I would like to introduce you to some of Arkansas' winged creatures. My state, like all other states, has quite a few birds, some beloved others not so beloved.
Crows didn't come that close to people. The ones I saw were usually in cornfields trying to eat the farmer’s corn. As a result, those farmers put up those pitiful looking "scarecrows." In the middle of their patches those raggedly men stood. They would hopefully scare the crows away. Only those farmers knew whether or not their dummies kept those "hungry feathers" away.
Doves – Actually I never saw doves, but sometimes when we sat on Grandmother's porch, we'd hear this soft, faint "cooing." She said they were turtledoves. We never saw them, and I always wondered why they never came in sight, but I never pressed her.
Hummingbirds – They are about the strangest creatures I've ever seen. When I first saw one, I thought it was a butterfly, but upon closer observation, I realized it was some kind of "exotic" bird. I didn't know its name but was later told it was a hummingbird. They came and sucked on the flowers near my grandmother's porch. It always amused me to see them not flying but standing in midair, their wings flapping so fast that they looked like airplane propellers. To be truthful, I was somewhat afraid of them, because they just didn't seem to belong in the real bird class. Nevertheless, I guess that's where they belong after all.
Whippoorwills – I can still hear the distinctive call of this late evening-time bird. Perhaps I saw them flying around but, to this day, I can't identify what they look like. I just loved to hear them. They sounded as though they were calling to us. Obviously, they were calling to their fellow winged whippoorwills instead. And although they weren't croaking to us, I definitely listened in on their sweet, rhythmic calls.
Buzzards – Whenever we saw those scavengers flying around and around in circles, we knew something was dead and that these vultures were looking for their lunch. Their feast didn't sound at all appetizing to me, but that's because I'm not a vulture. To them, it must have been their "Christmas" dinner.
Hawks – We had this expression. When someone stared at us for too long, we'd say, "Boy, they're watching me like a hawk." Hawks sat on fences or anywhere near a coop and watched chicken. They were "birds of prey." Hawks eat chickens, and they watched their "dinner" until they got a good aim. When they had their "mark" and knew they could make a quick run-for-it, they swooped down and in a split second had their next meal in their mouth.
Black birds would be in the pecan orchards in droves. Sometimes they soared over the tall trees. When they did, there were so many of them that the sky momentarily turned black. This group is quite interesting. They only lived among the pecan orchards. I never saw them anywhere else. Well, I guess like people, birds have their favorite habitats, too.
Geese – We only saw these high-in-the-sky birds as they flew overhead. They were either going south or returning back to the north when the northern winter was over. I couldn't understand how they figured out when it was time to go south. I suppose their "notice" came when the frigid, cold arctic air caressed their wings for way too long. No doubt that was enough to let them know it was time to head out. On the other hand, too, I never figured out how they "knew" when it was time to fly back up north. I imagine "something" just told them the long, cold, northern winter was over and it was time to split.
Photo: iStockphoto.com/Frank Leung