The birds John Yow profiles are probably familiar to everyone: crows, bluejays, belted kingfishers, wrens, robins and the rest of the backyard bird clan. Neither identification nor feeding guide, the book is a wondrous rundown of each bird’s habits and behavior. More studious observers than I likely know these things, but I found myself reading aloud to anyone who would listen and reciting bird lore to friends at parties. Seriously, did you know that cedar waxwings will stuff themselves full of berries until they fall on the ground? They also play at passing a berry back and forth, or up and down a line of their little friends, and repeat the pass until someone gets bored and swallows the berry. I saw this game for myself recently when the waxwings made their fall pilgrimage to my privet and honeysuckle hedge. Here’s some other cool stuff from the book: belted kingfishers dig 6-foot tunnels in riverbanks and nest in their caves; crows can talk if they want to, and for sure they put walnuts in the street and wait for cars to run over them; hummingbirds steal spiderwebs and use them as a wrapping to reinforce their nests. I have a whole new respect for my winged pals now.
One last thing about waxwings: one fall I found one on the sidewalk outside the Belle Meade Starbucks, alive but wonky and unable to fly. I assumed it had hit the window and stunned itself. I couldn’t bear the thought of the little guy wandering strange in the parking lot, so I begged a box and took it home to my yard, where it spent the night in its cardboard motel room and then went its merry way the next morning. Now I’m thinking the little guy had been on a berry bender and was looking for his after-dinner coffee.