Well, actually, it was a bird.
There was no question of its avian identification. I mean, come on now, a bird is a bird and hardly looks like anything else.
Ostrich. Hummingbird. Still birds.
That much was easy.
Ah, but . . . a bird indeed of a different color. And right in my backyard, posing quite nicely beneath the largest feeder. Content to munch away and, near as I could tell, feeling quite at home among all the normally-colored birds around it.
It didn't think it was any different.
Stunning, whatever it may be, the bird's back, tail feathers and as much of the chest as I could see in the fairly high grass were of a very light gray. I wouldn't consider it albino white but certainly light indeed, segueing into a head of light, almost striped, tan.
Bird of a feather indeed. But what unusual feathers.
Fortunately I was able to get three sharp photographs so I can write now and know the description is probably even more accurate that what I might have provided at the time.
Other advantage of having the bird in hand (so to speak) was I could ask for other opinions.
"Cowbird" was the unanimous reply. OK. I even agreed. Size looked right and the proper brown head above its black body made the color arrangement at least sensible.
Yet something continued to nag.
In two of my pictures the bird's space is shared with a grackle. No doubt about that one. And the grackle is noticeably larger.
Grackle - 10 to 12 inches, cowbird 6 . I'll go with that.
Still, I hesitated.
All right, I confess. I am one heck of a stubborn son-of-a-gun. Everybody - including a local birding expert, says "cowbird" and I'm going OK ... but ... well, maybe.
I look again. And again.
My visitor has a longer and pointier beak than a cowbird. Not a mega-Cyrano difference but it doesn't fit the pictures I have. And, while a male cowbird definitely has a brown hood, his reaches down to his shoulders. "Whitey" has his end mid-crown, actually in a very definite line.
Also, although the bird is definitely smaller than the grackle behind it - both conveniently lined up side-to-side - it isn't as small as one might expect a cowbird to be.
Not exactly. Maybe.
Still feeling naggingly unsure, I pull out my other books. I use them less often for a number of reasons: Audubon (two), Stokes, even Peterson. For a moment I jump at the catbird, then realize I'm getting further afield.
While none of the habits of any of these birds could be called 100% reliable, it is true that I see the cowbird most often at - that is ON - one of the feeders while grackles and the red-winged blackbird tend, probably because of their larger size, to congregate on the ground beneath. And that's where this bird remained.
Could it possibly be a red-wing?
The beak might fit and the shape isn't too far off.
Ultimately, I cast my vote that way.
I've checked again and, while cowbirds have been sighted here in June (my stranger was seen at the very start of this month), their more common visiting hours take place earlier in spring. In this particular year, I saw none after mid-May. Redwings of course remain as common as the grackles from March well into September.
All right then. It's a modified red-winged-blackbird.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org