American Birding Podcast



Avian Changes in the West

For anyone with an interest in changing avian abundance and distribution, the Cooper Ornithological Society’s 1994 book A Century of Avifaunal Change in Western North America is a landmark of scientific research and a source of essential knowledge for efforts in conservation.

Twenty years later a similar and even larger volume is planned by [read more…]

A Tower to Remember

You are forgiven if you can’t guess the purpose of the odd building in this photograph from 90 years ago. You are forgiven, as well, if the name of Althea R. Sherman does not ring an ornithological bell.

She is the woman at the center of the picture, who conceived and designed the building. Her [read more…]

New AOU Check-list Changes

The 53rd Supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-list of North American Birds was published this week, with an extensive array of taxonomic changes including a split of the Xantus’s Murrelet and dramatic rearrangements of falcons and parrots to new positions on the list. [read more…]

Breaking Up the Hawks

Nine years since we were surprised to see loons and grebes moved down past waterfowl, grouse, and quail on our checklists, we might soon see an even more dramatic revision. Falcons could be uprooted from their traditional place just after other “hawks” and moved far down the list almost to songbirds.

This prospect faces the [read more…]

Fighting a Threat to Birds

To some people, a Burmese python is repulsive. To others, it is a good example of adaptive evolution. To still others, it is a welcome pet—until it grows too large and an owner releases it into the wild. To Florida’s avifauna, it is a deadly scourge.

More than two dozen bird species, one of them the endangered Wood Stork, [read more…]

A Shearwater’s Survival

We don’t often see an exclamation point in an ornithological paper’s title, but the one in a scientific report this week is excitingly appropriate: “Bryan’s Shearwaters have survived in the Bonin Islands, Northwestern Pacific!”

Bryan’s Shearwater was formally described as a new species just last year, based on an old museum specimen from Midway Atoll. The [read more…]

AOU Check-list Proposals

As we begin a new birding year, let’s look ahead to proposals that are awaiting action by the American Ornithologists’ Union “Check-list Committee.” Many of these involve ABA Area birds, most notably a split of the Gray Hawk into two species (only one of them found in the ABA Area).

The AOU Committee on Classification [read more…]

A Woodpecker’s Safety Lesson

In my July 2011 News and Notes column in Birding, I pointed to the encouraging prospect that “a woodpecker’s skull might save your life someday.” The topic was an engineering team’s analysis of how a woodpecker’s brain is protected from tremendous shock when the bill rams into hard wood.

The protection comes from a unique [read more…]

L-o-n-g-Distance Nester

Most of us didn’t hear about it, but a female Burrowing Owl nested twice and successfully fledged seven young within the same breeding season—approximately 1,100 miles apart, first in Arizona and then in Saskatchewan.

This remarkable occurrence was documented by Geoffrey Holroyd and Helen Trefry of Environment Canada and Courtney Conway at the U.S. [read more…]

Big Year for Kirtland’s Warbler

This is a record-setting year for Kirtland’s Warbler. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon announce officially that the 2011 census of singing males tallied 1,828 birds: 1,805 in Michigan, 21 in Wisconsin, and 2 in Ontario. This total edges past the previous record of 1,826 in 2009.

“We’ve been encouraged by the bird’s [read more…]