For the Birds Radio Program: Birds of Baseball Revised.

Original Air Date: Sept. 23, 1987

Baseball season has left Laura thinking again about those birds of baseball.

Audio missing


(Recording of a Northern Oriole)

You won’t hear Northern Orioles singing anymore this year–males sing to attract mates and defend their territories, and once those purposes are served by mid-summer they stop singing until the following spring. But this time of year you can still hear Baltimore Orioles singing their whistled tune:

(Recording–Take Me Out to the Ball Game)

Last spring I did a program about the birds of baseball, and now that the season’s end is in sight, I’ve had a few requests to repeat it. When the Twins’ win-loss record straddles the line between glorious triumph and heart-breaking defeat, people who can’t stand the tension may wish to escape by thinking about birds. Even if the only birds you can conjure up in your imagination are Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, and St. Louis Cardinals, these are noteworthy in their own right, because every specimen ornithologists have ever located has been male. Not only have no females been documented, but all the displays, rituals, and vocalizations found in these birds are directed at other males. How these birds reproduce is one of the great mysteries of ornithology.

These varieties of birds cannot really be considered species, since they include individuals of different groups– the swan-like Ty Cobb, Billy Martin, Pee Wee Reese, Goose Goslin, Ducky Medwick, Robin Roberts, and Red Ruffing. At least four have robins for parents–Brooks, Frank, Wilbert, and Jackie Robinson. Then there’s Willie Lee McCovey, named for a whole flock of partridge, and the man with the duck-like gait, George Waddell.

Like many gulls and shorebirds, the habitat of these baseball birds is short-grass fields, which attract large numbers of bats, too, although bats are actually mammals, not birds. There are many fowl balls seen, and sometimes a batter tries bunting. Flycatchers are very popular, unlike fielders who duck. Often runners try to teal a base. If it’s a close call, bleacher bums can often be heard grousing or sniping or even shouting “Killdeer ump!” Those boobirds are probably all stork raven mad.

Baseball has traditionally been a birder’s sport, played in the afternoon when other bird activity is lowest. Now the owners of the only team holding out against night games, the Chicago Cubs, are accused of being a bunch of loons and old coots for maintaining this outdated tradition, though they’re probably just doing it for a lark.

Now if you can swallow all this pheasant banter, you’re probably veery gullible. So all you baseball plovers out there, just remember–it’s one, two, three shrikes you’re out at the old ball game.

(Recording) This is Laura Erickson and this programhas been For the Birds.