"We've been on earth all these years and we still don't know for certain why birds sing."
Annie Dillard, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"
Word of the Week: AVIAN
Our suburban neighborhood, crowded with street traffic because of a never-completed freeway connection, is becoming more and more an open-air aviary. This side street, with its power lines still strung overhead, is the site of regular shifts in the avian population, as though the bird chiefs got together to draw up a schedule, who perches where and sings when.
Friday morning, after years of occasional honking flyovers, we saw our first pair of geese, labeled birds for this discussion. Just after daybreak they took up position on a roof across the street and beat the green Amazon parrots to the task of waking the neighborhood. Throughout the night, a lone peacock on a nearby hill issues its nearly human-sounding cry, distant enough not to interrupt my sleep. A dedicated red-beanied woodpecker returns daily to a smooth-trunked palm tree for what we hope is gourmet fare in great abundance. His kin prefer the rough bark of a closer, shorter palm and tolerate being driven away occasionally by a crow's superior size and wingspan.
In warmer, less windy weather, hawks circle above vacant lots, parkland and the high school's playing fields. I am no longer close enough to hear their distinctive cries as I could when we lived just below the mountains. Mocking birds, mourning doves, the familiar crows and parrots, a pigeon or two, regular hummingbirds and myriad unidentified songbirds may visit and/or serenade our block throughout the day. The parrots are often so raucous that we can't hear the television. The same can sometimes be said of law enforcement helicopters.
With time and the inclination for sky hypnosis, we have come to know when there's a new bird on the block. Without binoculars, I cannot consider myself a true bird watcher. I may not know why they sing, I just know how happy I am that they do.