“B” is for Bobwhite and Buteo: “B” Birds, Part 2

“B” is for Bobwhite and Buteo: “B” Birds, Part  2

James J. S. Johnson

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) ©StateSymbols

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) ©StateSymbols

BOBWHITE QUAIL (Colinus virginianus)

In this series the “B” birds began (in Part 1) with Bluebird and Bittern. 

In this Part 2 the “B” birds will continue with Bobwhite Quail and Buteo Hawks.

Now for Bobwhite, i.e., the Bobwhite Quail — and the relevance of 1st Samuel 26:20 will be noted below.

Bobwhite is the name of a bird belonging to the New World quail family.  Other members of that quail family include the Yucatan (Black-throated) Bobwhite, the Crested Bobwhite, and the Spot-bellied Bobwhite.

Northern Bobwhite

The Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus), a/k/a Northern Bobwhite and Virginia Quail, is a “New World quail”, meaning that it belongs to the group of pheasant/grouse/partridge/quail-like ground-fowl that habituate parts of North America.  In particular, the Northern Bobwhite is the only small native galliform (i.e., chicken-like ground-fowl) in the eastern region of North America.

The name “bobwhite” is supposed to represent this quail’s terse two-syllable whistle-call.  The Bobwhite’s call has a lower (and slower) first syllable, followed by a sharply projected (and quicker) “whhht”.  One variety of the Northern Bobwhite, known for habituating Virginia, was formerly called the “Virginia Partridge” (e.g., by ornithologist John James Audubon) – that local variety now being called Colinus virginianus virginianus (identified by Linnaeus in AD1758).

Virginia Partridge (under attack by diving hawk) depicted by John James Audubon (Public Domain)

Virginia Partridge (under attack by diving hawk) depicted by John James Audubon (Public Domain)

Bobwhite Quail, a/k/a Virginia Quail (and a/k/a Northern Bobwhite), are quail.  Accordingly, it is unsurprising to learn that they hybridize with other quail – reports indicate successful hybridizations with Blue Quail (Coturnix adansonii), Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii), California Quail (Callipepla californica), and Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus).

The ground-fowl lifestyle of this grouse-like ground-fowl is comparable to the Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca) of which Israel’s king David once wrote:

Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.  (1st Samuel 26:20).

(See “Rock Partridges: Lessons about Hunting and Hatching”, citing 1st Samuel 26:20).

Now for the last category of “B” birds, the Buteo hawks. 

So what are the most prominent characteristics of buteo hawks?  Describing the birds of prey we call Buteo Hawks (a/k/a “buzzard hawks”), Roger Tory Peterson says:  “Large, thick-set hawks, with broad wings and wide, rounded tails.  Buteos habitually soar high in wide circles”, taking advantage of thermal air currents to lift their heavy bodies. [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin, 3rd ed., 1990), page 174.]  The different sexes often look similar, yet the female buteo is typically larger than her male counterpart.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Buteo hawks, as a category or raptors, are routinely contrasted with the Accipiter hawks (a/k/a “bird hawks”) that were described in the previous article on A” birds (see “A” for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Birds, Part 2, featuring Cooper’s hawk as the representative accipiter).  Hawk-like raptor birds include kites, falcons (including kestrels), harriers, eagles, Old World buzzards, vultures, osprey, and the exotic Secretary Bird.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) ©WikiC

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) ©WikiC

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo, of Eurasia)

The paradigmatic buteo, in Europe, would be the Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo).  However, that hawk has non-artificial range in the Western Hemisphere, so the Common Buzzard is not “common” to American birders.  Besides the Common Buzzard, there are many buteo hawks around the world, such as the Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), Grey Hawk (Buteo plagiatus), Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), Eastern Buzzard (Buteo japonicas), Himalayan Buzzard (Buteo burmanicus), Cape Verde Buzzard (Buteo bannermani), Short-tailed Hawk (Buteo brachyurus), and many more. For this article, however, to represent the entire group of buteos, one buteo will be reviewed, the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) of North America.

RED-TAILED HAWK  (Buteo jamaicensis).

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ©WikiC

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ©WikiC

The Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is described by ornithologist Mary Taylor Gray as follows: “The most abundant, widespread, and familiar hawk of he West, the Red-tailed Hawk resides year-round in Colorado [and elsewhere].  Adult birds are readily identified by their rusty-red tail[s].  Dark bars along the undersides of the leading edge of the outstretched wings, near the shoulder, are also characteristic.  We often see redtails perched on power [utility] poles or soaring in the air on broad wings, carving slow, wide arcs.  The redtail’s dramatic call fits its image as a western icon.  The down-slurred scream—Keeeer!—is often heard as a background sound in movies and television shows.”  [Quoting Mary Taylor Gray, THE GUIDE TO COLORADO BIRDS (Englewood, Colorado: Westcliffe Publishers, 1998), page 66.]

Gray’s observation – that the Red-tailed Hawk is the common buteo of America’s Great West – is illustrated by my own birding experience, even 20 years ago! – having seen redtails during AD1996 in places as divergent as Montana (eastern side of Glacier National Park, July 2nd AD1996) and South Texas (Rockport-Fulton shoreline, Aransas Bay region, March 10th AD1996).

Bee-eaters From Pinterest

Bee-eaters From Pinterest

Of course, other “B” birds (such as the colorful and gregarious bee-eaters, shown above – photograph taken from Lee Dusing’s “Fellowship”,  exhibit our alphabet’s second letter – but this article is already long enough.  God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “C“ birds – such as Cardinal, Chicken, Coot, Cormorant, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow)!  So stay tuned!    > JJSJ


“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Birds, Part 2



“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

James J. S. Johnson

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) ©Elaine R Wilson WikiC

“B” is for Bluebird, Bittern, Bobwhite Quail, and Buteo hawks (which include Old World “buzzards”, a/k/a “buzzard hawks”) – plus Buffleheads, Babblers, Barbets, Becards, Bowerbirds, Bulbuls, Bullfinches, Berrypeckers, Brushturkeys, Birds-of-paradise, Bushshrikes, Bustards, Bushtits, Broadbills, Boobies, Bee-eaters, Buttonquail, Buntings (including Painted Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Snow Bunting, Lark Bunting, Lazuli Bunting, etc.), and various Blackbirds (including Bobolink and Brewer’s Blackbird, all of which blackbirds this series will treat as “icterids”), and a few other birds.

This blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, starting with a quick introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “B”   –    followed by a few observations of alphabetic patterns in Scripture (exhibited by Psalm 119:9-16)   –   then followed by specific information on Bluebirds, Bitterns, Bobwhite Quail, and Buteo hawks.  In particular, this article will feature the Mountain Bluebird (Sialis currucoides) as a representative bluebird; the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) as a representative bittern; the Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus); and the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as a representative buteo hawk.

In this Part 1, of the “B” birds, the Bluebird and Bittern are reviewed.  (Part 2, God willing, will continue with Bobwhite and Buteo.)


As noted in the earlier article on “A birds” – titled “A” is for Avocet, Albatross, Accipiter, and Alcid” [posted at leesbird.com ,  Deo volente] – using the alphabet, to organize a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent.  The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to English, which has 26 alphabet letters, and Norwegian, which has 29 alphabet letters.)

The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew  letter, so Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 start with BETH, Verse 17-24 start with GIMEL, and so forth.  Here are the second 8 verses in Psalm 119, each sentence of which starts with BETH  [a consonant like our “B”, whenever it does to immediately follow a vowel sound, otherwise its consonantal sound is like our “V”, where it is sometimes transliterated as “bh”].

So, because BETH is the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:9-16) literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

With-what [bammeh] shall a young man cleanse his way? — by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.

10 In-all [becâl] my heart have I sought thee; O, let me not wander from Thy commandments.

11 In-my-heart [belibbî] Thy Word have I hid, that I might not sin against thee.

12 Blessed [berûk] art Thou, O Lord; teach me Thy statutes.

13 In-my-lips [bisephâtêi] have I declared all the judgments of Thy mouth.

14 In-the-way [bederek] of Thy testimonies I have rejoiced, as much as in all riches.

15 In-Thy-precepts [bephiqqūdekâ] I will meditate, and have respect unto thy ways.

16 In-Thy-statutes [bechūqqōtkâ] I will delight myself; I will not forget Thy Word.


Bible Open to Psalm 119 ©Flickr Jason2917

Bible Open to Psalm 119 ©Flickr Jason2917

As noted before, Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama).  The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures.  Accordingly, Psalm 119 is dominated by references to the Scriptures, using terms like “the law of the LORD” (and “Thy Word”, “Thy commandments”, “Thy testimonies”, “Thy statutes”, “Thy judgments”, etc.).  In Psalm 119:9-16 these terms are used, to denote God’s revealed truth to mankind: “Thy Word” (3x), “Thy commandments”, “Thy statutes”, ”Thy precepts”, Thy “judgments”, and “Thy testimonies”.

The Hebrew letter BETH means “house” (primarily as a building, such as a physical home, yet secondarily as a household, i.e., that family who lives within a house).  Accordingly, we see in Psalm 119:9-16 that God’s Word is the protective framework within which we should live our lives.  In particular, it is within God’s Word where we clean ourselves (verse 9); it is God’s Word wherefrom we should not wander (verse 10); it is in God’s Word, better than any physical shelter, wherein we take refuge from sin (verse 11); it is in God’s laws that we need to live and learn in (verse 12); because our lips are like the “gates” of our lives, it is God’s judgments that outline the gatekeeping boundaries for “where” we live our lives (verse 13); it is God’s testimonies, of which the Scripture is the great treasure-room, that we should rejoice in (verse 14); and better, than any mansion’s relaxing reading-room is God’s Word, with its laws as a restorative “room” for delightfully meditating “in” (verses 15 & 16).

Thus we see the theme, woven throughout the octet of BETH verses (Psalm 119:9-16), that we are designed to live in God’s truth (which we know best form God’s written Word), as if it was a “house”.  In other words, God’s truth should dwell in us (Psalm 119:11), just as we should dwell in God’s truth (John 4:21-24 & 14:17; 2nd John 1:2).  This complements the prior octet – the ALEPH verses (Psalm 119:1-8), which emphasized that God’s truth is mighty (Hebrews 4:12) as a powerful “ox”.

Ultimately, of course, God’s Word draws us (through the Lord Jesus Christ – see John 14:2-6) unto God Himself, Who should be our everlasting Home – see “Why We Want to Go Home”, as we learn from Psalm 90:1 and 2nd Corinthians 5:1-6.

Open Bible with Pen for Studying ©WikiC

Now back to the “B” birds, beginning with bluebirds.

In a previous article, late last year, the Bluebird was featured, after it was observed during a trip to attend a Christmas lutefisk banquet   —   see “Bluebirds of Happiness, Plus Enjoying a Lutefisk Banquet”.

Since attention has, thus, already been given to the Eastern Bluebird (with brief mention of how to distinguish it from the similar-yet-not-identical-looking Western Bluebird), this review will feature the Mountain Bluebird, a bluebird often seen in the forests and fields of Colorado, as well as in other parts of America’s Rocky Mountains.

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) by Daves BirdingPix

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) by Daves BirdingPix

The male of the Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucides), unlike the Eastern Bluebird and the Western Bluebird, has feathers of bright blue (peacock-to-turquoise blue) above and light-blue-fading-to-white beneath.  The female has less conspicuous coloring; her plumage is a blend of blue and Confederate grey (sometimes with brownish-grey blended in), atop, with a whitish underside. This bluebird ranges almost entirely in and west of the Rocky Mountains. [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin, 3rd ed., 1990), pages 278-279 & Map 303.  See also Tom J. Ulrich, BIRDS OF THE NORTHERN ROCKIES (Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing, 1994), pages 122-123; Mary Taylor Gray, WATCHABLE BIRDS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS (Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing, 1992), page 138-139.]

Mountain Bluebird, male (R) & female (L) ©Mickey Barnes / from Birds & Blooms

Mountain Bluebird, male (R) & female (L) ©Mickey Barnes / from Birds & Blooms

Says ornithologist Mary Taylor Gray, “As soon as the young [Mountain Bluebirds] are able to leave the nest, [they] flock together and head for the high mountains, fluttering in waves of blue up mountain slopes and onto the alpine tundra.  Mountain bluebirds differ from other bluebirds by their preference for more open habitat.  Mountain blue birds nest in holes in trees or other structures, using either natural cavities or nests excavated by woodpeckers.  Removal of dead timber in forests and replacement of wood fence posts with metal has reduced the nesting sites for [these] bluebirds, who must compete with other bird species—sparrows, flickers, starlings—for nest cavities. …  Primarily an insect-eater, the mountain bluebird may launch suddenly from its perch to pluck a flying insect from the air, or hunt by watching for prey on the ground as it flies, hovering when it spots something, then dropping down to grab a meal.”  [Quoting Gray, WATCHABLE BIRDS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS, page 138.]

Now for another “B bird:  Bitterns, a group of mostly piscivorous (fish-eating) heron-like wading birds of wetland habitats.

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris, a/k/a Great Bittern) ©WikiC

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris, a/k/a Great Bittern) ©WikiC

For general information on bitterns, see ornithologist Lee Dusing’s insightful birdwatching articles:  “Bird of the Bible – Bittern” —  and “Birds of the Bible – Bitterns II”.  Regarding the American Bittern in particular, see Lee’s “Birds of the Bible – American Bittern”, including close-up photographs of the American Bittern, taken by Lee at the Circle B Bar Ranch Reserve (n/k/a Circle B Bar Reserve), an amazing venue for birdwatching in Lakeland, Florida.  To learn about this birding resource, see Southwest Florida Water Management  District’s website.

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) by Jim Fenton

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) by Jim Fenton / from Leesbird.com

There are several bitterns – such as the Least Bittern shown above, as well as the Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), Black-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius), Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus), and others.  In this article, however, this “family” of wetland waders will be represented by the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus).

In addition to what Lee Dusing has already reported (see links shown above) the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) has been the subject of many (other) ornithological studies.

The American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is widely spread, range-wise, across North America.  As a Terry Sohl range map (not shown) indicates, the American Bittern is a migratory bird, so its range differs depending upon the season of the year.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his range maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

So watch carefully, in wetland habitats, for bitterns – but you are more likely to hear one!

Meanwhile, in Part 2 of (of the “B” birds), God willing, the Bobwhite and Buteo hawks will be reviewed.  Thereafter, D.v., this alphabetic series will continue with some “C“ birds – such as Cardinal, Chicken, Coot, Cormorant, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow)!  So stay tuned!



“A” is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2