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Blog Birding #384

The long-term decline of aerial insectivorous birds is one of the more concerning bird conservation trends in North America and, indeed, around the world. At The AOS Publications Blog, see a summary of a recently published study seeks to figure out why Tree Swallows are declining in Canada.

Cox and her colleagues believe that increasingly unfavorable weather conditions and declines in insect availability may be behind the demographic shifts they found. “I hope that our results will spur more research into the environmental causes of Tree Swallow declines and declines of other similar species. Our research points the finger at poor survival overwinter and poor fledging as the probable demographic causes of population declines,” says Cox.

At Birdwatching Daily, David Sibley shares what to look for when you’re looking at molting birds.

Late summer is the time of year when many birds replace their feathers in a process called molt. Old feathers, most of which have been worn for about a year, fall out, and new feathers grow in their place. Gulls, for example, molt their wing feathers only once a year, and we generally don’t notice any change in their appearance. The color and pattern of their wings remain the same all year. After a year of constant wear and exposure, it’s amazing that feathers still function, let alone retain essentially the same appearance.

At Father-Son Birding, Sneed Collard shares some surprises in store for those who appreciate fall birding.

I shouldn’t really complain since Braden and I have seen some wonderful birds the past few weeks. About two weeks ago, we saw our very first Montana Surf Scoter at one of our favorite birding spots, the gravel quarry. The bird was a stunning black male and just what such an ocean-loving bird was doing in Montana is a matter for debate. Since we started birding five years ago, however, scoters seem to be rare but reliable visitors.

Why do we so often describe birds of unidentified sex as “he”? Is there a better way to describe them or are we English speakers just stuck without a good pronoun. Ron Dudley at Feathered Photography attempts to figure it out.

The last thing I want to do is imply that a bird is one sex or the other when I have no idea what it is. When ‘he’ is used in the context of birds many folks don’t even think of it as being gender specific. I see evidence of that daily, in social media and elsewhere, when people use ‘he’ when they obviously misidentify or don’t know the sex. They rarely do that with ‘she’ – when they use the feminine pronoun they nearly always get it right. So I use ‘he’ most often in an effort to avoid misleading as many readers as possible. When I use ‘she’ it fairly screams to the reader that the bird is positively a female. And on those rarer occasions when I use ‘she’ I make extra effort and use more text to explain what I’ve done but once again that becomes awkward so I use the masculine pronoun more often than I do the feminine.

Fall is a sparrow season for many North American birders, and Tim Healy at The Nemesis Bird gets involved in some real science participating in a sparrow survey for a local environmental organization.

A brisk northwest wind was blowing when I pulled up to the gates of the private property before dawn on Sunday. The cold front had first arrived in our region on Friday night, carrying with it countless migrants that were eager to move after being stalled by unfavorable weather conditions during the previous week. Stephane and I were eager to see what birds were awaiting discovery at the estate. We hoped to record high counts of individuals and a wide range of diversity for his report on the ecological health of the property. As light began to return to the landscape, we made our way to our first survey block and started tallying. It was readily apparent, even at daybreak, that we were in for an especially birdy day.

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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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