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Blog Birding #310

What drives a birder like Noah Strycker, record-setter and world-traveler? At Long Reads, Eva Holland tries to get to the bottom of it.

Though he was attempting to complete the biggest Big Year of all time, Strycker’s goal, beyond tallying a massive list, was to build something larger: to both lean on and to nurture a growing global community, and to show the world that birding matters; that it taps into something larger — something human. He wanted, he told me, to sell the world on birds.

A crow is a bird whose very blackness defines it, so it’s particularly odd to see one that, well, isn’t, like that, as Kaeli Swift at Corvid Research shares.

Meet Al, a hatch year American crow whose natal territory overlaps with Tara Chafe’s property. According to Tara, Al is the second bird born in the last 5 years with this kind of color abnormality. The bird that she reports is its mother is leucistic, but as you can see below, she’s not a particularly dramatic case with maybe only one or a couple more white feathers.

Birds are incredibly efficient users of energy–you have to be when your preferred method of locomotion is the most energy intensive way to get around. As you might expect, birds that live at high altitudes have to deal with less than optimal conditions in the form of reduced oxygen, and as Pat Leonard shares at All About Birds, they have some remarkable ways to do that.

The researchers tested resident species—ones that live at the same elevations year-round, such as the Green-backed Tit and Gray-winged Blackbird—and migrants, which breed at high elevations and spend winters lower down, including the Variegated Laughingthrush and the Blue-fronted Redstart. As it turned out, the two types of species solved the hypoxia problem in different ways.

Laura Erickson thinks about the recent move to once again allow lead on National Wildlife Refuges, and what that means for the birds there.

One or two pellets of ingested lead, ground up in the gizzard, shoot toxic levels of lead into a bird’s blood, killing many outright, and weakening others to make them less resistant to avian cholera and other diseases. Yet it wasn’t until 1991, two full decades after all that data started piling up, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally banned lead shot for waterfowl hunting. We also have abundant data that lead shot and bullets poison upland birds and other wildlife. Some pick it up on the ground, and others, especially Bald Eagles and other scavengers, in the carcasses of game animals that eluded the hunters or in the gut piles left behind.

At Cape Sable Birding, Mark Dennis begins to enjoy the return of spring with a suite of birds that don’t necessarily mean spring to many of us.

Only two of the five Red-necked Grebes came close enough to snap, all are in winter plumage and it is unlikely that any will linger long enough to attain their striking summer dress (the odd one does but is normally offshore and out of lens range). The two shots below are from another time, one showing the grebe getting a rusty look about the neck, the other a not great show of two birds in full summer plumage.

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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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