Birding in a Dangerous Time

How to mostly stay home, but still partake in a spectacular spring migration.

While the deadly coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the globe, a much different wave is sweeping through our backyards almost unnoticed — one that offers much-needed inspiration and emotional relief during troubled times.

The annual northward spring migration of birds is underway, providing citizens with not just a distraction from the ho-hum of self-isolation, but an opportunity to experience one of the greatest natural wonders on Earth without even leaving the house.

“This migration — birds coming from distant countries — can open your eyes to another world, something entirely foreign,” says Rob Butler, a B.C. bird expert, author and former federal research scientist. “Most people are completely oblivious to it.”

According to the National Audubon Society, at least a billion birds migrate annually along the Pacific Flyway — a route that follows the west side of the Americas and crosses a vast range of habitats from the tropics to the Arctic. Continue reading

12 Great Writers on 12 Great American Birds

From Thoreau to Whitman to Muir, the Very Best Bird-Related Writing

The following passages are from American Birds: A Literary Companionedited by Andrew Rubenfeld and Terry Tempest Williams.

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur“On the Humming Bird” (1782)

“On this little bird nature has profusely lavished her most splendid colours; the most perfect azure, the most beautiful gold, the most dazzling red, are for ever in contrast, and help to embellish the plumes of his majestic head. The richest pallet of the most luxuriant painter, could never invent any thing to be compared to the variegated tints, with which this insect bird is arrayed.”

John James Audubon, “Ivory-billed Woodpecker” (1838)

“The flight of [the Ivory-billed Woodpecker] is graceful in the extreme, although seldom prolonged to more than a few hundred yards at a time, unless when it has to cross a large river, which it does in deep undulations, opening its wings at first to their full extent, and nearly closing them to renew the propelling impulse. The transit from one tree to another, even should the distance be as much as a hundred yards, is performed by a single sweep, and the bird appears as if merely swinging itself from the top of the one tree to that of the other, forming an elegantly curbed line. At this moment all the beauty of the plumage is exhibited, and strikes the beholder with pleasure.” Continue reading