American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #307

Most waterfowl are truly gorgeous, particularly in their late winter finery. Bruce Mactavish at The Newfoundland Birding Blog shares his feelings about a real stunner, the male Eurasian Wigeon.

There is something about an adult drake Eurasian Wigeon that I find irresistible. The burnt orange head and silvery gray body must have something to do with it. The trim and tidy, smart looking, rounded head and agility on their feet are attractive features of both American and Eurasian Wigeon.  Most adult drake ducks in full breeding plumage when studied intimately are works of art but there is something about the colour combination of the adult drake Eurasian Wigeon that just melts me.  Always been that way since I saw my first one in my mid-teens in southern Ontario. I was in a car packed with birders on the way to a May weekend at Point Pelee.  It was a stake out along the way. We had time for only a brief look.

And speaking of stunning birds, Nick Bonomo of Shorebirder made the trip to see the Pennsylvania Black-backed Oriole and has some thoughts.

Black-backed Oriole is rather closely related to the ABA area-breeding Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles. I don’t know much about Black-backed Oriole, but from some online image searching it would appear that females and young males are not dissimilar in appearance from those age classes of our more familiar orioles. It would not take much for, say, a few young birds to have slipped through the cracks before now. That age class is more prone to wander. Adult males, less likely to wander…but they are the plumage class that would stand out, like the PA bird.

A warming arctic introduces a number of obvious issues for tundra breeding birds, and a few that are less clear. For instance, how will birds adapted to short-grass tundra respond to a shrubbier landscape. At the American Ornithologist Society Publications Blog, researcher Heather McFarland shares some of her findings.

How will songbirds that nest in tundra respond as the Arctic transforms into a warmer and shrubbier environment? This is the question that drove us to study a small songbird known as the Smith’s Longspur. Endemic to North America, this songbird breeds in only a few remote mountain valleys in Canada and Alaska, making it particularly susceptible to changes at northern latitudes. Smith’s Longspur’s are also unique in that they are polygynandrous. This is a rare mating strategy where both sexes are polygamous, and birds of either sex may mate with up to three individuals each breeding season.

What does is mean for a bird to be “countable” and does it really matter? Ed Gaillard of Warblers and Rumors of Warblers considers the ramifications.

Meanwhile in Berks County Pennsylvania, a bird called a Black-Backed Oriole has been seen around a feeder in a town called Sinking Spring. This is really problematic for people who keep lists, because that’s a bird from central Mexico that doesn’t migrate any distance. There’s never been a sighting north of the border—well, that’s not right. There’s never been a sighting north of the border that a state records committee has decided was a real vagrant. There was one in San Diego, California that they eventually–after a couple of years–decided must be an escapee. It summered there twice, then showed up in January, and that apparently decided them against it because reasons.

Occasional ABA Blog contributor and Roger Tory Peterson Award recipient Laura Erickson is dealing with some health issues, and accepting things, unsurprisingly, like a chickadee would.

Long-term planning isn’t something that makes sense for chickadees, but neither is pessimism. They wake up each morning, do what needs to be done to stay alive and healthy, react to sudden setbacks and unanticipated good fortune with appropriate responses, cache food against future shortages, and keep on keeping on. Even with all the optimism and all the constraints that a tightly scheduled planning calendar represents for us, a chickadee’s approach to day-to-day living is pretty sound.