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Blog Birding #350

National Geographic launches the Year of the Bird with an essay by author Jonathan Franzen, published online but to be included in the next print issue as well.

For most of my life, I didn’t pay attention to birds. Only in my 40s did I become a person whose heart lifts whenever he hears a grosbeak singing or a towhee calling and who hurries out to see a golden plover that’s been reported in the neighborhood, just because it’s a beautiful bird, with truly golden plumage, and has flown all the way from Alaska. When someone asks me why birds are so important to me, all I can do is sigh and shake my head, as if I’ve been asked to explain why I love my brothers. And yet the question is a fair one, worth considering in the centennial year of America’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Why do birds matter?

Owls engender controversy, both in how we act around them and the constant question of whether birders should even make their preferred roosting sites public. But there’s another way says Noah Comet, writing in the New York Times.

I’m a seasoned birder with a particular interest in owls, and on my ventures to find them, even when I have specific information on where they’ve been seen just minutes before, I’ve failed to find them more often than not. Such elusiveness makes “owling” one of the great birding challenges. Being the first to find a particular owl is regarded by some as a badge of distinction, and those who find them regularly are viewed with awe-struck reverence.

Slaty-backed Gull in the western Great Lakes is an increasingly regular find, but there may be fewer individuals than we know, because of their propensity to wander, suggests Amar Ayyash at Anything Larus.

So what’s the distance from the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie to Calumet Park in Chicago? 60 miles. Well, 59.45 miles to be exact.

Of course the bird very likely took a much more interesting route getting down here.

This is not the first time we’ve detected our winter gulls roaming the southern Lake Michigan region. The food source is “landfills” and any disruption in the food source (i.e., closed for Christmas, or closed on Sunday) readily gets the birds moving.

A Big Year can be continent-wide, or within the boundaries of your yard, but how about a birding book Big Year? Laura at The Afternoon Birder suggests a year spend reading the modern birding canon.

I’ve made a 2018 resolution to read more books about birding. Unlike a traditional “big year” this isn’t going to be about reading as many books as possible. Rather, I’m setting a simple and achievable goal of reading 12 books about birding during the year. Why don’t you join me?

Crytic birds like Marsh Wren may be diversifying right under our noses. The clues aren’t in their plumage, but in their vocalizations, what we might call their “dialects”. Sarah Luttrell has more at The AOU-COS Pubs Blog.

Many bird species have unique geographic signatures in their vocalizations similar to human “accents.” Most of what we know about geographic variation in bird sounds comes from studies of bird song. Song has been a rich subject for studying geographic variation because it is typically learned, allowing song to change more quickly across space and time than a purely genetic trait. Song, however, is only one type of signal in a bird’s vocal repertoire.

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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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