White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow
Photo: Inge Curtis

These plump sparrows arrive in late fall and are still here, waiting for an impulse to fly to their breeding range in northern states and Canada. White-throated sparrows peck under the feeder for food spilled by Cardinals and others from sorting through the seed mix for favorites. They are more welcome for not being shy. Of the two morphs, we usually have the kind with a white head stripe instead of tan-colored. A yellow dot behind the bill is cute.

This is my first post since the war began in Ukraine, unusual for me to have inertia in writing.

The war is building a new wall between nations West and East. Migrating birds take no notice of it and people on either side offer them the same welcome. Not so many birds migrate between the Russian Federation and North America or Western Europe, but some waterbirds do, notably the Brant Goose (called Brent in Europe and the UK). They fly back and forth across national borders year after year. Makes me think of Noah’s dove that went forth and returned with an olive leaf.

Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans
Photo: Inge Curtis

Hereby begins a short series of our winter visitors.

The Tundra Swan is smaller than the other two swans found in Virginia. The Mute Swan was introduced and breeds here, but the Trumpeter Swan like the Tundra is a winter visitor. No prizes for guessing where it breeds. When birding in British winters, I sometimes saw the closely related sub-species Berwick’s Swan, which has a yellower bill.

They feed along the coast and inland waters, including the Chesapeake Bay and adjacent farmland. A healthy visiting population of about 120,000 exists in the East and about half as many again in the Far West, which accounts for why they are hunted.

A Magnificent Hummingbird

Magnificent Rivoli Hummingbird
Photo: Inge Curtis

Just as the most famous sultan of the Ottoman empire,  Suleiman the Magnificent, was known by different names according to region, the formerly named Magnificent Hummingbird is called Rivoli to the north of a boundary between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and Talamanca to the south (now split into separate taxa).

Not easily mistaken for other hummers, it is one of the largest with a 7” wingspan. The male has an iridescent blue-green throat gorget that serves as a brilliant flag to show his worthiness as a suitor or warn off competitors.

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