What's your SparkBird?

Welcome to the inaugural blog post for KingBirder! We are interested in learning more about your personal stories related to your passion around birds and bird photography. Today we are discussing one’s “spark bird”. Some of you may not be familiar with this term. A “spark bird” refers to the original bird that “sparked” your curiosity and interest in our feathered friends. For some of us, this event may have occurred early in our lives or for others it may have been much later. And for a few, perhaps their spark bird has not yet made an appearance. (If that is the case, I hope it arrives soon!)

For me, my spark bird occurred at a very young age, around three or four years old. My grandmother owned an 18th century farmhouse along with 32 acres of land in Sag Harbor, NY. The land consisted of five or six acres of open fields, brackish ponds, salt marshes, and upland woods with mostly oaks and red cedars. It was my favorite place in the world.

spark bird

Wildlife abounded on the property, especially the birdlife. It is here that I began to appreciate nature and variety that it brings. I had the biggest playground around, exploring the woods and marshes. Grandma had several feeders and birdbaths close to the house. They attracted many species including; blue jays, black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, downy woodpeckers, cardinals, American goldfinches, house finches, brown thrashers, catbirds, eastern towhees, song sparrows, white-throated sparrows, and dark-eyed juncos. Entire coveys of northern bobwhites would warily approach the feeders. Even mallards would come up from the salt pond to scoop up the cracked corn scattered on the ground. But there was one bird that stood out among all the others, the ring-necked pheasant!

Every morning I would rise early, around 6:30am, to meet Grandma in the kitchen. While she prepared breakfast, I would eagerly anticipate the arrival of the male pheasant. It almost felt like Christmas morning every day. On the days when the pheasant did appear, I was filled with a sense of wonder and awe. It was so much larger than the other birds and its intricate patterns of feathers were dazzling. Some days the female would accompany him and that made it even more special. At that point I was hooked! Grandma stoked my interest by providing me with my very first Peterson’s field guide at age six. I must have read it cover-to-cover a thousand times. As I look back, I am very grateful to both my grandmother and the ring-necked pheasant for providing me with a passion I have enjoyed for virtually my entire life!

What’s your “spark bird”? Tell us by submitting a comment below.


January 31, 2020
Feathers and Flight has submitted a blog entry, thank you for your contribution!

Location: Nova Scotia, Canada

I must first explain that my relationship with birds started on the wrong foot. I was in my last year at university and had been conditionally accepted to medical school. All I had to do was maintain my GPA during the last semester and I was officially admitted. I decided that I deserved a "bird course" after 3 1/2 years of physics, biology, chemistry classes and labs and chose "Ornithology 101". I thought it would be an easy A , after all I knew what a blue jay, cardinal, chickadee and eagle looked like. It did not take long to realize that I had seriously misjudged the course. How was I to know that there were so many gulls, so many sparrows and so many different plumages for each year of growth? Hatch year, nictitating membrane, first moult were all foreign words to me. I was a terrible birder and could not tell the difference between various species of gulls and sparrows and LBJ's. My midterm exam earned me a C+. I was horrified and ended up working my butt off to do better in the finals. I scrapped by with a B-, my lowest mark ever. Birds and birding were not for me. Fast forward 25 years to Tanzania, on safari with my family : I was focused on photographing the Big Five and never gave a thought about the birds. All that changed while eating lunch at a small park. A lilac-breated roller landed on a branch 5 feet away from me. I was taken aback by his beauty and managed to get some really nice images of him. In fact, that picture was my favorite of the entire trip and years later a beautiful print of the LBR is still on display in our home. When we returned home, I googled the term "bird photography". I was overwhelmed by what I saw and learned. I was hooked and now 8 years later, I can tell the differences between some sparrows and some gulls! I will always be a better photographer than birder. And that's OK because I love what I am doing and that deserves an A+.

August 31, 2020

Dawg has sumitted a blog entry, thank you for your contribution!

Location:  Central Illinois

Hello all! From my job as a Correctional Lieutenant in a Max Prison for the past 25 years, photography has been my way to get some peace time away from all the stress. I started to really enjoy watching the birds and animals as the woods woke up and went to bed. I then bought a camera to enjoy the outdoors that much more. I have become to enjoy the outdoors much more with my camera than anything else. The satisfaction of getting your photo of wildlife and then being able to go back to that area and possibly get many more shots is so rewarding. Wildlife is my main photography interest of all other categories of photography. I have been a HUGE fan of Raptors (Eagles, Hawks, Owls, and Falcons) and Roseate Spoonbills. The American Eagle was my first love due to it being the American Freedom Bird. All the other raptors then came into the picture as time went on. I started going on trips to Florida and I have really enjoyed watching and taking photo's of Roseate Spoonbills. The raptors and Spoonbills have so many unique habits and catching them close and in action is such a tough task. The challenge is always welcome but in return you must give them the respect of being in their area as the intruder. Respect to the outdoors in my opinion is mandatory when you are out there in their area. Over doing it could push them out of the area and then you chances of getting more shots are going to be limited. You could also push them from nesting and other habits of their lives. I would have to say that Raptors and Spoonbills are my spark birds that have really made my wildlife photography take off to where I am today. Whitetail deer are another one of the sparks that helped my photography take off as well. Thank you all and to many more clicks of the shutter!

November 30, 2020

Ann has submitted a blog entry, thank you for your contribution!

Location:  California

Thinking about my "spark" bird, I wondered if Sandhill Cranes would qualify, having fallen in love with their dances and sparring and group connections. but I had to go further back, because it was really backyard birding drove me to be a bird enthusiast. It started with one feeder and now we have over ten feeders, more in the Spring. We were lucky the first year. We learned about Orioles and put up some orange attracting feeders. I even bought organic grape jelly and mealworms. Although many people put up Oriole feeders and wait for years for their first arrival, We were graced with beautiful male Hooded Orioles and Bullock's Orioles the first year. We awaited their arrival every Spring, as the males arrived first, then left and returned with a mate. Eventually, fledglings also came to the feeders and soon, the males began their long journey back to Sonora, Mexico. It has been a great joy for us to see the bright yellows and oranges of the first Orioles every Spring, ever since.

December 27, 2020

B.O. has submitted a blog entry, thank you for your contribution!

Location:  Sweden

Well described there. I travel every year to South Africa to hunt rare birds. And so far I have been lucky with finding very rare birds like Orange-breasted Sunbird.

February 2, 2021

Natalie has submitted a blog entry, thank you for your contribution!

Location:  La Marque, TX

While 'taking the long way home' from a road trip to Beaumont, I stopped in Port Arthur, I passed a parking lot with no buildings and noticed several cars there and people standing around. Then I stopped and thought about it and turned around to go find out what was up. Turns out that just across the fence that stood between the parking lot and a field, with a stand of native trees of Texas, was perched a Phainopepla. I am an amateur birder, only a dozen or so years, an I had never even heard of the bird. One young man, Kris Cannon, was kind enough to help me to the other side of the fence and a few steps from there, and then he quietly pointed up and to the left and there in the tree was a well-fed bird covered in many shades of gray feathers, with a crest of dark grey feathers, darker grey around his eyes, and at the right angle, red eyes. Turns out that the bird was perched about 700 miles farther east than his eastern-most recorded 'field trip'. October 23rd, 2016

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