The Cuteness Scale: A Poll

The Cuteness Scale: Bird Edition

Mostly just for fun, and because I wanted an excuse to go through all my cool bird pictures, I made this poll. Please take it, and rank the following 15 birds on their level of cuteness. This is a highly-scientific research study, in case you were wondering. I even have funding from the NSF– the National Smith Foundation, which provides itinerant Smith children with food and shelter while they are in-between field jobs. The only requirement is that you are a biological child of Mike and Vicki Smith, so luckily I don’t have much competition for funding.

This is just the first edition of this poll, I feel like improvements can, and probably shall, be made. I think it would be really fun to do a cute baby bird one next, but I’ll have to go on a picture-gathering mission first. Or just do a few more field jobs.

For more information on the birds included in this poll, check out these links: 

Black-capped Chickadee

Yellow Warbler

Red-eyed Vireo

Black Vulture

Brown Creeper


Blue-footed Booby

Florida Scrub-Jay

Cooper’s Hawk

Waved Albatross

Mourning Dove

Wilson’s Snipe

Red-naped Sapsucker

Common Raven

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Thanks for taking my poll!

Hope you had fun! I know I did.

Corrugated Hummingbirds

I’m almost wary to draw my hand away, as if, without me to hold it, the heft of the skies, heavy with stars and longings, would fall.


Written during my trip to Belize, July 2010. All pictures are from that trip. 

There is something about water, the sound of water, that is relaxing, almost numbing, but refreshing as well. The cleansing sound of water, reaching those places inside that even the sun cannot see.

I’m sitting on a raised deck on a tiny island off the coast of Belize, in the wind, in the dark. The surf and the wind in the palms behind me blend together into a wild, reckless sound that fills my soul with a deep longing, a restlessness of the spirit. I have a moment of profound loneliness, a deep ache echoed in the night sky.

The deck shakes a little, and the railing over the water is loose and shifting in the wind, causing vibrations that feel like footsteps, the footsteps of someone who isn’t coming. I can see out in the dark to the reef, to a light way out over the water, perhaps another caye. Behind me are palms dancing, and a bit of corrugated iron roofing that somehow manages to hold on to the deck bangs strenuously. The nails must be strong, tenacious, to defeat the continuous, mildly violent, wind.

Belize cayes

I could close my eyes and be a thousand miles from here, on the Florida panhandle, about to bed down for the night behind an abandoned motel, listening to the wind. That wind was more primeval and had more force, violence, to it. I could feel myself almost being blown away, swept off across the Gulf, like a ruby-throated hummingbird. This wind is not as strong, but there is still a restless aggression to it. I feel that it would sweep me back to the mainland if it could. The frigate birds and the pelicans glide it, soaring, holding their places in the sky. I wonder what effort it takes, to ride head-on into the wind, to glide smoothly side-to-side without flapping a wing.

Behind me also are lights of the other cabanas, the faint reminder of the rest of the human population. Looking up, I can see millions of stars in the night sky, fainter counterparts to these electric specks. I hold my hand up, fingers wide, to give infinity perspective. Here I sit, a speck of nothing, and yet galaxies span my palm. I hold nothing in my hand, and yet every molecule of air, every tiny pinprick of light, the essence of life, carries a weight, at times heavy enough that I can feel the pressure on my skin. I’m almost wary to draw my hand away, as if, without me to hold it, the heft of the skies, heavy with stars and longings, would fall.

When I looked up a while ago, throwing a thought to the stars and the wind, a shooting star streaked a short distance, beginning where my eyes first landed in the night sky. My thought given form, accepted into nature, my desire to ride the wind like the frigate birds now shooting across the heavens, between the gaps of my fingers, out into the everything-ness of the world.

Frigatebird in Belize

Sunset and frigate bird. Belize, 2010.

The Flight of the Albatross

Written in 2009, about my trip to the Galapagos Islands in 2008.

Waved Albatross Galapagos Islands

Waved albatross, Galapagos Islands, 2008

There is a place where the wind blows and lifts. Cliffs on the ocean, looking down on the rocks and marine iguanas, sunning, swimming. The rocks look sharp, young, fresh. Untouchable, distant. Albatrosses walk up, a side-to-side gait, comical with their serious eyes. They reach the edge, spread broad, long wings, longer than they looked, so light, just feather and hollow bone, but strong, so strong for flight. They fall up. The wings are a parachute, the wind a friend, the air comforts, supports, pushes and pulls, holds. The giant bird floats along, moves past the rocks, the shrubby grasses, past life, from the center of vision to the periphery, a distinct form to a small dark dot, moving, moving, gone.

To follow—the urge is there. Spread arms and legs, spread dreams, spread soul, and let go. To move away from everything known, into the unknown. To trust, to fly. Is it the flier moving and the word standing still? Or the world moving past in an eye-watering blur and the flier, the bird, held in place, held frozen for a time, measurement suspended? But which way is the fall—up or down? Towards the stars or the rocks—similar, similar; just a difference of distance and iguanas. There is the other choice; to stay. The least attractive, the least risky, perhaps, for the moment.

How long does the moment last until the next? A picture does no justice, cannot capture the vitality of the actuality, the breath of the moment. There is only an idea left, a memory of a feeling, a sense of the wonder and the wild, of the perfectly regulated space of time when albatrosses fly.

Galapagos Islands albatross

Waved albatross, Galapagos Islands, 2008