American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #158

A great haul of online writing this week on White-breasted Nuthatch splits, bird vocalization vocabulary, non-birding families, Pokeman birding, birding while black, and defeating the stringer within.

The split of the White-breasted Nuthatches has been talked about for some time, though the AOU has not moved on it yet. Tom Beedy and Ed Pandolfino explain on the University of California Press Blog what that means for birders in the Sierra suddenly tasked with identifying two new nuthatch species:

Birders need to prepare themselves for yet another species split. The American Ornithologists’ Union may soon divide the “White-breasted Nuthatch” into three separate species across North America. In the Sierra, we would then have two different species of White-breasted Nuthatches, one mainly on the west side (currently known as subspecies Sitta carolinensis aculeata) and the other mainly on the east side (S. c. tenuissima). This change is going to present birders with a major identification dilemma, because most experts agree that consistently distinguishing between these two in the field is nearly impossible based on physical appearance alone. Therefore many birders will rely on the subspecies range map published in the sixth edition of National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Figure 1). There is just ONE big problem with this map…it is WRONG with respect to the actual ranges of these subspecies in the Sierra Nevada.

Nathan Pieplow of the Earbirding blog continues in his attempt to create standard vocabulary for birders describing bird vocalizations:

In the last post, I covered the five basic pitch patterns, introducing some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of individual notes.  Today I’m going to introduce some vocabulary to help distinguish between different types of groups of notes — that is, different types of songs.

The four song patterns are based on two simple questions:

  1. Does the bird ever sing the same thing twice?

  2. Are the notes slow enough to count, or too fast to count?

The non-birding family can throw a monkey wrench in the plans of the serious birder. Josh Wallestad, writing at the Nature Travel Network, offers some tips to make everyone’s vacation a pleasant one:

Don’t worry, you’re among friends here. We understand your obsession and share it. In fact, you’re probably visiting this site because you’re daydreaming right now about that next big birding trip to some far-off land. While the NBF wants to go to New York City to see a Broadway show, you want to jet off to New Mexico to see the Rufous-necked Wood Rail. But you only have so much time and money, so how do you go on a good birding trip and keep those loved ones happy at the same time? It is possible to accomplish both.

J. Drew Lanham, writing at Orion Magazine, offers some thoughts on the trials and tribulations of the black birdwatcher and some insight as to why there may be so few of them.

Carry your binoculars—and three forms of identification—at all times. You’ll need the binoculars to pick that tufted duck out of the flock of scaup and ring-necks. You’ll need the photo ID to convince the cops, FBI, Homeland Security, and the flashlight-toting security guard that you’re not a terrorist or escaped convict.

Could attracting kids to birding really be as simple as appealing to their gamer natures? At the Eyrie, Rebecca Rolnick explains how birding and the card game Pokeman are remarkably similar:

Most kids who are into Pokémon don’t just know the Pokémon; they can tell you their type, moves, forms, evolutions, the habitat and region you can find them in, and more, without even consulting their Pokedex. (Taillow? Don’t you know that it’s a flying type, weak against electric types but ground types don’t affect it, it can learn wing attack and aerial ace, lives in the forests of Hoenn, and evolves into Swellow?) Maybe some of this enthusiasm could be funneled into learning about birds, including their geographic area, habitat, taxonomy, and behavior.

It was a great week for online writing, so here’s a bonus. Don Frieday of the Frieday Bird Blog gets in touch with his inner stringer, and explains what we all do to keep him at bay:

Believe me, the devil has sat on my binoculars and whispered in my ear, “Who would know the difference?” as I peered at one of the scores of murkily marked Swamp Sparrows around this time of year and thought, I could call that a Lincoln’s right now and be done with it. But I didn’t, don’t, won’t.

Truth is, I’ve known the stringer within for a long time. I just won’t let him report birds.