bird

A cardinal visits a bird feeder in writer Joe Baraty’s yard.

So I’m sitting in my office waiting for a very long rain delay to end so I can watch the Darlington Race. Sometimes I think it’s for just these moments that the internet was created — to squelch our boredom. Surfing mindlessly, I came across this test that would tell me what bird personality I had. No …seriously. And you all know how passionate I am about my birds, so there was no way I wasn’t going to be suckered into this one.

I started answering these random questions about my likes, dislikes and habits. All along my mind is wandering through dozens of bird species trying to imagine which one is most like me. By the time I completed the test, I had already narrowed down the possible list to about a half-dozen birds. Then that moment came. You know, that climactic moment when you get to hit that button. Yes, that ever tantalizing “Your Results” button.

A penguin. A PENGUIN? Is that even a bird? There are no penguins in my backyard. And what exactly is it that makes my personality similar to a penguin anyway? Never mind, I don’t even want to know the answer to that. Personally, I saw myself much more in line with a nuthatch. Busy, independent, very much into the solitude of his own world — a world that is often upside-down. That’s me all over.

Well that complete waste of my time only used up about 30 minutes of what was to be a three-hour rain delay. My curiosity had been tweaked; however, so I decided to continue my research on bird personalities … real birds, backyard birds — not some tuxedoed animal from the frozen tundra.

Seriously though, if you spend as much time as I do watching birds feed, nest, mate, play, fight, you could easily write your own book on bird personalities. It’s not as if they hide anything from us. Our backyards are an eclectic mix of sweet playful birds, quiet reclusive ones and a handful of mean bullies.

There are birds that we all love to hate, those invasive evil creatures that cause us constant grief. Starlings seem to always top this list. However, the only bird species that got under my skin deep enough to have me call the authorities seeking permission to shoot them wasn’t the starling at all. It was that hideous brown-headed cowbird. Surprising to many folks, the common house sparrow also finds its way onto the invasive species list. Just ask your neighborhood bluebird, who tends to be one of the primary targets of house sparrows that love to invade and take over nests that don’t belong to them.

Bullies: You always seem to have a bully or two in your backyard collection. The aforementioned starlings, cowbirds and house sparrows all make it on the bully list, along with grackles and blackbirds. But in my personal backyard, nobody defines bullying better than my blue jays. That is one seriously greedy, mean dude.

Sweethearts: Every bird watcher has their favorites for this category, and a lot depends on exactly where you live also. For me living in town, my list would include the darling chickadees, goldfinches, house finches and that ever busy and oh so nervous little wren.

“Can’t Live Without” species. That one particular bird that has etched a special place in your heart. The fellow you most want to see on the feeder first thing each morning. For me, that place has been taken by the northern cardinal.

I think what is so endearing to me about this bird is the unique relationship between the male and female of the species. They are counted on the small list of birds that will actually mate for life. They are on an even smaller list of birds in which both male and female sing. If you’ve never heard it before, treat yourself to a You Tube recording of the male and female cardinals singing to each other — it’s glorious. It’s better than any Bee Gee’s love song.

Cardinals have their faults mind you. We all do. They get a bit crazy with spring fever each year, especially the male. You may have witnessed them spending hours fighting the reflection of themselves in a glass door or window. They usually win the fight, so it’s all good.

We are so blessed to have such a wonderful variety of backyard personalities; the good and the bad. I hope you get the chance to just sit quietly and enjoy the show. And keep your eye out for that penguin, the one that’s just like me.

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