In her paean to birding, Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds, Lyanda Lynn Haupt writes:
There is a game birders play on New Year’s Day called “Bird of the Year.” The very first bird you see on the first day of the new year is your theme bird for the next 365 days. It might seem a curious custom, but people who watch birds regularly are always contriving ways to keep themselves interested. This is one of those ways. You are given the possibility of creating something extraordinary — a Year of the Osprey, Year of the Pileated Woodpecker, Year of the Trumpeter Swan. This game is an inspiration to place yourself in natural circumstances that will yield a heavenly bird, blessing your year, your perspective, your imagination, your spirit. New year, new bird.
After her breathless anticipation, Haupt is confronted with… an European Starling, or “sky-rat.” The Year of the European Starling. Inauspicious, yes, but not without its charms, according to Haupt.
Last year, I lifted the window-hanging while still curled in bed and saw a female Northern Cardinal at one of the feeders. This year, I awoke to the sound of house sparrows in the bushes beneath my bedroom window. The window-hanging was slightly raised, so, to avoid seeing them, I squeezed my eyes shut, rolled to the other side of the bed, and went back to sleep. I admit: Yes, I’d like a crow or a blue jay. Is that too much to ask? Later, when I finally walked out into the living room, three cardinals, a house finch, and several dark-eyed juncos were at the feeding station, but what did I see first?