Long ago when we first came to this farm, I remember the flocks of birds all about the place. They were always there; they went with the landscape but we were always too busy to be serious birdwatchers. Very few people in those days were birdwatchers and I don’t remember anybody with a birdfeeder. It pains me to remember that there were bluebirds and catbirds nesting in the orchard beside the house. I could walk a mile through the bush now and probably not see one. We took our birds for granted and carried on with our work.
I do remember a pure white sparrow that survived for two years in the large and busy flock that picked up loose feed near the barn and also in the goose pen down by the river. He showed up very distinctly against the dark foliage of the big trees along the riverbank.
A few years ago, when we had time to pay much more attention, we noticed an odd-looking bird at the feeder near the kitchen window. This feeder was an old oil drum with a piece of plywood on top and set near an old cedar which provided shelter from hawks. After a bit of observation we were sure it was a chickadee, but it had no tail. It flew OK, landed with the rest of the birds, fed with no apparent difficulty, but it had no tail at all.
We thought that it might have been caught in a trap but more likely it had a very close call with Charles, our big tomcat who found he could snag the occasional tasty lunch by hiding under the oil drum and waiting to pounce on a ground feeding bird.
The chickadees came every day and always with the tail-less bird with them. Then we noticed that the tail feathers were beginning to grow back again. But not the proper black color; these tail feathers were pure white. When the feathers were half-grown, the bird looked utterly ridiculous with what appeared to be a white fringe around its rump. Eventually, the bird had a completely white tail. Once spring came the chickadees moved back into the bush and we never saw our odd bird again.
Velma S. Franklin, Maxville, Ontario, Canada