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How to Know the Birds: No. 10, Dvořák’s Vireo

You might have heard of Mozart’s starling. Lyanda Lynn Haupt recently wrote a book, Mozart’s Starling, that’s received a fair bit of acclaim. The short version of the story goes like this: Back in 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart acquired a captive European starling, Sturnus vulgaris, and somehow taught the bird to sing the opening bars [read more…]

Birding Photo Quiz: June 2019

Don’t blurt out the answer! Pretend you’ve never seen the species of bird in this photo. Or pretend you’re on a bird walk, and you’re showing these birds to someone less expert than you. Less expert, yes, but eager to learn. You’re with someone who wants more than a name—Lesser Zanther or Hoyteenish Shindilly—someone who [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 9, What Birders Want—Western Tanagers

Across a large swath of the ABA Area, it has been a remarkable spring for seeing western tanagers. These radiant birds have been showing up all across the western Great Lakes region, where they don’t ordinarily occur. Birders at oases in the Desert Southwest have been reporting migrants in numbers considerably in excess of normal. [read more…]

Amazing Milestone for Guy McCaskie

How many bird species are on the official list of your state or province? If you’re an ABA member, there’s a decent chance that total is somewhat less than 500. Okay, now how many species have been reported from your county? There are a tiny handful of outliers, but the vast majority of U.S. and [read more…]

Whither the Field Notebook?

Note: This blog post is intended specifically for entrants in the “Field Notebook Module,” ABA 2020 Young Birder of the Year contest. However, it is hoped that the opinions and counsel contained within shall be of interest to anybody who records sightings of birds and other objects and phenomena in nature.

 

Every good birder [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 8, Why Do Carolina Wrens Sound So Loud?

I had every intention of sleeping in. I’d flown in late the night before and had nothing planned for the morning.

The Carolina wren had other plans. At 5:39 local time (that’s 3:39 body time), the bird went off. Then a pause of 6–7 seconds, and again. It went on and on like this, the [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 7, What the Swainson’s Hawk Says

Probably everybody knows what a hawk is. Hawks are big and fierce and raptorial; they have hooked beaks and gnarly talons. Like this:

A chestnut-fronted hawk, just back from its South American wintering grounds, rests in a tree at the edge of a meadow in Colorado. Photo by © Ted Floyd.

Everything checks [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 6, Smartphone Meadowlarks

The dawn chorus on a bright June morning in the foothills of the Appalachians… southbound Sandhill Cranes bugling against a gray sky over the shortgrass prairie… the desert come alive with thrasher song on a still afternoon in late winter… Everywhere in the ABA Area we delight in birdsong. Especially at this time of year. [read more…]

Birding Photo Quiz: April 2019

I have two pet peeves.

The first is standing in line with nothing to do. If I’m waiting for a flight to board, I absolutely have to be doing something. Give me a newspaper or a math problem or a carpet to sweep or a diaper to change—something, anything, or I’ll explode from the boredom [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 5, Why Do Shovelers Spin?

Birds do things. Northern cardinals embellish their songs with squirrel-like chatter; American crows patrol parking lots in their quest for whiskey; sagebrush sparrows flip their long tails expressively, as if they were tiny roadrunners; and American dippers do it all.

Ducks, being birds, do things too. They sit pretty on duck ponds, the drakes sporting [read more…]