People first brought exotic mute swans to North America in the 1870s to decorate country estates, city parks and zoos, and those we see in Massachusetts today are probably descended from birds that escaped from New York – now considered an invasive species by many and huntable in most states.
In this tale of two kinds of wildlife, Thomas Morton created a colony like no other in the North America of the 1600s – opposed to slavery, rejecting religious conservatism and filled with pleasure – then wrote the first book banned in the Americas. One volume had the first recorded documentation of the green-winged teal in the future Massachusetts.
Can we thank or blame one Shakespeare buff named Eugene Schieffelin for all the starlings in America? Maybe not. But they’ve been cast in a villainous role by officials who have spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate them — and must curse the name of Schieffelin and others who thought like him in the 1800s.
For some early settlers in North America, this bird’s bright red feathers made them think of the robes and caps of Roman Catholic church officials. The name cardinal was born, and to this day, some collective nouns for a flock of cardinals are a conclave, Vatican or college of cardinals.
This is the time of year to spot red-tailed hawks, because they are more abundant in our area in the winter; some northern red-tails overwinter with our year-round birds. Keep your eyes peeled and you might see one perched atop a light post or on a roof – on slightly windy days, look for them soaring in circles through the air.