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Blog Birding #187

We’re constantly amazed at the sort of amazing insight into the lives of birds discovered through the reams of data entered into eBird by regular birders. Hugh Powell at Cornell’s All About Birds blog writes about migratory passerines and the circuitous routes they take to and from their breeding grounds:

The new work solved this problem with a fresh approach and crowdsourced data submitted to the Cornell Lab’s eBird project between 2004 and 2011. The researchers analyzed thousands of sightings to develop, for each of 93 species, an aggregate picture of where a species is during spring and fall migration. Although they weren’t tracking individual birds, collectively the sightings gave them an indication of how the species were migrating. They then used computer models to sort species with similar movement patterns into groups. They also compared migration routes with seasonal patterns of prevailing winds at night.

Laura Erickson, writing this time at Birdwatching‘s Blog, tells a story of a neglected feeder and the birds who quickly take back to it:

In about five minutes, a Black-capped Chickadee appeared, grabbed a seed, and flew to a branch to eat. It repeated the process three or four times. Then, perhaps galvanized by the unexpected bonanza, it shifted into high gear. Zipping about more quickly than I’ve ever seen a chickadee move, it started caching seeds in nearby trees, seemingly intent on hiding as many as possible before its flock mates found out. Chickadees winter in flocks, but for the time being, this one was alone. It stashed well over a dozen seeds before two more chickadees appeared. They ate a few seeds and soon started squirreling them away, too.

Few regions in the ABA Area are as exciting as South Florida, and few birders know the area as well as Carlos Sanchez. Writing at 10,000 Birds, he lays out a plan for covering the area in spring and summer.

Migration starts very early in the sunshine state. In January, the first Purple Martins are already arriving. By the time February rolls around, Swallow-tailed Kites are making an appearance while most of the rest of the country is still looking at waterfowl and winter sparrows.  However, the first Caribbean summer specialties begin to trickle in by the very end of March in the form of Black-whiskered Vireo and Gray Kingbird. The latter usually appears at migrant traps at coastal sites in the Florida Keys and the southern tip of the peninsula while the former is a bit more catholic in its choice of habitat — passage migrants can appear anywhere from tropical hardwood hammock to strip mall parking lots.

Empidonax flycatchers are tough.How tough? As bad as you’ve heard and probably worse still. Steve Tucker of Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds shares some reasons why you should be careful even in spring.

Think about it…if Empids really vocalized so much, they wouldn’t be very hard to identify, would they? Look, I have seen thousands of Empids. My sample size? Gargantuan. They often don’t vocalize very much unless on breeding territory. Ask me to show you a migrant that will often call, and I will show a Yellow Warbler. I will not be showing you a Dusky Flycatcher. Sometimes they do call, but there is no way you can just expect an individual to pipe up if you wait around 10 minutes, which is more time than we often get to spend with a bird anyways. Do you know how much time I’ve spent in the last couple weeks waiting for silent Willow/Alder Flycatchers to call? It’s not even funny.

It’s spring, and you probably aren’t thinking about gulls. But maybe you should be, says Amar Ayyash of Anything Larus, because when else can you really look closely at tertial replacement?

But what about tertial replacement? As my post title suggests, perhaps we need to revisit this feather group: Do 1st cycle Ring-billeds replace their tertials in the first plumage cycle? If so, through what molt? Traditionally, the literature has held that 1st cycle Ring-billeds rarely, if ever, replace tertials. About two years ago, I began to suspect differently as I was finding more and more individuals with juvenile primaries that showed one or two, and sometimes all of their tertials renewed.

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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.
Nate Swick

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