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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…]

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 [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…]

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…]

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Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
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