The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Evan Hein
A robin on Grinnell campus on March 6.

I’ve been obsessed with birds for about five years now. In high school, I learned a lot about them for Science Olympiad, which is one of those nerdy clubs where you take tests for fun. Learning about the huge variety of birds and the different ways they lived forced me to really appreciate them. Last year, I was in Professor Hai-Dang Phan’s Birds, Nature, Joy, & Belonging tutorial, which only deepened my obsession. As we found our places at Grinnell, my classmates and I also got to know and appreciate the birds living on and around campus. There are birds everywhere, and they have a whole spectrum of wonderful quirks and personalities that affect everyone else in the ecosystem, including us.

To lure others into my dark obsession, I have put together a very formal superlative-based classification system for some of the most famous birds of Grinnell College, as well as a few of my personal favorites. Birds are objectively the best, but the following species are the best of the best in Grinnell according to my completely legitimate and unbiased opinion.

Frankly, the only difference between a murder of crows and a crowd of drunk Grinnellians is that the crows are high on life instead of various psychoactive substances.

— Corinne Fox `26

Most School Spirit: Turkey Vulture

The turkey vultures are iconic. Not only are they literally always wearing scarlet and black, but something about the looming presence of a bunch of big, gangly vultures is an integral part of the Grinnell experience. Also, I like to think that they scare away any too-soft prospies who worry that the vultures will feast on their entrails.

Life of the Party: Crow

The crow posse gets a bad rap, which is weird in my opinion. Sure, they scream late into the night and leave a mess all over campus, but so do Grinnell students. Frankly, the only difference between a murder of crows and a crowd of drunk Grinnellians is that the crows are high on life instead of various psychoactive substances.

Cutest Couple: Northern Cardinal

I couldn’t care less about anyone’s love life except for cardinals’. These guys are the original lovebirds. Cardinals are adorable, they mate for life and sometimes they feed each other with their beaks. The feeding-each-other thing would be super gross if I saw humans doing it, but cardinals get a pass because I love them as much as they love each other.

A cardinal on Grinnell campus on March 6. (Evan Hein)

Best Laugh: Barred Owl

If you hear something that sounds like a really weird villain laugh late at night, it’s probably one of our resident barred owls. Something about their nefarious chuckle compels me to assist them in their evil schemes. We can all learn a lot from how much enjoyment these owls get out of life — they aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves, or at you, or at the completion of their wicked plans. 

Best Dressed: Northern Flicker

Many birds deserve to be on the cover of GOGUE, but the yellow-shafted northern flicker is possibly the spiffiest fellow on campus. With a charming sweater vest, a splash of color from the yellow accents under their wings and a magnificent handlebar mustache, these guys are always interview ready.

Most Likely to Take Over the World: European Starling

As the name suggests, European starlings are not native to Iowa. Once upon a time, some idiot brought a bunch of starlings across the Atlantic and released them in the United States, and the rest is history. Starlings are everywhere, Grinnell included — making strange little alien noises as they perch above the cooling tower, hunting for stray french fries outside of the Grill, and gathering in huge, ominous, swirling flocks called murmurations above the cornfields. I’m convinced that their ultimate goal is world domination, and honestly, I can respect the hustle.

I’m convinced that their ultimate goal is world domination, and honestly, I can respect the hustle.

— Corinne Fox `26

Best Parents: Mourning Dove

As members of the Columbidae family, mourning doves produce a funky substance in their crop gland that is chemically similar to mammalian milk. Emphasis on chemically similar — I wouldn’t put this stuff in your Oat Happy Shapes. This substance is affectionately called pigeon milk, and both sexes can produce it. While doves are complete amateurs at building nests, they get points for the gross yet progressive way that both Mom and Dad feed their babies.

Most Likely to Succeed: Bats

Bats are technically not birds, but I’m not a biology major, so I don’t care. These guys undoubtedly work the hardest to become accepted members of the student body. They’re up late every night, catching more bugs than any computer science major and terrorizing students. Sure, you weren’t expecting your double to turn into a forced triple with a new nocturnal roommate, but that bat is here to stay, and it will give you rabies out of spite if you try to kick it out.

I think that everyone should have at least one thing in nature that gets them really excited— birds, rocks, insects, clouds, plants, fungi, etc. Become a complete nerd about it, and have fun with it! As you learn more and more, you will connect to your local environment on a deeper level, with a completely different perspective. Getting a bird’s eye view of Grinnell has allowed me to appreciate Grinnell not just as a college or a town, but as an ecosystem.

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About the Contributor
Evan Hein, Staff Photographer
Evan is a second-year psychology major from Kansas City, Kansas. He once had to ask his friends to describe him in one word for a psych project. 33% of the twenty-five descriptive responses were the word “ginger,” followed by a small chortle.
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  • R

    Rex VehrsMar 11, 2024 at 7:44 pm

    Wonderful and delightful article that warmed my heart and massaged my soul. Keep on birding :-). Can an old “bird” like me audit the class? Thanks!


  • J

    JeanneMar 11, 2024 at 3:24 pm

    Thank you for the fun AND informative article. Birds are such smart enterprising creatures.

  • S

    Sally C.Mar 11, 2024 at 2:50 pm

    This is a hoot, totally accurate, and it just made my day.