Hungry Bird

The following story was sent in by Elijah, a 3rd grade homeschooled student in Texas.  We're pleased to announce that Elijah has won the prize for the younger students in the writing contest!

My family often goes to South Padre Island at the very tip of Texas.  Of course, we go to the beach and build sand castles and play in the water, but we also spend a lot of time birding.  On a nice evening  in May 2008, after playing at the beach, we decided to go to the boardwalk to bird.  We did not know it, but we had picked a great evening to bird.

Usually there are not many people there, and we never see more than about thirty birds.  Imagine our surprise to see lots of people and hundreds of birds.    My family was still fairly new to birding, so we were not thinking about spring migration.  Birds were everywhere, and they did not care how close people got to them. 
They were returning to their nesting grounds and had already flown a very long way.  All these birds had flown across the Gulf of Mexico without stopping.  They could not stop to eat or sleep or even rest, so they were very tired.  South Padre Island was the first land they saw.  It seemed that they just fell out of the sky.  I bet they were happy to find food and to rest.

We were very excited to see all these different birds, but even with our field guides, how could we figure out all these birds’ names?  Well, some very nice birders let us follow them around, and they told us the names of all the birds.  We wrote them all down, so we could study them in the field guide later.  We added 21 birds to our life list that day.

 Photo courtesy of Stewart Ho
Now, I will tell you the best part, something that I could have never imagined would happen.  I spotted a very pretty bird with red and yellow on it.  Our new friends told me it was a Chestnut-sided Warbler.  I squatted down beside him to see what he was doing.  He was eating a few ants.  When I got closer to him, I accidently stepped on the ant hole.  This stirred them up.  The bird started eating the tiny black ants as fast as he could. 
Next, I reached out and touched him.  He just kept eating.  I have never before or since been able to get close enough to touch a wild bird before.   I guess all the birders thought it was neat to see a little boy so close to a little bird because they took lots of pictures of us.

We were definitely at the right place at the right time that nice evening in May.

Some ideas for you to try:

1.  Start your own Birding Life List.  Record the names of all the birds you see and when and where you see them.

2.  Find out more about stop-over habitat and why it is so important to tired and hungry migrating birds.  Do you have any places near where you live where  birds hang out in large groups?

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