Saturday, February 12, 2011

Avian Oscars

February is when film buffs gather in Hollywood for Oscar night. With that in mind, I thought this might be a good time to give awards to the birds who bring us so much pleasure throughout the year. So here goes with my first set of Avian Oscars.

Category: Most Colorful
Contenders: Painted Bunting, Blackburnian Warbler, Vermilion Flycatcher
Winner: And the winner is ... the male Vermilion Flycatcher. The plumage of other birds may have a bigger range of colors but the intensity of the Vermilion's red feathers has to be seen to be believed.

Category: Bird with the Biggest Personality
Contenders: Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird
Winner: Lots of our local birds have big personalities but I think that, ounce for ounce, the Carolina Wren is a clear winner.

Category: Best Camouflage
Contenders: American Woodcock, Common Nighthawk, American Bittern, Great Horned Owl
Winner: Other birds may be harder to spot when they are on the ground or among reeds but the winner is ... the Great Horned Owl. For such big birds, they can be surprisingly difficult to see even when they're perched in trees right in front of you!

Category: Most Likely to Succeed
Contenders: European Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Pigeon

Winner: House Sparrows and Rock Pigeons are very adaptable and they thrive wherever humans live and work across North America. However, the clear winner is ... the European Starling. The ultimate survivor, the Starling seems to be equally at home in all kinds of habitat.

Category: Best Sound Effects
Contenders: Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird
Winner: Blue Jays can produce eerily accurate imitations of the calls of Red-shouldered Hawks and other large predators but the winner is ... the Northern Mockingbird. No other bird can imitate such a wide range of bird calls/songs and even the noises made by car alarms and fire trucks!

Category: Most Elegant
Contenders: Great Egret, Cedar Waxwing, Magnificent Frigatebird. 
Winner: The winner is ... the Cedar Waxwing. The Great Egret and the Frigatebird are extremely graceful when they walk and fly respectively, but a perched Cedar Waxwing is simply the epitome of true elegance.

Category: Friendliest
Contenders: Carolina Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Winner: All four are very friendly little birds, who usually seem to be remarkably unconcerned by the presence of humans. But the winner is ... the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Kinglets think nothing of rummaging around on branches just inches away from people's faces.

Category: Grace under Pressure
Contenders: Red-tailed Hawk
Winner: No other bird deserves to even be included in this category because no other bird is subjected to as much abuse by other birds. Perched Red-tailed hawks are often subjected to the indignity of being bopped on the head by Mockingbirds. Flying Red-taileds are frequently mobbed by gangs of other birds. And, through it all, these Hawks behave with almost unfailing fortitude and grace. 

So what do you think? Which birds would you nominate and award prizes to in these categories?

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