Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Our Favorite Bird

One of the questions I get asked most often by friends, school children and even newspaper reporters is one that may seem harmlessly simple at first but at times can be a very, very complicated and complex question to say the least. The question usually starts off innocently enough for sure but then is presented almost as an attempt to throw me off, even stump me or confuse me. 

“So Don, what is your favorite Bird?” they ask with a teasing big grin. That can be a question that ranks right up there with, “What is the meaning of life” or, “Why is it always that the line that I am standing on always moves the slowest?” As a very astute friend once pointed out to me, “Picking your favorite bird is like trying to pick your favorite child. It just can’t be done because there are so many wonderful things about each one of them.” Those are wise words for the ages to be sure.

But sometimes I am pressed for an answer, especially when there is a cute little boy or girl looking up at me holding their breath, just waiting and waiting for my answer which most people expect for some reason to be incredibly insightful and thought provoking. 

Now I have to admit at times I feel pressure to say what people think I should say. After all, the President of Bergen County Audubon Society must have at the very least the Bald Eagle as his favorite bird, or maybe a Peregrine Falcon, an Osprey or some regal looking bird that will make everyone nod their head in agreement. I apologize but favorite birds do not work that way.  

Credit Jim Macaluso

My favorite bird tends to surprise many people. It’s a common bird, to some maybe not the most beautiful of birds. At times passed over as folks look for the rare more exotic species. But as my close friends well know my favorite bird of all is the Red-winged Blackbird.  The reaction of many people when I finally come clean seems to be a bit of puzzlement. “Really?”  they ask like a deer in the headlights. Yes, really.

Growing up in the Meadowlands I have a special connection to the Red-wings. Since it is one of the first birds to return in Spring migration we kids could not wait to see the very first one of the year, for we knew then that spring could not be far way. As the years went by I would point out the Red-wings to my two boys as I drove them back and forth to school. We had fun trying to see who would see the first one singing from the top of the grasses. 

Now when leading nature walks in the Meadowlands I enjoy telling stories about those special very birds, what it was like growing up in the Meadowlands, and the passion and love that we all inherited having the privilege of being raised in such a very special place.  That is what favorite birds really are all about, ones that mean something very special and personal and touch our hearts and souls.

Favorite birds are the ones that bring back fond memories of friends and family. Favorite birds are not just simply something that is added to a page in a book, APP or computer and then left to itself and forgotten. They are birds that we will brag to our grandkids about, daydream about when we get too old to wander the trails of our lives. 

Favorite birds live in our hearts and play a significant part of our lives. They are our memories, ones we recall with delight and at times with much examination and considerable contemplation. 

Credit: Jim Macaluso

They recall special times in our lives not only about the birds themselves but also the people in our lives we enjoyed them with and the wild places we have all come to love.  Favorite birds are just that: Birds that have become part of our lives and stay in our hearts and become who we are and what we are truly about forever.

Please let me know what your favorite bird is and why it is special to you. You can email me at

6 thoughts on “Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Our Favorite Bird

  1. Darlene De Santis

    I love all of our feathered friends…whether I’ve seen a bird many times or a bird for the first time…they are all special and unique, but I too have my favorites. My intro to birds was by way of Canada Geese, so they’re one of my favorites. I’m deeply saddened how they are discounted and vilified by some. Watching a pair raise their 9 babies from fluffy chicks to young strong geese and then seeing them all take flight over the Hudson River is something I will never forget. Bald Eagles have a very special place in my heart, and I’m honored to have a nesting pair less then 10 minutes from me. Watching the eagles with me are my buddies the Double-crested Cormorants, just a fun bird to observe and another fav. And the American Robin, a classic bird and a beauty. Birds are truly amazing and I’m so thankful I’ve discovered “their world” and also made some great friends.

  2. sandra Gelman

    i loved your response to the question on favorite bird. It is similar to the question of favorite song. There are so so many but some songs mean more than others when they bring back memories of times gone by.
    Places, people ,events happy times and not so happy.
    Red Winged Blackbirds were the first ones I was able to identify by song when I first
    joined BCAS…and started going on guided walks.. Thanks Don.
    As far as my favorite…I have to say Tufted Titmouse…I love their big expressive eyes…They are so cute..they just make me smile..In fact if it’s been a long time between sightings I have been known to tear up at the sight of one..
    Cardinals are a close second , it’s been said that when a red cardinal visits your yard it is a loved one who has passed making contact somehow..a spiritual messenger .I think the females are just as beautiful…I love their coloring …soft subtle and sweet.

    1. Don

      Thanks Sandy ! watched a baby Titmouse being fed by his parents today at Teaneck Creek ..wonderful little bird for sure…thanks for reading !


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