The Magic of Birds
July 4, 2018
If this Universe has a Creator, she must have been having a good day when she created birds.
They are colorful and dull, helpful and ruinous. They eat bird seed, harmful insects, even our garbage. They will also ruin your clean car and carry off your cat at night. They nest in trees, on the ground and even underground.
Yes, even underground.
A friend called a couple of years ago excited that a pair of burrowing owls had taken up residence in an abandoned gopher hole on her north central Montana property. From the joy those birds brought, you would have thought it was Christmas morning not just a pair of native birds nesting.
But those are the sorts of feelings birds evoke in us.
Think about the wildlife around us. They run, swim and crawl. So what? So do we.
Birds, however, fly, have exotic colors and sing, characteristics we have all wished for one time or another.
Early some morning now go outside and listen – in town or out. The music, the dawn chorus, the cadence. Beethoven and Mozart could not have devised such symphonies.
Watch the males fight over territory and females wait to pick the winner. Shakespeare could not have come up with better drama.
Birds have intrigued man since we dropped out of the trees and stood upright.
In Greek mythology we have Icarus, who tried to fly but came too close to the sun, fell to Earth and died, teaching us lessons about arrogance and foolish pride.
The Bible is full of references to birds, often symbolizing hope.
And speaking of Shakespeare, about 45 species of birds figure into his works, including the starling, which a fan decided to release in North America in the 1880s. Thanks a lot for that, by the way.
So much bird behavior happens without our notice or appreciation. Especially on the prairie, where, truth be told, avian magic occurs and a part of my heart lies.
On the isolated prairie that stretches out from the Rocky Mountain Front are dozens and dozens of bird species that nest wherever patches of trees and shrubs struggle to grow.
A smaller group nests on the ground tucked under grasses and flowers. This class includes our state bird, the western meadowlark, and many of those "little brown jobs," like grasshopper sparrow, chestnut-collared longspur and horned lark.
Each LBJ species seeks out just the right combination of vegetation or bare dirt to stake a claim, build a nest and raise its young. Come to think of it, we're not much different.
As a group, these LBJs live where few people want to, are hard to tell apart and are as drab as a homesteader's cabin.
So, why should anyone care about the LBJs?
Here's why: For everyone there is something on this planet that touches the soul: a photo, a sunset, a video game, a major league sport, an elk bugle, this list is endless.
There are those who can live without birds and those who cannot. Count me in the column of those who need them.