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Blog Birding #326

Happy US Independence Day to our American members and readers. Laura Erickson offers some thoughts on patriotism and chickadees.

On Independence Day, I like to think about the essential elements of my country that make me proud to be an American. The songs that most famously express patriotism focus on the natural beauty of this nation, “from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam,” celebrating America being “beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesty above the fruited plains.” And our national emblem is neither gold nor silver nor any other symbol of materialism—it’s a Bald Eagle.

Though the 2017 AOS Supplement is still a few days away (we’ll have more on that here at The ABA Blog), early news is that the often vexing and always interesting Thayer’s Gull is no longer a full species. At Anything Larus, Amar Ayyash has more.

The question was not so much whether there was an irrevocable need to retire the species altogether. Rather, the matter of contention was that there was never sufficient evidence to recognize the Iceland Gulls (nominate glaucoides, kumlieni and thayeri) as unique “biological” forms. I could not agree more. Whether we call all 3 taxa Iceland Gulls or any other suitable English name is inconsequential – so long as they’re regarded as conspecifics in the present.

Among the most well-known east v. west birds, kingbirds are conspicuous wherever they can be found. At On the Wing Photography, Mia McPherson finds a spot where they overlap.

I feel fortunate that I am able to see and photograph both the Western and Eastern Kingbird juveniles here in northern Utah. I have photographed Western Kingbirds building their nests and incubating their eggs but haven’t had that same opportunity with Eastern Kingbirds.

The ranges for these two species of kingbirds overlap here in northern Utah but I see more of the Western Kingbirds than I do the Eastern Kingbirds. I love the soft grays and pale yellows of the plumage in Western Kingbird juveniles.

At The Revelator, Gloria Dickie tells the story on the ongoing efforts to save two of Hawaii’s native honeycreepers.

Every spring, teams of three to four people hike into the dense Ohi’a forests of Kauai’s Alaka’i Plateau, where they’ll stay for days at a time, weathering torrential downpours. An akikiki nest takes between 40 and 60 hours to find, explains Cali Crampton, leader of the Recovery Project, though they tend to nest in the same areas year after year. An akeke’e nest, on the other hand, takes about 100 hours to find, as the parents move around and nest high up in the canopy.

At, an amazing summary or research that seeks to use carbon compounds in a bird’s feathers to determine what it’s eating on its winter grounds.

Rice could be beneficial by providing the birds with needed calories as they prepare for their journey north, but it could also increase Bobolinks’ exposure to pesticides and threats from farmers who see them as pests. According to Renfrew and her colleagues, maintaining native grasslands, encouraging integrated pest management programs to reduce toxic pesticide applications, and compensating farmers for crops lost to feeding birds all would be helpful.

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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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