A-Z Challenge – ‘O’
One of the best books I have read recently was ‘How To Be A Bad Birdwatcher’ by The Times columnist Simon Barnes. So I thought I would write about birds. Unfortunately bird begins with ‘B’; being a twitcher or a tweeter is no help either; I’ve had to settle for ‘O’ for Ornithology and birds whose names begin with ‘O.’
The shortest bird name I could find is the ou, a fruit-eating honeycreeper from Hawaii with a stout bill and green and yellow plumage. I’ve never seen a picture of one and have no idea of its size; I’m told it’s very rare and may even be extinct.
In North America the orioles are smaller and slimmer than an American robin and are closely related to the blackbirds. The Northern Oriole also known as the “Baltimore” Oriole may be recognised by its flame-orange and black pattern and black head. The Northern (“Bullock’s”) Oriole is similar but has orange cheeks and large white wing patches. Neither can be confused with the Orchard Oriole which is dark-hued with a deep rich chestnut rump an underparts.
The Osprey, or Fish Hawk, is found in America and in Great Britain where it has been successfully reintroduced after being nearly driven to extinction. This medium sized bird of prey has white underparts, dark brown upperparts and a white head. It hovers over the water on its large wings before diving feet first to catch its prey. A majestic sight indeed.
Osprey with Big Fish (By Tim from Ithica: CC A 2.0)
Most people will be familiar with the concept of the wise old owl. There are many species to choose from – over a hundred in all, eighteen in North America, ten in Great Britain. The Barn Owl is common to both locations and is probably the best known with its dark eyes set in a white heart-shaped face. At night its whitish underparts and silent flight gives it a ghostly look as it cruises the fields for mice.
Eastern Screech Owl ( By Wolfgang Wander: CC A-S A 3.0)
The oxpecker is a brown African bird related to the starlings that feeds on the parasites that infest the skins of grazing cattle and large wild animals.
If you believe the world is your oyster then you need the oystercatcher to be your friend. This wading bird with black and white plumage and a strong orange-red bill feeds mainly on shellfish.
If none of the birds I’ve described take you fancy then I shall bury my head in the sand and pretend to be an ostrich.