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Top 10 Bent Descriptions – Second Five

Gray Catbird

 Numbers 6-10

The Bent Life History Series, published by the Smithsonian, is an interesting and excellent resource on the life history of birds.  Written between about 1920 and 1950 by scientists were not afraid to reveal their awe and appreciation of birds.

The descriptions are a little long, so we posted five or our favorites this month, and posted five last month.  The complete Bent Life History for each species is provided in the Birdzilla online bird guide.

6. Gray Catbird

Though modestly colored the catbird is exquisitely tailored and always presents a trim appearance. He is intelligent and friendly and possesses a lively and restless temperament, ever ready to be helpful to others of its kind in trouble of any sort, often coming to the aid of distracted parents in the defense of their homes and little ones. He is very playful, full of droll pranks and quaint performances. He is also an accomplished singer as well as a mimic and possesses many other admirable qualities that endear him to the bird lover who has learned to know his interesting personality.

Gray Catbird

Photograph © Greg Lavaty


7. Golden Eagle

This magnificent eagle has long been named the King of Birds, and it well deserves the title. It is majestic in flight, regal in appearance, dignified in manner, and crowned with a shower of golden hackles about its royal head. When falconry flourished in Europe the golden eagle was flown only by kings. Its hunting is like that of the noble falcons, clean, spirited, and dashing. It is a far nobler bird in every way than the bald eagle and might well have been chosen as our national emblem. But then the golden eagle is not a strictly American bird, as the bald eagle is.

Golden Eagle

Photograph © Greg Lavaty


8. Painted Bunting

Sometimes it seems that a language other than our own succeeds in conveying an idea more convincingly. In the case of the avian gem we know as the painted bunting, Spanish seems more appropriate, because in Spanish it is “mariposa”: butterfly. This bird, in its dazzling brilliance, seems hardly a creature of feathers at all, but rather a dancing butterfly.

No other North American species is so brightly colored, or wears such a Joseph’s coat of startling contrasts. There is no blending of shades whatever, the different hues are as sharply defined as if they were cut by a straight edge. No wonder many people seeing it for the first time can scarcely credit their eyes, because nothing else approaches it. Many other bright birds occur hither and yon about the country, but for flaming, jewel-like radiance, the nonpareil, as we know it in the South, literally fulfills the name; it is “without an equal.”

Painted Bunting

Photograph © Greg Lavaty


9. Eastern Bluebird

The bluebird is well named, for he wears a coat of the purest, richest, and most gorgeous blue on back, wings, and tail; no North American bird better deserves the name, for no other flashes before our admiring eyes so much brilliant blue. It has been said that he carries on his back the blue of heaven and the rich brown of the freshly turned earth on his breast; but who has ever seen the bluest sky as blue as the bluebird’s back?

Eastern Bluebird

Photograph © Greg Lavaty 


10. Laughing Gull

High above the gleaming sands of Muskeget Island, amid the whirling maze of hovering terns that swarm up into the blue ether until the uppermost are nearly lost to vision, may be seen some larger birds, conspicuous by their size, by their black heads and black-tipped wings, soaring at ease among their lesser companions. In the ceaseless din of strident cries may be heard occasionally the hoarse notes of this larger bird-notes which, from their peculiar character, give the bird the fitting name of laughing gull.

Laughing Gull

Photograph © Sam Crowe

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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