Bird in the Bougainvillea
When I need to identify
the little yellow bird in the bougainvillea,
I turn to my Birds of the West Indies book,
written by James Bond.
Ian Fleming had this book on his shelf, too,
in his home in Jamaica.
When he was naming his super-spy,
the book caught his eye,
and the ordinariness of the name
made it perfect.
of the little bird in the bougainvillea
makes me long to know it.
It was there poking around the fuchsia blossoms
before I noticed it
and it will still be there
when my attention is, inevitably,
distracted by something more urgent.
The little yellow bird
is called a bananaquit.
James Bond says it is common
in Central and South America,
and is sometimes known as
Its song is “sibilant or wheezy,
such as zee-e-e-e-swees-te,
but sometimes a simple trill.”
A spy ought to blend in,
it seems to me,
not stand out with his martinis
and his flashy cars.
James Bond the ornithologist,
binoculars in hand,
puttering about in the garden,
would learn far more about
what was really going on
than James Bond the spy.
Here in Haiti,
where Audubon was born,
I snap a picture of the ordinary bananaquit
in the bougainvillea,
and give thanks
for people who pay attention
and birds that wheeze softly
among the leaves.
Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
Honesty compels me to admit that I didn't identify the bird by looking in the bird book. I sent the photo above to my brother, who is a birder, and who lives in the bananaquit's zone too, and he identified it for me, and then I looked it up in the bird book. I find it hard to look up birds in the book because I don't know where to start, which family the bird might come from. When I page through the descriptions, and even the pictures, nobody stands out; they just all look like birds. But now that I know this guy's name, I am seeing bananaquits everywhere, in just the same way that once you learn a new word, suddenly it's in everything you read. How strange it is to live in a place for twenty-two years, and be unable to name one of the most common birds there. There are always new things to learn, so many of them. I'm giving thanks for my brother, and James Bond, and my family, and my students, and my friends, and everyone who teaches me every day.
Here are some links with more information about the ornithologist James Bond and the bananaquit, plus an opportunity to hear the soft wheezing.
James Bond's Wikipedia page
Birds of the West Indies and the James Bond Canon
"The Real James Bond"
A photography exhibit about the two James Bonds and their love for birds (birds, get it, get it?)
The Audubon page about the bananaquit
I can't wait to see the bird poems others have today. Check out the roundup here.