A Big Year of Bird-Braining

Every Birder a King!

The Big Year − an ambitious bit of branding avid bird watchers employ to anoint 365 days of their lonely, anal-retentive activity as meaningful by cataloguing every unique bird they see − as opposed to a non-Big Year, during which they do the same but don’t call it that − can often cause envy for those who have not yet attempted one. Whether you enjoy the thrill of the chase, the lack of qualifying events and referees or the Napoleon-like self-coronation that are mainstays of the event, it’s clear that the popularity of The Big Year will only continue to grow.

Starting your own Big Year can be especially challenging, however, if:

  1. You don’t know a lot about birds.
  2. You spend most of your daylight hours in an office or commuting to one.

Happily, it turns out that neither challenge is insurmountable. From the comfort of your OSHA-approved five-wheeled office chariot, you too can tap into the excitement of spotting some of the oddest birds on the planet right in your own work environment!

They include:

• The Double-Breasted Nesting Twitback: Often sighted gathering water in a too-precious individual coffee press it clasps slightly away from its body to attract other Twitback’s, this sensitive creature attempts to lure an office mate with exaggerated displays of comfortable mating habitats. The nesting cocoon it creates can often be identified by the presence of imitation oriental rugs placed on top of the preexisting office carpeting, framed fabric prints or a living room lamp on their desktop. A skittish bird, its numbers have been dwindling in recent years and care must be taken to quietly approach it. It does not mate well in captivity or for that matter in the wild.

• Massachusetts Bay Carrier Pigeon: Noted mostly for its dull grey plumage and off-white monogrammed pouches hanging from below its wings, these curious, waddling creatures tend to congregate in groups around subway entrances, elevator banks, commuter rails and any common food source, often disrupting the flight of more fleet-footed birds. An easy avian to spot for beginners.

• Cornish Cross Chicken in situ: A delicious blend of White Cornish and White Plymouth Rock Chicken, these slow moving birds are typically found between slices of white or wheat bread in most sandwich shops. Derided in recent years as a “total bloater” for Big Year lists due to its ubiquity, it nonetheless counts as a bird you have spotted. Pencil it in your list right now.

• Ageing Osprey: Dubbed “flightless” for their inability to travel anytime other than rush hour, often kept aloft by one, two or four-wheeled devices of their own making, these curious creatures can seem docile at first glance − but watch out! Their beaks are pointy and they can often be aggressive without provocation. White hair generally indicates the most senior birds.

• Sage Grouse: This not-too-difficult to spot fellow emits a characteristic call of “To-Wit know-it-all, To-Wit know-it-all” in an attempt to attract fellow birds to join its flock. It is common both indoors (near sources of water) and outdoors, often prowling train stations and other public platforms for interesting tidbits.

Rowanand Martins display vibrant plumage

• Rowanand Martins: These birds mate for life and often display a comical drunken dance. Plumage during mating rituals is famously colorful. Extremely rare, they mostly appear in 1960’s retrospectives late in the evening or early morning. They are a delightful addition to any list, although feared to be mostly extinct.

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