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Blog Birding #352

Like birds? Like word games? You’ll love Nick Lund of The Birdist as he renames birds based on their anagrams. Welcome Dork Net!

We know there are a lot of birds with names that are…less than optimal. The Red-bellied Woodpecker barely has a red belly. The least evident part of the Orange-crowned Warbler is its crown. House Wren is just a flat-out boring name.

But how do you pick new names? Is Boring Greenish Warbler really any better than Orange-crowned? Who the hell do I think I am?

Like Snowy Owls, Snow Bunting are high-arctic visitors whose impressive movements can be tracked with technology that didn’t exist only a decade ago. Nate Swick (that name is familiar…) introduces birders to the Canadian Snow Bunting Network at Cornell’s Living Bird.

For bird watchers, the little bird with a toasted marshmallow pattern is a bright spot in a gray winter. In eastern Canada, Snow Buntings have even inspired a citizen-science project. Started in 2006, the Canadian Snow Bunting Network has been collecting data on their occurrence during winter across almost all of the Canadian provinces. Now scientist Oliver Love is using the network’s extensive data set, along with his own findings from tracking individual birds, to open up a window on where these mysterious birds live their lives, and where they go when the weather gets bad.

Public-private partnerships are increasingly important in efforts to protect the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, as explained in a story at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started the Safe Harbor program in North Carolina in 1995 to reduce conflict between landowners and conservation officials and to encourage private landowners to take steps to benefit endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers on their land. The program has successfully reduced conflict over conservation and reduced the abandonment of nest clusters, but a new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that while the program may have raised landowners’ awareness of and tolerance for their feathered neighbors, it has largely failed to improve breeding success of birds on private lands.
A mysterious and unlabeled specimen at a museum in the United Kingdom prompts an investigation into an early voyage to the Hawaiian Islands, as told by the Natural History Society of North Umbria‘s Dan Gordon.

I had a vague sense that it might be a honeycreeper – a native Hawaiian bird. To try and confirm this, I got in touch with Paul Sweet, curator of birds at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He concurred, and was even able to identify the species – the I’iwi (pronounced ee-EE-vi) Drepanis coccicinea. Like a hummingbird, the I’iwi can hover and drinks nectar. It is an altitudinal migrant, following the progress of flowers as they develop up the volcanic slopes through the year. It is still fairly common on most of the Hawaiian islands although now extinct on some. Its restricted range means that it is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN.

This past weekend saw another march in south Texas, part of the continuing effort to prevent the construction of a border wall at Santa Ana NWR. Aaron Nelson of San Antonio Express News has more.
Hundreds of wildlife enthusiasts and community organizers, indigenous groups and concerned citizens turned out Saturday for the 75th anniversary of the 2,088-acre refuge situated along the Rio Grande to oppose a towering barrier that would be built through it and their communities.
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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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