The birds

posted 14 February 2005

DoveEither the birds here at Pierre et Vacances are accustomed to being fed from the balconies, or they're a lot bolder (or hungrier) than the ones at home. This photo of a Eurasian collard dove (a "tourtourelle turque," Streptopelia decaocto; same species that invaded Tallahassee a few years ago) was taken on our second day here, and by the third day a pair of them was waiting for us on the balcony each morning. David started out calling them "Chip and Dale," but on a few days' acquaintance renamed them "Wayne and Buzzy." (If you haven't already read Richard Bradford's So Far from Heaven, you should.) If a third dove shows up, one of the pair (the male, I suspect) spends a great deal of time chasing it away and doesn't get to eat much.

During the cold spell, which finally seems to be over, I also took to putting out a dab of butter on a saucer each morning (whereas American birds are expected to make do with suet, French birds are customarily given butter), and like the crumbs, it would be entirely gone by evening. It took us a while to catch them at it, but it turned out to be the sparrows (Passer domesticus, just like the ones back home) who ate it. I had suspected the magpie. Anybody know what they eat? My field guide is silent on the subject.

So far, on the balcony for crumbs, we've had the doves, the sparrows, the "rougegorge" (European robin, Erithacus rubecula), the "merle noir" (European blackbird, Turdus merula), the "rougequeue noir" (black redstart, Phoenicurus ochruros), and once the "pie bavarde" (magpie, Pica pica). Elsewhere, we've also seen "étourneaux sansonnets" (starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, just like the ones in Tallahassee), basic urban pigeons (Columba livia, more or less), a "héron cendré" (grey heron, Ardea cinerea), "corneilles noirs" I think (carrion crows, Corvus corone corone), and--the prize of the bunch--a beautiful iridescent green "martin-pêcheur" (kingfisher, Alcedo atthis). I've heard a "verdier" (greenfinch, Carduelis chloris) several times at the lab but haven't spotted it yet. And of course, there are many, many little gray, brown, or yellowish-greenish birds that dart here and there amid the vegetation and won't hold still long enough to focus binoculars on. Now that the weather has warmed up a little, the birds have started singing, and I'm gradually matching songs to species.

Around the port, we've seen large gulls (I'm guessing "goélands argentés," herring gulls, Larus argentatus), small gulls (I'm guessing "mouettes rieuses," black-headed gulls, Larus ridibundus), medium-sized terns (I'm clueless), and what are probably "cormorans huppés" (shags, Phalacrocorax aristotelis).

So, does anybody out there want to tell me whether these last identifications are at least likely? Fran? Jean-Louis?

previous entry     List of Entries     next entry