The Best-looking Bird on Cape Cod, Part Two
In case some people have forgotten about last week’s exciting column, I’ll do a quick review. Ed, from NYC and N. Truro, had just come back from London where he read a story about the bee-eater, which is purported to be the most beautiful bird in Europe. For some reason, this made Ed wonder what I thought was the most beautiful bird on Cape Cod. I wrote back that I agreed, bee-eaters are undeniably Europe’s best-looking bird, even if it does win by default. (Europe isn’t noted for having super-attractive birds.) Then I started expounding on how interesting bee-eaters are. I expounded so much that I ran out of room and never got to the point of the whole thing, which was to offer my opinion on the Cape’s best looking-bird. As a result, I’ve been receiving lots of complaints from folks who haven’t slept all week in anticipation of my answer. So, here we go.
When choosing the Cape’s best-looking bird I probably should set some parameters. I think the winner needs to be truly a Cape Cod bird, one that is here year-round. It wouldn’t be fair to vote for a bird that’s only here in the summer (or one that lives in N. Truro sometimes and NYC the rest of the year). It has to be a bird that can handle the Cape everyday of the year. Unfortunately, doing that eliminates some great candidates, including hummingbirds, orioles and tanagers. Another group of birds I’m taking off the list are birds that are only showy during the breeding season. Birds, such as goldfinches and loons fall into this category. If they can’t be bothered looking good all the time, they aren’t getting my vote.
I think most people would put Northern Cardinals high on their list, but not me. Oh, cardinals are fine birds all right, but I’ve never understood the obsession the rest of the world has with them. To me they are wimpy birds, ones that are constantly being pushed around by others. I think the entire anti-bullying movement was started just to make life easier for cardinals. And what about that massive beak? I don’t think a team of plastic surgeons could to do much to improve that thing. There’ll be no cardinal on my list.
My birding friend, Fahy, suggested that the Cape’s best-looking bird is the Wood Duck. It would be hard to argue against the Wood Duck, but I’ll do it anyway. Oh sure, male Wood Ducks are colorful birds…maybe too colorful. The beak alone is made of four different colors. Wood Ducks remind me of a middle-aged spinster who tries to hide her age by piling on extra makeup.
My son, Casey, proposed the American Kestrel (ooh, I forgot about kestrels) as the Cape’s best-looking bird, and he could be right. Kestrels are truly beautiful birds and are by far our most striking bird of prey. They have a warm cinnamon body, with steel-blue wings and head-cap, and it all works together beautifully. Thirty years ago, the kestrel would have easily won this contest, but for reasons that aren’t totally clear, they have all but disappeared from Cape Cod. Many people reading this may not even remember what kestrels look like, but take my word for it they are magnificent birds.
The last contender for the Cape’s most beautiful bird is the Cedar Waxwing. This is a bird that is almost beyond description. Its soft grays, beiges and yellows blend together to make the waxwing one of the most handsome birds seen anywhere. But waxwings are shy birds, with very little spunk, and this somehow makes them seem less vibrant. It’s close, but no title for the waxwings. This leads us to my number one choice of Cape Cod’s best-looking bird. And the winner is (get ready to groan)…the bird everyone loves to hate, our old pal the Blue Jay. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)
Yes, I think Blue Jays (no, not bluebirds) are the most beautiful birds on Cape Cod. Why? It’s because they meet and beat all the criteria. They don’t get us all excited with a bright summer plumage, only to change to a dull color when fall rolls around. They are also steadfast Cape Codders and don’t leave town when things get a bit chilly. But most importantly, they are simply gorgeous birds. The next time you see a Blue Jay on your feeder, instead of banging on the window and screaming, “Save some food for the little birds, you pigs!” take a second to look at it. The bird is covered in several shades of blue, with some parts trimmed in rich black and brilliant white, and all the colors blend together beautifully. There are no crazy colors added that don’t need to be there like the Wood Duck, or some weird orange on the belly like the bluebirds. The Blue Jay has a handsome crest that it can raise when it wants to show off and a normal beak, not a giant cardinal beak that looks like it’s made out of red Lee Press-On Nails. Plus, Blue Jay beauty isn’t just reserved for the males; both sexes look equally as good. Blue Jay beauty isn’t just reserved for the male. Finally, unlike waxwings, Blue Jays aren’t shy wallflowers. They have plenty of spunk, are fun to watch and are extremely active in the fall, which is when I get the most complaints about them.
There you go, Ed. Blue Jays are my choice of Cape Cod’s most beautiful birds, with waxwings and kestrels being runners up. I’m sure some folks will disagree with my choice and I’m equally sure they’ll tell me about it. They always do.