May Hedge a gram

Happy May!

     It's springlike here in New England.  As I sit at my art table I can look outside to see the first of the migrating birds.  When my husband, Joe and I were in Costa Rica last February we saw some of the birds that come to the United States to have families during spring and summer.  It is the most amazing thing.  There are three birds I am making into characters for the book I'm working on for the fall of 2004, The Umbrella.
     First is the Toucan, a large bird with an oversized, colorful beak.  The Toucan does not migrate to the US.  I had never seen one before going on our trip.  Another bird that plays a major role in my book is a Hummingbird.  There are lots of Hummingbirds in Costa Rica, but I chose the Violet Sabrewing because while walking in the cloud forest, a brilliantly colored male Violet  Sabrewing landed very close to us.  He made a lot of noise and we got to see him close up.  His beak is curved, probably to enable him to drink nectar from flowers.  He was a bold fellow in the cloud forest and he keeps his fearless character in my book.
     The third bird is the Resplendent Quetzal.  This bird is one of the most beautiful birds in the world.   It's pretty big, and is colored emerald green.  The male has a fluffy green crest on its head, and a bright bill.   His tummy is bright red and underneath his tail he has white feathers.  All these colored feathers are arranged in the most beautiful way.  What really sets this bird apart is his long tail plumes.  The plumes are green also and are iridescent which means when sun light hits the plumes they turn turquoise and gold and look shimmery.   The word Quetzal is from an Aztec word meaning "precious".  When the Aztec Empire was at its peak in the 1500's, the feathers were worn by Aztec royalty.  The birds were never killed for their plumes.  The Aztec took the plumes, but then they released the bird, and it would grow new ones.
     The Quetzal is not very shy, and if you go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, there is a good chance you might see one.  I didn't, but that gives me another excuse to go back.   I read that the Quetzal always jumps off a branch backwards, so when it drops down to fly away, its beautiful plumes don't get broken.
     I'm so excited for you to see this beautiful bird, I've drawn a coloring page of it for you on my website.   It's in the Coloring Pages section of my Home Page.
     I have a lot of bird excitement at my house.   First, my Silkie chickens hatched five new babies.  One chick is black, its name is Lilac, three are brown (also called partridge), their names are U-2, Hazel, and Dandi.  One chick is whitish, her name is Angel.  A week later, five more eggs hatched.  They are from a breed of chicken called Mottled Javas.  They are all named after roses.  Sweet Brier, Rambling Rose, Red Rose, Van Fleet, and Primrose.
     Since birds are so interesting and varied, maybe you would like to invent one of your own.  The Toucan, Violet Sabrewing, and the Quetzal are very different from each other.   I bet with your imagination, you can think up a totally new kind of bird.  I hope that you have fun trying.

      Bye for now.
                                  Your friend,

                                    Jan Brett