Blue jays and cardinals are back, flashes of color amid the freshly clad trees. Preston Hollow yards are revitalized. Grackles, never quiet. They raise their voices and make space on branches as the new arrivals, swooping from tree to feeder to fence, seek a spot to nest. Spanish oaks in Pagewood Park, still mourning all that the storm took, are consoled by a dozen small trees ready to replace whatever fell. 

The doves have returned, soothingly cooing along the wires. A team of mergansers race raucously from a stretch of pond a few blocks north, heading for goodness knows where. A pair of mockingbirds are courting on our fence, ignoring the squirrels trespassing at their feeder. They take three steps toward, two steps back, over and again until they make a final decision and fly off together. How we treasure our share of urban nature.  

In the familiar optimism of a North Texas spring, we’d be bewildered to hear the exotic call of a twa-twa or rowti or picolet. Colorful, but not outrageously so, they are at home in Suriname, a small republic with a marked Dutch colonial imprint, in northeastern South America. In the capital, Paramaribo, and in city parks around the country, the birds “strut their stuff” for local communities. Friends and family gather at weekend contests where owners bring the birds in cages to perform a 10- to 15-minute concert. Competition is stiff. Which bird sings best or loudest? Which will the crowds applaud? Maybe our grackles should take the stage? On weekends, our parks field competition around kids whamming a softball, cold sodas, then barbecues as the sun bows out.

I listen online to these birds in Suriname competing in foreign voices. Then I decide our birds and our kids in Dallas, with their daily commotion, friendships and rivalries, are every bit as captivating.


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