Common Birds – Anything but Boring!
by Josh Lane
When bird watching, it can be tempting to focus on the rare or uncommon species, or simply on the fun of trying to tally a big list of sightings for the day. It’s easy to overlook that robin or song sparrow that is hanging out in your yard every day, to check it off the list and move on to other birds. Yet, the greatest teachers for learning bird language are those birds that you see every day.
It’s that same robin that is always on the lawn, or that song sparrow that is always singing from the bushes in the backyard – these are the local characters that can be our doorway into a deeper picture of the landscape. Why? These backyard birds that set up shop around our homes have a deep and intimate view of your neighborhood.
The song sparrow knows the weasel that goes through the thicket every day, and she will tell you all about it. She’ll tell you about the rat snake that comes through looking for nestlings, too. The robin knows the various domestic cats that regularly patrol the neighborhood, and by the second year of life has probably learned which ones have the reputation of being effective bird hunters; the robin’s calls can tell you all about those cats, too.
Get to know your backyard robin’s various tones of voice and posture; you’ll get a view into the secret window into the world of mammals, hawks, owls, snakes and other animals.
3 Tips to Begin Your Bird Language Adventure:
1) Adopt a backyard sit spot. Spend a few minutes there every day. Gift yourself this time to awaken your senses and observe the sights, sounds, scents, and feelings and questions that emerge. The easier it is to get to your sit spot, the more likely you are to go there.
2) Keep a bird identification field guide handy. Put your field guide somewhere you will see it every day – on the breakfast table, in your car, wherever you are likely to come across it. More importantly, make it a habit to thumb through the guide for birds that you have spotted. If you are new to birding, learn to identify one new bird each week. This will add up over time.
3) Start to watch for individual birds. Even if you don’t know the species name yet, notice where each bird is spending time, and what each bird is doing. Patterns will emerge over time as you get to know each bird’s habits and territory. To do that requires building a relationship with each particular bird. It means embracing the common, in search of the subtle that is hidden all around us.
Learn more about bird language and how it can radically transform your connection to the natural world:
What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by master tracker, storyteller and mentor Jon Young
About the Author
Josh Lane is an avid wildlife tracker and bird language observer. He contributed to the “How to Learn Bird Language” section of the book, What the Robin Knows, and developed the Backyard Bird Language online course. Josh is a nature connection mentor with 8 Shields in Northern California, and has shared bird language practices at various events, including the 2013 National Audubon Conference.