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Perspective: Who's your 'spark bird?'

Boston Public Library

My spark bird has arrived. Maybe yours has too.

Although I have always had a spark bird, I never knew it by that term until recently, when I discovered the expression in a National Wildlife Magazine. According to the article, a spark bird is the one bird that inspires a lifelong passion for bird watching, and for many, a greater awareness and appreciation of the natural world in which birds live and thrive.

My spark bird is a robin which amazingly appeared to me on a frigid February day, bringing with it a flash of sunlit spring on its rosy breast.

Over a century ago, my grandmother, a self-taught ornithologist, started a bird diary that always noted the first robin of spring. Although scattered over four states, my siblings and I have continued that celebration, delightfully informing each other of our individual sightings of the robin’s return.

Besides the robin, however, I can count numerous other spark birds that have deepened my love of nature. The flash of a red cardinal in the woods, an energetic woodpecker taping on a tree, or a loon skimming across calm water as it sang its ancient melody are just a few of the spark birds that have touched my soul.

As the birds migrate north from their southern hiatus, now is the time to choose a spark bird, especially for a child. With the horrors of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continuing pandemic sorrows, there is no better time to remind our youth and each other that wonder and beauty still exist in this world, that sparks of joy, peace, and hope are still out there. If you look, you can even find it the flight of beating wings.

Marnie O. Mamminga has been a professional essayist and features writer for more than 20 years.