Da Boids

TSTAt least several times a week, Muri and I walk in nearby Yorba Regional Park after dinner.   Since we’ve been in the midst of a hot spell, we usually wait until the sun has begun to set so we’re not schvitzing by the time we’re done.  (Schvitzing?  Yiddish for sweating.)   And every time we go, the trees around the park are full of crows, some just sitting, some swooping and diving, all of them cawing loudly.  By the time the sun hits the horizon, there are hundreds of them making their way East along the Santa Ana River.   Curious whether this behavior was particular to our local crows or a characteristic of all crows, I went online and found this video of a similar flock in Springfield Ohio.

It turns out that crows roost together in huge flocks, sometimes as large as tens of thousands, to protect themselves against natural enemies like hawks, owls and racoons, gathering as the sun begins to set for the migration to their roosting places.   So, OK, it’s Top Sites Tuesday #221 and this weeks Two Thoughts are Two QuestionsThought Number One: What is one of these huge crow-flocks called?  Give up?   A murder of crows.  Really.  No, it has nothing to do with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, Da BoidsPBS Nature says that the term may be based on a folktale that crows will gather and decide the capital fate of another crow, killing it if found guilty.  There is also  folktale that when such a flock gathers near a house, it portends a death in the house.   Of course, I’ve heard the same thing about an owl hooting in the yard at night.   Maybe I should take down the bird feeders.

jayWhile we’re on the subject of Da Boids, the back slope of our yard is home to hundreds of California quail.  Our quail have struck a deal with the blue jays who frequent our feeders – You eat the sunflower seeds and throw the rest of the seeds on the ground, where we can get them.  Although they have to compete with doves and towhees and a few confused rabbits that like birdseed, in the early morning, the quail take over the ground below the feeders, punctuating the air with their distinctive calls.

Naturally, Thought Number Two is: What do you call a flock of quail?  That would be a covey.  It turns out there are dozens of these poetic names for flocks of particular birds listed on birdnature.com.  How about a parliament of owls?  An ostentation of peacocks?  A convocation of eagles?

While we’re on the subject of Da Boids, this week there’s a bonus question.  While walking in the park last week, I saw a most unusual bird feeding on the ground next to the walking path.  It was small, like a finch with a black and white body, an orange-red beak and a very long, multi-feathered tail that twirled like a pinwheel when it flew.  I managed to get close enough to get a somewhat out-of-focus picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m inclined to think it’s someone’s pet exotic finch that escaped.  One of my Facebook friends thought it might be a South African shaft-tailed whydah or a Heck’s grass finch from Australia.  Does anyone know what kind of bird this is?  There’s a free subscription to Older Eyes – Bud’s Blog for anyone with the the definitive answer.  Of course, there’s a free subscription for anyone who pushes my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #221, too.  Or, who leaves a comment.  Yes, even if you just drop by.  It’s all free here on Bud’s Blog … and worth every penny.

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6 Comments on “Da Boids”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I don’t have a clue as to the name of the “unnamed” bird. (which isn’t surprising as I know very little about bird species.) I am surprised that there are quails in your yard. They seem to be quite noisy as birds go.

    We see quails out on our farm land that some people refer to as Bobwhites, but I guess I wasn’t aware that there was a California Quail.

    Murder of crows…that’s rather creepy sounding.


    • oldereyes Says:

      Cheryl –

      I, on the other hand, am sort of a bird nut. I’ve had a “bird book” around ever since I was a kid. But this guy is in none of my bird books. It turns out there are many kinds of quail, Bob White and California are just two of them. Yes, murder of crows is marvelously creepy.

  2. Trina Says:

    Wolf and I always laugh when crows gather near the house. It reminds me of that movie about the birds. Murder of Crows huh? I didn’t know that.

    Your quails are pretty cool. We don’t have any birds like that here on the farm, just a few simple chickens 🙂

    Not sure what your mystery bird is, it is really pretty though. I would guess someone’s missing their pet right now though.


    • oldereyes Says:

      I really love our quails but their call in the morning drives Muri nuts. I didn’t know about the murder of crows either. One of the things I like about blogging is that I learn tons of useless trivia.

  3. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud,

    I didn’t know there were different names for different flocks of birds. It’s very Edgar Allen Poe-ish for a flock of crows to be called a murder of crows. Go figure!

    Not sure about the random bird, I thought it was a lorey at first but you said it was finch sized.

    Great Thoughts,

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