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Blog Birding #324

In this season of baby birds, it’s tempting to feel as though you need to do more for these seemingly helpless animals. Kaeli Swift at the Corvid Research Blog explains why this is not a good idea.

t’s totally normal for baby crows to be on the ground and flightless as long as they’re covered with feathers and appear otherwise alert and mobile. Even nestling crows are usually on the ground on purpose. Not because they are ready, but because their parents have intentionally rejected them for one reason or another. They will die and that’s ok. Part of coexisting with wildlife is giving them the agency to be wild.

Laura Erickson goes even farther, explaining why it’s even illegal to “help” baby birds.

She’d been feeding them nothing but canned dog food and didn’t know how to feed them properly, or keep them in a clean environment, so all four were caked in a disgusting mixture of dried up food and feces. I had to bathe them repeatedly over many hours to even be able to identify them. They were Red-eyed Vireos. Their little bodies, including their heads and, in one case, their eyes, had been so completely encased in crusted filth for so many days that they literally could not grow.

Recent research shows significant declines in nesting Hawaiian seabirds, a study summarized at The AOS-COS Pubs Blog.

To assess the population trends and distribution of the birds in recent decades, André Raine of the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project and his colleagues examined past and contemporary radar surveys as well as data on the numbers of shearwater fledglings rescued after being attracted to artificial lights. Their results shows continuing population declines in both species over the last twenty years—a 78% reduction in radar detections for Hawaiian Petrels and a 94% reduction for Newell’s Shearwaters, with the shearwater decline mirrored in decreasing numbers of recovered fledglings over time.

At 10,000 Birds, Corey Finger shares the story behind a very strange heron that has been confusing Maine birders for years.

Then, scoping from the end of Seavey’s Landing Road, I spotted an egret. It was like no egret that I had seen before. Mostly white, it was about the size of a Snowy Egret but with a bill that was a bit too long, patches of grayish-blue plumage on the neck, back and wings, and two long head plumes. I was really hoping this was a Little Egret which would be a first in North America for me, but the patchwork plumage was really throwing me. The yellow lores worked for a Little Egret in breeding plumage but I couldn’t figure out why, it was a Little Egret, it wouldn’t be an all white bird. I digiscoped up a storm and shared some back-of-camera images via text message and on Facebook.

North American warblers haven’t always been known by the names we know them now. At Warbler Watch, Daniel Edelstein goes into some of those unusual names.

Audubon was not alone in his naming confusion. Beyond Audubon, naturalist/painter Alexander Wilson also made his share of identification mistakes. Both of these luminaries – as well as other contemporary birding experts in bygone eras – are to be excused because during their tenures little was known about the relationship between plumage changes and corresponding definitive field characteristics.

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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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