Redpolls, Lapwings, & Sparrows: Check out the latest North American Birds!
by Ned Brinkley
Why subscribe to North American Birds? Good question!
The answer, for decades, has been: To stay abreast of changes in bird distribution across North America. But what exactly does that mean in the twenty-first century?
In the past decade, with the flourishing of internet-based bird resources of so many kinds, some have worried that the the instant news of rare birds we receive via iPads, iPhones, and myriad other glitzy devices would make the journal obsolete. How could a quarterly publication even compare?
It's true that North American Birds does not offer instant information. The journal offers a different sort of information altogether: an overview of what just happened in the preceding season, with summary and analysis on both the regional and the continental levels.
Unlike the internet's scattered bird material, some of it excellent, some fanciful, North American Birds, for nearly a century, has presented solid information from the continent's sharpest teams of birders and ornithologists. With historical context, new insights, and even a little well-grounded speculation, the journal offers a combination found nowhere else in the birding or ornithological worlds.
In the economic climate of the past five years, many of us have cut our expenses down to the most essential. Perhaps you’re one of the people who now travels a bit less for birding, concentrating more on local and regional birds. And maybe you’ve found that there are as many fascinating, unanswered questions about birds in your area as there are in some of the places you’ve traveled.
If you're one of the thousands of birders hoping to learn more about what's going on with our birds, North American Birds will provide abundant food for thought—about patterns of bird distribution related to weather systems, climate, and habitat changes, as well as those patterns whose causes are both unknown and uninvestigated. You’ll be able to apply the lessons (and questions) from others in your area and from other regions to your own birding—making that transition from good birder to great, not just learning but also identifying the many gaps in our understanding of birds.
The last item, an essay we offer with each issue, covers a diversity of topics in winter 2010-2011, from Northern Lapwings and other European vagrants in eastern Canada, to the flight of Dovekies, to Greater Ani, Ross’s Gulls, and Black-vented Oriole. There is eye candy, yes, but there is careful pondering in these pages, too. (Put them on your iPad and zoom in on those photos and graphics—gorgeous and informative? yes! boring? nope!)
If you’re someone who wants to go beyond the field guides, pondering hybrids and subspecies, or to figure out what a cold front, tropical storm, or blizzard might bring to your part of the continent, or to predict the best time to visit Newfoundland to look for European birds, then four times a year, we have a treasure trove for you, with plenty to keep you busily honing your strategies for birding in your backyard and beyond, for redpolls or alcids, warblers or tropicbirds. We cover not just the ABA Area—we cover the entire AOU Area, almost 2100 species!
The journal’s offerings change from issue to issue, but they are consistently topical and thoughtful and on the cutting edge of what is known about bird distribution and identification. As Hurricane Irene approached the East Coast two months ago, hundreds of birders rushed for their back issues of North American Birds, for clues as to what they might expect from the storm. They were glad to have the benefit of many decades of thinking about this dramatic phenomenon, witnessed for the first time on such a scale in over 70 years in the New York, New Jersey, and southern New England. Their preparation produced hundreds of amazing bird records. Curious about Irene’s birds? Tune in to the fall 2011 issue, already in preparation!
Ned Brinkley, editor