Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Red Bird, Black Head

We’ve had a really ugly bird at our feeders for the past week – the first one in thirty-six years of doling out sunflower seeds to the avian population of Wethersfield.  This is not what we had been hoping for.

Mars saw it first and immediately called my attention to it.  It was a red-bodied creature, about robin or oriole size – with an amazingly unattractive, flea-bitten looking black head.  I looked it over and grabbed our bird identification book, which sits on a wooden chest in front of the window through which we were gawking at our ghastly, gustatory guest.
Looking up the species of an unknown bird in a bird book is, to me anyway, comparable to trying to find the spelling of an unfamiliar word in a dictionary.  You open the book near the section where you think it might make sense to look for it and then flip through the pages, browsing for something similar and hope that the correct answer literally jumps off the page at you and slaps you in the face.
So I went upstairs to our data room and logged onto, searching for “red bird black head”.  This time the response literally leaped from the screen – one more harbinger perhaps of the death of books, or at least their shortcomings.
“Red bird, black cap? - Help Me Identify a Bird - Whatbird ...
“I bet this is the same bird as the posts re "Help! Black head, red/pink body,      “Please help ID this strange red bird with black head - Help Me ...
“Wild Birds Unlimited: What is That Red Bird with a Black Head?
“Sep 8, 2010 - I've had a couple calls lately trying to identify a new bird in the yard. The callers describe them as red birds with a black heads. Not black wings ...”
And all these sites gave me pretty much the same answer as this one from “Mystery solved. They are Northern Cardinals going through an abnormal molt or replacement of feathers that leaves them bald. After nesting season most birds go through pre-basic molt that results in a covering of feathers, which will last until the next breeding season.” – i.e. a really, really chrome-domed cardinal.
Once she knew the answer Mars decided our homely houseguest would be named Kojak – after the mid 1970s television series starring Telly Savalas as the bald New York City Police Department Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak.  The name is just too perfect as you can see below.
 I also learned during my research that “kojaking” is “to find an empty parking space directly in front of the building you are visiting, regardless of the time of day, or busy urban location. From the television series "Kojak". The title character would race off to locations in Manhattan and always park right in front of the building.  Sasha totally “kojaked” it, finding a spot right out front.”
We have had cardinal couples residing in our yard every year that we’ve had the feeders.  So I suspect our Kojak did not ”kojak” the food station but rather, being one of this year’s offspring, has probably been a regular patron of the eating establishment since his fledgling days when he perched there and squawked until nourishment was delivered to him by one of his weary parents.
 And now I am sure he especially appreciates our largesse in his current embarrassing condition. 
“Who loves ya baby?”

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