American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #422

Birding is finding its way into the public consciousness, meaning that we are seeing more and more pieces like this one from Colin O’Conner from The Washingtonian. 

A few years ago, I noticed an old classmate from high school, whom I’d known as a burly, bearded “drink and fight” type, posting pictures of birds on social media. More recently, a new hire at my office—younger than me and seemingly socially capable—introduced himself as a birdwatcher.

This surprised me. I’d always thought of birdwatching as the realm of retirees, bores, social misfits, and the athletically disinclined.

Kate Sutherland at Seabirding shares some information about a recent attempt to tag and track the mysterious Black-capped Petrel.

s many of you know, there are two types of Black-capped Petrels that we encounter offshore here, white-faced and dark-faced birds.  There are also many that fall into an intermediate category.  Molt timing and genetic analysis in these two types of Black-cappeds indicates two different nesting populations.  Nesting birds on Hispanola that have been documented and/or tagged have all been dark-faced or intermediate birds.  This spring an ongoing project by ABC (American Bird Conservancy) to capture these petrels at sea came to Hatteras with a new method for capture and tags for up to ten birds.  Their focus was to capture and tag the white-faced birds so they would perhaps lead us to an unknown nesting location.  We were lucky enough to partner with ABC, South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Birds Caribbean – Black-capped Petrel Working Group for this expedition.

There is a dearth of female bird specimens at many of the world’s top museums, as reported at Audubon by Hannah Waters.

A group of researchers at the Natural History Museum in London compiled records from 1.3 million bird specimens collected between 1751 and 2018 from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and their own institution. Nearly half of those specimens weren’t labeled by sex. Of those that remained, 60 percent were male and 40 percent were female. That translated to over 143,000 more male birds than female birds in those five major museums.

At the University of Maine’s Climate Research Center, a study on the increasing disparity between leaf-out and the arrival of long-distance migratory birds.

“Leaf out and flowering are creeping earlier in warmer springs across the region, but the rate of advance seems to be slower in northern New England,” says McDonough MacKenzie, who has been studying phenology, or the timing of seasonal biological events like flowering and leaf out, in Maine since 2011.

“My Ph.D. adviser works in Concord, Massachusetts, so throughout my research I was always comparing my findings back to Concord. We have these incredible records of plant and bird phenology in Concord that dates back to Thoreau, so we can calculate how these species shift.

Why do some birds soar and some birds flap madly? According to an article at, it’s all in the wrist.

“Birds essentially swim through the air—they flex, extend and bend their wings in flight,” explains Vikram Baliga, a researcher at the University of British Columbia and lead author on the paper. “As a bird specializes in a flight style, nature doesn’t appear to reshape the size or shape of the wing as much as it remodels the wing’s range of motion. Much like a swimmer adjusting their stroke.”