In January, North Carolina’s wealth of native and wintering birds is as rich as flowers in July.
Winter’s quiet is often abruptly shattered by the sounds of rushing wings, mingling with the lonely call of wild geese high overhead and the hooting of a hungry owl.
Man has long admired, valued and envied birds. The Romans held that birds were the heavenly messengers of the Gods and could read the future. It was a dove bearing an olive branch that brought to Noah the promise of land nearby, just as Columbus and countless sailors of the past knew they were nearing land when they encountered birds.
Many a man seeks escape in bird watching, finding times of population movement ideal for observing some of the estimated 8,000 species worldwide, including waterfowl, insect eaters and sweet-voiced songsters.
About 59 family groups have been reported in North Carolina’s bird population, ranging from peanut-sized ruby-throated hummingbirds to cranes with a 7-foot wing span, from the brilliant parrot-colored painted bunting to varieties of sea birds. Most can be seen from late fall into the springtime thaw within Carolina’s Coastal States Wildlife Refuges.