Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70

[14] A Bird in a Gilded Cage – A Blog About Birds

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[14] A Bird in a Gilded Cage – A Blog About Birds

I have so many pictures of animals. Before I get on with Insects I will do the last blog about Birds. I have done Water Birds and some Common Birds so this will cover all the others. Pictures come from various locations.

Gulls, Crows and Pigeons

I will start with some that might have slipped into the Common Birds blog. I promised you a Black-headed Gull in summer plumage when it has a brown hood – no, not a black head!

I also saved one from the Crow family – the Magpie, Pica pica.

At its best you can see the shiny blue it its wings.

It’s almost never seen on bird feeders because of its size but it can show initiative with two feeders placed together.

I also showed you some Woodpigeon. Here is an unusual one, seen a couple of times at Slimbridge, with more white markings on its feathers.

Here are our other two common Gulls. First the Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, with a lighter grey back and pink legs.

The picture above is bird in winter plumage. Below are some stages of the juvenile plumages.

[You can see from this picture, above, that the Herring Gull is significantly larger than its Black-headed relatives. These two are starting the transition from a winter black smudge to a summer full hood.]

The Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus, has a darker grey back (not really black) and yellow legs. It too has various markings on the juvenile stages.

At seaside towns you generally see either Herring Gulls or Lesser Black-backed. They tend not to mix. In towns such as Cheltenham they are less discriminate. We have both.

Water Birds

I have one goose to add to Waterfowl, this Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiaca. It’s really more like a shelduck than a goose.

And this Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus, is a relative of Coots and Moorhens – but much less common!

There are many shore birds and waders of various sizes that don’t often come close for good portrait pictures. The two relatively large ones are Lapwing and Oystercatcher, Haemotopus haemotopus.

The bird above (after what looks like an accident with fishing net wire) hopped about on one leg. I have seen birds from about ten species manage without two legs.

My last two waders are the Avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta, now widespread after almost disappearing from Britain, and a Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, difficult to spot because of its excellent camouflage.

Blackbirds and Robins

Not everything works to plan. The Thrush family has two fairly common birds – Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush – and two winter visitors – Fieldfare and Redwing – that might have appeared here. Without suitable pictures of them I do at least have some shots of the very common Blackbird, Turdus merula. Only the male is black, the female is a well camouflaged brown.

As we have seen above with the Woodpigeon, sometimes birds’ plumage is not quite as expected. We have already seen albino Pigeons. Occasionally you may see an all-white or half-white Blackbird. This female just had a few white feathers, more obvious when she turned round.

While the Blackbird is closely related to our thrushes, the smaller Robin, Erithacus rubecula, is also less closely related but is in the Thrush family. It is one of many birds with an interesting history to its name. It used to be a Redbreast, from the much older use of the word ‘red’ to include orange or brown tones. Then it became a Robin Redbreast in the same anthropomorphic way that Wrens became Jenny Wren. Then the ‘Redbreast’ bit disappeared.

Tits and Finches

I won’t say much about our smaller birds. They do at least come to bird feeders – a great help in taking pictures!

Just one picture of each of these – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.

Other Little Birds

A few more small birds, mostly from bird feeders. The best places for Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, are Motorway services. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, and Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba, are common and widespread.

The Nuthatch, Sitta europaea, is a woodland bird but it will visit bird feeders in woods. The Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, is a bird of reed-land areas but it migrates to others areas in winter and is now well-known to survive from bird feeders. As with many birds the male bunting has to be good-looking to attract the mottled brown female.

Other Birds

I start this final section with two raptors, always difficult to photograph. The Buzzard, Buteo buteo, was perched on a fence at Slimbridge and the poor quality pictures of Red Kite, Milvus milvus, are just about recognizable.

I have to admit that the better pictures of Cormorant, Phalocrocorax carbo, come from Croatia.

The Common Crane, Grus grus, is just beginning to be seen in the wild after a reintroduction scheme. They are now not an uncommon sight at Slimbridge.

I suppose I have mixed feelings about Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus. It is with us so that it can be hunted but many survive and breed.

I’m not quite sure of the status of peacocks either. (Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus) These ones on Brownsea Island looked wild to me.

You can see a few more birds in my blog about Croatian Wildlife – Yellow-legged Gulls, Hooded Crows, Green Woodpecker, Jay and others.

A Bird in a Gilded Cage is a sentimental ballad composed by Arthur Lamb and Harry von Tilzer that became one of the most popular songs of 1900. It describes the sad life of a beautiful woman who has married for money instead of love. Here is the chorus.

She’s only a bird in a gilded cage; a beautiful sight to see;

You may think she’s happy and free from care; she’s not, though she seems to be;

‘Tis sad when you think of her wasted life; for youth cannot mate with age;

And her beauty was sold; For an old man’s gold;

She’s a bird in a gilded cage.


Author: Alan

Retired, currently living in Cheltenham.

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