It’s big news. Alert the media: the Black-headed Grosbeak is all but gone from these parts, moving south into Mexico where he is known as picogrueso tigrillo....translated into fat-lip. He does heft an oversized beak. I don’t really care what he is called or where he is now, I just want him back. He sings, when the mood is upon him, like Richard Lynch wishes he could sing. The female doesn’t sing much nor does she dress up in flashy feathers like the male. T’was ever thus.
This songster will not reappear again in Idyllwild until next spring, just in time for mating. Save for a couple of toothpicks which serve as legs, he appears to have no bones. There is just no substance. He might weigh 2 ounces after a big meal. His beady black eyes bulge dangerously when he is in a vocal mood. It is his voice that is astounding; especially when you consider that there are no apparent bones. Gotta’ be a micro-larnyx in there somewhere.
When I was a child, Lucille Willman sang from the choir loft with everything she had. And then some. Next to picogrueso, or Pico, as he is known on Cedar Street, Mrs. Willman offered but useless twittering. Pico sings like Joan Sutherland wishes she could sing. Trills, ascensions, operatic burbling roll from his tiny chest. He clings with all his strength to a twig, lest he blow himself away.
I love Pico. This dude has spirit. Who told him he could do this? A voice teacher in his bird-youth? From whence comes this tremendous power? I like the Rolling Stones and Richard Lynch too, but they are big folks and I do not marvel at their capacities. Someone as big as Mick Jagger, poured into those tiny pants, just has to sing to relieve the strain, for God’s sake.
Pico chortles quietly for a moment, then fires up and pours forth his personal song, and I just know that a spark of the Divine lurks somewhere beneath those feathers. Pico is totally in tune with the cycles of the universe, taking time off annually to rest and restore. And think about
I would like to hold Pico and kiss him, as I do my dog. But Pico has a dignity and strength about him that tells me to keep my distance.
What a valiant little critter. Something works in his pulsating black breast, something I can’t explain. Pico Mystery.