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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The chattiest of birds

All day yesterday I kept hearing a bizarre series of bird sounds, hoots, whistles and clucks, coming from the shrubs and tangle of vines around the yard. These unmistakable "songs" announced the arrival of that quirkiest of warblers, the Yellow-breasted Chat, who also just happens to be another of my favorite spring visitors.

The chat is well-named because he always seems to be chatting as he skulks among the hedgerow looking for tasty insects or berries. It's good that he is so chatty because otherwise we might never know he was here. This bird is much more often heard than seen. He is very secretive and seldom wanders into the open. There have been springs where I have never seen the bird at all, even though I knew from the sounds coming from the shrubbery that they were around. But yesterday I got lucky.

I was sitting in my backyard late in the day after having been around the yard taking a few pictures of some of the spring flowers. My camera was on the table beside me. I was watching the pair of Eastern Bluebirds that are now nesting in one of my boxes. I had checked the box earlier and there were four beautiful blue eggs in the nest. As I watched the birds and speculated on whether they were already brooding or were going to lay more eggs, a movement at the left periphery of my vision caught my attention. I turned to look at a bird which I immediately recognized was not one of my permanent resident birds but whose actual identity I wasn't sure of at first.

I watched as the mystery bird walked up and down the top of the vegetable garden fence near the asparagus bed and suddenly it hit me. It was the Yellow-breasted Chat! I immediately grabbed my camera and tried to get a recognizable picture, but I wasn't very successful.

The bird resolutely kept his back turned to me. He was apparently attracted by something among the asparagus.

Come on, turn around at least just a little bit!

Well, he did turn around just a little bit, at least enough so that I could see that bright yellow breast which helped to give him his name, but then he dived into the asparagus and was lost from the view of me and my camera.

It was just a brief and blurry look at this very interesting bird that loves its privacy. I may not get another one, but even this view was more than I usually get.


  1. How neat! I've never seen one of these birds before.

    1. And you may not see him, Steph, unless, like I did, you get lucky. But you may well hear him. He's not shy about announcing his presence.