Photo credit: Dan Lory

I'm convinced that birds get lonely, too. I saw a Lapland Longspur this past week that acted like it wanted someone to talk to, but was too shy to admit it.

I was walking through an area of Park 566 that is mostly gravel, with only a few clumps of scraggly grasses to provide cover for a bird. I saw a sparrow-like bird fly into one of those clumps, and not fly out. I wanted to see what exactly it was, so I stood there and waited, and waited, and waited. No movement, no sign of the bird. I don't know why, but as I waited, Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely" popped into my brain and--like the bird in that brush--would not leave. I found myself humming the song, as I gave up on the waiting and began slowly circling the patch of grasses. Still no sign of the bird.

I was about to congratulate the bird on its patience and stealth, and walk away without finding it, when I looked to a spot in the gravel to the right of the grasses and saw the bird standing there staring at me. For all I know, it had been there the whole time, watching me as I searched for it inside the clump of grasses. It was a well camouflaged Lapland Longspur. It stayed there calmly as I took a few pictures. Then I backed away, walked half way around the clump of grass and continued on my way.

I glanced back to see if the bird was still there, and was amazed to see that it had actually followed me around to the near side of the grass clump, where it could see me. Curious now, I continued to circle the clump, and the bird continued to follow--not trying to stay hidden, but purposely staying in clear view.


Now, there are a number of possible explanations for this Lapland Longspur's behavior. Maybe it was pure coincidence. Maybe it felt safer if it kept me in view. Or maybe--as a bird that typically hangs out in flocks of thousands of birds--this Lapland Longspur was just plain lonely, and figured this harmless-looking human would do for now.

OK, enough with the anthropomorphizing. We all know it's silly. Plus, you'll never believe me if I tell you that, as I walked away still humming "Only the Lonely," I swear I heard a group of Song Sparrows clicking their fingers and going "Dum-dum-dum-ee doo-wah."

Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.