AOU Updates, 2020 Edition

 

Northwestern Crow with dead fish_FedWayWA_20090920_LAH_0904

We’re approaching mid-summer, the time that nestlings fledge, birders wilt, and ornithologists announce updates to lists of North American birds. As is common in these days of DNA analysis, most of the changes involve taxonomic reordering and changes in genus. That’s fascinating for those interested in taxonomy, but for most birders, it’s the lumps and splits that claim our attention. When species are lumped, we stand to lose a lifer. When subspecies are split into two or more full species, we can celebrate a longer list. There are three changes this year that will affect our North American life list totals.

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A Baffle of Crows

Northwestern Crow_DumasBaySanctuary-WA_LAH_9524r

Is that a Northwestern Crow or an American Crow?

Crows are one of the most common birds in the Pacific Northwest. There are crows in every tall fir, flying overhead, perching on lamp posts. You can’t miss them. And then, if you happen down to the beach—particularly in Puget Sound—there are hundreds more, picking through the seaweed on intertidal rocks, foraging through the debris left by the receding waters, feasting on dead sea life that has washed up on the sand. But, are those American Crows or Northwestern Crows?

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Is that a Northwestern Crow?

DumasBaySanctuary-WA_LAH_9606

I spent Thanksgiving week in the Pacific Northwest, visiting family (granddaughters!) and friends. Somehow, in the midst of tickles and snuggles, craft projects, and a delicious turkey dinner, I managed to squeeze in an hour of birding—and it wasn’t even raining.

Since we were in Federal Way for lunch that day, we headed for the tiny Dumas Bay Sanctuary. And I do mean tiny. If you walk north along the narrow beach, you quickly run into signs warning of private property. And if you head south instead, the park boundary markers stop you after only a few yards. At least the birds have permission to trespass, and we birders have binoculars.

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