Thursday, May 22, 2014

There's something about a yellow bird

Most of the birds that I see in my yard are year-round residents (the species, if not the individuals), but there is a bird I see only in summer.  That's the summer tanager.
When I hear the distinctive staccato notes in spring I look to see the "redbird" or his mate.  Then I know the good ole summertime is on its way! The male is red, and the female is a yellowish color.  Sometimes my folks just referred to the female summer tanager as "the yellow bird."
I usually hear the bird before I see it.  Peterson's guide refers to the note as "pik-i-tuk-i-tuk."  I would describe it as Twit! (ch)TOO! tu-i-tu.  What I have just recently learned is that it also has a robin-like song.  I probably thought I was hearing a robin whenever I heard the song.
When I was a kid (in the days before the internet--yep, I lived way back then), we treasured books.  Once an acquaintance of ours gave our family an assortment of books.  Included in the lot was a green hardcover entitled Birds in the Garden.  What a pleasure it was for me to look at the illustrations in that book!  Here is the page from that book which shows the scarlet tanager, a bird very similar to the summer tanager.  (The difference is that the scarlet tanager has a jet black wing whereas the summer tanager just has a slightly dark wing.)
The illustration is by Walter Alois Weber and is dated 1930.
As a kid, my siblings and I seemed most impressed by birds that would venture to come close to us.  I think I actually fantasized about taming one enough to eat out of my hand, though I never accomplished that.  The chipping sparrows and the female summer tanager were brave enough to come near our doorway to get bread crumbs.  The "yellow bird" was quite bold, and if memory serves me correctly, we once actually coaxed her all the way through the kitchen door. 
That seemed to be a simpler time--the door open to the outdoor air, a yellow bird venturing up wooden steps and onto the boards of a bare pine floor much to the delight of some barefoot country kids.


1 comment:

  1. I like your description of the yellow bird coming toward the back door. I could almost see that. some things just jump out at you, that did.
    I never learned much about birds or flowers. I think I missed a lot. I can appreciate knowledge, and know it when I read it, I just will not buckle down and try to learn. But I do love to observe. I am looking forward for a few weeks of solitude in the Vermont and Maine Mountains to observe and live with the wild life. Good entry.