“I’m lying in my room listening to the birds outside. I used to think they sang because they were happy. But then I learned on a nature show they’re really showing off.”
— Jo Knowles
So much for our romantic anthropomorphism. But for a bird, maybe showing off is a cheerful sort of thing to do. It takes energy, and energy is not something that tends to go with being depressed.
A couple of days after our big 8-inch snowfall earlier this month, Jeff called me to the kitchen window to point out two birds sitting together on the branch of a tree in the woods behind our home. Of course, I ran to get my camera. As I watched them through the telephoto lens, I was curious about their repetitive motions.
“I think they’re preening,” Jeff said, but after a few moments he added, “or maybe that’s some sort of mating ritual.”
“I didn’t know birds engaged in mating rituals in the dead of winter.”
“It’s NOT the dead of winter, it’s SPRING!”
Ah, so it was — though it was an easy mistake to make, with the dirty snow at the end of our street piled in drifts almost as tall as me. But even if I had my doubts as to whether spring was here, you can bet the birds didn’t. They were out there showing off, and we thoroughly enjoyed the show.
I did a bit of research, and this site about the Mourning Dove seems to indicate that what we saw may indeed have been some sort of bonding ritual. But perhaps readers with more knowledge of birds can watch my (slightly shaky handheld) video and enlighten us:
Happy fourth day of spring!