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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…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 4, Sagebrush Sparrows and the Subjective Experience of Rarity

The time is 9:43 a.m., the temperature in the upper 20s. But “it’s a dry cold.” The sky is completely clear, the sun surprisingly warm. I’m at one of my favorite places on Earth, the entrance to The Nature Conservancy’s Medano-Zapata Ranch:

Photo by © Ted Floyd

 

There are bison in this [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 3, Watching Dippers in the Age of #SciComm

I went birding a short while ago with Nick Minor, co-compiler with Paul Hess of Birding magazine’s popular “Frontiers in Ornithology” (formerly “News & Notes”) column. Time was limited, as Nick had to catch a morning flight out of Denver. But we had to get a dipper, officially known as the American dipper, Cinclus mexicanus. [read more…]

Birding Photo Quiz: February 2019

It’s usually the case with the “Featured Photo” in Birding that we on the editorial and authorial side of things know, or think we know, what we’re dealing with, ID-wise. That’s not the case, though, with Feb. 2019 Featured Photos—yes, plural. Here we present photos of two birds that have been well documented yet stubbornly [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 2, Here’s Looking At You, Crow

I’d arrived a bit early for the Saturday morning bird walk. What to do? Explore the parking lot of course. For one thing, parking lots are underrepresented in the eBird database. And there was something else: There were crows in the parking lot, and I wanted to get a photo of one. Specifically, [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 1, On Hearing the First Cardinal in Spring

 

Several days ago I went birding with the express purpose of procuring audio of a Northern Cardinal. My objective was to obtain an ordinary recording of a normal cardinal. Exhibit A, this guy, an adult male of the species:

In the cut above, our cardinal sings two cheer! notes, then nine birdy! notes, [read more…]