For 13 years now, friends and family have been gathering in an undisclosed corner of Potter County, Pennsylvania during the third weekend of July to create a glorious giant chicken of wood, straw, and gunpowder only to burn it. See why we keep the location undisclosed? The Chicken Inferno is always one of the highlights of my year, but bird watching rarely takes center stage at the event. This year, though, the birding was better than usual.

Over the years, I’ve chronicled an apparent decline in the numbers of the birds hanging around the kill-zone. Perhaps over a decade of low-grade pyrotechnics saturating the environment has tainted the area or maybe the birds just don’t dig the concept. In any case, common species like Cedar Waxwings, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Mourning Doves, American Robins, and American Goldfinch still make the scene. Turkey Vultures, American Crows, and Red-tailed Hawks continue to patrol the skies. Eastern Bluebirds and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds drop by periodically and Red-winged Blackbirds maintain their angry vigil in defense of their pond. None of these species may be as numerous as in years past, but their continued presence adds to the vibrancy and beauty of the tableau.

What I’m really excited about, however, are the new birds I’ve added to the list for my father-in-law’s extended yard. I don’t usually get away for real, which is to say focused, bird watching during this wild weekend. That must explain why I’ve missed crackers like Scarlet Tanager and Indigo Bunting at this elevation in years past! I was also genuinely thrilled to find Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, and plenty of juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. The Eastern Towhees were also a lot more vocal and visible than usual.

How about the big bird, the gigantic galliform around which our weekend revolves? This year, we went with a Picasso chicken. In tribute to the master, our chicken was constructed in multiple planes. Check it out from one angle…

Look from the other side…

Now observe it from the perspective where all the separate parts come together to produce the abstract whole…

Once we rendered this masterpiece in wood, we stuffed it with flammables and wired it with fireworks. The passion and intensity with which it burned would have done old Pablo proud!


Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.