Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Colorful commoners

Pity the Common Yellowthroat: no matter how prettily it flits around our upper meadow sending flashes of gold through the foliage, I'm still obliged to call it common. It would get more respect if we called it resplendent, but I'm not in charge of bird nomenclature so it will have to remain common.

Birders keep telling me that Ohio's most beautiful bird is the cerulean warbler, which they usually refer to as the shy cerulean warbler, but the bird's very rarity adds to its aura. To see a cerulean warbler, you have to trek into the woods in certain parts of the state at just the right time with binoculars and a lot of patience (which is probably why I've never seen one), and then you might just catch a fleeting glimpse of blue disappearing deeper into the trees. If cerulean warblers were regular visitors to birdfeeders, I don't know if I'd find them any more lovely than our elegant nuthatches or other common birds.

Take the cardinal. Some years ago a small child visiting from California started jumping up and down with glee when she spotted the pretty red bird at our feeders. "It's just a cardinal," I said, but that just is an unjust slur on such a distinctive bird. What other wild creature brings such brilliant scarlet color into our lives year-round? Common though they be, cardinals are uncommonly colorful. 

And what's so wrong with being common? While the Brits celebrate their resplendent royalty, I pause to salute the bright spots of beauty so often overlooked because they are called common.  

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