Favourite Bird: J. Murray Speirs

I have often been asked “Which is your favourite bird?” I have to confess that I have many favourites, not one.

When I am walking through Lynde Shores woodlot and a Black-capped Chickadee confidently comes to my hand for sunflower seeds, who could resist this and not get a glow of pleasure? When a Hermit Thrush sings its ascending hymns to the wilderness, who could not be spellbound? Which is our most colourful bird? Is it the jaunty Blue Jay, or the Cardinal against a snowy background, or the garrulous Evening Grosbeaks arguing on your winter feeder? How could one express the admiration for a flock of Oldsquaws (now called Long-tailed Ducks) riding out a winter storm on the rough waves off Toronto’s waterfront? When the flocks of shorebirds gather on the mudflats during the “doldrums” of late August when other birds are skulking out of sight during the moult, they delight the birdwatcher, and excite the imagination wondering about their origin in our Arctic and their destination in South America. The joy of summer in northern Ontario is the great variety in plumage and song of the warbler hordes. And then there is the September flypast of the hawks, with its “kettles” of spiralling Broad-wings, the great tilting Turkey Vultures, the rare glimpse of a majestic Bald Eagle or the spectacular plunge of a Peregrine Falcon. How can the shorebirds know that it is a Peregrine before we even see it coming? The winter gatherings of secret owls is a challenge, drawing bird watchers from all over North America. How can anyone have one favourite bird species? Anyone who has studied any species in detail will know the endless satisfaction that is derived from learning about the behavior, the migrations, even the great variety in plumage that go to make up a single species.

J. Murray Speirs (1985)

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