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Limited Edition 2014 ABA Bird of the Year T-Shirt Available NOW!

Now that the Rufous Hummingbirds are starting their slow journey south, stopping off at hummingbird feeders… [read more]

Limited Edition 2014 ABA Bird of the Year T-Shirt Available NOW! Limited Edition 2014 ABA Bird of the Year T-Shirt Available NOW!

How to Record Birdsong—Part 1

  Two years ago in this space I wrote a three-part primer on the use of digital audio recorders for… [read more]

How to Record Birdsong—Part 1 How to Record Birdsong—Part 1

Featured Photo: May/June 2014 Birding

Here are three images that appear in the “Featured Photo” column of the May/June 2014 issue of Birding.… [read more]

Featured Photo: May/June 2014 Birding Featured Photo: May/June 2014 Birding

On Stringing…

(with apologies to “Pat Stringer”) Never identify a bird unless you’re 100% positive. At least… [read more]

On Stringing… On Stringing...

Introducing: The Lifelook

One of the most interesting facets of birding culture is its unique vocabulary. From lifers to dips to… [read more]

Introducing: The Lifelook Introducing: The Lifelook

ABA Adds Zino’s Petrel, #982

On 16 September 1995, Brian Patteson photographed a Pterodroma petrel off Hatteras, North Carolina. At… [read more]

ABA Adds Zino’s Petrel, #982 ABA Adds Zino's Petrel, #982
Nikon Monarch 7

    How Many Species of White-breasted Nuthatches?


    If you live and bird in the eastern U.S. or eastern Canada, you’ve probably learned the common call note of the familiar White-breasted Nuthatch: a loud, throaty, somewhat nasal yawrnk. Here’s a recording, courtesy of recordist Mike Nelson, from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee:

    (Can you recognize the other birds in this cut? For starters, I hear an Eastern Bluebird.)


    Let’s now head west, to the Interior West of the U.S. The White-breasted Nuthatches sound different out there. Their calls are wimpier, more stuttering, typically doubled or trebled or run into a series of four or more notes: yirrr, yirrr, yirrr… Here’s a recording, courtesy of Dan Lane, from Flagstaff, Arizona:

    (Pardon the constant interruption from one or more Pygmy Nuthatches. That’s how it is in the pine forests of the western U.S.)


    Now let’s head ever farther west, to North America’s Pacific Slope. There the White-breasted Nuthatches sound different still—more urgent, more pure-tone, a bit more nasal, suggesting a Pinyon Jay: yeah! or yayr! Here’s a recording, courtesy of Eric DeFonso, from Yolo County, California, a bit north of Sacramento:

    (With heavy interference from a House Sparrow.)


    No question about it, the calls of the geographically widespread White-breasted Nuthatch vary quite a bit from region to region. So do other characters (biologists say “characters,” not “characteristics”—go figure) of the White-breasted Nuthatch: the shape of the bill, color and contrast on the tertials, the face pattern, and so forth.

    Birding cover

    Indeed, as Steven G. Mlodinow reports in a feature article in the May/June 2014 Birding (click here for the full PDF download), the bird currently known as a single species, the White-breasted Nuthatch, may well be a complex of three or four species.

    One of these days—or years, or decades—the American Ornithologists’ Union will figure it all out. But there’s no reason for us to wait around. The White-breasted Nuthatches—plural—are highly distinctive, undeniably fascinating, and incontrovertibly worthy of our attention and admiration. And they have names: Carolina Nuthatch, Rocky Mountain Nuthatch, and Slender-billed Nuthatch.

    As Mlodinow says in his article, the three nuthatches are most easily distinguished by their vocalizations. Be careful, though, about the different sorts of vocalizations uttered by nuthatches. Mlodinow is talking about the typical call notes—given by relaxed birds, just hanging out, not all worked up or something. Like the ones we heard above.

    All nuthatches can—and quite often do—get worked up. In such situations, they can run their calls together and thus suggest the “normal” call of the Rocky Mountain Nuthatch. Also, all nuthatches give quiet pipping notes: yink, yenk, peep, pip, etc. These are quite soft and quite nasal. And, of course, nuthatches sing—a series of mellow, bell-like notes, suggesting a distant Northern Flicker or Yellow-breasted Chat. The song doesn’t vary nearly as much among the three nuthatches as the call.

    Here’s a really useful clip—of two or more Rocky Mountain Nuthatches—that features all the basic call types: the weak but musical song, the powerful primary call notes, and the wimpy, nasal, pipping notes often thrown into the mix. The recording by Eric DeFonso is from Santa Cruz County, Arizona. Here goes:


    Know the differences—within any particular nuthatch, but also among all three of the major population groups—and you’re well on your way to appreciating the enhanced diversity of the ABA Area’s White-breasted Nuthatch complex.






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        Blog Birding #196

        Birders have watched closely the rapid increase in the number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in North America, from the rare winter stray to an increasingly common summer resident in the north. Amar Ayyash at Anything Larus, may have hit the motherload last week, however, with an impressive concentration of the species in Wisconsin.

        On Friday, [read more...]

          #ABArare – European Golden-Plover – New Jersey

          At long last, the shorebird scene is starting to come alive. First a Red-necked Stint in Florida, and now following up on a report of a large plover in a field in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Alan Mart photographed an apparent ABA Code 3 European Golden-Plover in an agricultural area near the town of Pittstown. [read more...]

            California Condors Nesting in Utah for the First Time

            Well, the first time in several hundred years, at least. A pair of California Condors at Zion National Park in Utah are raising a single chick, documented by park staff and a number of other state and federal groups.

            As birders undoubtedly know already, the iconic California Condor was the focus of one of the [read more...]

              Rare Bird Alert: July 18, 2014

              If last week was slow, this week, sadly, is slower. But there are signs of a resurgence for those with eyes to see. Mid-summer is the beginning of vagrant shorebird season, and stints are on their way to North America and now is the time to be on the look out for them.

              First blood [read more...]

                #ABArare – Red-necked Stint – Florida

                Mid-summer means one thing in North America – it’s stint season!

                The first report in the lower 48 came just yesterday when visiting birders Viktor Nilsson-Örtman and his father, Håkan Örtman discovered an ABA Code 3 Red-necked Stint at Boca Chica Beach in Monroe County, Florida. Remarkably, this would be a first state record for [read more...]

                  Limited Edition 2014 ABA Bird of the Year T-Shirt Available NOW!

                  Now that the Rufous Hummingbirds are starting their slow journey south, stopping off at hummingbird feeders across the west to chase off all comers, it’s time to start to, once again, pay attention to the 2014 ABA Bird of the Year. To that end, we’re really excited to offer a brand-new limited edition t-shirt, designed [read more...]

                    Open Mic - The Girlie Birders: Chicks list, too!

                    One of the greatest pleasures of my job as ABA President is getting to meet and bird with people from all around the ABA Area and beyond. In mid-April this year, I visited the Ozarks region of southwestern Missouri, where I not only had the honor of presenting Andrew Kinslow with the ABA’s Chandler Robbins [read more...]

                      New Big Year Opportunities…

                      Unless there is another government shut-down or other calamity in the next month or so, we are moving to Alaska in late August. Almost the first thing I thought of (and almost the first thing others mentioned) when learning that my husband had been offered a weather forecaster job in Anchorage was OMG – just [read more...]

                      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.
                      If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
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                      • Meet Alec Wyatt: 2014 ABA Young Birder of the Year July 21, 2014 7:42
                        “I did a bunch of stuff. If you want to, you can read about it in the 150-page book in which I have compiled my work.” So far, just a few brave souls have taken me up on my offer. […]
                      • Book Review: The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2nd Edition June 25, 2014 6:30
                        In 2000, the birding world greeted the arrival of the revolutionary new Sibley Guide to Birds. Now, 13 years later, we welcome the long awaited updated second edition of our favorite field guide. […]
                      • Meet Chloe Walker: 2014 ABA Young Birder of the Year June 17, 2014 8:51
                        Although I "officially" started birding when I was eleven, my interest in birds began when I was nine. I remember taking my mom's camera outside and just "playing around" with it. […]

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