American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #423

At Avian Hybrids, Jente Ottenburghs writes that thrush hybrids are far more common and complex that we would have originally imagined.

“Hybridization is not always limited to two species; often multiple species are interbreeding.” This is the first sentence of my recent Avian Research review on multispecies hybridization in birds. In that paper, I argue that hybridization between multiple bird species is probably a common phenomenon, but that we do not know how important it is from an evolutionary point of view. However, before we can assess the evolutionary importance of multispecies hybridization, we first need to know which species are hybridizing. A recent study in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolutionprovided some insights for thrushes of the genus Catharus.

Bryce Robinson asks the eternal question “What, exactly, is a raptor?” at Ornithologi. 

As I stated above, the orders Accipitriformes, Cathartiformes, Falconiformes, and Strigiformes have all traditionally been considered raptors and birds of prey. But, there has also been considerable disagreement about the inclusion of some of these, such as Cathartiformes (New World vultures) and Strigiformes (owls). There has also long been discussion about the inclusion of shrikes (Lanidae) and ravens (Corvidae) because they either share some raptorial morphology and life history characteristics, or fulfill a similar ecological niche. This disagreement has caused many discussions in my life alone. I recall multiple discussions about whether or not Turkey Vultures are raptors, which stirred much of the conversation that led to my involvement in the publication of this paper.

While the total population of the Hawaiian Duck is rather small, its genetic diversity is surprisingly high, according to a summary published at

The endangered Hawaiian duck, or koloa, the only endemic duck remaining on the main Hawaiian Islands, is threatened with genetic extinction due to interbreeding with feral mallards. This has led to the creation of hybrid forms of the koloa. But new research has found that the genetic diversity of the koloa is high, and conservation efforts on the island of Kauai have been successful.

In parts of Ontario, aggregate pits are managed as potential nesting sites for Bank Swallows. But is this good for the species? At Wing Beats, the blog of the American Ornithological Society, a summary of research asking just that question.

If you can hear Admiral Ackbar yelling “it’s a trap!” in your head, that’s exactly what we aimed to find out. Encouraging Bank Swallows to nest in sites that result in low reproductive success or health would be sending them into an ecological trap, which is what biologists call it when individuals choose to settle in a habitat even though they do poorly there compared to other, higher-quality habitat. So before encouraging aggregate pit operators to manage their sites for Bank Swallows, we thought it would be important to first investigate whether these sites can provide suitable high-quality breeding habitat.

There are no shortage of inappropriate, incorrect, or downright weird common names for bird species. At Birdwatching Daily, a rundown of some of North America’s most infamously bad common names.

Some bird names, however, stand out for their sheer inanity. Whether inaccurate, misleading, vaguely vulgar, or just plain goofy, they beg the question: “What were people thinking when they named these birds?”

“There’s nothing sillier than real bird names,” says British birder Patrick Baglee, “the irony being that any bird name someone makes up off the cuff (very often along the lines of ‘lesser spotted babbler’) is rarely as silly as some of the actual names we use day in and day out.”