Traits


     Some birds and animals are so associated with a certain word or trait that they become almost inseparable from it. Most often used in a simile, such as "smart like a fox", but sometimes even to the point the animals name becomes analogous with the trait itself such as "to squirrel something away".
    I've mentioned before how we sometimes ascribe human traits to some action or expression of a bird or animal. Conversely, we also ascribe some bird or animal traits to ourselves. Often the animal becomes symbolic of the trait. We see this today in many of the names chosen for sporting teams.
    In days of yore, birds and animals were often objects of veneration and even worship, not only as individuals but even for whole tribes or nations.
    With those thoughts in mind, I've chosen some pictures for this page that quickly bring such a word or trait to mind.
Tundra Swan

Graceful


     Above all other words, that one seems to be used most often to describe the swan, and rightfully so. Whether flying all stretched out against the sky, or dropping down to settle softly on the water, or floating slowly on the water as this Tundra swan is doing. Even when taking food from under the water they maintain a graceful appearance, not allowing their posterior to rise for all to see as some cousins do.
    I can't help making the comparison to people. Some just seem to have a natural grace in the things they do. Others, and I think of myself in this group, are like the cousins, just getting the job done anyway they can.
    Does it say something about our nature that this bird is seldom if ever chosen as a symbol for teams or tribes?
    NOTE: Since writing this paragraph I have observed several swans with their tail up. I feel so let down!
Peregrine Falcon

Fast

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     Probably the fastest creature on earth. The Peregrine Falcon flies horizontally at speeds between 30 and 60 mph. But when he dives, or stoops, he has been clocked at close to 250 mph. Looking at him here we can see the large swept back wing and comparatively small body that make that possible.
    His prey is other birds which he dives on with those huge talons balled up like a fist usually striking them with such force they are knocked unconcious or killed upon impact. The falcon will often turn and catch the falling bird before it can reach the ground.
    I haven't personally witnessed the falcon taking prey and I'm sure it's exciting to watch but I think my heart and sympathies would be with the pursued. If the falcon made the attempt and missed, I would feel like it was a great show.
    Unlike the swan, the falcon often is used as a symbol and venerated for it's abilities.
northern Pintail

Elegant

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     There is probably more variety in plumage amongst male ducks than in any other bird group. From almost gaudy like the Mandarin to the almost drab of the Gadwall, only a few are hard to distinquish from others.
    The Northern Pintail has only basic gray, brown, black and white colors to work with but oh my, how his designer put them together. Slim and trim even in flight he stands out as something special.
Great Horned Owl

Wise

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     Probably because anything with eyes like that should see deeply into things. In ancient Greece the owl was the symbol of Athena the greek goddess of knowledge. Aesop's fables, written sometime around the beginning of our common era, often had wise old owls to which other animals would go for advise. In the middle ages the owl was associated with witches and evil and often depicted as a messenger. With time such superstition waned. In the 1800's Aesop was translated into english, in the 1920's Winnie the Pooh was written and Walt Disney cartoons often showed owls as counselors of animals.
    The owl is also a key figure in the totems of the american indian, usually a messenger from the spirit world.
    I don't really know much about all this but just kind of summarizing what I dug up trying to find out why we think of wise in connection with the owl. For me, I think it's the Disney thing.
    At any rate, this owl was neither wise nor old. Probably a first year bird, he seemed a little unsure about what to think about my presence and finally flew away. Those eyes do grab you though.
Raven

Black


     As in a raven-haired beauty. I know, I read too many dime store novels. (for you younger ones that's a paperback book of fiction) Secondarily, Nevermore! This of course being the one word spoken by the raven in Edgar Allen Poe's poem " The Raven".
    The raven like the owl seems to have been associated with witches and sorcery in earlier time. And even more so than the owl, played an important role in the beliefs of the american indian. (I know, native american. But hey, I grew up with the lone ranger and such.)
    To be honest though, since taking this picture, along with those on page three, what I really associate with raven is the fun time my wife and I had watching them and their goofy antics.
Gray Jay

Lovable Thief.


     Leave food out when this guy is around and he's apt to have it before you do. Nicknamed camp-robber and whiskey-jack he is so appealing that you not only don't mind that he is trying to steal your food, you end up helping him do it.
    Of the birds on this page, this one is my personal favorite. I've never seen one act with any aggressiveness toward anything except perhaps a stray peanut. They always seem to be having fun and even when they scold you for not letting them steal your food it's like it's just part of a game.
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