moved to a new house and have hung bird feeders on the trees across our house and the first thing we do every morning is to look out for them. I am delighted to say we have some regular visitors, like Blue Tits and Robins and we’ve noticed we have inspired our neighbours to do the same.
You are a nature lover and inspiration to your neighbours as well. I like your description of your morning ritual, attending to birds.
By the way, it occurs to me that you could trust a man who cares for birds, noting their identity and habits. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Fatima!
I can’t recall a winter where we’ve had more birds visiting our feeders than this year. I fill our thistle socks every day. As the temperatures rise, I love to watch the male American goldfinch slowly morf from a drab brown color to bright yellow. They are the only bird that can eat upside down. With so many new visitors, we are constantly referring to our Birds of the Carolinas book. Great to see sweet Merril!
I had to look up “thistle sock,” and for the info of other clueless readers like me, they are bird feeders for finches and perhaps for other birds. Also, I didn’t know that goldfinches are the only bird that can eat upside down. You are a fount of knowledge, Jill!
And I know that you love, love, love hummingbirds. Thanks for checking in today and enlightening readers here, including me. 🙂
Yes, many of the other birds like the socks, too. I’ve even seen cardinals hanging on it when all of the sunflower seeds I put out on the patio are gone. I highly recommend hanging a sock where you’re able to see from inside the house. The goldfinches are gorgeous! Walmart sells them packaged with the seed. Counting the days until the hummers return!
Honesty, that’s amazing, Jill!
Birds are so lovely to watch. We are fortunate to have an abandoned lemon and orange grove across from us so we can sit on our terrace and watch many different birds. I love the Emily Dickinson quote. I agree, God can be found anywhere, not just in church.
Darlene, I can easily picture you sitting at your computer creating “Amanda” stories. Now I can visualize you and Paul sitting on your terrace watching bird life in the citrus grove. I’m glad you enjoyed the quote. Thanks for your input here as always! 🙂
Marian — I love that a study shows that human happiness may correlate with a number of bird species in a community. How cool is that?! That may well account for my joyful heart because we’re surrounded by birds winter, spring, summer, and fall.
I know for a fact that you pay close attention to nature, seeing so many Facebook photos you have captured on your walks. I have a feeling images from nature populate the setting of your Sean McPherson books. too Thanks, Laurie! 🙂
Grandma with open palms and broad smile bestowed upon Crista. What a treasured photograph.
Yes she was Grandma of the Birds and Children and Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren.
Her love of birds lives on with two feeders in my backyard.
Yes, we got many “gifts” from Grandma Longenecker, including a love and reverence for nature. Florida birds don’t need bird-feeders very much. I’m glad you are carrying on Grandma and Ruthie’s tradition. They would be so proud of you!
Thanks, Jean. 🙂
Marian, your blog posts are treasures! Love the bird study and the Merril shoutout.
I remember one morning when I went out to start the car. It was four below zero, and I was not in a good frame of mind. Suddenly, I heard a bird sing. Such a joyful sound. It made me feel ashamed for grumbling, since this tiny bird sang even in the cold.
My church was closed during the pandemic, but I watched the livestream. It has opened to limited capacity in the last couple months. I have gone in person occasionally. I can see why some are reluctant to go in person (rather than virtually) since you have to sit there with a mask on the whole time.
L. Marie, I’m glad the bird song jolted you out of your mood. And I hope your car responded in kind. I’m glad you enjoyed this post and happy you took the time to reply here. 🙂
My world has become quieter due to the pandemic. So, what did I hear? Birds – birds singing to each other. They are always in tune and on key. Their tone and pitch is perfect, no lessons, but do they ever give a great concert. I love to watch birds gather and feed together; the mourning doves coo, peck and huddle together. They are amazing creatures, and I’m grateful for the quiet that offered me this opportunity to connect with our feathered friends. Thank you Marian for a timely topic.
You are welcome, Carolyn. Your reply here sounds so poetic, describing the call of nature to sit in quiet solitude and appreciate God’s gifts. Thanks for checking in today! 🙂
Emily Dickinson’s poem is lovely and so is the picture of Grandma Longenecker and her granddaughter. Hardy and I received a bird feeder for our anniversary and have enjoyed watching them (mostly sparrows and chickadees in winter) while eating our breakfast. We long for spring and more variety as the weather gets warmer. It has been a long winter!
A long winter is giving way to spring, and it will arrive in Manitoba in due time as Genesis 8:22 promises. Thanks for the cozy image of you and Hardy eating breakfast along with sparrows and chickadees, Elfrieda. 🙂
I love that poem by Emily Dickinson. It is absolutely beautiful. I also watch birds when I am sitting in my glassed in patio. I have a couple of squirrels out there to that climb my walnut tree.
Thanks for an engaging article.
Pat, I believe your glassed-in patio is in Germany. Right? God’s Nature restores our souls as I’m sure you are aware. Thanks for commenting again today. 🙂
A lovely post, Marian…Emily Dickinson’s poem is one I’ll write down and remember for a long time. Birds, birds, beautiful birds! Thanks for sharing.
Bette, your Maine haikus are infused with the love of nature. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem and the reverie on birds. Thanks so much for visiting here again. 🙂
What a great picture of Crista and Grandma Longenecker. I remember moments like that with my Shanti she would sit in grandma kitchen talking with her while Aunt Ruthie and Mom and would would be busy with I don’t remember what but it was always fun.
Such great memories just that I never thought to capture in picture and sadly I still don’t. I have to change that. I love birds now that the weather is getting better I’m setting up my bird feeder. With all the snow here I take it down being on a third floor I get scared it would fall with the weight of the snow. Have a nice week.
I’m glad you have pleasant memories of the Longenecker women, who I miss every day. And I’m happy your Illinois birdies are enjoying your feeder, something Grandma would certainly approve of. Thanks for the good wishes here, Gloria. It’s always good to see you here. 🙂
I love this poem. My church is the natural world.The birds, the squirrels, the deer … all of the animals and plants as well. Mother Gaia even within a hurricane is the priestess that holds us all together.
I know you love nature and remember an especially lovely photo of spring flowers before you moved to your new home. I did find something about Mother Gaia on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.cl/pin/406168460135806634/ for inquiring minds.
Thanks for adding something special to our conversation, Joan. 🙂
This is a delightful post, Marian. The poem by Emily Dickenson is exquisite and I enjoyed learning about this book.
Thank you, Robbie. I enjoy sharing what I find . . . always more to learn, as you are well aware. 🙂
Here in Ottawa we have been astonished to see robins spending the winter with us. That is unprecedented. They usually escape south – far away from the cold. Their return to our city is USUALLY our first sign of spring. What will we do now?
How fascinating: Robins wintering in Canada! I don’t think the Covid-19 virus has invaded the world of birds, but I wonder if the pandemic has changed their habits. I guess if you don’t see robins next year in Ottawa, that may be a clue. Who knows?
What will you do now? I guess look for crocuses. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by again with a fun fact, Arlene.
Yes, it will be a while before the crocuses can appear from under the snow. Great changes come to us in the month of March, so many another month. Who knows?
Thank you again for a colorful and interesting post. I have had more interest in our birds during the past year of “hibernation”. A new book a bird-lover friend shared with me is The Bird Way, a new look at how birds talk, work, play, parent and think by Jennifer Ackerman.
Thanks for the tip about another bird book. I looked it up and it’s kind of pricey but I see a paperback book will be available in May:
It’s always good to see you here, Jane. Stay warm in PA! 🙂
Birds are fascinating! I like to watch them, but was never interested in identifying them or go bird watching. Now, we have van friends who are really into this and we even bought them the extensive Sibley bird identification guide as a Christmas gift, recently.
Just today, I have been watching and photographing a vulture and an osprey making use of the same saguaro cactus top to rest. And this morning, we kayaked around an island full of pelicans and gulls. Yep. Fascinating. But, I loved paddling with the dolphins minutes earlier even better. We had a splendid morning. 🙂
What a feast for the senses. I know you journal every. single, day. so you will capture images of the birds and dolphins for us to see on Facebook and maybe even on your blog.
I’m impressed that you bought the Sibley book for your “van” friends, such a generous gift. Mine came from the public library. Thanks for sharing your splendid morning, Liesbet!
Though I’m not an official birdwatcher, I have always been fascinated by all the different species. Wayne and I used to sit on our front porch and listen to the birdsong. Bring a farm boy, he knows a lot about birds and could identify the species by the song. I always think of freedom and playfulness. Being outdoors on the farm was so soul-nurturing— the birds, wild animals, trees , fields of vegetables. I miss it. In answer to your question about churchgoing. The last time I was at Mass was Christmas, 2019. I watch Mass on Facebook live stream every weekend and will do so until I feel comfortable going out again. I enjoyed your post!
I know Wayne has farmer genes and until recently you were a “farmer’s wife” — ha! Of course you miss being close to nature, but you probably are happy with birdwatching from your window or maybe patio.
Every so often I would think, “I wonder if Kathy is able to attend Mass.” I had visions of the priest perhaps visiting your home with Communion. Yet, it’s better to be comfortable going out again; even with social distancing and masks it may be chancy.
Thanks for stopping by, Kathy! I think of you almost every day and hope you are doing well. 🙂
“Grandma of the birds” is just a lovely name, and the picture that goes with it shows what a remarkable bond existed between your grandmother and your daughter. I am alert these days to grandparenting images, and this is a lovely one. Thank you, Marian.
I love listening to birds and can identify a number of them. But I am not a birder. I leave that role to my friend Tina.
Crista and Joel bestowed that name on their Great Grandma L., and I think cousins may have followed suit. Grandma gifted us with a love of nature, another spiritual bridge to God. If you are looking for other grand-parenting images, I’ve documented many of them with our mystery trips here. Now, they’re teenagers forging their own identities.
I’m not a birder either, though I love listening to their tunes and seeing duck alight from the lake. You have a lovely vista able to look at mountains and meadows with birds as you forge ahead with your writing. I’ve seen it!
Thanks, Shirley, for adding to the conversation here once again. ((( )))
By every right, I should be an avid birdwatcher. My dad was a zoologist who had a special passion for birds. He was forever taking off on bird counts. I remember going with him as his statistician when I was young. The way the bird counts went was he had a designated area to count birds. We usually were way out on some old dirt road. He stopped for two minutes and called out what and how many birds of each species he saw. My job was to record this on a premade tally sheet and monitor the clock at the same time. Then he’d drive another two miles and follow the same procedure. Later in life, my mom got hooked as well.
Dad worked on the recovery team as part of the Fish and Wildlife Program for the Aleutian Canada Goose (a subspecies of the Canada Goose). The bird went from threatened to plentiful in the years Dad was involved in their recovery. I have a great appreciation for nature, but I was never as passionate about it as my parents were. My oldest brother is the vice president of the North American Butterfly Association.
What a legacy: Your dad a zoologist and you, his statistician with a tally sheet and clock. WOW, I’m blown away by this. And what a impact your family has made on the ecological system of our planet, including the brother, lover and protector of butterflies, which I love.
Thanks for adding more spice to our conversation here, Pete! 🙂
Oh – how lovely! Especially the poem.
Thank you, Lady Fi. I know you love to be submersed in nature too, and I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. 🙂
Who cannot be charmed by a tweet or a chirp or the cry or the song of birds? And their flight and feeding, and the spread of colour of their wings. I’ll follow up on the links Marian thank you, and I love the Emily Dickinson poem and the picture of Grandma of the birds… I’ve been on a few early morning bird watching walks in the past which I enjoyed so much learning about the habits of those we saw from an amusing and learned man. I have a few friends who are very keen birdwatchers and it’s not unusual for them to hop into a car and travel several hundred kilometers to sight a bird rarely seen. My knowledge is very limited … we sometimes call a bird an LBJ – little brown job if in fact they are brown … Thank you for this lovely post.
I can relate to the tag “Little Brown Job,” which describes me more than “certified bird watcher.” Like you, I don’t feel compelled to identify birds and their songs, I just enjoy the comfort of their presence in our preserve. Thanks for adding to the conversation here, Susan, as you always do. 🙂
I enjoyed this tribute to birds, particuarly the Emily Dickinson poem. There is something about hearing birdsong upon waking or stepping outside that says all is right with the world (or at least this little corner of it).
As an academic, of course you would enjoy the Dickinson poem. And I certainly can relate to the comfort and inspiration of birdsong. What a blessing! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Liz. 🙂
For the first time in many years, we have put out a bird feeder. It’s been great fun for us, watching the action from our living room. But I have a whole lot learn! Interesting Emily Dickinson poem–and pretty picture from Sara Wenger Shenk. Did you know she was one of my roommates in college?? I assume you know her or her family as well. I’ve just reviewed her newest book but yes, she is a great great nature lover.
Thanks, Melodie, for sharing your “live video” of bird action, as a few of the other commenters have done. I don’t know Sara personally, but we are friends on Facebook. I believe she is related to Chester K. Wenger though I’m not certain. I do know her faith-filled book Tongue-Tied is coming out soon. 🙂
I enjoy birdwatching -although I am no expert. The only birds I’ve been able to pick out are red robins. My husband created a garden for me outside my office where I spent many hours at my desk writing. I noticed that wildlife is attracted to it. During the pandemic, I began putting out food for the squirrels and birds. I now have 4 squirrels that visit the garden regularly. I have even named them! I also have a raccoon who visits at night and he’s got a name too.
Oh, Katherine, so happy to see you here, after all of your recent experiences. How fortunate you have a caring, creative husband who gifted you with a garden, which has attracted squirrels and birds. I chuckled when I read you have named them too. Wonderful! 🙂
This is wonderful! Thank you, Marian. I am a birdwatcher–out many windows and from my porches and deck when the weather warms. I have a few kinds of seed and suet feeders, including two for hummingbird nectar (sugar water). I watch them in the forest and in my gardens and listen for their songs or the woodpeckers hammering. I’m not a bit surprised that humans are happiest in environments with many birds. Most music is overwhelming or grating to my cochlear implant / hearing aid ears, but not bird songs (or spring peeper frogs or crickets). I can hear these simple natural sounds well and I relish each one.
Flowers and gardens lift my spirits, but my favorites are butterflies, especially Monarchs. There’s grave concern about them because of a devastated habitat on their migratory route through Texas and over a huge amount of the south central US. I hope my little friends make it or at least some of them. When I release a new butterfly, they feel like angels. I used to go to meditations and classes, but all of this is on Zoom now, so my favorite church is the forest or Seneca Lake. (I wonder what a turtle sounds like, so I looked it up: “Some turtles cluck like chickens, hiss and even produce high-pitched whining sounds.”)
Elaine, I hear the joy in your voice, harmonizing with birdsong. Thank you for all of your musings including the bit of research you did about the sound of turtles. That line from the Song of Solomon has mystified me, so thanks for the clarification here.
I will hope along with you that the Monarchs will find their way back to you, for I know how much they mean to you: “When I release a new butterfly, they feel like angels.” And so they are, and with wings! 🙂
I think we’ve all become enamoured with nature since the pandemic hit our shores Marian . I think it’s all that’s going on there has kept us sane . Nature just gets on with it , nothing stands in its way .
We have been fascinated by the joy of nature as we’ve walked our local lanes throughout the seasons . Watching it unfold has kept us going and stopping us getting down .
We have the wren that comes to nest in our garden every year( obviously not the same one ) tiny bird huge voice , love the little guy .
I completely love the poem by Emily Dickinson thank you for reminding me of it .
Thank you for sending daisies along with your love of nature. I picture you in a charming village, much like we see on “Escape to the Country” if it’s Welsh. I love your description of the wren: tiny bird and huge voice, bringing cheer, which your good wishes bring to me here, where oak leaves are falling (Yes, FALLING!), new sprigs are behind them, and azalea bushes are springing to life again.
Thanks again, Cheery Cherry! 🙂
Hi Marian – I’m so glad I saw this. Our library is doing a community read of The Home Place (I’m a host) and I’m also signed up for a Zoom where he will be a guest. I haven’t read it yet but I’m looking forward to it. Great post!
I like the synchronicity here, Barbara! I think we are all looking for inspiration in nature as the northern hemisphere cycles toward spring. Thanks for reading and commenting once again. Best wishes on hosting and all your other connections. 🙂
Oh I see now that I did recognize Lanham here – how great to connect it all. Thanks again, Marian!
What a wonderful post, Marian. YES, I LOVE birds, and the longer I’ve lived in NE, the more I adore them. In the SF bay area, we didn’t have as many species flying around out home. Lots of hummingbirds, which was heaven-sent, but no cardinals or robins or nuthatches (since we lived near the Bay). I did see a lot of shorebirds and herons/egrets on my walks. But there’s something about having a bird feeder in my front yard, and a suet feeder in my back deck, that brings me such joy. We have a number of woodpecker families who use the suet (as well as blue jays, and my guy chases off the big black birds that try once in a while). The woodpeckers are not wary of us AT ALL and literally stare at us through the window as they peck on the suet. When the suet is empty, they peck on our window (I’m not kidding!). And in the front hanging feeder, we have about 5 cardinal families, and now that spring is approaching, more finches and nuthatches etc each day. Robins soon. Oh, and doves coo on the ground below the feeder all year long. Can you tell I’m a fan? I’ve read through Sibley’s book. It’s wonderful, but I find I get the most enjoyment from just watching the birds and sometimes, singing along with them. I LOVE Dickenson’s poem and confess, bird watching is my church often, also.
I hear the joy and enthusiasm in your voice, Pam. I’m impressed too about how well you remember bird names and calls on the West coast and now in New England. This made my heart sing: “a bird feeder in my front yard, and a suet feeder in my back deck, that brings me such joy.”
Here’s to more bird watcher and joy bringing. Thanks for all this, Pam! 🙂