The Ultimate Bird

Every Spring I look forward to the return of Swallow-Tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) from their South American sojourn. I’ve seen two so far this year. In the US this bird is almost unique to Florida, where it comes to breed. I can still remember the first time I saw one driving along a rural highway—I looked up and “Wow!” I was hooked. After giving it some thought I’ve concluded that in addition to the striking forked tail and elegance in the air, the white on black plumage creates a dazzle camouflage effect. The smaller white bird on a dark background looks dove-like or even angelic in the morning light. Always a remarkable sight!

Our National Bird

For all its splendor and power, the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) has a dark side: opportunist and bully. I once watched one harass an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) until the later gave up its catch. In addition to stealing from other birds, Bald Eagles can subsist completely on carrion. In spite of the name, Bald Eagles are more closely related to vultures than true Eagles (genus Aquila).

No lesser personage than Ben Franklin thought the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) better represented the aspirations of the young country he helped found: “…the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…”