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Blog Birding #347

At The Eyrie, young birder Patrick Newcombe recounts his experience doing research in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

When I first arrived on the Osa, the tremendous diversity of birds astounded me. I seemed to find a species I haven’t seen before each time I walked into the forest around the Piro Research Station, and even at the station itself I saw such birds as the Fiery-billed Aracari, a Panama and Costa Rica endemic. This high diversity stems largely from the selective pressure insectivorous birds put on their prey, which are constantly specializing to evade their avian predators. In turn, the birds must specialize to catch the insects.

It’s a good time of year for vagrant geese, and Lilian and Don Stokes offer some tips on finding out of place Cackling Geese.

Cackling Geese create excitement for birders when they show up in the East, and this is the time of year they often appear. Look carefully when you see a flock of Canada Geese, and maybe you can find a Cackling Goose! See my other blog post here. These geese, who mainly nest in the arctic, look like very small Canada Geese, but are a different species. There are 4 subspecies of Cackling Goose. It is thought that the subspecies who usually shows up in the East is the nominate subspecies, Branta hutchinsii hutchiinsii, (also sometimes called “Richardson’s Goose”, “Richardson’s Cackling Goose” or “Hutchins’s Goose”).

Birders may be aware of the problems surrounding introduced mosquitoes on the Hawaiian and the risks they post to native birds, but at The AOU-COS Pubs Blog read a summary of new work showing introduced frogs are an underrated issue as well, but not in the way you might expect.

Puerto Rican coqui frogs were accidentally introduced to Hawaii in the 1980s, and today there are as many as 91,000 frogs per hectare in some locations. What does that mean for native wildlife? Concerns that ravenous coquis could reduce the food available for the islands’ native insect-eating birds, many of which are already declining, spurred researchers to examine the relationship between frog and bird populations—but their results, published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, weren’t what they expected.

At 10,000 Birds, Carrie Laben sings the praises of those mysterious rails.

Like herons and egrets, rails and crakes are quite similar, but different in a not quite taxonomicly consistent way. In general, the Europeans of yore assigned the common name “rail” to members of the family with longer bills and “crake” to the birds with stubby ones. That said, it’s not a consistent difference and in fact the migratory Corn Crake was once believed to be the summer plumage of the Water Rail, which stays put through the winter in Britain.

Feeding birds in winter requires more than just throwing seeds in a hopper, it’s important to make sure your offerings stay dry to prevent illness, as Iriel Edwards explains at the Project Feederwatch Blog.

When it comes to providing for our backyard birds, we want to help them along through rain or shine. Most people want the best for our flying friends, and leaving out a tray or feeder with seed can be a very rewarding method of giving them a boost of resources. But one thing that may cause concern is the potential for our bird feeders to spread disease. New research looked into the potential for bird seed to facilitate the spread of a parasite called Trichomonas gallinae, which can be harmful to birds such as pigeons, doves, and finches. Normally it is transferred from an infected bird through bodily fluids, but could wet seed be a way of transmitting it as well?

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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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