The Umstead Coalition 
Celebrating Umstead State Park since 1934!
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Let's Hear it for the Birds

10/18/2019 2:10 PM | Billy Drakeford (Administrator)

Some native american tribes felt that birds were put on this earth to lift the spirits of man.  I tend to agree.  If you can hear the carolina wren’s exuberant song, see a cardinal, tanager, wood duck or blue jay and not feel better, then you are in a deep funk indeed.  On a similar note, when I was stationed in Korea, I was in a valley by myself, lying on my back asking God to send me some sign, a chickadee landed on the branch above me and dropped a twig on my chest.  Proof positive right?

Just last week, I was watching a pileated woodpecker on the Oak Rock Trail do its thing working a dead tree for insects and then it flew down to the creek and disappeared below the bank.  It stayed just long enough for me to creep over and get close enough so that it could blast out right in front of my face.  It flew right to a huge old oak tree, went in a hole and did not come out.  I have never seen that during the day and let me tell you my spirits were lifted.

Birds have been around since around the middle of the Jurassic period approximately 150 million years ago.  This time until now have allowed birds to evolve a great variety of forms and behaviors, which makes watching them so fun.   There are about 8,700ish species of known bird species, and 1800ish species in America.  This variety is due to a process called adaptive radiation.  This basically means that the form and behavior of birds become modified as they adopt different ways of life.  Fossil evidence shows that birds evolved from reptilian ancestors but now a sparrow can live on seeds, something no reptile has ever been able to do. 

Of the birds found in Umstead, grebes, herons, and waterfowl are the most primitive.  Hawks, owls, and woodpeckers are intermediates, and the passerines, which contain all the songbirds, crows, jays, and blackbirds are the most highly evolved. 

If you want to see some of the earliest finds of Archaeopteryx,(Long thought to be the earliest bird and proof of reptile ancestry) go here. It is rather involved but interesting.  After about 11 minutes you can see the fossils. 

To help lift your spirits, here is Bird Name quiz for you.  What is the bird name that matches the following descriptions?  Answers are below.

  1. Little League Outfielder
  2. Grave Digger
  3. Coward from the Great Plains
  4. Regal Angler
  5. Sad Letter
  6. Church official
  7. Conversation
  8. Fun in the field
  9. Fast
  10. Crazy
  11. Heavenly humor
  12. Murder a game animal
  13. Angry William


  1. Pewee
  2. Shoveler
  3. Prairie chicken
  4. King Fisher
  5. Blue Jay
  6. Cardinal
  7. Chat
  8. Meadowlark
  9. Swift
  10. Cuckoo/ Loon
  11. Godwit
  12. Killdeer
  13. Crossbill

Know more to see more,

Ranger Billy

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The Umstead Coalition

We are dedicated to preserving the natural integrity of William B. Umstead State Park and the Richland Creek Corridor.