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Blog Birding #352


Birders know that National Wildlife Refuges are among the finest places for birding in the US. At 10,000 Birds, Jason Crotty offers his opinion on the 25 best.

Trying to choose the “best” refuges for birding is a fool’s errand, as everyone’s criteria are different.  Some are great for a specific bird, others for thousands of birds, and others during a particular season.  Some just seem to be rarity magnets.  Others may be perfect for a free morning on a business trip to Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, or Las Vegas.

But even with varied criteria, some locations rise to top.

Bird coloration is the result of a great many, often interconnecting, things. At Avian Hybrids, Jente Ottenburghs explains how studying hybrid zones helps us figure out the major factors.

To investigate the genetic control of plumage colors, researchers make use of hybrid zones. In these areas, different bird species come into contact and interbreed. The resulting hybrids are often a mixture of both species. Some feathers are colored like one species, while other feathers have the color of the second species. By comparing these patterns with the genes of the hybrids, ornithologists can figure out which genes belong to which plumage pattern.

Alexander Wilson belongs on the Mount Rushmore of North American ornithology. At All About Birds, Allison Haigh shares a little more about him and his continuing influence.

More than two centuries ago in the swamps of North Carolina, ornithologist and author Alexander Wilson squatted to sketch a yellow-green bird with a neat black cap flitting about above him, catching insects. Wilson had always favored descriptive names for birds, so he called this one the “Green Black-capt Flycatcher.” Later ornithologists changed that to “Wilson’s Warbler,” one of five North American species named for the Scottish immigrant who is widely regarded as the father of American ornithology.

A recent effort to name Gray Jay the national bird of Canada has encouraged the return of the common name “Canada Jay”. At Birding New Jersey and Beyond, Rick Wright explains why that seems unlikely to happen.

The essay in OB, “How the Canada Jay lost its name and why it matters,” is delightful and impressive, including an enormously helpful discussion of the debate leading up to the AOU’s adoption of English species names in the fifth edition of the Check-list. Unfortunately, this same essay begins with an assertion that is simply not true, namely, that “Canada Jay” was “the name [the AOU] had used for Perisoreus canadensis until 1910″ and the species’ “original official English name.”

Southern Ontario is cold and birdy this time of year, as shared by Craig Ritchie at Bird Canada.

The January weather turned out to be quite a mixed bag, as a mild patch melted the snow and gave us about two weeks of quite pleasant weather. But the reprieve was short-lived, as another big dump of the white stuff at the end of the month thrust us squarely back into the depths of winter. Watching the birds adapt to these variable conditions has been quite interesting.

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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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