bird saying of the month

 

BIRD SAYING OF MAY 2017

“Bird Brain

Meaning: Some people use the expression “bird brain” to ridicule someone’s intelligence.

Etymology: People used to believe birds are stupid, partly because some bird behaviors aren’t clearly understood by people, and partly because when scientists dissected birds, they discovered that their brains don’t have the same folding that mammal brains do, so assumed mammals had evolved higher intelligence. Now we know better: scientists probing into bird communication and behaviors have discovered that many kinds of birds, especially in the crow and the parrot families, are as intelligent as most of the mammals we’ve studied.

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BIRD SAYING OF April 2017

“Hiding in Plain Sight

Meaning: Sometimes a person can be doing wonderful or criminal things right out in the open without anyone noticing

Etymology: Many birds have cryptic coloration allowing them to stay hidden even as people pass close by. Shy or modest people sometimes try to do good things without anyone noticing by trying to blend in with normal activities. Criminals have entirely different motives, but do the same thing. 

Can you see the Common Pauraque hiding in plain sight in this photo?

 

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BIRD SAYING OF MARCH 2017

“Birds of a feather flock together

Meaning: People often use this expression to say that people who belong to a group or share similar interests stick together.

Etymology: We often notice a flock of migrating geese or a group of robins feeding together in a fruit tree. In these situations, these birds are often in a flock with just their own species. But often birds join mixed flocks that may include a wide variety of species, so this expression isn’t necessarily true of either humans or birds.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF FEBRUARY 2017

“Eagle eye

Meaning: Merriam-Webster defines this as “1. the ability to see or observe keenly. 2. one that sees or observes keenly.

Etymology: This phrase was used as early as 1598, in England, and referred not to America’s Bald Eagle but the Golden Eagle, which hunts for rabbits and other prey, often from very great heights. Research has verified that they, as well as other birds of prey, have exceptionally keen vision.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF JANUARY 2017

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

Meaning: If something is good for some people, it’s good for others (especially, if it’s okay for women, it’s okay for men).

Etymology: This comes from a phrase, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” When people served a goose dinner, it didn’t matter if the meat came from a male (gander) or female (goose). In the same way, a girl could complain about unfairness if her parents set different rules for her than for her brother.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF DECEMBER 2016

“Eat Like A Bird” 

Meaning: People use this term to refer to someone who is a picky eater or doesn’t eat very much.

Etymology: Many of the birds people watch eat one tiny seed at a time, giving the mistaken notion that birds don’t eat much. But ounce for ounce, bird metabolism is much faster than ours, and most birds eat far more per day for their body weight than we do.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF NOVEMBER 2016

“A Little Bird Told Me”

Meaning: When people don’t want to divulge where they learned a bit of gossip, they often attribute it to that “little bird.”

Etymology: Some people believe this phrase came from the Bible. Ecclesiastes 10:20 says “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.” Some think it came from carrier pigeons or other messenger birds. And in 1562, John Heywood wrote a book of proverbs that included, “I hear by one bird that in mine ear was late chanting.” The modern version from 1906 expresses it as “a little bird told me.”

 

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BIRD SAYING OF OCTOBER 2016

“Free as a bird”

Meaning: People often wish they could fly away from bad situations as birds do.

Etymology: People have always envied birds’ ability to fly wherever they want, and associate this flight with freedom. Most birds are limited by their species’ migration routes: no Black-capped Chickadee will ever take off headed for South America or Australia! But birds certainly do enjoy a freedom of movement we do not.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF SEPTEMBER 2016

“Watch like a hawk”

Meaning: Watch something very closely, often in a threatening way to catch someone in a mistake.

Etymology: Hawks and eagles are famous for their keen vision, and also how they scrutinize the ground for prey. Red-tailed Hawks usually hunt from perches, but can spot a mouse on the ground even when the hawk is circling high in the air. Keen vision is what keeps hawks alive—but that same keen vision is not so lucky for a rodent that isn’t careful.

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BIRD SAYING OF AUGUST 2016

“Something to crow about”

Meaning: When someone wants to boast about themselves or their exciting news.

Etymology: This phrase comes not from crows but from roosters, which seem to be boasting and “cocky” when they crow.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF JULY 2016

“Light As A Feather”

Meaning: Extremely light; almost weightless.

Etymology: By volume, feathers are one of the lightest items in the natural world. For that weight, they’re amazingly strong, lasting months or even years while exposed to rain and freshwater lakes and salt water, keeping birds warm in the coldest winters while protecting them from the tropical sun and keeping their skin dry as they dive into lakes, rivers, streams, and the ocean.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF JUNE 2016

“Nest Egg”

Meaning: Money we put aside for the future.

Etymology: Eggs don’t look anything like birds, but when a bird puts it carefully in a nest and tends to it, it will eventually hatch into a bird. People who put aside some money in a safe place call it a nest egg, because it is being protected for the future.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF MAY 2016

“Like Water Off A Duck’s Back” 

Meaning: When a person easily solves a problem without being disturbed, the problem falls away like water off a duck’s back.

Etymology: When water hits the waterproofed feathers of ducks, it beads up and rolls off. This is where we get the image of what could be a problem rolling away easily.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF APRIL 2016

“One Swallow Does Not Make A Summer”

Meaning: When we see a welcome sign of spring or summer, there could still be some cold days and snow ahead.

Etymology: Aristotle is usually credited with coining this expression. After a long winter, we’re so hungry for spring that seeing our first robin or swallow may make us want to pack away our winter coats, but spring is a long, transitional season as far as weather goes.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF MARCH 2016

“Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch”

Meaning: People sometimes plan something without taking into account some bad things that could happen.

Etymology: When birds lay eggs, some may be eaten by predators, get damaged by one of the parents flying off the nest or landing too roughly, or simply be infertile.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF FEBRUARY 2016

“Eagle Eye”

Meaning: Merriam-Webster defines this as “1. the ability to see or observe keenly. 2. one that sees or observes keenly.

Etymology: This phrase was used as early as 1598, in England, and referred not to America’s Bald Eagle but the Golden Eagle, which hunts for rabbits and other prey often from very great heights. Research has verified that they, as well as other birds of prey, have exceptionally keen vision.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF JANUARY 2016

“What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander”

Meaning: If something is good for some people, it’s good for others (especially, if it’s okay for women, it’s okay for men).

Etymology: This comes from a phrase, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” When people served a goose dinner, it didn’t matter if the meat came from a male (gander) or female (goose). In the same way, a girl could complain about unfairness if her parents set different rules for her than the rules for her brother.  

 

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BIRD SAYING OF DECEMBER 2015

“Dove of Peace”

Meaning: People often use doves to symbolize world peace or peace between individuals or groups.

Etymology: Doves are gentle and seldom squabble, so they seem peaceful to us. And in an Old Testament story, Noah released a dove to find out if the flood was over. The dove returned with an olive branch, and Noah knew peace was at hand. This story also was the reason we say we’re extending an olive branch when we’re trying to make peace with someone.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF NOVEMBER 2015

“My little chickadee”

Meaning: This is an expression someone uses to refer to someone who is cute and endearing.

Etymology: The comic actor W.C. Fields often used the line “My little chickadee” when flirting with pretty, endearing actresses in his movies. In 1940, Mae West and W.C. Fields starred in a movie titled “My Little Chickadee.” In that movie, he used her famous line, “Come up and see me sometime,” and she used his line, “I will, my little chickadee.”

 

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BIRD SAYING OF OCTOBER 2015

“Hummingbirds hum because they don’t know the words.”

Meaning: This humorous saying is a play on words because hummingbirds don’t have a normal song, but their wings hum.

Etymology: This saying may have originated as a joke in Boy’s Life magazine many decades ago.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF SEPTEMBER 2015

“Fly-by-night” 

Meaning: This expression refers to a person who cheats people, but a lot of birders use it to refer to migrating birds.

Etymology: In the days when traveling salesmen came to small towns and neighborhoods of big cities, most of them were honest but some would cheat people out of money and then leave town, usually at night, before they could get caught. A great many birds are literal fly-by-nights, making their longest flights at night, when hawks don’t fly, when temperatures are cooler and winds lower, and they can navigate using star patterns.

 

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BIRD SAYING OF AUGUST 2015

“Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”

Meaning: Give yourself some backup plans in case one fails. If you have valuable items, don’t hide them all in one place in case something bad happens.

Etymology: When people gather eggs from chickens into one large basket, dropping the basket

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BIRD SAYING OF JULY 2015

“A feather in his cap”

Meaning: An old British song went,

“Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.”

Etymology: A “Yankee” was someone from the American Colonies. People in England wanted to feel superior to American colonists, so they sang this song, implying that the feathers of birds colonists wore in their caps were silly. “Macaroni” was the name of a famous farm where horse racing was popular.

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BIRD SAYING OF JUNE 2015

“Migration Fallout”

Meaning: When a great many birds suddenly appear in an area during migration, birders call it a fallout. This usually happens when favorable migratory conditions collide with a front.

Etymology: The original meaning for fallout is radioactive particles falling through the atmosphere after a nuclear explosion. Normally the word implies a bad thing. Birders use the word in a more positive sense, when birds seem to have just fallen down from the sky during migration.

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BIRD SAYING OF MAY 2015

“Hummingbirds ride on the backs of geese”

Meaning: Many people find it hard to believe that hummingbirds fly thousands of miles during migration, and think they must hitch rides on the backs of larger birds.

Etymology: Hummingbirds are extremely feisty birds that attack just about any large bird flying over their territories. It’s possible that long ago, someone spotted a hummingbird dive-bombing a goose, and assumed it was dropping down for a ride, or coming up after a ride. Scientists have proven that hummingbirds make their migration flights entirely on their own power.

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BIRD SAYING OF APRIL 2015

“The early bird catches the worm”

Meaning: People (or birds) who wake up early, or arrive at school or a job before everyone else, are usually rewarded.

Etymology: Night crawlers and some other worms spend nighttime feeding in cool, moist conditions right when predators have trouble seeing them. They retreat to their burrows soon after sunrise. Territorial robins start singing each morning while it’s still too dark for them to see worms. They quiet down briefly when their eyes can detect any worms still wriggling about—earlier than most other birds start looking for food. The robins will resume singing after breakfast.

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BIRD SAYING OF MARCH 2015

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

Meaning: When something might not work out, it’s best to have an alternative plan.

Etymology: Every nesting bird puts all her eggs in one “basket,” or nest. This usually works out well, but if a predator discovers the nest, or the branch breaks, or other disaster falls, all the eggs will be lost. Birds DO have a backup, quickly renesting if they lose their eggs. And prudent people have a backup plan, too.

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BIRD SAYING OF FEBRUARY 2015

“Wise as an Owl”

Meaning: Many people believe owls are exceptionally wise.

Etymology: Of all birds, owls have the most human-like faces, in shape, forward-facing eyes and eyelids that blink as ours do, and beak positioned like our nose. Owls are, indeed, intelligent, but no more than other birds.

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BIRD SAYING OF JANUARY 2015

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”

Meaning: A sure thing is better than something you hope for.

Etymology: This expression comes from hunting, Hunters are sure to bring home dinner if they’re holding it than if it’s still in the bush. Birdwatchers can count birds only if they’re “in the wild,” not ones in the hand, so for them the opposite is true.

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BIRD SAYING OF DECEMBER 2014

“Dove of Peace”

Meaning: People often use doves to symbolize world peace or peace between individuals or groups.

Etymology: Doves are gentle and seldom squabble, so seem peaceful to us. And in an Old Testament story, Noah released a dove to find out if the flood was over. The dove returned with an olive branch, and Noah knew peace was at hand.

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BIRD SAYING OF NOVEMBER 2014

“This movie is a turkey!”

Meaning: This is a very bad movie!

Etymology: First used in the 1920s by theatre critics to refer to a box office flop, the term probably was coined by someone familiar with the reputation farm turkeys had of being rather silly, vain, and even stupid. Oddly, when people “talk turkey,” they’re being clear, straightforward, and intelligent.

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BIRD SAYING OF OCTOBER 2014

“Hawking your wares “

Meaning: Selling something.

Etymology: The earliest use of the word “hawk” to refer to selling things is found in Shakespeare. Use of this term is probably etymologically related to “huckster,” and may have originated in falconry, when people selling a hawk misrepresented its hunting abilities.

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BIRD SAYING OF SEPTEMBER 2014

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”

Meaning: Actually owning something is better than hoping you might get it eventually.

Etymology: This common expression comes from hunting: unless a hunter actually holds a game bird in the hand, he or she might not end up with anything at all. Bird watchers, of course, focus on those elusive birds in the bushes!

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BIRD SAYING OF AUGUST 2014

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence”

Meaning: To be aware of all the birds around you, you must be still and quiet, drinking in all the sights and sounds around you.

Etymology: Robert Lynd was a writer who lived in Ireland from 1879 until 1949, and was very knowledgeable about nature. He knew what he needed to do to make careful observations!

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BIRD SAYING OF JULY 2014

“Eagle Eyes”

Meaning: Unusually keen vision.

Etymology: This common expression has been used since the late 1500s, originally in reference to Golden Eagles (found in England and the rest of the U.K.). It would be easy for people to observe how high these powerful birds fly, suddenly dropping to earth to seize prey.

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BIRD SAYING OF JUNE 2014

“One swallow does not make a summer”

Meaning: It’s easy to jump to conclusions when we’re awaiting a happy event.

Etymology: Aristotle is the person who coined this phrase. Sometimes the first swallows arrive early, before wintry weather is over for the year.

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BIRD SAYING OF MAY 2014

“Bird’s eye view”

Meaning: Being able to look down on a situation with a wider, clearer view.

Etymology: Birds flying overhead take in a wider view than we can from the ground. Interestingly, bird vision is better than ours, in another way, too. They see all the colors we do and also ultraviolet light which our eyes can’t see at all.

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BIRD SAYING OF APRIL 2014

“Hummingbirds ride on the backs of geese”

Meaning: This is an untrue folktale. It refers to people taking shortcuts or taking advantage of other people to carry their weight.

Etymology: Hummingbirds dive-bomb big birds, and someone may have seen one coming up from or down on a goose’s back in attack mode, and the person stopped watching too soon.

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BIRD SAYING OF MARCH 2014

“The early bird gets the worm”

Meaning: Being prepared and early gives you an advantage over others.

Etymology: American Robins are famous for eating worms, but this phrase was invented in England. It was first seen in print in John Ray’s A collection of English proverbs from 1670.

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BIRD SAYING OF FEBRUARY 2014

“Give a Hoot”

Meaning: When someone cares a lot about something, we say they “give a hoot.”

Etymology: Owls start hooting when an intruder appears on their territory or when they are courting a mate—two situations in which they definitely care about the situation. But intriguingly, this expression probably isn’t even related to owls! In 1877, people in New York, where the expression originated, more often said “give a hooter,” as in “This note ain’t worth a hooter.” This was probably just a mispronunciation/misunderstanding of the word iota.

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BIRD SAYING OF JANUARY 2014

“Eat like a bird”

Meaning: Doesn’t eat much or picks at food.

Etymology: Probably the earliest people to raise chickens or recognize wild birds noticed that many birds pick at their food rather than wolfing it down. Some people may have jumped to the conclusion that birds don’t eat much, but that wasn’t an accurate observation. Many birds eat a fairly high percentage of their body weight every day. Hummingbirds can consume 100 percent of their body’s weight in sugar water or nectar every day, in addition to as many as 2,000 tiny insects. Do we want to talk about the Downy Woodpecker since that is the Bird of the Month?  A chickadee may eat 35 percent of its weight in food each day while a Blue Jay eats about 10 percent of its weight and a Common Raven 4 percent. Those percentages may not sound like a lot compared to hummingbirds, but put it this way: a 150-pound person would need to eat over 52 pounds of food each day to eat like a chickadee, or 15 pounds to eat like a jay, or 6 pounds to eat like a raven. This is one saying that doesn’t mean what people think it does!

 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird sticking out her tongue.

This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird uses her long tongue to slurp up as much as her entire body weight in sugar water and flower nectar every day. As if this weren’t enough, she also eats as many as 2,000 tiny insects a day.

 

 

 

 

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Chickadees may pick at their food, but their meals total about 35 percent of their body weight every day.

 

 

 

 

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BIRD SAYING OF DECEMBER 2013

“Cardinal Rule”

Meaning:  A most important rule.
Etymology:  Cardinal comes from the Latin for “hinge.” It means “principal” or “pivotal.” Roman Catholics called their principal clergy cardinals. Coincidentally, these cardinals wore red robes, and the color became known as cardinal red. Settlers coming to America named the bird for its color.

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BIRD SAYING OF NOVEMBER 2013

“My little Chickadee”

Meaning:  This phrase is used as an endearment, as someone might say “sweetie” or “cutie pie.”

Etymology:  An actor named W. C. Fields used to call women “my little chickadee” in his movies. The phrase is fun to say and funny to hear. In 1940, Fields and Mae West made a movie comedy called “My Little Chickadee.”