Every Bird is Not a Finch

I have recently become fascinated with the birds in our backyard. I hung a little feeder, pulled out some bird books I got from my dad, our family birder, and started identifying the regular visitors.

The first bird I confidently recognized was a small brown bird, a finch. I was pretty sure that’s what it was because it had made a nest in the hanging petunia on our back porch, and the book let me know that that was a common behavior. “Okay, cool,” I thought. “Finch!”

In subsequent weeks I saw and ID’d the tufted titmouse, the Carolina chickadee, the eastern towhee, cardinals, a gorgeous red-breasted woodpecker, and even a wild turkey that had flown up in one of our trees. When I saw small brown birds, I thought, “Oh hi, finch. You’re a finch.”

One day, flipping through the bird book, my eye fell on a whole page of small brown birds. They’re song sparrows and house sparrows and indigo buntings and Carolina wrens and pine warblers. For weeks, I had been calling every small brown bird a finch, and not giving it another thought. 

In my ignorance, I missed the variation right in front of my eyes.

I’m so glad I know better now.

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