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Blog Birding #322

The Midwest and American Kestrels go together like few other birds and places in North America. At The Eyrie, Coralee Booker explores the issues facing these iconic little falcons.

A further threat facing American Kestrels is a decline in flying insect populations, which kestrels depend on to feed their young. A few years ago, when Iowans filled their cars up with gas they routinely wiped down their windshields to clean off the copious amounts of smashed bugs, but today many Iowans are finding the need for a Casey’s squeegee quite unnecessary. I hadn’t given this conundrum much thought until rather recently when I obtained my learner’s permit to drive. This is a disturbing example of how an often-overlooked animal can disappear before our eyes.

At 10,000 Birds, Joshua Malbin urges birders to get involved in mitigating the effects of development in an active saltmarsh.

In 2016, the DOT started rebuilding a bridge on the highway next to Four Sparrow Marsh, and maybe because of the noise, maybe because of the removal of some buffer plants, the sparrows did not breed that year. I got a landscape architect to review the construction plans, though, and it looked to him like in the long term the marsh should be okay. The last time I checked on it in the summer of 2016, the marsh still looked like the picture below, taken in March 2016, only greener. There was still hope that the sparrows might return. Not anymore.

Feathers are a bird’s signature feature, but recent research suggest that bare parts are equally important for some species, as Eric Iverson explains at the AOU-COS Pubs Blog.

irds are well-known for being among the most colorful of all animals, with many species displaying striking, brightly-colored feathers. Scientists have long wondered why color is so important to fitness, and hundreds of studies have been published on the relationships between plumage and traits such as age, physiological condition, reproductive success, and attractiveness to mates. However, there is a growing awareness that plumage is not the only important site of coloration among birds; there is also considerable variation within and between species in the color of bills and in bare skin such as legs, feet, ceres, or wattles

The wily Gray Catbird has a neat trick to outmatch parasitic Brown-headed Cowbirds, at Audubon’s Kenn Kaufman’s Notebook, Kenn has more.

And this singer has stylish moves to go with his tunes. Watch a catbird in spring and you may see it adopting all kinds of weird postures: fanning and spreading its tail, drooping its wings, puffing out the feathers of its lower back, turning its head to odd angles, all accompanied by a running commentary of bizarre sounds. To add to its quirky appeal, a catbird may act intensely curious—another feline characteristic. People working in their gardens often notice a catbird coming to watch, cocking its head quizzically as it peers at the proceedings.

The question of whether bird populations can negatively impact fish stocks is one that not only feels like we’ve been asking forever, there’s actual evidence we’ve been asking it forever. Amy Zhang and Tomoko Steen at Biodiversity Heritage Blog have more.

West Chester became home to the Chester County Cabinet of Science as early as the 1820s, and only about a decade later, the ornithological department acquired “the first nearly complete collection of local birds in the county”. There was, however, no catalogue of this collection; and the first county bird list was published much later in the 1860s. “If the second quarter of the nineteenth century failed of being the golden period of ornithology in Chester County,” the author of Chester Ornithology wittily remarked in the biographical notes, “it was due to Quaker modesty”.

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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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