Why North American Birds?

The fact that I live here has little to do with my passion for the birds of North America.

I don’t find myself as interested in the vibrant, colorful parrots of South America, the awkward penguins of Antarctica, the unusual collection of birds in Oceania, or the really anywhere else. It’s not that I don’t care about them, but my true love is the bluebirds, the cardinals, the chickadees, and so on. I’ve been thinking about this post and how to articulate exactly why that is for a while now. I’m not even sure yet I’ve been successful, but wanted to share my heart with you anyway.

The first thing about North American birds that I like that I can name is the color palette. Some of our most colorful birds are the Painted Bunting, the Northern Cardinal, and the bluebird family, to name a few. Compare the colors of those birds to the Spangled Cotinga, found in the Amazon. The male Spangled Cotinga is a bright cyan with a purple throat. Or Central America’s Golden-headed Quetzal, brilliantly green bodied with a red belly and, obviously, a golden head. Undeniably, these birds are gorgeous and I love seeing them at the Sedgwick County Zoo.

The Spangled Cotinga, taken at the Sedgwick County Zoo

However, I don’t find their colors to be as aesthetically pleasing as the North American birds. There’s something relaxing about the more muted tones of even our most colorful birds. Compare the reds of our Northern Cardinal to the Scarlet Macaw. The difference in color hues is subtle, but the cardinal is darker, a little more subdued. I find the macaws exciting to look at, but the cardinals to be calming. This isn’t a scientific difference or me stating facts to you; this is simply how these birds make me feel.

Before anyone accuses me of preferring North American birds because I live in North America, I feel it’s important to state that I haven’t lived in the United States all of my life. I actually spent a significant portion of my upbringing in Brazil. I’ve seen a lot of the birds I’m talking about in the wild. Though I can’t say I ever did any bird feeding in Brazil, I can say that my experience with our southern friends is firsthand.

One of my first experiences with birds was actually with Scarlet Macaws, Hyacinth Macaws, and peacocks at a park in the middle of a Brazilian city called Aracaju. They had this massive aviary where you see all these beautiful birds. I’m partial to the macaws because of that. They are special birds. But they never came to my back yard. They never sang for me as I did yard work or grilled up some steaks.

The birds of North America are special too. To us, they might be a little ordinary compared to the exotic birds from elsewhere, but have you considered that our birds are exotic to the rest of the world? Even in California and the far western United States, the Northern Cardinal is exotic! Can you imagine seeing a cardinal for the first time?

Golden-headed Quetzal, also from the Sedgwick County Zoo

Or shoot, just read the Bird of the Week posts on this website! Every single bird I talk about has something that makes them unique or special. North American birds are incredible! I started this website largely because the more I learned about the birds I see almost every day, the more interesting they became. I can’t imagine living anymore where birds are just part of the background.

I can’t help anymore but recognize a Blue Jay calling and want to point it out, no matter what I’m doing. I can’t help but want to find the bird making that noise and see it. The same goes whenever I hear a cardinal making laser sounds. Speaking of, cardinals are absolutely trying to make laser gun noises when they sing. Next time you hear one, you won’t be able to unhear it!

Alright, that’s enough gushing about the birds I love. All birds are amazing creatures, but the ones we have right in our backyards are and always will be my favorites. What are your favorites? Leave a note!

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