Hedgie Birds

Feb 22 2018

Joy Raskin

                                                A Tale of N.H.’s Spiky Birds

             Long ago in the dim mists of history, there were a rather unique avian species that acquired a rather droll nickname – the hedgie bird.   Its rather small population was confined to New Hampshire, U.S., although there were some fossilized remains found in Vermont and Maine.    It was a very curious looking bird that was best described as a cross between a European hedgehog and a long-legged bird.  Its name was ericius avem novus subt, or New Hampshire Porcurpine Bird.    However, it quickly got renamed as Hedgie Bird.

             With long legs, sometimes with spikes protruding from its knee joints, it has a body that was rather humpback in shape, a long triangular beak on a small head with five to nine spiky feathers framing the beak, and a short, fan-shaped tail that has multiple layers of spiky feathers.    However, its one unusual body quirk was a round glassy ball in the middle of their tail feathers.   Scientists are at a loss to explain what it is, but perhaps it is used in mating dances is the common consensus.   The back is often covered in spiky feathers, and sometimes a chin wattle is seen on senior males.    The feathers are hard, covered in spines, very much like a hedgehog or porcupine quill, but not as sharp.   For all of its rather odd appearance, it is quite drab in appearance, in shades of dark browns, grays, blacks; sometimes dark reds and blues are seen on older birds.  

 Fledglings are all gray/black, but as they mature, they starting showing multiple colors.  A curious fact is that fledglings are born wingless and gradually develop wings within 3 months.  They jump to get around and they are surprisingly agile jumpers and fast runners.    Their oversized 3 toe feet gives them a gawky look but allows them to run and jump, even climb!

             They are fast runners and excellent jumpers, but not great flyers owing to their spiny feathers  They have been known to jump as much as 25 feet in the air, finding refugee in trees, and shrubs.   They love to roost in tall trees, the higher the better, for they love to jump from branch to branch, tree to tree.    Hedgie birds were found to be in the more mountainous parts of N.H., often by lakes and deep, vast forests such as the Great North Woods.   Sightings are rare; it is estimated that there are only a few dozen remaining hedgie birds these days.

             Early fossils show that the Hedgie birds love to eat insects, especially the annoying ones, whatever bugs and grubs they find, and could be found feasting on flowers – they seem to love flowers.  Peonies, roses, thistle, whatever they found, and they would snuggle down into the flowers and munch away, often scattering petals all over them.   It seems like they wanted to blend into the flowers and become flowers themselves.   For such an odd and homely bird, they wanted to be beautiful, but alas, Mother Nature had other ideas for them.   It is considered good luck if you see this rare bird.


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