American Birding Podcast
Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
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Rockjumper Tours

American Birding Podcast: Birding the Rock

Located in the northeast corner of the ABA Area, the island of Newfoundland is known for its incredible rarity pedigree. But there’s far more to this beautiful place than European vagrants. The city of St. John’s is a gateway to unbelievable nature experiences, from seabird colonies containing thousands upon thousands of charismatic Atlantic Puffins and Northern Gannets, to the sight of dozens of whales feeding near shore, to caribou and ptarmigan on the southernmost tundra on the continent. Last month, I had the good fortune to explore it all with Birding editor Ted Floyd, Birds of North America host Jason Ward, and The Birdist Nick Lund.

Led by the inimitable Jared Clarke of Bird the Rock tours, we covered the birding hotspots of the Avalon Peninsula, including Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Cape St. Mary’s, and Cape Race among others, finding amazing birds and generally having an amazing time. Come along with us on this week’s episode.

Also, updates on the proposed south Texas border wall and a way for you to make your voice heard.

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Skylarking Cassin’s Sparrows in Southeast Arizona

Monsoon season in southeast Arizona is always a fantastic time to go birding. Migrants move into the area to molt and replenish their stores while fledgling resident birds are flitting around – lots of activity. But even as the summer turns into fall, some of our local breeders give it another run while insect productivity is high. Out in the grasslands of Sulphur Springs Valley, the Cassin’s Sparrows are singing away, establishing territories for this round of breeding.

Walking around, enjoying the sound of the sparrows singing away, I count at least 10 individuals within a quarter mile radius. Most of these are skylarking, singing their song as they take off from a bare mesquite branch, spreading their wings and tails as they fly up and out, maybe 20 or 30 feet above the ground, then flutter their way to the next, nearby mesquite branch to sit, sing a bit more, then start over again. I notice the yellow near the carpals along the front edge of the wing and wonder what stands out to other birds with these skylarking individuals.

Wandering around I encounter a male singing, but not spending much time skylarking. Distracted by a molting Western Kingbird, I watch the kingbird scan in every direction as he watches the sky for insects, and presumably, predators as well. After a few minutes, I realize in the mesquite behind the kingbird, a pale Cassin’s Sparrow is giving its high pitched “psit,” and then I hear two!

As I watch, a second, slightly darker Cassin’s Sparrow moves next to the paler sparrow and they proceed to work their way through the branches, moving down into the mesquite. Watching more, I see the (presumed) male hop off away from the mesquite, calling back to its mate. They join again, and hop away into the grass, talking, talking.

Based on what I think are the territorial boundaries from observing a few days of singing, I feel sure this is the male that was not skylarking as much, and it seems it is because he is entertaining a mate! The Cassin’s Sparrows nest on or near the ground in grass or small shrubs using grass blades, weed stems, and other vegetative fibers to construct the nest, so the location for the communication and behavior of the pair seems very appropriate for nest site evaluation. What fun to see!

After the pair delved deeper into the grass, I moved away, not wishing to disturb them or disrupt the territory. There will be more opportunities to monitor their behavior and see what happens. Maybe I will be lucky and watch this family come to life!

To learn more about sparrows, their behaviors, and how to identify them, join Homer Hansen during the ABA’s Winter Sparrows of the Southwest IFO.  Many members have enjoyed this educational four day workshop observing 20 or more sparrow species.  The IFO will be held in southeast Arizona January 23-28, 2020.  For more information and registration details visit ABA Travel

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Blog Birding #412

Birders know about the importance of National Wildlife Refuges to protect important habitat and provide important opportunities for birders to enjoy their hobby, but as Jason Crotty of 10,000 Birds points out, they’re also important drivers of local jobs.

Non-consumptive uses — such as birding — accounted for the overwhelming majority of economic benefits. About [read more…]

Rare Bird Alert: August 16, 2019

Though summer is coming to a close we still have a few continuing rarities that have been our constant companions all season long, including the Slate-throated Redstart (ABA Code 4) in Texas, and the somewhat regular Nazca Booby (5) and Red-footed Booby (4) in California. Likewise, the Maine Little Egret (4) and the Arizona Common [read more…]

We’re so close! Help us reach our Nesting Season Appeal Goal!

We’re heading into overtime for our $50,000 goal and we’re nearly there. Please help us by donating today!

Thank you for your continued support!

The History of Bird Names, Across the Pond and Beyond

A review by Frank Izaguirre

Mrs. Moreau’s Warbler: How Birds Got Their Names, by Stephen Moss

Faber & Faber, 2018

368 pages—softcover

ABA Sales / Buteo Books 14980

Birders love talking about bird names. Who among us hasn’t scrolled through the new AOS proposals just to see what the most absurd name change proposal was, [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 14, Q. T. with a Great Blue

I went out the other evening seeking novelty and adventure. I didn’t know what I would find, but I knew it was to be had out there. That’s because novelty and adventure, when you pause to think about it, are a way of thinking, a state of mind. If you search with a spirit of [read more…]

Hitting the Right Note

A review by Caitlin Kight

A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When the Birds Sing, by Richard Smyth

Elliott and Thompson, 2017

208 pages—softcover

ABA Sales / Buteo Books 14983

Between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked as a field ornithologist for the Institute for Bird Populations (IBP). I had been [read more…]

Rare Bird Alert: August 9, 2019

ABA rarities continuing into this, this first full week of August, include the Black-faced Grassquit (ABA Code 4) still singing in south Florida, the Slate-throated Redstart (4) was seen again this week in Texas, as was the Common Crane (4) in Arizona. Both Red-footed Booby (4) and Nazca Booby (5) were seen in California again [read more…]

American Birding Podcast: Inside Fantasy Birding with Matt Smith

Fantasy Sports is big business these day, especially now that participants no longer have to do the work by hand. It’s so popular that managing virtual worlds based on real world data has spread beyond sports. Fantasy Birding has become a obsession among a growing cadre of real birders, it has been featured in a [read more…]