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eBird Data Indicates Migratory Birds Are Falling out of Sync With Spring

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 09:52

Ecological research uses eBird data to show that migratory birds are falling out of sync with the timing of spring

23 May 2017

Northern Parula is one of dozens of migratory species that are falling out of sync with spring. Photo by Tyler Ficker/Macaulay Library.
At eBird, our goal is connect valuable birdwatcher sightings with research and conservation. The eBird checklists that you’ve entered have been used in over 100 peer-reviewed papers, and hundreds of local, regional, and national conservation decisions. We’re excited to feature one of the most recent papers published on eBird, “Increasing phenological asynchrony between spring green-up and arrival of migratory birds”, thanks to lead author Stephen Mayor. Read on to see how eBird data helped illuminate an increasing mismatch between when plants green up and when migrant birds return in spring.

Spring has sprung in many parts of North America, and a great joy is hearing the neotropical migrants return to fill the forests, fields, and backyards with song. The sequence seems timeless: the weather warms, the trees leaf out, and then the birds arrive. But the timing of spring changes from year to year and so I wondered how well birds were able to track this change, especially given the forecasts for a warmer and more variable climate.

With an international team of researchers, I lead a study using eBird observations to examine how well birds are keeping up with the timing of Spring green-up. eBirders are familiar with BirdCast migration forecasts and know that migration timing is linked to the weather from year to year. Of course, it’s not just the whether that birds are concerned about: birds are hungry after their long migratory flights! The timing of green-up is critical for birds because when the trees leaf out, caterpillars emerge to feed on the young leaves, an important source of protein that contributes to survival and reproduction. Arriving at the optimal time is vital: birds must arrive late enough to avoid frigid conditions but early enough in time to catch the spring pulse in food and establish nest sites and territories.

On average, the 48 songbird species we investigated were falling out of sync with the timing of spring green-up by 5 days per decade. Some species were becoming increasingly mismatched to their environments by double or triple that rate.

We found markedly different patterns in eastern versus western forests. In the eastern temperate forests from southern Canada to Florida, spring green-up generally advanced. Birds like Northern Parula and Yellow-billed Cuckoo also typically arrived earlier, but did not keep pace with the change of spring. In the western forests, spring green-up unexpectedly became later over the period between 2001-2012, and birds like the Townsend’s Warbler also arrived later. Just as in the east, they adjusted their arrival times in the right direction, but didn’t keep pace with changing green-up.

The increasing phenological mismatch may contribute to bird population declines, something the researchers will be further investigating. It’s also not clear why some species seem to be growing out of sync with their environments while others seem to be doing just fine.

Graphic © Elecia Crumpton (University of Florida)

How did we estimate the arrival of bird populations? We don’t just take the first sighting of a species to any given area, which could be inaccurate if birders aren’t watching everyday in every place. Instead we look at how observations ramp up over the spring to get an average arrival date of the population.

We greatly appreciate the time and care everyone takes to submit accurate observations. Together, we’re contributing to a better understanding of avian ecology that could ultimately benefit bird populations.

The study is available for free in Scientific Reports here.

Contributed by: Dr. Stephen J. Mayor, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.


Mayor, Stephen J., Robert P. Guralnick, Morgan W. Tingley, Javier Otegui, John C. Withey, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Margaret E. Andrew, Stefan Leyk, Ian S. Pearse & David C. Schneider. 2017. Increasing phenological asynchrony between spring green-up and arrival of migratory birds. Scientific Reports 7: 1902. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-02045-z

Questions About Nesting Birds? Live from a Robin’s Nest, We’ve Got Answers

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:00
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When our Bird Cams project launched a live streaming camera from an American Robin nest, viewers had plenty of questions about nesting biology. Our NestWatch project leader, Robyn Bailey, took time to answer the questions in a live video chat.

In this hour-long video, Robyn covers questions like:

  • How old are robin chicks when they leave the nest
  • Can eggs survive being left uncovered?
  • Do lawn chemicals harm adult birds or young chicks?

This talk took place on May 16, 2017. See our index of archived livestreamed seminars to enjoy more talks from the Cornell Lab.

Bird Cams: Live American Robin Nest Camera

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 12:50

This pair of robins has built a nest on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, right near the shore of Sapsucker Woods pond. The nest is an open cup of grass and twigs held together with a thick layer of mud and lined with fine dry grass. The female built the nest from the inside, pressing dead grass and twigs around them into a cup shape using the wrist of one wing. This nest site is well protected from the elements, tucked beneath an overhang and out of the wind.

The male will bring food to the nest for the nestlings, but the female (who wears a band on her right leg) will do all of the incubation and brooding. American Robins eat large numbers of both invertebrates and fruit. Particularly in spring and summer they eat large numbers of earthworms as well as insects and some snails. (They have rarely been recorded eating shrews, small snakes, and aquatic insects.) Robins also eat an enormous variety of fruits, including chokecherries, hawthorn, dogwood, and sumac fruits, and juniper berries. One study suggested that robins may try to round out their diet by selectively eating fruits that have bugs in them.

Why Don’t Some Warblers Nest Farther West? Maybe It’s Just Too Tough to Get There

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:59
A Cape May Warbler in Quebec. Photo by Suzanne Labbé/Macaulay Library.

A flip through the range maps in any field guide shows blocks of color indicating where a species spends its summers, winters, and points in between. But why does a species occur where it does? What limits its range? People have debated this idea for at least a century—the field even has its own name, “biogeography.” And recently David Toews, a postdoctoral associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, added a new idea to the list.

Toews looked at the ranges of North American warblers and noticed an interesting pattern. More than half of these brightly colored songbird species breed in the boreal forest, where they take advantage of an incredible abundance of food during the summer months. Stretching from eastern Maine, straight across Canada and into Alaska, the boreal forest supports an estimated 3 billion birds and is often called North America’s bird nursery.

Yet even though the boreal forest offers more than 1.2 billion acres of habitat and lots of food, some warbler species use only part of it. Cape May Warblers, for example, forage and nest in spruce and fir trees, which occur across the entire boreal forest. But good luck seeing a Cape May Warbler west of Alberta, Canada. “Those places, particularly in the summer, are just jam-packed with food,” Toews says. “So presumably those would be, at a very superficial level, good habitat for these birds.” If the right kind of habitat is there, why don’t they breed there?

The Cape May Warbler's breeding range abruptly stops partway across Canada, even though suitable habitat exists through Alaska. A new study suggests these birds, and several other warbler species, may simply be unable to migrate that far in time for breeding to begin. Photo by Chris Wood. Unlike Cape May Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes breed all the way across the boreal forest. This may be because their wintering range includes western Mexico, which puts these migrants within range of western Canada and Alaska. Photo by Gerrit Vyn.

To explore this age-old question, Toews took advantage of the biggest citizen-science dataset on birds available. He used eBird data to look at where people reported 17 warbler species from Newfoundland to Alaska. Four of the 17 species occur all the way across, but 13 species mysteriously stop partway. Wondering if perhaps some aspect of the forest habitat was different in western Canada and Alaska, Toews looked at land cover data and climatic variables for the entire boreal forest. The results backed up his impression: appropriate habitat does exist in northwestern Canada and Alaska, even though the birds themselves are nowhere to be found.

Toews thinks the answer might have less to do with the right type of habitat and more with migration distance. For a Cape May Warbler that spends its winters in Central America and the Caribbean, flying to eastern Canada takes a lot of energy. But it takes even more to reach far northwestern Canada. That extra distance might just be too much for these tiny birds. In other words, the cost of migration might limit their breeding range.

Blackpoll Warblers, on the other hand, are super migrators; they fly more than 1,800 miles one-way from South America to Canada and breed across nearly the entire boreal forest from east to west. So why can Blackpoll Warblers make the distance while other warblers can’t? “The how and why we really don’t know,” Toews says, “but the ability to store and use fuel efficiently if you are moving long distances can be a pretty important limiting factor.” Maybe Blackpolls are doing something different that Cape May Warblers, for example, can’t do, “the idea being that there are tradeoffs with some of those adaptations.”

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Perhaps Blackpoll Warblers are just migration overachievers—not really comparable to other species. But there’s still the case of the Northern Waterthrush, Toews says. It winters in Mexico and Central America and nests across the entire boreal forest. Unlike the Cape May Warbler, the Northern Waterthrush winters in western Mexico. Individuals wintering there can fly straight north to western Alaska, keeping their total travel distance down to something manageable.

They’re not migrating any farther than Cape May Warblers, they’re just starting from a different location, and using the Pacific Flyway, a migration corridor that runs up the western edge of the continent. “While there isn’t a perfect one-to-one tradeoff between distance traveled and how far north a bird can breed,” Toews says, there are other navigational barriers and costs that may keep those other 13 species he studied from reaching northwestern Canada and Alaska.

Toews’ new proposal joins a number of previously suggested explanations for why species have range limits, including competition among species, geographic barriers such as the Rocky Mountains, and physiological limits such as a bird’s ability to cope with temperature extremes. “I definitely don’t think that we know the exact answer,” Toews says, “but it’s a different way to think about range limits in birds.”


Toews, D. P. L. 2017. Habitat suitability and the constraints of migration in New World warblers. Journal of Avian Biology 48:001­–010.

Global Big Day Wrap-Up: More Than 6,000 Species Worldwide As Team Sapsucker Finds 327 Species in Yucatán

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 08:30

The third annual Global Big Day drew a record 17,000 participants from all seven continents. From Adelie Penguin to Resplendent Quetzal, Ruby-throated Hummingbird to Common Ostrich, together birders tallied more than 6,400 species.

“Global Big Day presents us with a vignette of what is possible when people and organizations work together focusing on their respective areas of expertise and together accomplishing what could never be done alone,” says Team Sapsucker captain Chris Wood.

Team Belize finished with 242 species. From left: Roni Martinez, Andrew Farnsworth, Steve Kelling, Brian Sullivan.Team Mexico finished with 224 species. From front to back: Angel Fernando Castillo, Jessie Barry, Jesus Bombadilla, Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez, Chris Wood, Rafael Calderon.Team Guatemala finished with 213 species. From left: Pablo Najarro, Ian Davies, Marlo García, Tim Lenz, Marshall Iliff, Marcial Córdova.PreviousNext

Team Sapsucker followed this advice to the letter, teaming up with expert birders from local monitoring groups and birding clubs for their Big Day run in the Yucatán Peninsula. For the first time in their 30-year history, the team split into three groups to cover the region’s Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala sections, which are blanketed by the second largest remaining forest in the Neotropics after the Amazon basin.

After pooling their lists, the teams ended the day with a whopping 327 species combined—reflecting not just great birding but the region’s importance to an immense diversity of birds. Team Belize topped the friendly group competition with 242 species (including 40 species the other teams didn’t find); Team Mexico found 224 species (with 43 unique to their list); and Team Guatemala tallied 213 (with 23 unique).

In this map, brighter colors indicate greater species diversity—that big patch of orange in the southern Yucatán is the Maya Forest, where Team Sapsucker ran their Big Day. Explore sightings with the eBird Hotspots tool.

The day encompassed Yucatán specialties like Black Catbird and Yucatán Jay; tropical rainforest birds such as Rufous Piha and Wedge-billed Woodcreeper; migrants such as Magnolia Warbler and Eastern Wood-Pewee still pushing north toward their summer homes; and a thrilling half-hour of raptor watching from the summit of a Mayan pyramid. But among the biggest surprises were unexpected shorebirds that took refuge from heavy rain on salt flats, rice fields, and lake shores—including the Yucatán’s second-ever eBird record for Hudsonian Godwit and hundreds of the normally scarce Franklin’s Gull.

Rain or No Rain, We’ve Got to Try

In Guatemala, midnight greeted the team with pouring rain. They took the opportunity to catch a few more winks, but “at 3 a.m. we said rain or no rain we’ve got to try,” team captain Marshall Iliff recalls. They ventured down a trail hearing nothing but the drumming of rain on leaves, until finally their first bird piped up, a Mottled Owl.

Dawn came late because of the heavy clouds. The team, which consisted of Iliff, Ian Davies, and Tim Lenz of the Cornell Lab, Marcial Córdova of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Marlo García and Pablo Najarro of the Petén Birders Club, climbed into a canopy observation tower in the half-light. Just then “the rain stopped, and then the motmots and Bright-rumped Attilas started calling,” Iliff says, “We got three really special birds: Tody Motmot, Green Shrike-Vireo, and Barred Forest-Falcon, and then we figured the day was going to be all right.”

This animated map of week by week occurrence illustrates how important the Yucatán is for migratory songbirds including the Magnolia Warbler (above) and more than 20 others.

Meanwhile in Belize, Andrew Farnsworth, Steve Kelling, and Brian Sullivan of the Lab, and Roni Martinez of the Belize Bird Conservancy, were finishing up a tremendous nocturnal migration. In the darkness, their ears picked up the faint call notes of migrants passing overhead, including Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, Gray-cheeked and Swainson’s Thrushes, Veery, and others.

As dawn approached they heard the rich, liquid whistles of Great and Thicket Tinamous, and then found Ocellated Turkey, Great Curassow, and Crested Guan—species that are often hunted and whose presence typically indicates places where conservation is working.

For their part, Team Mexico spent dawn at an observation tower overlooking dry Yucatán forest. The team consisted of Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, and Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez of the Cornell Lab, Rafael Calderon, a community birding coordinator from the Mexican government agency CONABIO, and two representatives of community bird-monitoring groups, Jesus Bombadilla of the Mayan Jays and Angel Fernando Castillo of the Yucatán Jays. The team members were thrilled to find a Royal Flycatcher, an endangered species in Mexico, nesting near the base of the tower. Later in the day they visited mangroves and salt flats—they were the only team that reached saltwater—getting key species such as American Flamingo, Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Magnificent Frigatebird, and many others.

All three teams came away doubly impressed with the region’s importance for migrants. Even though migration is already peaking in the U.S., the Sapsuckers were amazed at how many thousands of birds were still making their way north. Magnolia Warblers were the most common migrant in every habitat, Iliff says, while Blackburnian Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Eastern Wood-Pewees—which began their migrations in South America—had stopped off here in large numbers to fuel up before crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

As the morning heated up, the Guatemala team climbed the Temple IV pyramid at Tikal National Park and enjoyed 36 minutes of unparalleled raptor watching, finding 11 species including both Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles. “We got up there just as the raptors started to circle up,” Iliff says, “and then we pretty much just traded raptors for the whole watch,” calling names out one after another as a rather baffled group of German tourists looked on.

Not to be outdone, Team Belize had their own successful skywatch from a ridgeline in the Maya Mountains. Among 11 raptor species, they were stunned to count 41 Hook-billed Kites, evidence of a spring migration for this species that was previously unknown.

The Black-throated Bobwhite, a Yucatán specialty, was worth the heat and chiggers for Team Guatemala. Photo by Ian Davies.

Inevitably, the day grew hot and quiet. “One of the fun things about big days is you have to bird some spot in the heat of the day, and you know it’s going to be quiet and you just have to do it anyway,” Iliff says. South of Tikal, “we stomped through the dry grass, which must have been full of chiggers,” and were rewarded with Yucatán specialties Black-throated Bobwhite and a distinct race of Botteri’s Sparrow. Then, in a strategic masterstroke, they piled out of their cramped vehicle and into a boat for a cool and breezy sunset cruise for marsh birds on Lago Petén Itzá.

A Bright Side to the Downpour

Near sunset, Team Belize was shut down by the heavy rain that had drenched Team Guatemala in the morning—but not before they found Jabirus, Limpkins, a collection of shorebirds, and 850 rare Franklin’s Gulls around the rice fields of Blue Creek.

The spectacular migrant show was perhaps helped by the downpours. The heavy weather likely forced some birds to fly lower to the ground where they were easier to identify, including a lone Hudsonian Godwit spotted by Mexican team members Calderon and Ruiz-Gutierrez; and unexpected Cliff Swallows seen by all three teams. The shorebird spot that Team Mexico was depending on for 7 or 8 species eventually yielded 22 species. Far more than just ticks on a checklist, these sightings underscore how much there is still to learn about migration in this region.

The participation of the local birding community was crucial for the success of the three teams. From finding reliable spots for hard-to-find birds like Northern Potoo and Black Catbird, to organizing trucks, boats, home-cooked meals, and fresh lemonade, and onward to the immense day-to-day impact these men and women have on conservation of the Maya Forest, these team members can’t be thanked enough.

The feeling of the day was perhaps summed up best by Castillo. He was totting up the day’s list as Team Mexico weighed their chances for taking first place in the friendly inter-team competition. Speaking in Spanish, he said, “No matter what happens, today was a win. I got three lifers! We won!”

Official Results List

Here’s the full breakdown of the 327 species and the teams that saw them:

Common Name Seen by: 1 Great Tinamou Belize, Guatemala 2 Slaty-breasted Tinamou Belize, Guatemala 3 Thicket Tinamou All three teams 4 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Guatemala only 5 Blue-winged Teal Belize only 6 Plain Chachalaca All three teams 7 Crested Guan Belize only 8 Great Curassow All three teams 9 Black-throated Bobwhite All three teams 10 Ocellated Turkey All three teams 11 Least Grebe Belize, Mexico 12 Pied-billed Grebe Guatemala, Mexico 13 American Flamingo Mexico only 14 Jabiru Belize only 15 Wood Stork Belize only 16 Magnificent Frigatebird Mexico only 17 Neotropic Cormorant All three teams 18 Double-crested Cormorant Mexico only 19 Anhinga All three teams 20 Brown Pelican Mexico only 21 Pinnated Bittern Belize, Guatemala 22 Least Bittern Guatemala, Mexico 23 Bare-throated Tiger-Heron Belize, Guatemala 24 Great Blue Heron All three teams 25 Great Egret All three teams 26 Snowy Egret All three teams 27 Little Blue Heron All three teams 28 Tricolored Heron Mexico only 29 Reddish Egret Mexico only 30 Cattle Egret All three teams 31 Green Heron All three teams 32 Black-crowned Night-Heron Guatemala only 33 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Belize only 34 Boat-billed Heron Belize only 35 White Ibis Belize, Mexico 36 Roseate Spoonbill Mexico only 37 Black Vulture All three teams 38 Turkey Vulture All three teams 39 Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Belize, Mexico 40 King Vulture Belize, Guatemala 41 Osprey Mexico only 42 White-tailed Kite Belize, Guatemala 43 Hook-billed Kite All three teams 44 Gray-headed Kite Mexico only 45 Swallow-tailed Kite Belize, Guatemala 46 Black Hawk-Eagle Belize, Guatemala 47 Ornate Hawk-Eagle Guatemala only 48 Black-collared Hawk Belize only 49 Snail Kite Belize, Mexico 50 Double-toothed Kite Belize, Guatemala 51 Plumbeous Kite Belize, Guatemala 52 Common Black Hawk Mexico only 53 Great Black Hawk Belize, Mexico 54 Roadside Hawk All three teams 55 White-tailed Hawk Belize only 56 White Hawk Belize only 57 Gray Hawk Guatemala, Mexico 58 Short-tailed Hawk Guatemala, Mexico 59 Zone-tailed Hawk Mexico only 60 Ruddy Crake All three teams 61 Russet-naped Wood-Rail Belize, Guatemala 62 Sora Guatemala only 63 Purple Gallinule All three teams 64 American Coot Guatemala only 65 Limpkin Belize, Guatemala 66 Black-necked Stilt Belize, Mexico 67 American Oystercatcher Mexico only 68 Black-bellied Plover Mexico only 69 Snowy Plover Mexico only 70 Wilson’s Plover Mexico only 71 Semipalmated Plover Mexico only 72 Northern Jacana All three teams 73 Whimbrel Mexico only 74 Hudsonian Godwit Mexico only 75 Ruddy Turnstone Mexico only 76 Stilt Sandpiper Mexico only 77 Sanderling Mexico only 78 Baird’s Sandpiper Guatemala only 79 Least Sandpiper All three teams 80 White-rumped Sandpiper All three teams 81 Buff-breasted Sandpiper Mexico only 82 Pectoral Sandpiper Belize, Guatemala 83 Semipalmated Sandpiper Mexico only 84 Western Sandpiper Mexico only 85 Short-billed Dowitcher Mexico only 86 Wilson’s Phalarope Mexico only 87 Spotted Sandpiper All three teams 88 Solitary Sandpiper Belize only 89 Greater Yellowlegs Belize, Mexico 90 Lesser Yellowlegs Belize, Mexico 91 Laughing Gull Guatemala, Mexico 92 Franklin’s Gull Belize only 93 Herring Gull Mexico only 94 Least Tern Mexico only 95 Gull-billed Tern Mexico only 96 Royal Tern Mexico only 97 Rock Pigeon Guatemala, Mexico 98 Pale-vented Pigeon All three teams 99 Scaled Pigeon All three teams 100 Red-billed Pigeon All three teams 101 Short-billed Pigeon Belize, Guatemala 102 Eurasian Collared-Dove All three teams 103 Common Ground-Dove Belize, Mexico 104 Plain-breasted Ground-Dove Belize only 105 Ruddy Ground-Dove All three teams 106 Blue Ground-Dove All three teams 107 Ruddy Quail-Dove Belize, Guatemala 108 White-tipped Dove All three teams 109 Caribbean Dove Guatemala, Mexico 110 Gray-headed Dove Belize, Mexico 111 White-winged Dove All three teams 112 Zenaida Dove Mexico only 113 Groove-billed Ani All three teams 114 Striped Cuckoo Guatemala only 115 Pheasant Cuckoo All three teams 116 Squirrel Cuckoo All three teams 117 Yellow-billed Cuckoo All three teams 118 Black-billed Cuckoo Belize only 119 Barn Owl Belize only 120 Vermiculated Screech-Owl Belize, Mexico 121 Spectacled Owl Belize only 122 Central American Pygmy-Owl Belize only 123 Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl Guatemala, Mexico 124 Mottled Owl All three teams 125 Black-and-white Owl Belize only 126 Lesser Nighthawk Guatemala, Mexico 127 Common Pauraque All three teams 128 Yucatan Poorwill Belize, Mexico 129 Yucatan Nightjar Mexico only 130 Northern Potoo All three teams 131 Chimney Swift Belize only 132 Vaux’s Swift All three teams 133 Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift Belize, Guatemala 134 White-necked Jacobin Belize only 135 Long-billed Hermit Belize only 136 Stripe-throated Hermit Guatemala only 137 Purple-crowned Fairy Guatemala only 138 Green-breasted Mango Belize only 139 Mexican Sheartail Mexico only 140 Canivet’s Emerald All three teams 141 Wedge-tailed Sabrewing Guatemala, Mexico 142 White-bellied Emerald All three teams 143 Rufous-tailed Hummingbird All three teams 144 Buff-bellied Hummingbird Guatemala, Mexico 145 Cinnamon Hummingbird Mexico only 146 Slaty-tailed Trogon Belize, Guatemala 147 Black-headed Trogon All three teams 148 Gartered Trogon All three teams 149 Collared Trogon All three teams 150 Tody Motmot Belize, Guatemala 151 Lesson’s Motmot All three teams 152 Turquoise-browed Motmot Mexico only 153 Ringed Kingfisher All three teams 154 Amazon Kingfisher Belize only 155 Green Kingfisher Belize, Mexico 156 White-necked Puffbird Guatemala, Mexico 157 Rufous-tailed Jacamar Belize, Guatemala 158 Emerald Toucanet Guatemala only 159 Collared Aracari All three teams 160 Keel-billed Toucan All three teams 161 Black-cheeked Woodpecker Belize only 162 Yucatan Woodpecker Belize, Mexico 163 Golden-fronted Woodpecker All three teams 164 Ladder-backed Woodpecker Belize, Mexico 165 Smoky-brown Woodpecker Belize, Mexico 166 Golden-olive Woodpecker All three teams 167 Chestnut-colored Woodpecker Belize, Guatemala 168 Lineated Woodpecker Belize, Guatemala 169 Pale-billed Woodpecker All three teams 170 Barred Forest-Falcon Guatemala only 171 Collared Forest-Falcon All three teams 172 Crested Caracara Belize, Mexico 173 Laughing Falcon All three teams 174 Aplomado Falcon Belize only 175 Bat Falcon Belize, Mexico 176 Orange-breasted Falcon Belize, Guatemala 177 Brown-hooded Parrot Belize, Guatemala 178 White-crowned Parrot All three teams 179 Red-lored Parrot Belize, Guatemala 180 White-fronted Parrot All three teams 181 Yellow-lored Parrot All three teams 182 Mealy Parrot Belize, Guatemala 183 Olive-throated Parakeet All three teams 184 Barred Antshrike All three teams 185 Plain Antvireo Belize, Guatemala 186 Dot-winged Antwren Belize, Guatemala 187 Black-faced Antthrush All three teams 188 Olivaceous Woodcreeper All three teams 189 Ruddy Woodcreeper Guatemala, Mexico 190 Tawny-winged Woodcreeper All three teams 191 Wedge-billed Woodcreeper Belize only 192 Ivory-billed Woodcreeper All three teams 193 Plain Xenops Guatemala only 194 Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner Belize only 195 Rufous-breasted Spinetail Belize, Guatemala 196 Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet Guatemala only 197 Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet All three teams 198 Greenish Elaenia All three teams 199 Yellow-bellied Elaenia All three teams 200 Ochre-bellied Flycatcher Belize only 201 Sepia-capped Flycatcher Mexico only 202 Northern Bentbill All three teams 203 Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher Guatemala only 204 Common Tody-Flycatcher All three teams 205 Eye-ringed Flatbill Belize, Guatemala 206 Yellow-olive Flycatcher All three teams 207 Stub-tailed Spadebill All three teams 208 Royal Flycatcher All three teams 209 Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher Belize, Guatemala 210 Olive-sided Flycatcher Belize only 211 Eastern Wood-Pewee Belize, Guatemala 212 Tropical Pewee Belize, Mexico 213 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Guatemala, Mexico 214 Least Flycatcher All three teams 215 Vermilion Flycatcher All three teams 216 Bright-rumped Attila All three teams 217 Rufous Mourner Belize only 218 Yucatan Flycatcher All three teams 219 Dusky-capped Flycatcher All three teams 220 Brown-crested Flycatcher All three teams 221 Great Kiskadee All three teams 222 Boat-billed Flycatcher All three teams 223 Social Flycatcher All three teams 224 Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher All three teams 225 Piratic Flycatcher All three teams 226 Tropical Kingbird All three teams 227 Couch’s Kingbird All three teams 228 Eastern Kingbird Guatemala only 229 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Guatemala only 230 Fork-tailed Flycatcher Belize, Guatemala 231 Rufous Piha Belize only 232 White-collared Manakin Guatemala only 233 Red-capped Manakin All three teams 234 Black-crowned Tityra Guatemala only 235 Masked Tityra All three teams 236 Northern Schiffornis All three teams 237 Rose-throated Becard Belize, Mexico 238 Rufous-browed Peppershrike Belize, Mexico 239 Green Shrike-Vireo Belize, Guatemala 240 Tawny-crowned Greenlet Belize, Mexico 241 Lesser Greenlet All three teams 242 Mangrove Vireo All three teams 243 Philadelphia Vireo Guatemala only 244 Red-eyed Vireo All three teams 245 Yellow-green Vireo All three teams 246 Brown Jay All three teams 247 Green Jay Guatemala, Mexico 248 Yucatan Jay Mexico only 249 Northern Rough-winged Swallow All three teams 250 Gray-breasted Martin All three teams 251 Mangrove Swallow All three teams 252 Bank Swallow All three teams 253 Barn Swallow All three teams 254 Cliff Swallow All three teams 255 Cave Swallow Mexico only 256 House Wren Guatemala, Mexico 257 Carolina Wren All three teams 258 Yucatan Wren Mexico only 259 Spot-breasted Wren All three teams 260 White-bellied Wren All three teams 261 White-breasted Wood-Wren All three teams 262 Long-billed Gnatwren All three teams 263 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher All three teams 264 Tropical Gnatcatcher All three teams 265 Veery Belize only 266 Gray-cheeked Thrush Belize, Mexico 267 Swainson’s Thrush Belize, Guatemala 268 Clay-colored Thrush All three teams 269 White-throated Thrush Belize, Guatemala 270 Black Catbird Guatemala, Mexico 271 Tropical Mockingbird Belize, Mexico 272 Northern Waterthrush All three teams 273 Prothonotary Warbler Belize only 274 Gray-crowned Yellowthroat Belize, Guatemala 275 Common Yellowthroat All three teams 276 American Redstart All three teams 277 Magnolia Warbler All three teams 278 Bay-breasted Warbler Belize, Guatemala 279 Blackburnian Warbler Guatemala, Mexico 280 Yellow Warbler All three teams 281 Chestnut-sided Warbler Guatemala only 282 Black-throated Green Warbler Belize only 283 Golden-crowned Warbler Belize only 284 Gray-headed Tanager Belize, Mexico 285 Black-throated Shrike-Tanager Belize, Guatemala 286 Blue-gray Tanager All three teams 287 Yellow-winged Tanager All three teams 288 Red-legged Honeycreeper All three teams 289 Green Honeycreeper Belize only 290 Blue-black Grassquit All three teams 291 Variable Seedeater Belize only 292 White-collared Seedeater All three teams 293 Yellow-faced Grassquit All three teams 294 Buff-throated Saltator Belize, Guatemala 295 Black-headed Saltator All three teams 296 Grayish Saltator All three teams 297 Botteri’s Sparrow Guatemala only 298 Olive Sparrow All three teams 299 Green-backed Sparrow All three teams 300 Rose-throated Tanager All three teams 301 Red-crowned Ant-Tanager Belize only 302 Red-throated Ant-Tanager All three teams 303 Black-faced Grosbeak Belize, Mexico 304 Northern Cardinal All three teams 305 Gray-throated Chat All three teams 306 Blue-black Grosbeak Belize only 307 Blue Bunting All three teams 308 Indigo Bunting Guatemala, Mexico 309 Dickcissel Belize only 310 Red-winged Blackbird All three teams 311 Eastern Meadowlark Belize, Mexico 312 Melodious Blackbird All three teams 313 Great-tailed Grackle All three teams 314 Bronzed Cowbird All three teams 315 Black-cowled Oriole Belize, Mexico 316 Hooded Oriole Belize, Mexico 317 Yellow-backed Oriole Mexico only 318 Yellow-tailed Oriole Belize only 319 Orange Oriole Mexico only 320 Altamira Oriole Mexico only 321 Yellow-billed Cacique Belize, Mexico 322 Montezuma Oropendola Guatemala only 323 Scrub Euphonia Mexico only 324 Yellow-throated Euphonia All three teams 325 Olive-backed Euphonia Belize, Guatemala 326 Lesser Goldfinch Belize, Mexico 327 House Sparrow Guatemala only

Am I Like You? Teacher’s Guide: Fun Activities Target National Education Standards for Grades K-3

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 01:27


Purchase your copy
Am I Like You? by Laura Erickson and Brian Sockin, illustrated by Anna Rettberg
The Am I Like You? – Teacher’s Guide (8 pages, free download) features activities that target national science, math, writing, and art education standards for grades K-3. Specific standard subjects are listed below. This website provides background information and digital content to complement the printable Guide.

Supplemental Materials for the Activities in the Guide:
Activity 2. Neighborhood Bird Walk
Bird walks can be a great brain break! If you’re looking to incorporate a breath of fresh air into your and your children’s routine, try taking learning outside. During the walk, have kids stand still in complete silence for a couple of minutes and listen carefully to the birds calling around them. Can they count how many different songs they hear? Then have children use their sense of sight to try and spot as many birds as they can. Binoculars are a great tool for seeing high into the treetops or across the playground. The BirdSleuth Bird Bingo Cards are also a valuable tool on walks. Children actively search for birds while having a blast playing the game.
Activity 5. Comparing Critters
Use the following sites to help you figure out what birds are common in your area:
Common Feeder Birds
Common Nesting Birds
Sort by region, habitat, and lots of other factors to find out who your neighborhood friends are!
Activity 7. Move Like a Bird
The following videos show the ways in which different birds move. Can you imitate any of their movements?
Turkey vulture soaring:

Hummingbird hovering and “humming”:

Ostrich running:

Penguins waddling:

Bonus question: This is only one of the ways penguins use to travel. Can you name some others?
Sparrow hopping:

Activity 12. Feeding Bird Friends
For more detailed instructions on how to craft a set of pine cone feeders, as well explore other feeder options, visit our DIY Feeders page.

National Education Standards
Science Connections (SCI; Next Generation Science Standards)
Life Science (K-3): LS1.A, LS1.B, LS1.C, LS2.D, LS3.A, LS3.B, LS4.B, LS4.C, LS4.D
Earth & Space Science (K-3): ESS3.A, ESS3.C
Math Connections (MATH; Common Core State Standards)
Counting & Cardinality (K): CC.B.4
Geometry (K): G.A.1, G.B.5
Measurement & Data
K: MD.A.1, MD.A.2, MD.B.3
1: MD.C.4
2: MD.D.10
3: MD.B.3
English Language Arts (ELA; Common Core State Standards)
Reading Literature
K: RL.K.1, RL.K.2, RL.K.3, RL.K.5, RL.K.7, RL.K.10
1: RL.1.1, RL.1.2, RL.1.3, RL.1.6, RL.1.7, RL.1.10
2: RL.2.1, RL.2.4, RL.2.5, RL.2.6, RL.2.7
3: RL.3.1, RL.3.3, RL.3.5, RL3.6, RL.3.7
K: W.K.2, W.K.3, W.K.8
1: W.1.2, W.1.3, W.1.7, W.1.8
2: W.2.2, W.2.3, W.2.8
3: W.3.2, W.3.3, W.3.4, W.3.7, W.3.8
Speaking & Listening
K: SL.K.1, SL.K.2, SL.K.3, SL.K.4, SL.K.5, SL.K.6
1: SL.1.1, SL.1.2, SL.1.3, SL.1.4, SL.1.5, SL.1.6
2: SL.2.1, SL.2.2, SL.2.4
3: SL.3.1, SL.3.2
Art Connections (ART; National Core Art Standards)
Theatre (K-3)
Creating: Cr1.1, Cr2.1
Performing: Pr6.1
Visual Arts (K-3)
Creating: Cr1.1, Cr1.2, Cr2.1, Cr2.3, Cr3.1, Cr4.1
Responding: Re7.2

Migrants Galore in Yucatán As Team Sapsucker Scouts For Global Big Day

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 11:09
Blue-crowned Chlorophonia in Guatemala by Ian Davies.Slaty-tailed Trogon in Guatemala by Ian Davies.Black-necked Stilt and American Flamingo in Mexico by Chris Wood.White-necked Puffbird in Guatemala by Ian Davies.White-eared Hummingbird in Guatemala by Ian Davies.Horned Guan in Guatemala by Ian Davies.PreviousNext hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); -->

Birders the world over are giving their optics a last polish and planning their morning routes as we approach the start of the 3rd annual Global Big Day. Anyone can participate simply by entering one or more eBird checklists anytime this Saturday, May 13. Last year, more than 17,000 bird watchers tallied more than 60% of all the world’s bird species in a single gargantuan day. What will happen this year?

For their part, Team Sapsucker, the Cornell Lab’s birding team, is in the Yucatán Peninsula—one of the richest birding regions in the Americas and a crucial migration and wintering area for dozens of North American breeding birds. The area is so thick with birds that the Sapsuckers, for the first time ever, have chosen to split into 3 teams—one each in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala—to cover all the possibilities.

The Yucatán Peninsula’s extensive forests harbor endemic species that occur nowhere else, as well as tropical lovelies like Slaty-tailed Trogons and Blue-crowned Chlorophonias, plus songbirds familiar to many a U.S. and Canadian bird watcher. Despite the fact that spring warblers arrived in the U.S. a couple of weeks ago, migration is by no means over in the Yucatán.

“I’ve been blown away at the number of migrants,” says Marshall Iliff, who’s leading the Sapsucker team in Guatemala. “I was thinking, migration has already wound down in Texas, so there’s probably not that much down here. But I’m just so wrong.”

Among the migrants still heading north is the Magnolia Warbler. Photo by David Disher/Macaulay Library.Blackburnian Warblers have been traveling from northern South America and stop in the Yucatán to refuel before crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Alix d'Entremont/Macaulay Library.Red-eyed Vireos spend the winter in the Amazon basin, and then funnel through the Yucatán before flooding eastern North America's forests. Photo by JMC Nature Photos via Birdshare.Even a few Hooded Warblers are still on the move. Photo by Evan Lipton/Macaulay Library.Migrating Barn Swallows flitted through the sky as the team scouted in Mexico. Photo by Tim Avery/Macaulay Library.Strangely enough, Northern Cardinals will be one of the hardest birds for the Guatemala team to find. Photo by Corey Hayes via Birdshare.PreviousNext

So far the team has seen Magnolia, Blackburnian, Blue-winged, Hooded, and Yellow Warblers, plus, Iliff says, “a ton of Red-eyed Vireos—they’re silent in the forest, but you find a fruiting tree and there’s a half dozen in there.” The vireos and the Blackburnian Warblers are on their way back from South America, stopping to refuel in the Yucatán’s strategically placed forests before their next long flight across the Gulf of Mexico.

In each location—Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala—the Sapsucker mini-teams have joined forces with strong local birding communities. In Mexico, Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, and Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez are joined by two community bird monitors, Jesus Bobadilla and Angel Castillo, plus Rafael Calderon of the Mexican conservation group CONABIO. On scouting runs, migrating Barn and Bank Swallows flitted through the skies as the team crept up on Yucatán endemics like Orange Oriole and Gray-throated Chat. According to Wood, at least 16 groups of community monitors and 8 children’s groups will be running their own Global Big Days across Mexico on Saturday.

The teams have benefited greatly from the help of skilled local birders, like this group in Guatemala. Photo by Marshall Iliff.

Iliff’s squad draws three members from the Petén Birders Club, a collection of skilled birders many of whom guide tourists in nearby Tikal National Park. They’ve helped Team Sapsucker pin down special birds like nesting Northern Potoos, plus American Pygmy Kingfisher and Black-throated Bobwhite (these last two were lifers for one or more of the Sapsuckers). While the locals provide expert knowledge on some of Guatemala’s most coveted birds, Iliff says, he and team members Ian Davies and Tim Lenz have been able to pay them back with help on migrants, such as the notoriously similar Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers and Eastern and Western Wood-Pewees, as well as the many subtly different warbler chip notes. During downtime, Sapsuckers and club members trade eBird lists and demonstrate the Merlin Bird ID app, newly expanded to include the Yucatán Peninsula, and available in both English and Spanish.

Looking ahead to the day, Iliff says, they’re planning to bird slowly and comprehensively. Whereas U.S. big days are all about driving hundreds of miles to link together disparate regions, “this is about birding one area in a lot of depth and hitting a lot of the really subtle habitat changes in the area,” he says. On Thursday morning the team started birding at 3 a.m. in Tikal. They birded three habitats—deep forest, seasonally flooded “bajo” forest, and the clearings around the Tikal pyramids—and tallied 110 species after covering just 3 miles on foot in 7 hours.

The Belize team, headed by Andrew Farnsworth, Steve Kelling, and Brian Sullivan, has been exploring Black Rock Lodge and Chan Chich, finding tropical forest species like Black Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and Red-legged Honeycreeper. When the three teams put their lists together, they’re shooting for a combined total of 300 species—and with luck that will enable the Cornell Lab to meet its $475,000 fundraising goal. It’s the Lab’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and donations help us carry out our science and conservation work.

Are there any species the teams are worried about getting? Iliff says he’s crossing his fingers for one of the hardest birds in all of Guatemala: Northern Cardinal. “It’s literally at its southern range limit here,” Iliff says, but the local guides know of a couple of spots they can try first thing in the morning.

Just in case their luck doesn’t hold, Iliff hopes some U.S.-bound birders can pick up the slack: “We’ve got to make sure at least one American goes out on Saturday and finds a cardinal,” he says, “Because it’s up in the air for us.”

Kalle Rainio, April 2017 eBirder of the Month

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 20:09

Please join us in congratulating Kalle Rainio of Littoinen, Finland, winner of the April 2017 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our April winner was drawn from eBirders who submitted 15 eligible checklists using eBird Mobile in April. Kalle’s name was drawn randomly from the 5,382 eligible eBirders that achieved the April challenge threshold. Kalle will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. Don’t forget, eBirding on 13 May for Global Big Day could win you binoculars for your participation! Read more to see Kalle’s fantastic story.

I am excited to have won the April eBirder of the Month Challenge! I thank eBird and Zeiss for these thrilling monthly challenges, which I have now participated since September 2016. I was extra lucky with this win, since I actually have been planning to replace my old Leitz Trinovid binoculars, which I have used for 28 years, with new ones!  I must also thank our dog Remu for this win, since most of my April eligible checklists are from our morning walks!

eBird’s monthly challenges, I think, are an efficient way of exploring the possibilities of different electronic platforms, and modify the way people use for example mobile devices when participating in citizen science projects. I have found the eBird Mobile application easy and fast to use, entering the morning dog walk data while enjoying a cup of coffee.

My eBirding started last May, when I participated in the Global Big Day. A couple of months later I noticed the eBirder of the Month Challenges, and decided to enter more observations. Another motivation was that there are so few Finnish eBird users, that the explore tools may not give a complete picture of what can be seen in my main birding area, Southwest Finland, to foreign visitors relying on eBird data in planning their birding activities. So, I decided to contribute by the way we all can, entering data. In my case, that has meant for the last half a year or so, mainly morning dog walks around our house. I am lucky to have a patch of quite old forest nearby, squeezed between new houses and fields, so the habitats are quite diverse.

Gray-headed Swamphen by Kalle Rainio/Macaulay Library

I was 9 when I started birding in December 1981 – then I wrote down my first observations. The first years were still quite slow, and I tried also other hobbies, like collecting plants and beetles, but birding took hold when I got friends of the same age to go birding with. They also got me to join the local birding club, and by birding trips organized by them, I got more and more into birding. The final nail to the coffin was a visit to Jurmo bird observatory in May 1988 – I was hooked!  Bird observatories are my favorite birding sites, as there you can start birding as you step out of the door! At remote island observatories the feel of migration somehow materializes as passerines, exhausted from the crossing of the Baltic Sea, hop around you, giving wonderful views.  I started bird ringing in 1997, and have ringed mostly passerines at bird observatories, constant effort ringing sites as well as nestlings. Birding has taken me also abroad to other European countries, Brazil, New York, Tanzania, Thailand and India.

To me, bird migration has always been the main interest in birding. That together with my general interest to biology led to biology studies in the University of Turku, and I wrote my PhD thesis on climate change effects on migration timing. In my thesis, I used data collected by citizen science projects, thus I fully acknowledge the importance of web-based portals, which collect data on the occurrence and numbers of organisms. eBird has a very prominent role in collecting bird data globally, and I hope that its global coverage will further increase in the future. Because well-organized data, new and historical, is what we need to understand and predict the effects of global change to our winged friends, and ultimately, to protect them!

Razorbill by Kalle Rainio/Macaulay Library

[Team eBird note: don’t forget that taking part in Global Big Day on this Saturday, 13 May, could win you Zeiss binoculars!]

Bird Mortality From Collisions With Glass: What we’ve learned, what we need to know, what you can do [video]

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 10:12
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Over half a billion birds are killed every year in North America after colliding with windows. Birds can’t see glass—nor do they come to understand that it is an invisible barrier or reflective illusion—which means they don’t put on the brakes and usually hit windows at full force. In the last decade, many scientists have contributed pieces to the puzzle of how birds really see the world. This has established a basis for developing new solutions for existing glass, as well as materials and design strategies for creating new, bird-friendly buildings. Dr. Christine Sheppard discusses the tools we have to solve the birds and windows problem, and how we can get solutions implemented. This is one conservation issue where individuals can take immediate action and see immediate results.

The talk took place on May 1, 2017. It is part of the Cornell Lab’s long-running Monday Night Seminar series, a tradition established decades ago by Lab founder Dr. Arthur Allen. If you enjoyed this seminar, check this page for our list of future speakers—we’ll note which upcoming talks will be livestreamed—or come visit us in person!

See our index of archived livestreamed seminars to enjoy more talks from the Cornell Lab.

In Oregon, Obama-Era National Monument Expansion Protects Grassland and Oak Bird Species, Study Finds

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 09:32

A new paper published this morning in the journal Ecosphere outlines the scientific rationale behind President Obama’s decision in his last days in office to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by more than 45,000 acres. The paper comes after President Trump’s administration announced on May 5 that the Cascade-Siskiyou was among 27 national monuments under review for possible changes to their designations.

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The study showed that before the expansion, existing parks and monuments in southern Oregon and northern California protected mostly coniferous forest, leaving gaps for at-risk species, such as the Vesper Sparrow, that live in other habitats, such as grasslands and oak woodlands.

“This study offers robust scientific evidence that expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument provides critical protection to an amazing ecosystem found nowhere else in the world, and will serve Oregonians well for decades to come,” said Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Sen. Merkley and fellow Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, as well as Oregon governor Kate Brown, supported President Obama’s Cascade-Siskiyou expansion.

“These birds and habitats are at risk. They have been identified as at-risk by Partners in Flight and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative at national and international scales,” said Dr. John Alexander, a lead author on the Ecosphere paper and executive director of the Klamath Bird Observatory.

View a Google Map of the region.

Data from the study was used to inform the national monument expansion. The paper uses the Cascade-Siskiyou as a case study for how birds can be used as indicator species for evaluating how well a region’s habitat types and biodiversity have been protected. At minimum, federally protected lands should encompass 10–12% of a region’s species or habitats, according to previous scientific literature. When the study examined the Oregon subspecies of Vesper Sparrow, the authors found only 6% of populations in the bioregion occurred on protected federal lands, or just half of the 10–12% threshold. Because Vesper Sparrows are an indicator for grasslands habitat, this gap was interpreted as a lack of adequate protection for grasslands in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. The Oregon Vesper Sparrow was included in the State of the Birds 2014 report Watch List of birds most in need of conservation action.

Black-throated Gray Warblers use oak woodlands in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. Photo by John Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

The study also found that 6% of White-breasted Nuthatch populations were on protected areas. The species is an indicator of oak woodland habitat. If oak habitat for nuthatches is not adequately protected, Alexander said, then the same may be true for other local oak-dependent bird species such as Oak Titmouse, Acorn Woodpecker, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Pinyon Jay.

“In areas of Oregon and California we have lost over 90% of our oak woodland habitats,” Alexander said. “Our study showed that oak woodland, as well as grasslands, are under-represented in this region’s network of protected areas. The expansion certainly captured more of these habitats, offering these habitats within the expansion area a higher level of protection.”

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Conversely, the study found that mature coniferous forest habitat was well protected in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, with abundance of indicator species including Brown Creeper, Hermit Warbler, and Varied Thrush above 10% on federally protected areas. “In the Pacific Northwest, public land management agencies prioritize the restoration and protection of old-growth forest conditions,” the report stated.

President Trump’s executive order cited a lack of adequate public outreach as reasoning for the review of recent national monument designations. For the Cascade-Siskiyou expansion, public meetings were held in southern Oregon and more than 5,000 written comments were submitted to the Obama administration, with about a 4-to-1 ratio of comments for and against the expansion. Locally, the Cascade-Siskiyou expansion had the support of the mayors of the towns of Ashland and Talent, as well as the Klamath Tribal Council and local business owners.

The Trump Administration’s review announced on May 5 also included marine national monuments, including the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument established by President George W. Bush and expanded by President Obama across islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Papahānaumokuākea is a nesting sanctuary for seabirds, including Laysan Albatrosses and endangered Short-tailed Albatrosses. The trinational State of North America’s Birds 2016 report recommended expanding marine protected areas to help 57 species of seabirds, a group the report cited as “In Crisis” due to small and declining populations and severe threats to habitat.


Alexander, J. D., J. L. Stephens, S. Veloz, L. Salas, J. Rousseau, C. J. Ralph, and D. A. Sarr. 2017. Using regional bird density distribution models to evaluate protected area networks and inform conservation planning. Ecosphere 8(5):e01799

Join the Cornell Lab, Alaska Fertilizer, and Lowe’s to Support School Gardens

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 00:33


That’s right! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Alaska Fertilizer, and Lowe’s are working together to support school gardens across the country. Throughout the month of May, a portion of all Alaska Fertilizer purchased in-store at your local Lowe’s will help fund the BirdSleuth School Garden Grant program. (Find a store now.)

BirdSleuth Garden Grant winner in Menlo Park, Oregon, 2016
Research shows that students who participate in school garden programs and spend time outside are happier, healthier, and score significantly higher on science achievement tests. School gardens provide students with exciting, hands-on, fun learning opportunities that provide context for lessons across academic subjects.

Students in Savannah, Georgia, planting their new garden bed – 2016 BirdSleuth School Garden Grant winner
Many educators struggle to find the necessary funding and support to start or maintain a garden. To help with this problem, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Alaska Fertilizer have joined forces to distribute garden grants to US schools each year.

In Coffman Cove, Alaska, the school and community got together to create a vision for how our empty spaces could be used. Living in a place where 95% of our food is imported, we believe food sovereignty and environmental stewardship are topics that warrant as much consideration as reading, writing, and arithmetic.
School gardens bring the whole community together – students, teachers, parents, administrators, and volunteers from all walks of life. At one BirdSleuth School Garden Grant ground-breaking event, over 120 neighbors showed up to help. Talk about community spirit!
BirdSleuth School Garden Grants help build and maintain educational gardens around the country and support teachers who strive to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning and healthy living into the classroom and the lives of the students they inspire.
Help us support students and teachers to grow more school gardens!

Click the photo to see school gardens and habitat improvements across the country on the BirdSleuth Action Map!

Click the photo to learn more about past BirdSleuth School Garden Grant winners!

Why Birds Hit Windows—and How You Can Help Prevent It

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 15:41
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For birds, glass windows are worse than invisible. By reflecting foliage or sky, they look like inviting places to fly into. And because the sheer number of windows is so great, their toll on birds is huge. Up to about 1 billion birds die from window strikes in the U.S. each year, according to a 2014 study.

The good news is that you can greatly reduce the danger your home’s windows post to birds with some simple remedies, according to Christine Sheppard, who directs the Bird Collisions Program of the American Bird Conservancy. The group offers extensive information on preventing collisions on its website. The Fatal Light Awareness Program also offers great information on preventing bird collisions.

What happens to birds that hit windows? Sadly, the bird often dies, even when it is only temporarily stunned and manages to fly away. Many times these birds die later from internal bleeding or bruising, especially on the brain. Daniel Klem of Muhlenberg College has researched this issue since the 1970s. He writes, “Glass is an indiscriminate killer that takes the fit as well as the unfit of a species’ population.”

The window imprint left by a Mourning Dove. Photo by Priscilla Bradley/PFW. Why Birds Collide With Windows

There are two main types of window collisions: daytime and nighttime. In daylight, birds crash into windows because they see reflections of vegetation or see through the glass to potted plants or vegetation on the other side. At night, nocturnal migrants (including most songbirds) crash because they fly into lighted windows. Some of these nighttime collisions are due to chance, but much more often the nocturnal migrants are lured to their deaths by the lights. For reasons not entirely understood, lights divert nocturnal migrants from their original path, especially in low-ceiling or foggy conditions. In the lighted area, they mill about, sometimes colliding with one another or the lighted structure. The Fatal Light Awareness Program, based in Toronto, Canada, has much more about this problem.

There’s one additional reason: birds sometimes see their reflection in a window and attack it. This happens most frequently in the spring when territoriality is high. Although it can be annoying to the homeowner, it’s seldom a threat to the bird’s survival. Most of the remedies suggested below for window strikes will also help solve the problem of a bird attacking its reflection.


Reflected landscapes can confuse birds and cause deadly window strikes. Photo by Susan Spear/Cornell Lab. How to Safeguard Your Windows For Birds

Start by identifying dangerous windows, including large picture windows, paired windows at right angles to each other, or windows with feeders outside. Go outside and look at your windows from a bird’s point of view. If you see branches or sky reflected in or visible through the glass, that’s what the birds will see, too. Past recommendations about safe distances for feeders outside windows are no longer thought to be valid, Sheppard says. “If you’ve got windows near a bird feeder, you should make them bird friendly and don’t worry about how far away they are.”

Try some of the following ideas to make your windows safer. To deter small birds, vertical markings on windows need to be spaced no more than 4 inches apart and horizontal markings no more than 2 inches apart across the entire window. (If hummingbirds are a problem, the spacing should be reduced to a 2-inch by 2-inch grid.) All marking techniques should be applied to the outside of the window.

  • Tempera paint or soap. Mark the outside of the window with soap or tempera paint, which is inexpensive and long lasting. You can use either a grid pattern no more than 4 inches by 2 inches (see above), or get creative and paint patterns or artwork on your window.
  • Decals. Put decals, stickers, sun catchers, mylar strips, masking tape, or other objects (even sticky notes) on the outside surface of the window. These are only effective when spaced very closely (see above). Note that hawk silhouettes do little to deter birds. Remember: placing just one or two window stickers on a large window is not going to prevent collisions—they must cover most of the glass with the spaces between too narrow for birds to fly through.
  • ABC BirdTape. This long-lasting tape offers an easier way to apply the correct spacing of dots across your window. More about ABC BirdTape.
  • Acopian Bird Savers. Also known as “zen curtains,” these closely spaced ropes hang down over windows. They do the work of tape or decals but are easier to install and can be aesthetically pleasing. You can order them to fit your windows or make your own.
  • Screens. Installing mosquito screens over your windows is very effective, as long as they are on the outside of the window and cover the entire surface.
  • Netting. Cover the glass on the outside with netting at least 3 inches from the glass, taut enough to bounce birds off before they hit. Small-mesh netting (around 5/8″ or 1.6 cm)  is best, so that birds don’t get their heads or bodies entangled but will bounce off unharmed. You can mount the netting on a frame, such as a storm-window frame, for easy installation and removal.
  • One-way transparent film. Products such as Collidescape permit people on the inside to see out, but makes the window appear opaque on the outside. They can reduce the amount of light that comes in your window (this can also reduce your cooling costs), according to Sheppard.

If you’re building a new home or remodeling, the following ideas can also be good alternatives:

  • Install external shutters and keep them closed when you’re not in the room or taking advantage of the light or view. (These can be huge energy savers, too!)
  • Install external sun shades or awnings on windows, to block the reflection of sunlight. Remote controlled shades are available.
  • On new construction or when putting in new windows, consider windows that have the screen on the entire outside of the glass.
  • Add interior vertical blinds and keep the slats only half open.
  • Avoid visual paths to sky and greenery. Bright windows on the opposite wall from your picture window may give the illusion of an open path to the other side. Closing a window shade or a door between rooms can sometimes solve this situation.

How to Help a Window Collision Victim

If you find a bird dazed from a window collision, examine it for external injuries. If the wings are both held properly, neither dangling, and the eyes seem normal, see if it can perch in a branch unassisted. If so, leave it to recover on its own.

If the bird has a noticeable injury, get it to a wildlife rehabilitator as quickly as possible. Broken bones usually need proper attention within minutes or hours to heal properly without surgery. Use this online directory to find a rehabber near you.

Meanwhile, place it in a dark container such as a shoebox, and leave it somewhere quiet, out of reach of pets and other predators, for 15 minutes. If the weather is extremely cold, you may need to take it inside, but don’t keep the bird too warm. Do not try to give it food and water, and resist handling it. The darkness will calm the bird while it revives, which should occur within a few minutes unless it is seriously injured. Do not open the box indoors to check on it or it might escape into your house and be hard to get back out!

Take the box outside every 15 minutes or so and open it—if the bird flies off, that’s that! If it doesn’t recover in a couple of hours, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. Remember that, technically, it is illegal to handle a migratory bird without a permit, and medically helping an injured bird requires training, so your job is just to transport the bird to a rehabilitator.

Operation Healthy Air and Habitat Network Team Up to Combat Air Pollution

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 12:23

Megan Whatton May 4, 2017
Over the next several months, Habitat Network will be working with Operation Healthy Air, an urban resiliency program run by Earthwatch to engage partners and participants in the greater Los Angeles area in mapping and measuring how differences in their environment–- such as trees or pavement, may affect local air quality and temperature. These maps, all 100square meters, might seem odd but, in fact, they are another great example of how Habitat Network can be used to collect data and answer important scientific questions. Below, you can find more information regarding the Operation Healthy Air project and learn how Earthwatch and other partner organizations are working to combat air pollution and urban heat.

air pollution
Two of the greatest threats to well-being in urban environments are the dramatic increases in extreme-heat days (i.e. days above 105F) and exposure to air pollutants, including particulates and ozone. These pollutants can present severe health risks, especially to those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma.open_in_new

Bioswale on Columbus street in Manhattan.
Creating healthy and resilient urban environments for all, including vulnerable communities where environmental conditions are especially problematic, is a high priority in many cities. Green spaces in urban environments are seen as one of the most valuable assets in combating both heat and air pollution. There are many known benefits from trees, bushes, and other plants, including increased coolingopen_in_new, better human health (e.g. through increased physical activity and cleaner air)open_in_new, and higher property values.open_in_new Unfortunately, people are often skeptical about investing in green space, whether it be their backyards, their streets, or parks, because trees require maintenance and resources (e.g. pruning and water), and their pollen, fruit, and leaves can be problematic with seasonal allergies, and clean-up maintenance.

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Currently, public announcements notify people of extreme (heat, smog…) days with warnings to remain indoors or to seek cool shelters–but this information is often too general to be useful while making a myriad of daily decisions based on individual local conditions. The data used to generate such warnings does not reflect real variation in air temperature and pollution from house-to-house, or neighborhood-to-neighborhood. Making the right decision to stay in cool buildings or go outside is important, especially when considering some of our most vulnerable people (e.g. children, elderly, economically disadvantaged, health challenged) stand to suffer the most from the negative impacts of heat and air pollution.

The Conservancy’s LEAF and Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities program interns, monitor trees impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New York City. The interns worked during the summer of 2015 to monitor the health of the city’s trees in the Bronx and Queens.
Operation Healthy Air will develop a local citizen network of air sensors
Operation Healthy Air begins with local “campaigns” in Long Beach, Chino, and the Inland Empire, CA (e.g. Riverside and Redlands) in the summer of 2017, with a focus on air temperature and ozone, then expanding in 2018 to greater Los Angeles and other cities. Citizen scientists and scientists will deploy iButton temperature and air quality sensors throughout the targeted areas. Each sensor will have an associated Habitat Map (100m2) created by volunteers to record the local habitat around each sensor. The data can help reveal how different amounts of “green” (e.g. trees), “blue” (e.g. rivers, pools), and “grey” (e.g. buildings and pavement) environments influence local air quality and temperature. The goal is to use local measurements to create a more comprehensive picture of regional variation in air quality and temperature.

city view
What Operation Healthy Air Hopes to achieve
Operation Healthy Air seeks to increase our understanding of the role that vegetation, such as trees, can play in decreasing air temperatures and improving air quality on a scale that communities use to make decisions – in this case, decisions about cooling local neighborhoods and reducing ozone formation. Also, by improving our collective understanding of the benefits of trees in urban environments, we hope to increase our knowledge and confidence on which species of trees to plant and where they will have the greatest influence in creating healthy urban environments.

Plans to Create a Lasting Tribute to Ezra the Red-tailed Hawk

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 11:19

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As soon as word reached the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cams community that Ezra, the Red-tailed Hawk, had died on March 19, the tributes started to flow, and they still haven’t stopped. Ezra captured hearts around the world with his devotion to his mate, Big Red, and the 15 nestlings they raised together ever since the cams started streaming at their nest in 2012.

In addition to sharing favorite memories, hawk watchers asked how we could celebrate Ezra’s legacy. After sorting through feedback from viewers, moderators, and BOGs (birders on the ground), we were inspired to create a tribute that would help us all remember Ezra and pass along his inspiration to others through an educational panel on campus at a meaningful location.

“Look Up!” is one of the favorite refrains of the hawk cam community, a reminder of the beauty and drama anyone can witness just by looking up to see birds. We envision sharing this idea with passersby, using the educational panel to raise awareness of the hawks and other birds that choose the Cornell campus as their home.

Ezra the Red-tailed Hawk. Photo by by Karel & BOGette.Ezra (sitting) and his mate Big Red raised 15 chicks in the five years that they were on Bird Cams.Ezra took good care of his family. He and Big Red's eggs started hatching during a 2013 storm, and Ezra sheltered his family from the harsh weather for over an hour.After eggs were laid, Big Red and Ezra (pictured) took turns sitting on the eggs so that the other could hunt for food. Ezra removing eggshell from a hatching egg.From even before chicks hatched, Ezra always made sure there was plenty of food for his family. Here he feeds his young chicks.Ezra was a fixture on the Cornell campus. Photo by Christine Bogdanowicz.Ezra was a superb hunter. Here he grabs prey on the grounds at Cornell. Photo by by Karel & BOGette.Ezra spent his days flying over the Cornell campus hunting for prey. Photo by by Karel & BOGette.PreviousNext

To select a location for the panel, we reached out to BOGs Karel and Cindy Sedlacek who may have spent more time watching Big Red and Ezra on campus than anyone. They recounted how they used to watch Big Red, Ezra, and other hawks hunting on a hillside overlooking the Cornell Botanic Gardens, not far from the nest on Tower Road. From this lookout, they also watched a gardener maintaining the grassy hillside in a way that would attract hawks and other wildlife.

In May, we will begin working with the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the Campus Planning Department on the content, design, and placement of this  educational panel that celebrates birds and the importance of creating habitats for wildlife. Pending approvals, this panel may become one of several created by others along a planned sustainability trail on campus.

If you have already made a gift in memory of Ezra by including a comment with a previous donation, thank you. Your previous gift will count toward this fund in his memory, and you will receive a thank-you email message from Bird Cams team along with a downloadable photo of Ezra in the coming weeks.

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If you haven’t yet made a gift and would like to contribute, please visit our Hatch Match donation page. Your gift will be matched as part of the 2017 Hatch Match, up to a total of $15,500. After you make a donation on that page, you will be directed to a thank-you page, along with a link where you can download a photo of Ezra.

Thank you for supporting the Cornell Lab’s work in education and conservation, including the Bird Cams, and for helping us create a meaningful tribute to Ezra that will inspire future visitors to the Cornell campus to notice the birds around them and to learn about how we can all create safe and inviting habitats for birds.

Tips on Where To Place Habitat Features To Keep Wildlife Safe

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 15:19

Where To Place Habitat Features To Protect the Wildlife You Are Attracting
Becca Rodomsky-Bish April 27, 2017
Birds Cover D.I.Y. Food Other Wildlife Water Predators
Installing habitat features can be fun. Each addition to your yard or community is an open invitation to wildlife to use the space as a sanctuary. When you add more features you increase your chances of seeing a new bird, butterfly, mammal, amphibian, reptile, etc. As you have invited those creatures to move in, searching for food, water, and cover, you have a responsibility to protect them. In this article we provide general, common-sense guidelines to follow, as well as specific recommendations for habitat features.

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Habitat Network has written about many habitat features on our Learn pages; bird feeders, nestbox, bird baths (water), bee house, logs, coverboards, hibernaculum, bat house, nesting materials, ponds, sun perches , snags, brush pile , bare earth, mud, rocks , pollinator gardenand native plants, stormwater management (Rain garden, bioswale). While there isn’t a ton of research to support best practices for habitat-feature placement (that is one reason we collect data at Habitat Network–so we can build our understanding of what works where), there are some basic ideas about safety to guide our decisions about placement.


aerial garden viewChristopherCook Frederick, MD
1. Use Caution Near Roads and Busy Sidewalks. Vehicles and groups of people can be hazardous to many kinds of wildlife. Many features mentioned here are better installed in quieter places away from traffic that might injure them.
2. Pesticide-Free Areas. Some wildlife are sensitive to synthetic herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides used by gardeners or municipalities dealing with disease, weeds, and other pests. Avoid installing habitat features in places where wildlife will frequently come into contact with pesticides.
3. Cover, cover, cover. Provide some version of cover (shrubs, trees, or brush piles) near habitat features, or only install habitat features near areas with existing cover. The cover should be light enough that it cannot support predators, such as outdoor cats, and dense enough that wildlife can quickly scurry into or under it for protection.
4. Close to Other Related Habitat Features. Having food, water, and shelter in one general location will help your wildlife access what they need without having to travel far to find it. Depending on where you live, this may be best accomplished by organizing with neighbors. For example, maybe you provide the birdbath and your neighbor leaves a snag for nesting habitat. It is also important to take-on the perspective of any wildlife you are supporting when locating a feature. Imagine yourself using one resource, say a feeder, and then traveling to your nearest water source. Is that path free of hazards? Do you have to cross a road? How far away is it?

cat hunting bird feeder
5. Avoid Areas with Outdoor Cats. A 2016 study in the Journal of Wildlife Management documented cats as the cause of death or injury to 84 different species of birds and mammals.open_in_new If outdoor cats are nearby think strategically about how to protect any wildlife that may end up as prey.

The last thing we want to do is place habitat features in ways that may inadvertently act as ecological traps rather than as an ecological benefit. Following the guidelines below will help you be successful at safely inviting animals to visit your yard. Some habitat features, however, have specific recommendations, we attempt to provide more detailed information for those habitat features below.

Harvey Simmon bird at feeder
Bird feeders
Project FeederWatch, another citizen-science project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is an excellent resource if you have questions regarding bird feeders; but here are some general tidbits to get you started:

Provide the right type of food for the birds you are trying to feed, such as this Red-bellied Woodpecker caught in the act of eating husked sunflower seeds. This tool from FeederWatch makes that easy.open_in_new
Place feeders between one to three meters from windows or buildings to minimize the risk of birds being killed.open_in_new If collisions are an issue with your feeders, consider installing these devices on your windows.
Predator guards can be used on feeders to discourage both predation and unwelcome visitors.open_in_new
Placing feeders 10 feet away from trees that squirrels (or cats) can jump from will minimize how many squirrels you are feeding and limit the likelihood that a cat will jump onto an unsuspecting bird.open_in_new
tree swallows brendaVR Canada
Nest boxes
Different birds have different ideal nesting conditions. Use NestWatch’s Right Bird, Right House feature to quickly identify the right size house to provide for the birds you are attempting to attract.

Use NestWatch as the resource for questions regarding your nestbox, including placement and for ways to prevent unwanted birds from using the nest box.
In general boxes should be placed on a pole, not nailed onto a tree or fence post–these structures are easily scaled by predators. The wood should be untreated or painted. Set-up nest boxes by February in the south and late March in northern latitudes.
Predator guards may be one of the most important features to install on your nestbox. Without guards, nests of defenseless birds are more likely to be invaded by predators.
Steven Liffmann Bird bath
Birdbaths (water)
Birds love fresh, moving water for bathing and drinking. Proper placement can make providing this feature easier for you and safer for birds.

Place about 15 feet away from fencing, shrubs, or trees that could be strong enough to support the weight of a predator. You can install a predator guard to discourage cats and others from hunting from below.
Right next to the house isn’t a bad idea as it will to help prevent collisions from startled birds and enhance viewing.
Birdbaths do better in the shade during the hot part of the day keeping the water cooler slowing the growth of bacteria and algae.
Place the bath near to the hose or other water source so you remember to keep it clean and full of fresh water.
megbakes, arlington, VA
Mason bees and leafcutter bees are a just couple of the solitary, cavity-nesting bees you can provide habitat for.

Placing your bee house 1-6 feet off the ground in a tucked away part of the garden, on the corner of the shed, a fence post or pole, will provide some preferred seclusion as these bees go about laying eggs.
Ideally, the bee house should be placed within 300 feet of pollen sources that bloom year-round.
There should also be a source of smooth, clean mud within 50 feet.
Place the bee house in the sun, facing south or southeast to catch the earliest morning heat, as spring mason bees require morning light to warm up and get going and summer leafcutter bees need high temperatures for incubation.
The house should be easy to access as you will need to harvest cocoons in the summer and fall for overwintering
Log Broken Road Steuben NY
When a tree falls in the forest, the fallen log supports various wildlife–like the Pileated Woodpecker above. In our built environments it is not always possible to let trees stay where they fall, though.

When you move logs to a resting place, try to pick a location where it can stay throughout the whole decomposition process. Moving logs after they have been in a location for a while can disrupt ecological services that the logs are providing, such as mycorrhizal relationships with surrounding plants.
Place logs in ponds, vernal pools, or wetland areas for turtles and other wildlife perches.
Use in gardens as borders or to add contrast and structure.
Logs are a flexible habitat feature that can be placed almost anywhere for structural or aesthetic purposes, including as a nice resting place after laboring in the garden.
Coverboard Inspection
Ohio Sea Grant
Amphibians, reptiles, and ground insects are the most common visitors under a coverboard. Most of these animals are also incredibly private.

Placing a coverboard in the back of a property, or in a quiet space may attract more interest from these elusive animals.
Reptiles and amphibians need slightly different coverboard conditions, so having a couple of placement options–moist/cool (amphibians) and dry/warm (reptiles)–will increase your chances of supporting more animals.
If possible, place your board for amphibians near a creek or pond, they will not need to travel far to find a water source, which is a required feature in their life-cycle.
Be particularly conscious of providing a “clean” habitat, free from pollutants and pesticides, to keep coverboard critters healthy. (Amphibians are sensitive to environmental changes, whether that be pollutants in their environment or climate change.)
hibernaculum complete
As the name implies, animals often use hibernacula to hibernate in, or at least to take refuge.

Create this structure in a corner of the property that is infrequently used and protected.
In wet areas be mindful of the water table. Make sure the area where your hibernaculum is created drains quickly to avoid inadvertently flooding out the resident wildlife.
If drainage is required, install piping during the construction.
Use surrounding or local rocks, logs, and other natural materials to create the supportive structure of the “cave”. We recommend blending-in the hibernaculum to the surrounding habitat.
werkstr Chelan WA
Bat house
Bats, like birds, generally prefer quiet, “protected” areas for nesting.

In colder climates, mount in areas that get 6-8 hours of sunlight (facing either East or South) and in warmer climates, mount facing north or west to avoid direct sun.
Place bat houses on the side of a building or on a pole (trees are not recommended) at least 15 feet high–the higher the house the greater the chance of attracting bats.
If mounting your bat house on a pole, consider using a predator guard to discourage predation.
Be mindful of sound. Bats use echolocation to find and catch prey. If you live near a large, noisy facility, like a compressor station, consider the effect this could have on bats.open_in_new
Place your bat house near a pond, stream, or lake to provide water and attract flying bugs for food.
Plant natives in your yard to attract the prey sources–namely mothsopen_in_new–that bats eat. Use our Local Resource Guide for lists of plants based on your ecoregion.
Nesting materials
Suet cages provide an excellent way to display nesting materials.

Cram your loose hair, wool, feathers, sticks, moss, lichen, or grass etc. into a small cage and hang it in an area of your yard where you frequently see birds. If you have a hook already set-up for a feeder, that would be an excellent location.
Avoid hanging the materials on a tree as that would be an easy place for a predator to attack an unsuspecting bird.
No suet cage? Piling or stacking materials where birds can easily access them will suffice.
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Ponds require maintenance so it is smart to locate a pond somewhere you will interact with it frequently and where you can enjoy views from your yard and patio.
Consider installing wire fencing (4” mesh), painted flat black (to make it nearly invisible to the human eye), around the area of the pond that birds prefer to bathe. It doesn’t need to surround the water feature, just create a enough of a barrier to give birds a moment to escape if startled by a predator.”

Tom Chase, Director of Conservation Strategies at TNC, Massachusetts
Avoid placing too near to overhead trees that may shade the water and inhibit aquatic plant growth and will be a nightmare for leaf litter.
Pick a higher ground location. Low lying spots can lead to flooding and pollution, especially downstream from heavily irrigated locations.
Predators may hunt amphibians and fish in your pond if it isn’t deep, or doesn’t provide cover. Dealing with them depends on your comfort level, but a part of creating habitat means encouraging natural life-cycles.
If possible, install a pump to keep the water moving. This is feature is a favorite of birds and will help to minimize algal growth.
Some people will take a mirror out and use it to simulate a future pond in various locations around a site. This helps identify not only the view, but also potential for unwanted and annoying sunlight reflections. Wouldn’t it be terrible to build a pond only to discover that light reflects right into your eyes in the evening while standing at your kitchen window doing the dishes?

netherester boone IN
Sun perches
Sun perches can either be anchored to the shore or can emerge above the water from the center of the pond.

Place the log in a way that allows animals to quickly get into the water, or vegetation if unexpectedly startled.
Plant wetland greenery around sun perches as a way to make your habitat feature even more attractive, while providing cover to wildlife that may benefit from using the sun perch.
User Submission
Leaving dead trees (snags) standing is a wonderful habitat feature that encourages primary and secondary nesting birds, provides foraging area for insect eaters, and creates excellent perching for many animals.

Assess whether a dying or newly dead tree is a threat to buildings or people.
If the tree could pose a threat, consider topping it to about 6-8 feet.
If the entire tree must be brought down use the trunk as logs, which are another great habitat feature.
Having one to three snags per acre of land is recommended by many foresters.
brushpile dortj, Lake MT
Brush pile
Brush piles are excellent protective features for birds, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

Place piles in quieter areas
Create piles approximately ten feet from bird baths and bird feeders to provide cover for birds or other animals that may become startled. They also provide excellent perching while birds crack-open delicious sunflower seeds.
To minimize predators jumping on the brushpile, make the top layer of branches small and light so they cannot support standing or jumping weight.
Ground ScottGeiger, Sonoma CA
Bare earth
Several species of bees benefit from having bare earth (soil or light sand) for nesting burrows.

Mulches like straw, wood chips, or grass clippings don’t count as “bare earth”–clear areas down to the top of the soil
Encouraging bare earth patches near gardens benefits pollinators and gardeners.
Create bare patches within several feet of pollen sources to minimize the travel distance of the nesting bees to their food.
Do not create bare earth patches near busy walkways as some people are fearful of bees, regardless of whether or not they sting. Native bees rarely do sting, but some species can if they are agitated enough.
EST in mud
Many insects such as bees and butterflies, such as the Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) pictured above, and several birds, can benefit from muddy areas.

Place muddy spots near gardens that benefit from pollination services.
Making or encouraging mud is a messy business, so put puddles in places that will not be walked on. Walking on mud compacts the soil making it less usable.
Pick a corner of the garden that is already wet or an area close to the hose for your pollinator mud pool.
Make some mud in a open-topped container and place it out in a low traffic area.
Improved Ecosystems Rocks
Rocks and rock walls are a flexible habitat feature that can be placed almost anywhere for structural or aesthetic purposes.

Pick a location where the rocks will not be moved. This is because mosses and lichens will grow on them and disturbing the rocks will interrupt growth. Likewise the organisms that have made their home under the rocks will be stressed and displaced if rocks get moved.
Use rocks along edges and borders to provide habitat for spiders and other predatory insects in the garden.
Place rocks in and around the shores of wetland areas, vernal pools and ponds for perches and habitat.
Monarch on Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylis)
Pollinator Garden
Pollinators, like this monarch on meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis), are essential to vibrant, biodiverse ecosystems, and they are declining in our communities. Planting a pollinator garden is a great habitat feature to support insects such as bees, butterflies, moths, and animals like hummingbirds and bats that all act as pollinators.

Plant pollinator gardeners anywhere you can find room.
Make sure to use native flowers to your ecoregion.
Be sure that you have flowers blooming through the growing season. Use this guide we created to help you as you plan your “pollinator garden palette”.
Rain Garden kkruesi, VT
Stormwater Management (rain garden, bioswale, bioretention cell)
This habitat feature is an exception to the first placement guideline as managing water is often required along roads, sidewalks, or buildings. These features often help to filter water contaminated with sediments, pesticides, and other residues found in our built environment.

Place these features in areas that intercept runoff while also keeping in mind the safety of the wildlife that may visit them.
Use native plants.
Engage the local community in helping to create these habitat features, they are a great team-building experience.
flowers and herbs
Native plants
We write about native plants in several of our articles, as this link demonstrates.

Place them ANYWHERE. Unlike some habitat features, we encourage the placement of native plants any place you can find room for them–while still considering the safety of wildlife.
To encourage the most diversity of native plants make sure to have low-growing flowers, mid-level shrubs, and tall, mature trees to maximize the property’s structure.
“Model” Neighborhood
If you live in a densely populated community, one of the best things you can do for wildlife is work with your neighbors. Fragmented landscapes are increasingly creating stress on organisms that need access to land, resources, and space.open_in_new When we create a haven for wildlife in our yards, that haven becomes more likely to be used if we connect and coordinate with others across the landscape. Working with neighbors, business, schools, parks, etc, will help create better connectivity through stepping stones, corridors and patches for wildlife. We write extensively about this issue here and here.

Thank you for all you are doing for your resident (and soon to be resident) wildlife. The smallest actions can and do add up. Your site is one of almost 25,000 sites, to date, using Habitat Network to document installed habitat features. Welcome to the movement.

Seabirds Let Their Mates Know When They’re Tired and Need a Break

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 14:18
A Common Murre at a nest. Photo by Linda Takahashi.

Editor’s note: The following research summary describes a new article in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, the journal of The American Ornithologists’ Union, and was provided by the Central Ornithology Publication Office.

For species where both parents work together to raise their offspring, cooperation is key—it’s as true for birds as it is for us. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances shows how pairs of Common Murres update each other on their condition so that when one partner needs a break, the other can pick up the slack.

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Common Murre parents trade duties throughout the day—one stays at the nest while the other leaves to forage, hopefully coming back with a fish for the chick. Because brooding the chick requires much less energy than foraging, staying at the nest is preferable for a bird that’s in poor condition. Linda Takahashi, Anne Storey, and Carolyn Walsh of Newfoundland’s Memorial University, along with Sabina Wilhelm of the Canadian Wildlife Service, studied the “turn-taking ceremony” that parents perform when they switch places. They found that the time they spend preening each other provides a way for the two birds to exchange information about how they’re doing, so that if one is in poor shape the other can compensate.

The researchers observed 16 pairs of murres with chicks on an island off the coast of Newfoundland in summer 2009, recording their behavior when parents switched duties at the nest and capturing the birds to check their body condition. Their results show that these “nest relief” interactions take longer when one partner is especially low in body mass, suggesting that when brooders withhold preening and stall their departure, they’re letting their mates know that they need more time to rest; the returning mate can then compensate by going off to forage again rather than trading places immediately. Similarly, the brooding mate might let a struggling returner take over take over at the nest even if they haven’t brought back a fish.

“We had been doing murre field work for years in Witless Bay studying reproductive and parental behavior, and we became intrigued with the variation that we saw among pairs in their nest relief behaviors,” says Walsh. “Some nest reliefs were short and businesslike, while other nest reliefs seemed to involve a lot of interaction between the mates, and it took a long time for the mates to exchange brooding duty. When Linda Takahashi came to Memorial University as a master’s degree student, we decided that her project should focus on getting the details about this very interesting variation in murre nest relief behaviors.”

A pair of Common Murre swim off the coast of California. Photo by Loch Kilpatrick/Macaulay Library.

“The roles of avian pair members have been much studied in terms of energy investment and food delivery, but we are accustomed to thinking of these problems in terms of evolutionary tradeoffs. The ways in which contributions are actually negotiated within individual pairs has, until recently, been largely overlooked,” according to longtime seabird researcher Tony Gaston of Environment Canada. “Linda Takahashi’s paper addresses this deficiency, and this is a field which promises to open up additional avenues of research on within-pair communication.”

About the journal: The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology that began in 1884 as the official publication of the American Ornithologists’ Union, which merged with the Cooper Ornithological Society in 2016 to form the American Ornithological Society. In 2009, The Auk was honored as one of the 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine over the past 100 years.


Linda S. Takahashi, Anne E. Storey, Sabina I. Wilhelm, and Carolyn J. Walsh. 2017. Turn-taking ceremonies in a colonial seabird: Does behavioral variation signal individual condition? The Auk 134(3): 530-541.

Support Migrating Butterflies and Other Insects With Your Garden

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 19:31

Gardening to Support Seasonal Migrations of Insects
Dara Satterfield April 25, 2017
Native Plants Other Wildlife Pollinators Butterfly Dragonfly
Monarch butterflies are famous for traveling long distances each year, but they’re not the only insects that migrate. Many butterflies, moths, and dragonflies take to the air for seasonal migrations, and–although they’re pretty quiet about it–some travel hundreds or thousands of miles.open_in_new The success of their journey largely depends on the habitat they encounter along the way. Here, we look at some of these six-legged critters and discuss how even the smallest garden can add fuel to their journey.

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People were once skeptical that insects could migrate long distances. Historically, scientists assumed an organism so small and short-lived couldn’t move more than a few miles. As we now know, they can. Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) in Australia can migrate over 1000 km every spring.open_in_new Danaid butterflies (cousins of monarchs) in Taiwan migrate over 300 km in the fall.open_in_new Wandering glider dragonflies (Pantala flavescens) cross the Indian Ocean (the image above depicts a beach in India where migrating dragonflies are coming ashore).open_in_new The brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens), a tiny insect only 4 millimeters long, migrates over 200 km in China.open_in_new These are just a few of the hundreds of insect species around the world that make incredible journeys.

dragonfly fixed
By the mid-1900’s scientists finally recognized that insects could move long distances; but still, they assumed insects were being haphazardly blown by the winds, unable to control their direction. In recent years migrating insects like the Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma)open_in_new provided evidence to contradict that theory, showing, instead, that insects selectively choose directional winds to maximize their speed, allowing some to fly up to 650 km a night.open_in_new

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Many insect populations have adapted to make round-trip migrations over the course of a year, with the help of multiple generations. Painted lady butterflies, for instance, fly north out of Mexico in the spring to travel to the northern U.S. and Canada; later, their grandchildren or great-grandchildren return south in the fall. Monarchs behave similarly. A handful of insect species engage in single-generation migrations, where the same individual moves during one season and returns a few months later.

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Monarch and buckeye butterflies nectaring on goldenrod.
In eastern North America there are over 30 insect species that migrate north in the spring and south in the fall. Below we describe a few of these migrating dragonflies and butterflies and we also note the butterfly’s’ host plants (i.e. caterpillar food) to inspire your garden selections.

Ribbet collage
Left: Nearly full grown caterpillar of the Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia coenia, on plantain in southern Greenville County, SC, USA Right: Common buckeye butterfly nectaring on a species of aster
Common buckeyes (Junonia coenia)
Large eyespots on all four wings make these butterflies easy to identify. In the spring, buckeyes migrate north from Mexico and the southern U.S. They reach the midwest and northeast by May and breed throughout the summer. Male buckeyes will defend territories with host plants to await the opportunity to mate with females. To keep their patch of land, males chase off anything that moves–even birds that enter their territory. In the fall, the next generation of buckeyes makes a massive migration south to avoid a harsh winter of low temperatures and lack of food. Common buckeye caterpillars survive on the leaves from snapdragons (Antirrhinum), false foxglove (Agalinis), American bluehearts (Buchnera americana), plantains (Plantago) and–my personal favorite–turkey tangle frog-fruit (Nodiflora), among other plants.

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Right: American Lady caterpillar – Vanessa virginiensis, Jones Preserve, Washington, Virginia, Left: An American Lady butterfly photographed at the Bob Jones Nature Center in Southlake, Texas in May ’09
American lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
These butterflies have an intricate cobweb-like pattern on the underside of their wings. American ladies live year-round in the southern U.S. and Mexico and migrate into the northern U.S. and Canada for the spring and summer each year. Larvae munch on leaves of pearly everlasting (Anaphalis), ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), and asters (Asteraceae). American ladies are closely related to, and often confused with, painted ladies (Vanessa cardui), which migrate along a similar route in the U.S.

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Left: Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar, Phoebis sennae – eating a partridge pea plant, Right: Cloudless Sulfur butterfly on Zinnea
Cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Each spring, these yellow butterflies with pink-edged silver spots migrate from Central America and the southern U.S. into the northern U.S. and Canada. Cloudless sulphurs reach the Great Plains by April and the Midwest by May and June. They can be seen gathering at mud puddles to sip water and salt. Cloudless sulphur caterpillars eat plants in the pea family (Fabaceae). Males relentlessly pursue potential mating partners, but uninterested females may reject males by raising their abdomens in the air, much like turning up your nose. In the fall, a later generation of butterflies returns south, sometimes traveling in enormous numbers.open_in_new Sadly, cloudless sulphurs have dropped in numbers since the 1980s in the eastern U.S. Reasons for population declines are not well understood, but habitat loss is a likely cause.open_in_new

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Left: Question Mark larvae Polygonia interrogationis, Right: Question Mark – Polygonia interrogationis, Natchez Trace, Natchez, Mississippi
Question mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question mark butterflies, named for a quirky little “?” shape on the underside of their wings and known for their hooked forewing (a.k.a anglewing butterfly), migrate south in massive numbers in the fall along the east coast. Some of the same individuals are thought to return northward into the northeast in the spring where they reproduce, lay eggs, and start the next generation. Plants that support these caterpillars include elms (Ulmus), hackberries (Celtis), nettle (Urtica dioica), and false nettle (Boehmeria Jacq.), but interestingly the females often lay their eggs on non-host plants and when the larvae hatch, they are tasked with finding host plant species to eat. The question mark is commonly confused with the eastern comma butterfly (Polygonia comma), which also have hooked forewings (a.k.a., anglewings) but are currently not known to migrate.

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Left: Mourning Cloak, Inner Canyon, Bright Angel Trail, GRCA, AZ, Middle: Mourning cloak butterfly, Right: Mourning cloak butterfly – wings closed
Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
The mourning cloak could just as well be from the wizarding world of Harry Potter as from anywhere. These butterflies look like Potter’s invisibility cloak – and when they close their wings, they “disappear” into a landscape of dried leaves. Mourning cloaks are globally distributed and thought to be the longest-lived of butterflies, frequently surviving 10-11 months. In the U.S., some of these butterflies will migrate into the southeast in the fall while others remain in the north, but little is known about what controls this behavior. The caterpillars consume willow (Salix), cottonwood (Populus), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), elm (Ulmus), and common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis L.).

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Left: Red admiral caterpillar, eating a stinging nettle, Right: Red admiral feeding on fallen plums
Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Red admirals are recognizable from the orange-red bands on both forewings. They live all over the world. In North America, they undertake northward migrations in the spring, colonizing the northeast by April. In October, they appear in massive migratory groups of hundreds to thousands of individuals headed south to Texas and beyond to escape the cold. Males are aggressively territorial over important resources (nettle and false nettle) and will chase off potential competitors. Adult red admirals prefer to consume sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, and can be found collecting salts and minerals from bird droppings. In a pinch, they can also nectar on flowers.

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Answer: They are all sources of food for mourning cloak, question mark, and red admiral butterflies. The xylem and phloem that make up the “wood” inside of a tree are responsible for transporting water, sugars and minerals important for tree health and growth. When these layers are damaged or there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the tree, the sap they carry can be forced to the surface and exposed. The sugary, mineral contents of the sap makes for a delicious meal for a few species of adult butterflies. Bird droppings can provide additional nutrients, such as uric acid or other proteins thought to support egg production.

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Common green darner (Anax junius)
Green darners are one of at least nine species of dragonflies now thought to migrate each year in North America. Highly recognizable, the green darner has a pale-green face with a darker green thorax, blue abdomen, and clear wings. During August-October these large dragonflies migrate up to 2800 km from eastern North America to southern Texas, and beyond. During this migration, swarms can reach over 1 million individuals. Using small radio transmitters, scientists have tracked these movements and discovered that common green darners can cover up to 140 km per day.open_in_new Not all common green darners migrate; some, in northern locations, will delay pupation and overwinter in the water as nymphs, emerging as adults the following spring.

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Wandering glider (Pantala flavescens)
These dragonflies are regular annual migrants in North America, moving from Mexico and the southern U.S. in the summer and arriving into the northern U.S. later than common green darners. They cannot survive the winter in the chilly north, so they return southward in the fall, often traveling at night (presumably to avoid predators). Their pale-yellow face with darker yellow abdomen, dorsal brown stripe, and clear wings make this species of dragonfly easy to identify.

Water habitats like marshes and ponds are important in most dragonfly lifecycles; therefore, to support them in your yard, maintain or build a rain garden, pond, or a wet area and leave the natural water edges wild (no mowing). If water isn’t an option on your property but is close by, let dragonflies feed on wasps and mosquitos, instead of using pesticides and insecticides.

Providing habitat in gardens can go a long way towards protecting these insects and their migrations. Here’s how to make your yard a stopover or breeding site for insect migrants:

(1) Plant host plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the adult butterflies.
Visit our Explore tab, type in your zip code under “Local Resources”, and a Pollinator Planting Guide for your region can be downloaded. Use this guide for choosing plants for pollinators. A quick summary of those species highlighted above are summarized below.

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The species highlighted above and the plant species that support them are summarized here.
(2) Plant native rather than exotic host plants.
Recent scientific studies suggest native plants provide the best support for butterflies. For monarchs, for instance, the natural seasonality of native milkweeds helps to maintain butterfly migration and health. In contrast, tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), an exotic plant not native to the U.S., can grow year-round in some places and has been linked to high infectious disease risk for monarchs. We suggest planting native milkweed like swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) or butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) whose blooms are more seasonally aligned with monarch lifecycles.

(3) Avoid insecticides.
Synthetic pesticides, including neonicotinoids, can kill butterfly caterpillars. Alternatives to synthetic pesticides include insecticidal soaps (such as those from potassium salts of fatty acids), which can be sprayed on plants when no caterpillars are present and rinsed off with water.

(4) Contribute to citizen science.
Much of what we know about butterfly migration is thanks to the help of citizen scientists. Want to help and contribute to these citizen-science projects? Check out Monarch Joint Venture’s Monarch project list.

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Scientists have a lot more to learn about insects (including ~5.5 million estimated speciesopen_in_new) and their migrations. In some cases, insect migrations provide ecological services, like nutrient cycling and pollination, which we are only beginning to understand. As we learn more,we can support these insect migrants through gardening in the spring and fall. If you want to pledge to support pollinators and dragonflies, check out our Planning Tool and let us know about your best intentions.

As an ecologist, Dara Satterfield is fascinated with animal migration and infectious diseases. She investigates these areas through the study of insects, especially monarchs. Satterfield’s mission is to use her research to inform conservation efforts for migratory species and to connect public audiences with wildlife through citizen science. She is currently a James Smithson Post-doctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, where she is working with Peter Marra and Scott Sillett to examine the diversity and ecological implications of insect migration.

Learn Bird Songs by Listening Deeply: Q&A With Don Kroodsma

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 15:29
Kroodsma, seen here in a South Carolina marsh, says he loves the new lightweight digital technology which allows him to record for hours at a time. Photo by Janet Grenzke.

From the Spring 2017 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

More From Living Bird

Learning to recognize birds by ear may seem daunting, but it’s something Don Kroodsma has been doing for a half-century. We asked the author and birdsong expert to explain how someone can get started with this indispensable birding skill. Kroodsma told us to start by slowing down and taking the time to listen to birds as individuals.

hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); --> How do we begin to get familiar with bird songs?

Don Kroodsma: The same way we get to know people, I suggest. Suppose you move to a new town and want to figure out who’s who. You get to know one person at a time, starting with a neighbor perhaps, getting to know that one person well enough that you’d rarely, if ever, mistake him or her for another person. Then you “learn” the next person. You wouldn’t start with 100 people gathered in an auditorium and race from one person to the next. I advocate “identifying with” birds instead of just “identifying” birds.

Can you explain what you mean by “identifying with” birds?

DK: When we try to identify birds we are often creating a list and only the species counts. That’s a critical difference compared with the way I approach birds. For me, I’m listening, so every individual counts because every individual is different; each individual is saying something different and it is enjoyable to listen to in that kind of detail. I would say pick any species that one already knows, like a chickadee or a Song Sparrow. For a Red-winged Blackbird, you could go sit in a marsh and watch individual birds. In the Backyard Birdsong guides (see sidebar) I offer lessons on how to listen to individuals of many species.

Listen Listen to a Song Sparrow sing. Listen to a Red-winged Blackbird. What would be an example of listening to individuals?

DK: A Song Sparrow has about eight different songs. Instead of developing some superficial tricks to identify a Song Sparrow, sit and listen to an individual and hear him sing one particular song over and over; eventually, after perhaps 10 to 20 repetitions, he’ll switch to another song. You learn about how an individual bird expresses itself. You do that with a couple of Song Sparrows and you will know Song Sparrows well enough that you never confuse them with another species. As you listen to birds in that kind of detail—what I call “deep listening”—one after one you come to know that species and the variation within it. You come to listen at a different level, one bird at a time, and identifying the “species” comes easy.

Are people who have some musical training or ability better at detailed listening?

DK: Possibly, but I more or less flunked piano lessons as a child, don’t “do” music, and do just fine. I think it’s more important to just have “auditory memory,” an ability to hear a sound and recognize it again, or know that it is different from something else.

Train Your Ears Kroodsma’s Backyard Birdsong guides have just been re-released. The guides have a built-in player that includes the song of each species, and Kroodsma offers supplementary lessons online from another birdsong book entitled Listening to a Continent Sing. Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific. How can someone improve their auditory memory?

DK: Recording sounds is one way. I love recording because it’s as if the bird is sitting on your shoulder singing into your ear. Then I love looking at those same songs in spectrograms because I think it’s fairly accurate to say that I hear with my eyes, which are so much better trained than my ears. When I see the song and hear the song simultaneously, the eyes teach the ears how to listen, and vice versa. You can also just use a pen and paper to sketch out what a bird is doing with song—perhaps a long, straight line for a whistle, or short jagged lines for rattles, and so forth. I think we already do this mentally—finding the patterns in the song. Sketching the pattern visually reinforces what the ear hears.

You’ve been studying bird sound for nearly 50 years—what got you started?

DK: During the summer of 1968, former Cornell Lab director Sewell Pettingill taught ornithology at the University of Michigan field station, and he asked me to record some bird sounds for the Lab’s Library of Natural Sounds [now the Macaulay Library]. The rest, as they say, is history! Even after all this time I realize that the more we learn the less we know about bird song. But in the end, I find it immensely satisfying to stand or sit in one place, perhaps with my eyes closed, and hear all that is going on around—to know not only who is who but also a bit of what they’re expressing in song.

More Resources

Global Big Day 2017

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 14:13

Cornell Lab
Support the Sapsuckers’ birding marathon for conservation

On May 13, 2017, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s birding Dream Team, the Sapsuckers, will reach for an audacious goal: finding 300 bird species in just 24 hours – and raising $475,000. Can they do it?!

This year, for Big Day, they will be heading to the Yucatán Peninsula, one of the world’s most stunning and important areas for birds.

In order to cover the phenomenal bird diversity there, they will be dividing into three teams for the first time ever: Team Belize, Team Guatemala, and Team Mexico. All three teams will be joining forces in a quest to find the most bird species and raise $475,000 for conservation.

Will you help Team Belize, Team Guatemala, and Team Mexico by pledging for every bird species they find?

After Big Day, we’ll share with you the results of Team Sapsucker’s efforts and ask you to fulfill your pledged gift. For example, if you pledge $0.25 today and Team Sapsucker meets their goal of finding 300 bird species, you will receive an email to fulfill your pledge of $75.FINAL_MUG.jpg

Our thanks for your support:
For gifts and pledges over $100 you’ll receive a coffee mug featuring the Cedar Waxwing by Ann-Kathrin Wirth, a Bartels Science Illustration Intern.

If you prefer to make a donation now rather than pledge per species please click here.
Pledge a gift today
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© 2017 Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Explore “Most Likely” Birds With Merlin

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 08:35

Explore “Most Likely” birds with Merlin

20 April 2017

Anna’s Hummingbird by Kyle Blaney/Macaulay Library
Tired of lugging around heavy field guides? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a list of the most common bird species at any location, just a tap away? Merlin Bird ID is what you’re looking for. Nearly 1.5 million people have used Merlin as a bird identification tool for birds in the Americas—putting a name to your mystery bird from a photo or by answering five easy questions. Now, with the new Explore Birds feature, you can also generate Most Likely bird lists anywhere in the world. Download Merlin and see what birds are most likely at your favorite birding spot.

You might be wondering how this works—how can this information be available for any place in the world? The likely lists in Merlin are based on eBird frequencies (the percentage of complete checklists that report the species), which allows us to provide lists of expected species as well as tagging more unusual species as Uncommon or Rare. Merlin has full treatment (photos, audio, text, and map plus Merlin ID magic) for 750 species, but for the rest of the species there will not be species account information or photo ID capabilities. You can still explore a list of likely birds for any place in the world—from Adelaide to Zanzibar.

Merlin is working towards full features for the birds of Europe and Central America next. You can always help by using MerlinVision, uploading photos (particularly from the targets lists), sounds, and sightings. Thank you to every eBirder who has contributed a sighting, photo or audio recording. We look forward to continuing to expand Merlin’s toolbox in the future.

Want to see the likely birds in your area? Just boot up Merlin and see what’s on the docket in Cancún, or anywhere else in the world.


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© 2017 American Ornithological Society