Don’t Let a Bird’s Feathers Fool You

I saw a couple of crows dining on roadkill the other day as I was driving by and wondered, Does this count as bird-watching?

I think it should. I know that birding is having a moment. It was something you could do outside without catching Covid at the height of the pandemic. And it offers the opportunity for being close to nature and spending money on fancy binoculars at the same time, a winning combination for 45 million Americans.

I’m in favor of this trend. I love birds. I have watched them, written about them and tried to remember their names and field marks. I even lived with one for a while. It was a small (captive-bred) parrot, a sun conure, that was supposed to be my daughter’s pet. But as a freelance writer, I was home all day long while she was at school, and the bird really, really wanted company.

I’m not an expert birder. I don’t have a life list, and I can’t tell one juvenile gull from another. But I know never to say sea gull (real birders will have your head). And I don’t just watch the birds that come to the feeder or land on a plate while I’m having lunch at an outdoor table.

I have gone to Nebraska, rising before dawn to watch male greater prairie chickens stomp and boom and promenade to get the attention of female greater prairie chickens.

On the same trip, my wife and I slept in a tiny concrete blind on the Platte River, with overnight temperatures in the 30s and a bucket for a bathroom, so that we could see flocks of migrating sandhill cranes at dusk and dawn.

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