Garden residents in eastern states from April to September they fascinate us, beating wings to a blur as they hover, even trusting us at arm’s reach before flying off, bright as a jewel, straight as a beeline. The only common summer visitor is the Ruby-throated hummer coming to flowerbeds to feed on nectar (love crimson bee-balm), snatch at insects and guzzle at our sugar water feeders.
Inge caught right-hand image of a White-necked Jacobin hummer in Mexico. A larger species of the tropics, it was given a scientific name by a Frenchman called Napoleon (not the Bonaparte) and a common name after the Jacobins for a resemblance I find hard to understand. Members of the Jacobin Club led by Robespierre dressed to distinguish themselves from aristocrats in fancy knee breeches by wearing a red cap and long trousers (sans coulottes).
This fine fellow sat on a wooden post for a portrait. Never long out of sight in the skies around here, Blacks are the more sociable of the two species of vulture. With a poor sense of smell compared to Turkey Vulture cousins it makes sense to have more eyes on the ground for scarce carrion.
A wake of vultures (nice collective noun for a bird clothed in black who pores over a cadaver) is reluctant to leave a meal when disturbed, for example, by traffic passing close to roadkill. Although their appearance, habits and smell are repellant to most people, they do a fine job clearing flesh that would go putrid and grow pathogenic bacteria that can harm later diners with less acidic, and hence less sterilizing, stomachs.
Not hard to imagine a common ancestor of American and European goldfinches managed to make the hazardous passage across the Atlantic to found a colony on the other side that evolved different colors over time. A single member of the European species was recorded here in 1999, although possibly released or escaped from captivity.
They are common, with similar habits and belong to the same genus. But of the pair the American deserves the name as breeding males are cloaked in canary yellow and sooty black, whereas Europeans have only a yellow flash on the wings. Both delight the eyes, twittering with apparent joy as they pluck seeds from flower heads, deserving the collective noun, a charm of goldfinches.