Tufted Titmouse Name – Songbird in Chickadee Family

tufted titmouse
A tufted titmouse came to visit our backyard last week.

tufted titmouse in tree looks up
I recently talked about the source of the name of cardinal bird. I decide to look up the name of the tufted titmouse. The answer is fairly simple, as noted on this BirdNote site:

The name descends from two ancient Anglo-Saxon root words — “tit,” from a word meaning something small. And “mouse,” from a word applied to any small bird, as well as that little rodent.

tufted titmouse up close
I feel fortunate that when I fill my bird feeder, I occasionally get visits from tufted titmice (yes, that is the plural).

tufted titmouse by the bird feeder

Here is a nice description of a tufted titmouse on the Cornell All About Birds site:

A little gray bird with an echoing voice, the Tufted Titmouse is common in eastern deciduous forests and a frequent visitor to feeders. The large black eyes, small, round bill, and brushy crest gives these birds a quiet but eager expression that matches the way they flit through canopies, hang from twig-ends, and drop in to bird feeders. When a titmouse finds a large seed, you’ll see it carry the prize to a perch and crack it with sharp whacks of its stout bill.

There are quite a few historical descriptions of the tufted titmouse on this Life Histories of Familiar North American Birds article from 1947, but my favorite note is at the end: “On the feeding shelf the tit seems to be the dominant character; only the blue jay refuses to make way for him. ”

Getting back to the Tufted Titmouse name, I found a bit more on this 10,000 Birds What is a Titmouse article: “A bird in the genus Baeolophus is neither a mouse nor…the other thing. The word titmouse descends from the Old English terms, tit (any small animal or object) and mase (small bird), essentially meaning one small, small bird.”

Then that article starts to get a bit funny: “Though there is nothing inherently prurient about this critter’s cognomen, it’s within the realm of possibility that even the mere utterance of it inspires twittering and naughty feelings in some individuals, and is thus best avoided. It is worth pointing out that titmice belong to the family Paridae, an expansive international clan made up primarily of what we call “chickadees” in the states but are known as “tits” in the Old World. What do you expect of those decadent, debauched Europeans?”

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Northern Cardinal Name

cardinal male red in tree
Which came first: the Catholic leader or the bird? What do you think? Answer at the bottom of this post.

In terms of location, cardinals live on the eastern side of North America. It seems if you feed them like I do (I give them black oil sunflower seeds), they came back to visit often.
male cardinal in tree
I don’t know how I got so close to this particular cardinal to take his photo.

cardinal turns his head
Note the fluffiness of the feathers. If you want to see a female cardinal, you can visit this old post.

cardinal male fluffy and red
A few years ago I did a cardinal watercolor painting.

Now for the source of the Northern cardinal name: the Catholic leader came first. From Wikipedia:

Cardinal, 1125, “one of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the sacred college,” from L. cardinalis “principal, chief, essential,” from cardo (gen. cardinis) “that on which something turns or depends,” originally “door hinge.” Ecclesiastical use began for the presbyters of the chief (cardinal) churches of Rome.

The N.Amer. songbird (Cardinalis virginianus) is attested from 1678, so named for its resemblance to the red robes of the cardinals.

Here is a funny response: How the Cardinal Got Its Name, in which he says “Catholic cardinals wear red to hide spaghetti sauce stains.”

Read: How did the Northern Cardinal get its name? – In 1758 the Cardinal was one of the many species originally described by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature, in the genus Loxia cardinalis. Loxia is derived the Greek loxos which means crosswise. Based on appearance, Linnaeus thought the Cardinal was related to the Red Crossbill. However taxonomists found the two species were not closely related. Subsequently in 1838, it was changed to the genus Cardinalis and given the scientific name Cardinalis virginianus, which means “Virginia Cardinal” because there were a lot of Cardinals in Virginia. Then in 1918, the scientific name was changed to Richmondena cardinalis to honor Charles Wallace Richmond, an American ornithologist. But in 1983 that was changed again, to Cardinalis cardinalis and the common name was also changed to “Northern Cardinal.” There are actually several bird species in the world with the name Cardinal. The term “Northern” in the common name refers to its range, as it is the only cardinal found in the Northern Hemisphere. And the “Cardinal” name was derived from the vivid red plumage of the male, which resembles the robes of the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Finally, lots of good information on cardinals in general: What you should know about Cardinal – Northern birds

Early settlers were said to have named this bird after the Cardinal of the Catholic Church because the red of the bird reminded them of the color of the Cardinal’s robes. Since 1886, the Cardinal has considerably expanded its territory from being rarely seen north of the Ohio River to thriving over much of North America. The Northern Cardinal is quite similar to the Pyrrhuloxia, which is a southwestern species that is mostly gray with a crest tipped in red.

Thanks to Lorri (follow the link for hatching cardinal babies) for helping me find informational links.

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February Jewish Book Carnival 2015

Red Poppies in Shiloh: photo by Batya Medad
Red Poppies in Shiloh: photo by Batya Medad

Welcome to the February 2015 Edition of the Jewish Book Carnival!

Freelance writer and editor Deborah Kalb interviews a wide range of authors—fiction, nonfiction, children’s—including writers on Jewish themes, on her blog, deborahkalbbooks.blogspot.com. Please take a look at her Q&A with Carol Matas about Matas’s new novel for young people, Tucson Jo, a 2014 National Jewish Book Awards finalist.

At Life Is Like a Library, Kathe Pinchuck discusses two books about Cats and IsraelThe Cats of J-Town by Raphael Karp and The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis.

On My Machberet, Erika Dreifus praises Salami Jew, a new poetry collection by Matthew Lippman.

The Fig Tree Books blog notes a newly published translated story by Isaac Bashevis Singer–and shares a fresh appraisal of Singer’s novel Shosha.

The newest episode of The Book of Life podcast, hosted by librarian Heidi Estrin, features an interview with conference panelists responding to the Pew study “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” and how children’s literature can help – it all boils down to diversity.

People of the Books, the blog of the Association of Jewish Libraries, is the hub for the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Award blog tour. Visit http://jewishlibraries.org/blog.php?id=279 for links to all the stops on this virtual book tour of the gold and silver medal winning authors and illustrators. The Sydney Taylor Book Award recognizes the best in Jewish literature for children and teens.

Brief interviews on Jodie Books with Jewish National Book Award winners and finalists: First up, Carol Matas for her middle-grade novel Tucson Jo. Later this month Devra Lehmann’s YA non-fiction on Spinoza and Allison Ofanasky picture book The Patchwork Torah.

Batya Medad presents a review of Rabbi Zalman Weiss’s book Adon Olam- A Search for Meaning. She also has a review of Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew by Reuven Chaim Klein.

Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah hosts the final stop on the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Awards blog tour with a cyber-roundtable of the gold and silver medalists. The Whole Megillah also interviewed National Jewish Book Award finalist Carol Matas for her children’s book, Tucson Joe.

Lorri reviews A Perfect Peace, by Amos Oz.

If you know anything about Golda Meir, you’ll know that she was one tough cookie. But what do you know about her childhood? In this charming new award-winning book, we find out all about how as a young child in Milwaukee, “Goldie” got her start by taking a stand for poor children in her local school. Read: Sydney Taylor Award 2015 BLOG TOUR: Goldie Takes a Stand, with Barbara Krasner and Kelsey Garrity-Riley

•  • • 

Visit headquarters of the Jewish Book Carnival, a monthly event where bloggers who blog about Jewish books can meet, read and comment on each others’ posts.

About the photo: while we in the Northeast U.S. have snow and ice, Batya Medad has been spotting red poppies where she lives in Shiloh, Israel. Thank you to Batya for allowing me to use this photo for the February Jewish Book Carnival 2015.

Blizzard That Wasn’t and Feeding Birds on Shabbat Shira

snowstorm 2015
My husband and I were both happy that the blizzard that was predicted for our area of central New Jersey was not a blizzard at all but a mere 6″ inches of fresh snow.

cardinal female in tree
So because of the storm I went outside with my camera and took some great shots – many of a beautiful female cardinal with regal brown and bits of red feathers.

female cardinal, head cocked
Here is the female cardinal, head cocked a bit.

cardinal female tail
Note the beautiful tail of the lady cardinal.

junco at feeder
And what is this lovely bird with a white bottom and long tail – a new visitor (for me). It is a male junco. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it is a visitor from Canada that comes to New Jersey in winter with a long tail, rounded head and short, stout bill.

Here’s the dark-eyed junco – note that round body!

junco on the floor
The junco was enjoying the ground – this is just below our bird feeder.

tufted titmouse in feeder
A tufted titmouse visited the bird feeder.

tufted titmouse in tree
The tufted titmouse also posed in our backyard tree.

garden during snow storm
Above is my garden during the mild snowstorm.

echinacea covered in snow
My dried echinacea plant is now topped with bits of snow.

Getting to the title: what is Shabbat Shira? Shabbat Shira is the Jewish Sabbath on which the song of Miriam is recited/chanted/leyned in the synagogue. So what does it have to do with the birds? There is a custom of feeding birds on Shabbat Shira. I wrote a bit about the discussion of feeding birds on Shabbat Shira on an older post (in short, birds ate the manna and birds like singing). For questions on whether it is better to feed birds on Shabbat itself or right before, one should consult your local rabbi. On this post I want to remark that I don’t really know many Jews who actually do this. But if you are Jewish and considering feeding the birds, please be careful to feed them bird seeds and not bread. Also, once you start the custom of feeding birds, it is nice to continue, isn’t it?

A few links for more on Shabbat Shira and birds:

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Clay Animation Film: Snow Day

Ever want a snow day? It might give you a chance to build a snowman. Only problem is you might get attached, and when the sun comes out, you might lose a friend. Find out what happens when the snow starts to melt, and spring flowers emerge.

This is a clay animation (clay-mation) film, a type of stop-motion animation. Does stop motion have a hyphen? According to Wikipedia, “both orthographical variants, with and without the hyphen, are correct, but the hyphenated one has, in addition, a second meaning, not related to animation or cinema: “a device for automatically stopping a machine or engine when something has gone wrong” (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993 edition).” The film is a creation of my middle son Gavriel Epstein.

Enjoy the film.

Highland Park Birds Visit

tufted titmouse
I’ve been having quite a few birds visiting my bird feeder this January. Above is a tufted titmouse. That’s probably the most unusual bird that’s visiting lately.

sparrow in flight
Last summer I bought a new camera (Canon EOS 70D). I was quite pleased to capture this sparrow in flight. I’ve even been shooting a few pictures in manual – for me, that’s bravery.

cardinal and sparrow in bird feeder
Here are a cardinal and sparrow together. Glad they can share the space nicely.

cardinal in tree
Then the cardinal flew to the tree.

cardinal on garage roof
Then he flew to the garage roof.

cardinal turns head
Is the cardinal looking at me?

mourning dove
I saw a mourning dove wander under a tree. Or did I see two? Michelle tells us that mourning doves mate for life. How romantic.

And here’s a chickadee, in my backyard tree! I took this shot in manual. It may be a bit too bright.

lady cardinal
To complete this post of Highland Park birds, here’s a lady cardinal.

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