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Blog Birding #179

Dave Ringer, at 10,000 Birds, writes about an Asian species that was recently found to be from a very old lineage indeed. 

The Spotted Wren-Babbler had been classified with a handful of other wren-babbler species in the genus Spelaeornis, in the babbler family Timaliidae. Timaliidae is currently thought to contain 50-odd babbler species distributed across southern and eastern Asia.

But despite its physical similarity to the Spelaeornis species, the Spotted Wren-Babbler turns out to be something much different and much older. It is so distinctive, in fact, that Alström et al. propose treating it as one of 10 major divisions of the Passerida. That would give this once lowly species the same level of distinction as clades containing hundreds or even thousands of species!

Another post with international flavor, Julie Zickefoose write movingly about a man in Costa Rica whose parrots straddle the line between domestic and wild, to the benefit of all.

This is not an ordinary man-and-macaw story. The afternoon we visited Don Alvaro’s finca in the rolling countryside near the Rio Sarapiqui was one of the most magical and moving of our trip.
This gentle man rescues macaws. Caged, lonely, abused macaws, macaws coming from all over. I saw one with only half a beak, one that had plucked itself to down. He has 19 in all. That’s a lot of macaws. “Has” isn’t quite the right verb here.

Love rails? Auriel Fournier, at The Nemesis Bird, sings the praises of those often mysterious and under-appreciated group of birds.

My favorite flightless rail is the Inaccessible Island Rail (Atlantisia rogersi) , resident of Inaccessible Island (See map). They are the smallest flightless bird in the world! Thanks to a lack of constant human presence and no introduced predators they are doing quite well on their difficult to access island home. Remarkably we know more about Inaccessible Island Rails then many others, we even know how to measure it’s body to figure out it’s sex! [2]

The 2nd edition of David Sibley’s eponymous field guide has been making waves across the blogosphere, but how does it handle that most difficult group of birds, the gulls. Amar Ayyash of Anything Larus runs it through its paces.

Appreciable, the hybrid plates of various large white-headed gulls are still included, but are now moved to the end of the gull section, which makes more sense. In addition, a plate depicting an adult Lesser Black-backed x American Herring (so-called Appledore Gull) has been added just below the Yellow-legged Gull plates. I thought this was much needed and I’m very pleased this increasing hybrid received more attention. With that said, the legs could stand to benefit from being a bit duller or even blended with pink tones. The bill looks akwardly small as well.

Have you been following Dorian Anderson’s biking Big Year? At Biking for Birds, he’s running through Florida currently, having good luck with birds but less luck with the ins and outs of getting around without 2000 lbs of metal around him.

I figured I would just cruise through the intersection as I have done a thousand times prior. However, this plan was thwarted when an SUV turned right through the bike lane. I had at this point committed to going through the intersection, and there was now nowhere for me to go but into the back right side of the SUV that had cut across my bike lane. I knew this was going to be bad, and rather than trying to avoid it altogether, I decided to minimize the potential damage that could occur. The big issue is that I was clipped into my pedals. This meant I was going to go down and go down hard; There was no way to avoid it.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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