American Birding Podcast
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How to Know the Birds: No. 16, Calliope Futures

On a not-exactly-a-bird-walk a week or so ago, one of the participants, Roberta, was intent on documenting whatever it is that was happening in the general vicinity of a pot full of patriotic petunias:

Not all that long ago, we went birding with scopes and binoculars. Today we’re at least as likely to [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 15, The Incomparable Coolness and Supreme Glory of Roadrunners

You could make the case that I shouldn’t have gone birding that Friday morning. I had a meeting to attend and a presentation to prep for; I had a crushing load of deadlines in the week ahead; and I was carless at a high-rise hotel at that mother-of-all-intersections of I-40 and I-25 in downtown Albuquerque.

[read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 14, Q. T. with a Great Blue

I went out the other evening seeking novelty and adventure. I didn’t know what I would find, but I knew it was to be had out there. That’s because novelty and adventure, when you pause to think about it, are a way of thinking, a state of mind. If you search with a spirit of [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 13, Gannets—Take 2

I’ve been seeing northern gannets, Morus bassanus, for well over 30 years. But I’m going to make the case now that I’d never truly experienced the gannet until I visited the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland & Labrador, earlier this month.

I saw my first gannet on a Big Day long ago. Tick. Move along to the [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 12, Merganser Musings

The adult male, or “drake,” hooded merganser, Lophodotyes cucullatus, has got to be just about the most ridiculously photogenic bird in the ABA Area. No matter how often I see one—the species has been expanding its range and increasing in number for several decades now—I can’t help myself. I have to take a picture. Like [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 11, Beware Expectation

I was leading a field trip a couple weeks ago, and our group came across this bird:

Telluride, San Miguel County, Colorado; June 16, 2019. Photo by © Ted Floyd.

One of the trip participants needed Hammond’s flycatcher for his county list, and we were at a good elevation—and a good part of [read more…]

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…]

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…]

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…]