Splitting Red-tailed Hawks?

Red-tailed Hawk_CanonCity-CO_LAH_8371.nef

If you’ve been birding for any length of time, you know that species come and species go. The birds don’t change, but our perception of which variations are actually different species is constantly undergoing review. We have lumpers, who combine disparate species into one, and splitters, who separate subspecies into two or more different species. Add in the (relatively) new ability to examine DNA, and you have a recipe for constant change.

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Online Birding

I haven’t been birding in what seems like ages. I won’t go into the list of reasons, but it involves a new job and lots of home organizing. I need a birding fix. Truly, I’m getting desperate.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post titled “15 Birdy Things to Do When You Can’t Go Birding.” I was in a similar situation—I’d sprained my ankle and was propped up on the couch, missing out on a number of local birding trips. One of the items on my list of things to do was to watch live bird cam feeds.

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Misplaced Birds

American Kestrel_FtCollins-CO_LAH_0107
This is NOT a Saker Falcon!

I was happily immersed in a amusing story—a bathtub-reading kind of book, long on entertainment and short on talent—when I was rudely interrupted by a glaring error—at least glaring to me. The heroine was hiking in the Montana wilderness. The author waxed poetic about the deep green evergreens, the sparkling white snow, curious deer peering from the thickets, and the Saker Falcon wheeling overhead. Wait! What? What’s a Eurasian falcon doing in Montana? Continue reading “Misplaced Birds”

Vulnerable Pests

House Sparrows_Gretna-LA_LAH_1853House Sparrows are frequently despised by North American birders. An invasive species, they commandeer nest cavities needed by native birds, hog feeders, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Agricultural pests, they’re the target of various, and usually unsuccessful, “control” strategies, yet I have to admire this species. In spite of all our attempts at thwarting them, House Sparrows continue to thrive.

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Name that Bird!

Secretarybird_DenverZoo_LAH_1574We’ve given birds some pretty bizarre names. Does the Secretarybird (right) take notes? Who does the Wandering Tattler tattle on? Do chatterers and babblers ever shut up?

Then there are the names that must have come from examining a stuffed specimen in hand. How often do you see the orange crown of an Orange-crowned Warbler?

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Splitting Jays

California Scrub Jay_ToroPark-Salinas-CA_LAH_6692Heinlein said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.* He must not have been a birder. When the American Ornithological Union met this year, many birders added a new species to their life lists without even leaving their arm chairs. It’s time to update our field guides—even the brand new Sibley’s. The Western Scrub-Jay has now been split into the California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica, left)  and the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii).

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