Blog Birding #291


It’s looking like it’s going to be a fairly good winter for Red Crossbills in the coming months, and as one of North America’s most vexing species from a taxonomic perspective, birders often want to keep track of the “Types” of crossbills they cross paths with. Nick Bonomo has some great information on how to approach it at Shorebirder.

Today’s field birders have two options. One…you can go on recording your sightings as Red Crossbill and not worry about what type you are seeing. Identifying a bird to type takes extra time and work (= hassle, to most people), as you’ll see below. And, at least right now, there is still officially only one species of Red Crossbill to worry about anyway! Two…you can contribute to the growing knowledge of Red Crossbill status and distribution by identifying birds to type and reporting them as such to eBird. Option two is way more fun!

The strong sexual dimorphism of our wood-warblers contributed to a long history of confusing names and muddled identification, as Daniel Edelstein explores at Warbler Watch.

Later, Audubon was misled by Wilson’s naming procedure into thinking a Blackburnian Warbler was worthy of being designated a new species, the Hemlock Warbler. Audubon, in fact, was never able to correct this misnaming mistake. Another misplay hearkens to May 1812, when Audubon caught a wood-warbler specimen that he named Vigor’s Warbler in honor of Nicholas Vigor, an English naturalist. More correctly, Audubon’s find was an immature Pine Warbler. His confusion was probably the result of the collected individual being in vastly different habitat than its usual pine/needle tree haunts.

At Bird Canada, Sharon McInnes thinks about islands, extinction, and the inadvertent impact of humans on the environment.

Our non-human (non-pet) residents do not take the ferry. They stay put. This is their habitat, their home. They don’t have the options their human neighbours have. They don’t go shopping across the strait in Nanaimo. If things don’t work out here, they can’t just pack up, sell everything, and move away. They can’t even move to a different part of the island unless it provides the same type of habitat including the right foods and breeding opportunities. They’re basically here to stay, no matter what. This is what makes some islands – take the famous Galapagos – hotspots of biodiversity, home to rare and unique species that occur nowhere else.

Twitter is, by its nature, a brief medium, but ocassionally good stuff comes out of that brevity, like Jason Ward‘s twitter-fied series on identification of fall warblers.

Fall warblers can be a headache as they stop by on their journey to South, Central America and the Caribbean. But I think we make ID’ing them harder than it needs to be. We tend to overthink things. Let’s take a simpler approach. We can use the process of elimination to narrow down the species until we reach the correct verdict. Let’s take a stab at it….

Judy Lidell, at It’s a Bird Thing, considers the remarkable story of the California Condor, and considers its hopeful return to old haunts in the Columbia River Valley.

Despite being the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, their numbers continued to dwindle, primarily due to effects of DDT and lead bullets, until in 1987 there were only 22 wild birds remaining. Under the supervision of the USFWS, these twenty-two birds were captured and taken into the recovery program. In 2003, the Oregon Zoo became a partner in the recovery program and built a breeding barn and flight pens at the zoo’s Jonsson Wildlife Conservation Center.


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