There are 150 species of cuckoos in the world. I've chosen to write about two that we have here in Haiti, both of which I have seen a lot. Yes, that's right: there are TWO poems for today! Exciting, isn't it?
I wrote about the Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo and the Smooth-billed Ani. Actually, the poem about the Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo is one I wrote last year. I'm not listing any sources for that one, because it's just about my own experience with this bird.
Photo Source: Merlin app
The Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo touches down in the yard.
He struts around from here to there,
Thrusts out his long, magnificent, black tail,
Its spots of white shining in the sun,
Sidles along the garden wall
Like an actor about to go onstage,
Lifts his graceful bill and bats his red eyes.
Then he jumps onto the tree,
Hops jauntily from branch to branch,
Until he reaches the pinnacle
And flies away.
The whole time
I’m breathlessly snapping photos,
Like an eager autograph-seeker,
Trying to freeze the moment.
Click! Click! Click!
But when he flees the scene,
Headed for his next engagement,
And I look at my phone,
I’m left with images of
In one picture, the bird’s back is somewhat visible,
If you know where to look.
Why am I disappointed?
Why do I need pictures?
To show him off?
To post on social media?
To prove to you he was there?
He left me, his most devoted fan,
A memory of a performance,
And, best of all,
For me alone.
©Ruth Bowen Hersey
Even though I've also seen lots of Smooth-billed Anis, we don't have them where I live, so I don't see them regularly. I did quite a bit of reading for this poem. Here are my sources: Smooth-billed Ani on Audubon, Smooth-billed Ani on Wikipedia, Smooth-billed Ani on WhatBird.com. All those sites have great photos of these unlikely-looking birds. I learned that this bird is sometimes called El Pijul. Stay tuned after the poem for a performance of a song from Mexico, and a link to an English translation of the lyrics. (It doesn't make much sense, but the guitar playing is impressive!)
A cooch of anis
From Florida to South America
The Smooth-billed Anis’ esoterica
Is widely known. Just for example
Their habitat is very ample
Because they do enjoy a clearing,
Deforestation thus appearing
To them a boon. They have blue eggs
And run around on sturdy legs.
An orphanage of anis
They live in groups, build nests together,
They’re thick of bill and black of feather,
They lay their eggs in giant stacks
(Thirty together is the max)
In layers packed with grass and leaves,
And each new chick that’s born receives
Great care from all the grown-up birds.
They cry, “Oooleeeek” in lieu of words.
A silliness of anis
In Surinam, reportedly,
Eating this bird’s believed to be
A cure for asthma. They eat ticks,
Termites, frogs, lizards, quite a mix;
Sometimes ride on a grazing beast
And on the bugs they find, they feast.
They are disheveled and fly badly,
(But better than you, so cheer them madly).
Cooch, orphanage, or silliness,
They live in groups of ten or less,
They hop about and seem quite happy
They’re cuckoos, loopy, fun, and flappy.
©Ruth Bowen Hersey