American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #241

Don Freiday, at Freiday Bird Blog, continues to be a great resource for those birders looking for unusual shorebirds this fall. This past week he took on Baird’s Sandpiper, with tips on how to pick this pointy, prairie specialty out on your local mudflat.

By far, most of the Baird’s Sandpipers we see on the Atlantic Coast are juveniles.  I don’t even have a photo of an adult Baird’s Sandpiper to show you.  Juvenile Baird’s Sandpipers are beautiful birds, usually richly buff with a neat, scaly pattern above created by pale edges to the upperparts feathers. A final tip: Baird’s Sandpipers look the part, in shape and in pattern.  If you’re not sure, it’s probably something else. Consider other juvenile peep or Pectoral Sandpiper.

It’s one of the most bizarre names given to any North American bird, a notable distinction in a world of boobies and sapsuckers, and Carrie Laben attempts to get to the bottom of it at 10,000 Birds.

Another commenter asked the obvious, yet seldom-addressed, question: “Man, what do you have to do to an ornithologist to get called “limpkin”?” I didn’t know, so I made the obvious American Woodcock joke and the world kept turning. But the question has continued to haunt me. Finally, I was forced to do actual research.

Cornell Lab’s Merlin app is potentially a game-changer for novice birders, and can change the way we think about learning to bird, as Cara Byington explains at Cool Green Science.

Every week I add a new species to my repertoire. It’s slow going, for sure, but it’s the most progress I’ve ever made as a birder. On some walks in my local park I haven’t even needed to go to Merlin anymore. I know the birds (and their songs) myself now. Robins, Wood Thrushes, mockingbirds, catbirds, and goldfinches can’t hide from me. Even if I can’t see them, their songs and calls are as clear to me now as the voices of close friends.

Often times birders are called upon to not only speak for birds but take physical action to rescue them, as Sharon McInnes discovered at Birds Canada.

I called to Dennis. “Hon! Bring me my camera – and get your heavy garden gloves.” I was pretty sure this was a Cooper’s. It had the white tail rim associated with the Coopers, the medium-sized hawks that squeeze their prey to death with their claws. We’d had visits from them before; I’d once watched one eat a Dark-eyed Junco for lunch. Another day one sat high up in the Big leaf maple tree in our front yard eyeing the avian smorgasbord below. That day I made a bit of a fool of myself, running around the yard, arms flailing, trying to scare all the jays and songbirds back into the bushes. Eventually that hawk flew off, looking disgusted. This one, however, looked panic-stricken. (That could be projection.)

Noah Strycker continues his whirlwind trip around the world. These days he’s in east Africa, racking up some fascinating species.

The Shoebill resembles no other bird on Earth. It stands nearly four feet tall with a massive beak and weird eyes and a cowlick on the back of its head, and always seems to be glowering down with curious disapproval. The Shoebill makes no sound except an occasional bill-snap; it doesn’t blink; it often stands statue-still for long periods of time; it eats lungfish and has been recorded attacking fish more than three feet long; it mostly lives in remote swamps (perhaps most commonly in South Sudan, though nobody seems to be sure); it lays two eggs of which only one ever survives; and it’s not closely related to any other birds.