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Blog Birding #387

Kelp Gull is one of the most mysterious regular vargants to the ABA Area, and Amar Ayyash at Anything Larus tries to figure out why, and whether we are overlooking these birds.

The overwhelming majority of records in North America are adult type birds, which begs a reoccurring question, are we overlooking young Kelp Gulls? This seems to be a persistent theme. Taking an objective view, and considering the fact that young gulls have a propensity to wander, I would say the lack of records of 1st cycle birds may be due mostly to observer bias, especially around the Gulf Coast where Lesser Black-backed Gull has increased. But also consider the fact that a disruption in food supply may be prompting Kelp Gulls to stray. Hence, there would be less of a survival rate for an already distressed, misplaced and inexperienced young gull to make it as far north as adults.  

Despite not being a wild bird, the Central Park Mandarin Duck has inspired a lot of people who might not otherwise go birding to give it a try. Dan McQuade at Deadspin is one of them.

There’s apparently one perched high up on a branch right across from me.And I can’t see it. I can get my left eye in focus with the binoculars, but the right lens refuses to work with my eyesight. And I’m not really even sure how to use these in the first place; I’m trying to hold them close to my face, and I end up just seeing the inside of the binoculars half the time.

Winter finches irruptions are sucking up all the air among birders this winter, but one species that is also likely to move around more than usual is Black-capped Chickadee. At Birdwatching Daily, Kenn Kauffman and Brian Small share what to look for.

Carolina Chickadees average smaller than Black-cappeds. However, both species vary regionally and individually in size; the smallest Carolinas occur in the southern part of their range, so size has only limited value for ID where the two species come together. Black-capped also tends to look a little longer-tailed and larger-headed than Carolina.

The gregarious Blue Jay is one of the most familiar birds in eastern North America, but there is still a lot we don’t know as Laura Erickson explains.

It’s fairly easy to trap and band Blue Jays, so scientists have done a lot of field studies on them, too. Bird banders, who hate dealing with cardinals and grosbeaks because of their terrible bite, and chickadees, who pack a wallop, are often surprised to learn that despite their feisty reputation, Blue Jays are shockingly docile in the hand. They surrender the moment they realize they can’t get away.

At Avian Hybrids, Jente Ottenburghs explores the genetics of one of the most familiar groups of birds in North America, the wood warblers.

Any birdwatcher can list the morphological characters that he or she uses to discriminate between closely related species. But how is this variation reflected on the genetic level? The possibility to sequence the entire genome of an individual has allowed biologists to explore this question. In general, they scan across the genome looking for differentiated regions (based on a collection of summary statistics). These ‘genomic landscapes’ hold to key to understand how bird species diversify. A recent study in the journal Molecular Ecology applied this approach to several members of the Parulidae family (New World warblers or wood-warblers).

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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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