Friday, April 01, 2011

Bird breath

This morning, for the third time ever, I witnessed condensation on a bird's breath. . . Oh my, talk about beautiful. The tuis have been especially precocious and companionable this year. . . and voluble clackity-clack clack. I found myself rustling back through my blog archives to see what date it was the last time I was lucky enough to see this and blow me down if it wasn't 1 April 2010. A year to the day; my delight in no way diluted!

Image of adult & juvenile Tui - Buller's A History of Birds of New Zealand, 1888

Here are the few lines I posted about 'bird breath' last year . . .

"I was topping up the birds' coconut chalice this morning when the tuis came down to the nearest low branch to watch what I was doing (they're incurably inquisitive) and to offer me twangy encouragements.
And then I saw it - a tiny, airborne estuary; a vapour drawing; the tuis' song momentarily visible in air. I could almost reach out and touch the clacks and trills, the rattling flourishes and chest-filling tributaries.

It was not unlike watching steam escape from a teapot's spout; birdsong on the boil, a micro-storm brewing in the fork of the old macrocarpa."


  1. A beautiful bird, I can't say I have ever seen that.

  2. I have never thought about bird breath condensation. Your description is lovely. Now I can't stop thinking about it.

  3. This makes me intensely happy.

  4. HI Steve - the tui is native to New Zealand. A characterful feathered friend, referred to as the 'Parson's Bird' because of the white tufts at its throat, reminiscent perhaps of a priest's 'dog collar'.

    You would love our quirky NZ birds - due to a lack of predators in the early days (not so any more, sadly) many of them are flightless and make their nests in burrows - not so, Mr. Tui!

  5. Dear Kass - condensing bird breath is relatively new to me, too. The first time I saw it, I was stunned and enraptured. Still am.

    I've been wondering how you are - lovely to find you here. Hope all is well, Kass. L, C

  6. Dear Rebecca, birds make me daily happy. I love, love, love them - every bit as much as the intelligent and beautiful creatures that inhabit our waters. . . we have so much to learn from them.

    Happy to think of you intensely happy ; )
    ) ) ) )) O (( ( ( (

  7. Claire, sheer happiness. I have loved and rescued and drawn them as far back as I can remember. Never thought birds lose moisture through breathing. Learned something new. Do reptiles?

    We have return pairs of birds, nesting already, some threatened and I go through incredible lengths not to disturb them. They reward me by coming back.

    Amazed by the evolutionary fearlessnes of your wildlife in the absence of predation.

    Before I post on yours, I'll stop here. :) Big smile.

  8. How utterly beautiful - most other people wouldn't have noticed or cared.....

  9. Dear Claire - you have transported me back in time and place with this post - back to those frosty autumnal days in the Dunedin of my childhood. Thank you for that!
    Last year I was briefly in Aotearoa New Zealand and delighted in the company of a chap I called my "Two-note-Tui." His tune changed and vocab expanded when joined by a mate. :-) Here's my blog post about him:
    I'm loving your blog. Thank you!
    ~ miriam louisa

  10. And it is further evidence of the waters, noticed by you, recorded and shared. A phenomenon I'd never even imagined.

    Word verification is tarkwoos, which sounds as though it would be a bird of some sort...or another species altogether, but a creature. xo

  11. Dear Antares C - ah, a fellow bird lover. Of course you have been drawing, rescuing and observing them for years! ; )
    The idea of birds losing/releasing moisture when they breath and sing had never occurred to me until I witnessed it by chance whilst feeding the bellbirds and tuis that morning. Now that Autumn's back, I find myself watching for the small airborne estuaries - each one, a small miracle.
    I wonder about reptiles. . . they're cold-blooded creatures (physiologically, only - not in heart!), so I imagine not, since in order for condensation to occur, a fairly dramatic change in temperature must needs be present? I haven't had a chance to Google this yet, but perhaps you have? I'm curious to know, of course. . .

    Our birds can teach us much re; 'evolutionary fearlessness', yes. Thanks for highlighting this metaphor.

    Big smile back!
    L, C

  12. Dear Jane - you would have seen it, too ; )

  13. Miriam Louisa - hello! And a warm welcome. . . I'm so happy you've come; have been over on your blog, exploring and nodding in pleasure and recognition. I have added your site to my 'Ports of Call' and look forward to further conversations. Thanks for your comment here - lovely to read of your soft-soft for tuis, too. They have a wonderful - and sometimes surprising - repertoire of songs ; )

  14. Dear Marylinn - I offer back to you the truth you put forward some months ago, and whose resonances continue to instruct and inspire me -

    'It is all one water.'

    For indeed it is. We are. From bird breath to hidden well to gathering clouds to pounding ocean.

    Tarkwoos. How wonderful - a new species. I wonder what he looks like - whether one day we might meet him on our travels. Perhaps he's a stellar creature? I wonder who would appear on the page if we were to have a go at drawing him?