Great kiskadee

A great kiskadee recently made a rare visit to northern Indiana.

I like birds.

Everybody who knows me knows that. Many people who don’t know me but have read an article I wrote for a newspaper know that I like birds.

People who know me and people who have read an article I wrote for the newspapers often send me questions, about birds of course. And the question I am asked most frequently is, “What’s your favorite bird?”

It’s a simple question but the answer often changes.

Now, for example, I’m eating breakfast and watching the birds outside the dining room window and there’s a red-breasted nuthatch on one of the bird feeders outside the window. Red-breasted nuthatches nest in forests in Canada. They’re winter birds in northern Indiana and not every winter. I never see more than one and see I don’t see one every winter.

To me ,they are uncommon to rare winter birds.

There’s a red-breasted nuthatch one at my feeder now however and its been coming to my feeder nearly every day this winter. It’s a favorite bird, of course, one of my favorite birds this winter.

The red-breasted nuthatch is not the only rare bird I’ve been seeing on one of my feeders this winter. I’ve seen two, maybe more, dark-eyed juncos on my feeders and on the ground beneath my feeders.

When I was a boy dark-eyed juncos were called slate- colored juncos. I’ve also seen a white-throated sparrow on the same feeder as the one where I’m seeing the red-breasted nuthatch. The white-throat is also a favorite bird.

I like the common winter feeder birds too, the black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays. They-re all favorite birds, too.

Well, maybe not the blue jays. When one or two blue jays land on a feeder the other birds all leave.

There are birds that don’t come to my feeders that are favorites too, of course. Bluebirds and indigo buntings, robins, wood thrushes and mourning doves are favorites of mine. Baltimore orioles are favorites of mine. House wrens and ruby-throated hummingbirds, brown thrashers and catbirds, chimney swifts, barn, cliff, bank and tree swallows, great blue, little blue, green-backed and tricolored herons, snowy, great and reddish egrets are favorites of mine.

Black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos are favorites of mine. My grandfather Hale, mother’s dad, and many others called cuckoos raincrows. They believed that when you heard a cuckoo within hours rain would fall.

Waterfowl, mallard, blue- and green-winged teal, wood duck, pintail, canvasback and redhead, hooded merganser, Canada, blue and snow geese, mute and tundra swans are all favorite birds of mine.

The bald eagle, a very big bird with a white head and tail is a favorite bird of mine, a favorite and a thrilling bird to see. A golden eagle, which I’ve seen in Indiana twice, is also a favorite.

I like all hawks, red-tailed and red-shouldered, broad-winged, Cooper’s and sharp-shinned. northern harrier, kestrel and rough-legged which is another winter visitor to Indiana.

A great kiskadee is a brown bird, slightly smaller than a robin, with white strips on its had, a white throat and a bright yellow belly. It’s a bird of south of the border, a bird of Mexico. It is normally seen in the U.S. only in the most southern tip of Texas. But a great kiskadee visited Indiana one summer, coincidentally, to me, it was there several days, just a mile and a half from my home.

That was a favorite bird of many birders.

So what is my favorite bird? It depends on who is asking, the time of year, the weather, if there is a bird in the area that is out of its normal range, and on my mood when I’m asked.

Neil Case may be reached at

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