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This morning, I was sitting outside on my porch and saw a bird that my boyfriend has said is an oriole.  We’ve seen it around the neighborhood, and I never really got a good look at the critter.  But I was convinced it was a female robin.

Turns out, neither of us is right.  I got a good look at both a female and a male this morning, as they were foraging on the ground in front of my apartment.  So I looked it up.

This is an Eastern Towhee, a type of sparrow named onomatopoeically for its call.  The female was brown, which was the only discernible aesthetic difference between genders.  I found some really interesting information about this little guy at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.  They’re ground foragers and nesters, which explains why I saw them hopping along the ground.  The coolest thing I learned from this site is that the Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee (a Western version) used to be categorized as the same species until a few little differences were noticed.  Apparently, they can interbreed.  The reason the Cornell site gives for this is that the North American continent used to be separated down the middle by an ice sheet, which made the two species evolve differently even though they’re basically the same critter.

Speaking of foragers:

This is Georgia’s state bird, the brown thrasher.  When I was younger, I never really looked very closely at them, thinking them dull little brown birds.  But there are a couple who hang out in the yard and I was able to notice their spotted bellies.  They love the holly bushes in front of my porch, so I now have plenty of time to watch them.  They really are very pretty little birds, and I’m perfectly happy to share my grass with them.

There’s also at least one woodpecker near my place.  I know not because I’ve seen it, but because I’ve heard it.  I actually did manage to kind of see one at a distance last summer, but I couldn’t see it well enough to pick out any characteristics.

So I’m only guessing that our particular woodpecking friend is a red-bellied woodpecker because I know it’s a Georgia species.  The other possibility is the pileated woodpecker, which is another Georgia species.  It may actually be this pileated species now that I’m thinking of it, because the one I saw was larger than the red-bellied appear to be.

But of course I have no idea.  If anyone reading this has better knowledge of such things, please don’t hesitate to comment or email!

Red-bellied fun fact:  They can stick their tongues out over two inches past their bills so they can get to the nummy insects they’re pecking for.

Pileated fun fact:  Their “excavation” holes are rectangular and can be so big that a small tree can break in half from them.

Other birds in my yard:

I don’t see red-tailed hawks ALL the time, but I see them quite often.  Although I always side with the hawk when I see it, there’s not much in the world more entertaining than watching a couple of mockingbirds dive-bomb a hawk. Mockingbirds are mean.

I occasionally see a bluebird too.  I’ve only seen one this year, but the rarity of seeing one makes it that much more special and enjoyable when you do.  These little guys are just so pretty and so blue, you can’t miss them if you look.


What birds do y’all have in your yards?

(And seriously, y’all.  Click on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology link above.  It’s a GREAT site.)