Friday, February 17, 2006

Green-tailed Towhee

We have a winter visitor in the backyard, peaking from beneath the lush orange bells along the back wall, flitting through the airy Mexican birds-of-paradise up onto the brown block wall and then quickly into the sunken garden, above which the goldfinch feeder hangs. Today, home from work, I watched him skip, almost comical in his trepidation and semi-daring, back and forth.

It is a green-tailed towhee, which is well-described by the Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Region:

"This shy bird hops and scratches for food under low cover, flicking its tail and erecting its rufous cap into a crest. It prefers low scrub and occurs in brushy openings in boreal forests on western mountains, as well as in sagebrush habitats."

Most of the year they live in the mountainous regions of Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. He is a most welcome guest.

Poem of the Towhee

Peripheral leaf-shufflers,
they're a black stroke of
the Japanese brush
over a reddish, quietly
passionate streak.
This one has bunted the window
all spring, baffled by glass,
and now, over my head,
a gray, humped spider has set up
like a text creeper
before the poem the towhee
printed there in accents
grave and acute, in characters
beyond any translation.

-- Brendan Galvin

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