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Blog Birding #411

Laura Erickson writes at her blog about aging and losing the sound of her beloved LeConte’s Sparrow.

Ryan Brady, a wildlife biologist and amazing birder in Wisconsin, has been working tirelessly on Wisconsin’s Breeding Bird Atlas, and some of the areas he’s been searching intensively have been in my old stomping grounds. The day I got home from Panama, he posted photos and sound recordings he’d made that very day of Le Conte’s Sparrows on Kinney Valley Road, including right in what I’d for so long felt was *my* field. It was already July 19, and I was so exhausted from my trip that I simply couldn’t get up early on Saturday. But I woke at 3 am on Sunday, made some coffee, and headed out.

At Avian Hybrids, Jente Ottenburghs tackles one of the most familiar raptors in North America, and asks whether there are full species hiding in plain sight.

George Barrowclough and his colleagues collected samples across the entire range of the Red-shouldered Hawk. They sequenced the mitochondrial ND2 gene and two nuclear introns. These genes revealed a clear difference between the eastern and western populations. The western birds in California – originally described as a distinct species Buteo elegans by Cassin (1855) – are clearly a separate species. This conclusion is corroborated by morphological data: California birds have a much richer rufous coloration and can be diagnosed using the number and size of tail bands.

Common Yellowthroat is known to nearly all North American birders, but the not-so-common yellowthroats of Middle America show interesting variation on the form, as Paul Lewis writes at 10,000 Birds. 

But few birds have as restricted a range as Michoacan’s own Black-polled Yellowthroat. This bird has only been proven to live in the reedbeds of three lakes and one marsh: around Michoacán’s Lake Pátzcuaro and Lake Cuitzeo, Mexico state’s Ciénega de Lerma marsh east of Toluca, and, recently, Guanajuato’s Lake Yuriria. The male Black-polled is distinguished from the Common (and the above species) by its black mask extending up to the crown, with no white or golden brow area. The female is much harder to distinguish, although its legs and general coloring are darker than the female Common.

Cowbird trapping has long been an integral part of the Kirtland’s Warbler recovery plan, but recent studies suggest it may no longer be necessary as the species continues to recover. More at Birdwatching Daily.

“We think this is a turning point for Kirtland’s Warbler management,” said lead author and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center postdoctoral fellow Nathan Cooper. “In 2015, the first year of the study, after we started removing cowbird traps, everybody was shocked when we only found two parasitized nests. By 2018, we thought that it might actually be possible to stop trapping cowbirds altogether, which would be exciting because it means that this species is less reliant on conservation than previously thought.”

Nick Lund of The Birdist took to task some of sport’s most well-known logos for being insufficiently ornithologically accurate. He responds to that first piece at his own website.

I published a fun piece on Deadspin.com this week about fixing the birds pro sports logos. I worked with Ashley Anderson of Hidden Stash Art on the artwork, and she did a fantastic job.

There’s been a pretty good reception for the piece so far (as a longtime Deadspin reader I know it’s a tough crowd), but there have been a few recurring comments on the article and social that I want to address here.

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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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