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Blog Birding #311

Despite its important place in bird-watching culture, feeding birds has been often debated. At The Spruce Blog, Lev Frid takes a detailed look at the pros and cons, and applies them to more controversial practices involving ducks and owls.

I have tried my best to share my opinion on feeding birds. While not much research has been done on the effects of feeding various birds, I have tried to include references where I could, as well as my own anecdotal observations over about a decades worth of intensive birding and photography effort on my part. Hopefully, reader, the following bit of opinion and fact can help you make your own decision on this often controversial practice.

Let us sing the praises of the Common Grackle, with its glossy look, crackling voice, and underappreciated variation. Julie Zickefoose gives them their due.

I remember so clearly the day in 1977 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when I found a grackle who had collided with Hilles Library’s windows on the Radcliffe campus. I picked it up and turned it over and over in my hand. Its back was bronzy green, and its head was a bewitching blue! I’d never seen a grackle like this, and indeed it was the “bronzed” or interior morph I held in my hand. I’d grown up with the “purple” morph which inhabits the coastal plain from New York to Louisiana. I took it to the Museum of Comparative Zoology and made a pretty skin of it, and I trust it’s still in the collection.

Birding is wonderful for lots of reasons, but not least of which because you don’t need to spend a ton of money to do it. The blog Brooklyn Bread explores this angle.

One of the reasons bird-watching is soaring in popularity is the emergence of all the cool apps out there that help you identify birds.  Seeing a cool bird in the sky and wondering what it is… that is pretty much the gateway drug to full blown bird-watching.  Apps can be great, but there is no substitute for an experienced birder who can drop their wisdom on you.

Birders know National Wildlife Refuges, but do they know about Waterfowl Production Areas? At 10,000 Birds, Jason Crotty introduces these critical regions within the NWR system.

However, over time many of these ponds and wetlands have been drained, filled, and converted to agriculture.  In 1958, to address the increasing loss of this valuable habitat, FWS began to acquire land in the region. The resulting properties—WPAs—are small ponds, wetlands, and associated grasslands, primarily in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana, but also in Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa. Most WPAs are small: they range from less than an acre to nearly 7,500 acres, averaging just 90 acres. But taken as a whole, WPAs total almost 3.8 million acres.

Robert Wolson’s digiscoping work is pretty impressive, and he offers a gallery of photographs and digiscoping tips at Out There With the Birds.

Here is my first gallery on Out There With The Birds,—a selection of what is possible when using a camera or phone attached to a Kowa 883 scope. Digiscoping totally immerses the photographer in the natural world. It has turned me into an avid birder. Viewing birds at great distances is the real enjoyment of using Kowa optics. Photographing them is the bonus.

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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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