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Blog Birding #397

Rob Dudley of Feathered Photography shares a neat series of photos of a Rough-legged Hawk’s prey who refused to go down without a fight.

Soon after he turned to his left there was obviously something going on with that feisty vole. The hawk is holding the vole as gingerly as possible with only its talons exposed to and imbedded in the rodent and the rest of its foot and leg are being held at an angle with as little exposure to the vole and injury as possible. I wish I hadn’t lost focus in this shot so we could see more clearly what the vole is doing but it appears to me that it might be biting, or attempting to bite, the hawk’s left foot.

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are one of the classic North American ID conundrums, at The Stokes Birding Blog, Lilian Stokes offers some pointers.

Wow, look at the size difference. In this photo you can see the bars on the outer tail feathers of the Downy Woodpecker. This usually occurs on most subspecies of Downy Woodpecker except the “leucurus subspp (s.e. AK-. NE south to AZ-NM) may lack barring on tail.” (from The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which contains information on all subspecies of birds, no other field guide does). The Hairy Woodpecker usually has white unbarred outer tail feathers (except in a few subspecies).

The song of the familiar House Finch offers a fine example of cultural transmission in birds, David Lahti shares his own research on the topic at The AOS News Blog. 

The reason my research collaborators and I are interested in House Finch songs today is because these songs change over time and space—we’d like to know how and why they change the way they do. Most animals simply inherit the noises they make, and so the sounds don’t change much from generation to generation. About half of the world’s birds, however, learn how to “speak” as juveniles from older members of their own species, just as we humans do.

Where do Florida’s Piping Plovers come from? Nick Bonomo at Shorebirder has the surprising answer.

I spent a few days visiting a good friend in North Fort Myers back in late January. While shorebirding on Bunche Beach in Lee County (Gulf Coast near Fort Myers), I noticed several flagged/banded Piping Plovers. I tried to record as many as I could, which ended up being seven birds. I was surprised to hear that all three of the breeding populations were represented in that flock.
At History of Ornithology, Bob Montgomerie shares his fascinating correspondence with Scottish ecologist Adam Watson, affectionately known as “Mr Cairmgorns”.

Wynne-Edwards and Watson had, for example, taken David Lack on a walk in the Cairngorms in 1968 at a time when the two men were having a fierce debate about group selection [2]. But, as Watson wrote to me, their meeting was extremely amicable and group selection was, as far as he could remember, never mentioned. Lack impressed everyone by spotting a rare bird and a rare plant [3], and the day turned out to be a pleasant hike in the mountains with a focus on natural history.

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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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