Musings about birds – Migrating and residents

Migrating season is upon us, and although Michmanim isn’t a stop on the route of the larger birds mostly associated with migration – we do have some smaller visitors, no less delightful. And a few residents…

* The writer isn’t a professional bird-watcher or even a hobbyist, and her knowledge is limited (though expanding with time). So if I got any detail wrong, please forgive me, and correct me in the comments please!
(A translation of a short article I wrote for my village’s website)

Sylvia curruca 02
Image by Imran Shah

I’ll start with a story:
Two years ago, in spring, I noticed on the tree outside my window a tiny grayish bird which captivated my heart and made me very curious – it was a bit (just a bit) larger than a Palestine sunbird (Cinnyris osea) and didn’t have the long bill for sucking flower nectar.
It was hard to observe properly, as it kept jumping around between branches and in the foliage. Within a few days identifying it became an obsession – I searched Israeli birds databases, examined photographs, watched videos, listened to sound recordings, set a camera in front of the window, or on the porch, and spent a lot of time waiting, when all i got to show for it were blurry photos and convoluted video clips of foliage with a skipping dot at best.

Yada yada yada… Eventually it turned out that the birds I saw were Sylvia family members, and one of the reasons I had such a hard time identifying them was that there were at least three types of Sylvias around my house!

In the last few weeks I’ve been seeing them again, skipping about. Here is a list of a few songbirds – the Sylvias along with a some other friends, Maybe you’ll also enjoy reading more about them and recognizing them outside your windows :-)

Sylvia curruca – Lesser whitethroat

My tiny darlings – A small bird with a gray top and whitish belly. Looks a bit like a female Palestine sunbird, but slightly larger, with a different bill and lighter underside.

Sylvia curruca
Image by Ekytza

Sylvia melanocephala – Sardinian warbler

Has a black head, gray back and whitish stomach, recognizable due to the red ring circling its eye.

Sylvia melanocephala 03
Image by Juan Emilio

Sylvia atricapilla – Eurasian blackcap

At first glance, looks a bit like the Sardinian warbler, but doesn’t have the red eye ring, and the black plumage doesn’t cover the head, but rather looks more like a modern haircut of black hair combed back.

Sylvia atricapilla
Image by Agustín Povedano

Erithacus rubecula – European robin

Easily recognizable by its red-orange apron, much less shy than the warblers, and larger in size.

European robin
Image by Marco Hebing

Parus major – Great tit

Described as “stable” in Israel, meaning it doesn’t migrate, but I haven’t noticed them around during summer, and lately I see them frequently, and hear them well.

Great tit
Image by Steve Herring

Troglodytes troglodytes – Eurasian wren

Miniature bird in reddish-brown, with spotted pattern. It has a short tail which it cocks up.
(And if a tiny Eurasian wren wouldn’t have found its way into my kitchen – I don’t think I would have known this miniature creature exists – As I released it on the balcony (almost weightless in my palm) it remained shocked and open-billed for a minute or two, giving me the opportunity to observe it. Don’t worry – it flew safely to a nearby tree and seemed well.

troglodytes troglodytes
Image by Ivan Dudacek

* And a word of gratitude to the White-spectacled Bulbuls, who chirp joyfully all year round :-)

White spectacled Bulbul 02
image by Derek Keats

Did you know?

  • Playing sound recordings of birds singing or calling will not necessarily make them come – They might get frightened by thinking an opponent is in their territory, or that it’s an intruder.
  • Birds with a thin and elongated bill usually eat insects – the bill is adjusted to “stabbing” the soil to catch the insect.
    Birds which feed on seeds, nuts and fruit usually have a more triangular bill, suitable for cracking the fruit.
  • Cranes fly in families – parents with their children, and as they fly they keep calling to each other (in my very loose translation: “Are you OK?” – “I’m OK, are you OK?”). They don’t pass above us often, but if you do hear distant calls – maybe its a flock of cranes?
  • The same bird can look completely different when it ruffles its feathers – One time it may look thin and lean and another time puffed up almost like a pompom. Birds fluff their feathers for different reasons (To heat up or cool down, when preparing for sleep, when ill or tense).
  • A dear man once taught me a tip for recognizing birds in flight – Look at the the location of the wings in comparison to the body:
    With many prey birds, the wings are located very close to the head, also giving them the ability to glide.
    In ducks, for example, due to their long necks, the wings seem to be located much farther down from the head (to me it looks almost like the stomach area) and they use a lot more flapping movements (Again in my very loose translation: “I’m falling! I’m falling!”)
Image by Iris Haus

This concludes my musings about birds. Thank you for reading. I hope not all that is written was trivial and known already, and that you keep enjoying our winged friends, the visitors as well as the residents!

Sylvia curruca sketches in personal interpretation:

curruca 01

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