You are here

All About Birds

Subscribe to All About Birds feed
Your online guide to birds and birdwatching
Updated: 31 min 48 sec ago

Swarovski and Cornell Lab Collaborate on a #DigitalGuide that Can ID What You’re Seeing

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 11:20
The digital guide is a monocular designed by Swarovski Optik. Photo by Drew Weber.

A collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Swarovski Optik has resulted in the unveiling of an exciting new concept product called the “digital guide” at this year’s Birdfair in Rutland, England.

The “digital guide” (or #digitalguide on social media) is a monocular designed by Swarovski Optik. It features an integrated camera that can connect seamlessly with the Cornell Lab’s free Merlin Bird ID app. With the click of a button, the monocular captures an image of the bird you are watching and transfers it to Merlin on the user’s phone. Merlin’s powerful computer vision system then identifies the bird in the image.

This innovative product brings together the optical and engineering expertise of Swarovski Optik with the Lab’s cutting-edge computer vision bird identification tools, eBird sightings, and photos and sounds from the Macaulay Library—all in pursuit of making it possible for anyone to identify birds that are new to them.

Using the digital guide is easy. Just find a bird... ...and with the click of a button, the monocular captures an image and transfers it to Merlin on the user's phone or tablet, which has a powerful computer vision system that gives you a list of possible bird IDs. Photos by Drew Weber.

This integration with Merlin Bird ID puts the app’s expert-curated photos, sounds, and text in easy reach just when users need them. Through the use of free, downloadable “bird packs,” Merlin offers identification resources for more than 3,700 species in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia, with more on the way.

hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); -->

The Cornell Lab added the first computer vision bird ID tools to Merlin Bird ID in 2017 through a collaboration with Visipedia, a team of computer vision researchers at Caltech and Cornell Tech. Just two years later the next evolution of nature observation is appearing. If you’re not at Birdfair this year (August 2019), be patient. The digital guide will be on exhibit at a variety of upcoming birding festivals; find out where you can try it out.

At present, the digital guide is a product concept and is not yet for sale. Swarovski plans to release more information about it in the first half of 2020. So for now, the best way to try one out is to go to a demo at one of the birding festivals in the link above.

For Advertisers

Sat, 08/10/2019 - 09:30

The mission of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is “to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.” For an overview of Cornell Lab’s worldwide impact and contributions to conservation and education in the last year, please see our Annual Report.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service performs a national survey of U.S. residents 16 years old and older every five years about the impact of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation. Bird watching is part of wildlife-associated recreation (observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife) and by far attracts the largest following of wildlife watching. For the economic impact of wildlife watching, see the 2016 USFWS Survey (starting on page 37). During 2016, 34 percent (86 million) of the US population 16 years and older participated in wildlife-watching activities.

Banner ads are available on our All About Birds website, and print ads are available in our quarterly publication Living Bird magazine.

Online advertising

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; padding:1em;}
/* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.
We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */
#mc_embed_signup label, #mc_embed_signup input {padding-bottom:0;}
#mc_embed_signup {width:100%}
#mc_embed_signup p, #mc_embed_signup br {display:none;}
Subscribe to Advertiser eNews

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers online ads at its All About Birds website. Ad contracts are for a minimum of three months and paid quarterly. Advertisers can choose from a variety of standard packages, or we can prepare customized packages.

In the last 12 months, there were 61 million page views and 15 million unique visitors to All About Birds. Ads can be rotated with other ads, or advertisers can take over ad slots based on the average number of monthly page views.

Ad rates and Specifications

Click on the links to download

Bird watchers tend to be an older demographic and highly educated. Our surveys show that they are not only bird enthusiasts, but also green advocates, health conscious, techie, and have active lifestyles. Birders enjoy travel, museums, federal/state refuges/parks, photography, movies, music, reading publications, and dining out.

Digital ads are available on 600 North American bird species profiles and on a variety of other pages such as on the home page, bird guide search by name/shape/taxonomy, live-streaming bird cams, bird ID skills, feeding birds, bird-friendly homes, FAQs, biology, news & features, videos, and Living Bird magazine.

If you are promoting travel, tours, or events to specific North American locations, ads can be placed on bird species found in those destinations. Our web visitors can also be geo-targeted by their location—by city, county, state/province, and/or country.

Festivals that place banner ads on All About Birds will also have their ads included on our Festival Listing page. This listing is free! If you want your event listed, please provide the following information to the advertising manager: dates, festival title, map location (city, state, or full address), brief description (about 100 words, e.g., keynotes, workshops, field trips), contact (telephone number, name, e-mail), and the festival’s URL.

For a digital media kit, contact our advertising manager.

Print advertising Contact our Advertising Manager

Susanna Lawson
phone: 434-983-1771
fax: 434-983-1772

Living Bird is an attractive full-color magazine, lavishly packed with spectacular full-color photographs. The magazine is distributed to members, libraries, universities, and other organizations with a readership of 100,000. Advertising rates, publication dates, due dates, and ad specifications are provided as PDFs on the right side of this page under “Ad Rates and Specifications.” For a media kit, contact the advertising manager.

Feature articles cover bird behavior, habitat, identification, research, conservation, travel, bird-finding, bird-watching, and bird photography/art. Columns/departments include News Briefs (urgent news in bird science and conservation, Spotlight (engagement with individuals and their stories), Science (new insights from recent research), Conservation (impacts and actions), Season Preview (geography, climate, and birds), Profiles (insights about a bird species or taxonomic family), Practical Tips (bird-watching skills, methods, and best practices), Reviews (books, products, apps, travel destinations), FAQs (answers to readers’ questions, and FreshPerspectives (infographic about birds).

Living Bird is an excellent advertising resource for companies that want to reach the bird-watching market and some of the most enthusiastic and influential birders in the world. By advertising in the magazine, a company is associating itself with an organization held in high regard by the bird-watching community.

When Gulls Attack, Just Stare Back

Fri, 08/09/2019 - 12:08
A Herring Gull snatches an ice cream cone. Photo by Per Andrén via Birdshare.

Soaring, swooping gulls add to the magic of a summer day at the beach—but they’re not always a welcome sight: Herring Gulls, for example, can be aggressive around people who are eating, and on some beaches will even swipe food right out of people’s hands. Keep your guard up or else a stealthy bird may make off with your fried clams or ice cream cone.

A new study points at a way to safely deter these would-be food-snatchers: engage the gulls in a good old-fashioned stare-down.

Researchers from the University of Exeter in the U.K. wanted to know whether Herring Gulls foraging on beaches in one region of England would react to a perceived threat as they make a play for a bit of food. To do this, they designed an experiment to test the gulls’ “sensitivity to gaze.”

hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); -->

The scientists placed a bag full of french fries a few feet from themselves, then tracked the reactions of approaching gulls as the researchers either looked away from, or looked directly at, an approaching gull.

Out of 74 individual Herring Gulls that the scientists attempted to test, they could only get 19 of them to undergo complete trials for both conditions, indicating that most gulls are not predisposed to snatch food from people in the first place. But out of the 19 birds that met the study criteria, they found that gulls being goggled took 21 seconds longer, on average, to make a go at their quarry.

They also found a huge variation in behavior of individual gulls. When NOT being looked at, the swiftest bird took just three seconds to approach and steal the fries; the slowest took nearly three minutes. All the birds took the food eventually when not being watched directly.

Related Stories

Under the researchers’ gaze, some gulls were still barely deterred. The brashest gull took just four seconds to grab the grub while being given the eye. (Interestingly, this was the same bird that was also the quickest to the food in the other part of the trial.) On the other hand, 6 of the 19 gulls failed to take the food at all after 5 minutes of steady staring from a scientist

“Those that were that quick were pretty much focused on the chips,” says Madeleine Goumas, the lead author on the paper. “Those that took a longer amount of time would often stop repeatedly, take a meandering approach, and—most importantly—were looking back at me in the eye.”


Goumas, M., Burns, I., Kelley, L.A., Boogert, N.J. 2019. Herring gulls respond to human gaze direction. Biology Letters 15: 20190405.

Contributor of Note: Randolph Scott Little

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 02:25

Contributor of Note: Randolph Scott Little

By Kathi Borgmann 5 Aug 2019

Randolph Scott Little grew up surrounded by giants. His elementary school stood in the shadows of Fernow Hall on the Cornell Campus, then the home of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. After school Little would walk up the hill and tug at the shirt sleeves of Arthur Allen and Peter Paul Kellogg, the founders of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Little was fascinated by what he saw and wanted to help them do anything and everything.

“Observing the colorful plumages of stuffed hummingbirds in a display case in Fernow Hall may have been what kindled my lifelong interest in birds,” wrote Little in an essay about his childhood home. “Not the hummingbirds themselves, Little says, but the welcoming words of Dr. Arthur A. “Doc” Allen who saw my interest and invited me to return and explore further whenever I liked.”

The young Little returned to Fernow Hall day after day seeking to learn as much as possible and Allen and Kellogg weren’t shy about putting him to work. Little had a knack for finding bird nests—a match made in heaven for Allen who was keen on photographing birds and nests. Little scoured the neighborhoods for nests as much as he could and provided Allen with many photography opportunities.

Little also served as Doc’s “go-awayster,” a fun story Little enjoys telling. In 1932 Allen discovered that the deep resonant sounds of the Ruffed Grouse came from them beating their wings against the air. But as technologies advanced Allen really wanted to film a grouse drumming. Allen attempted to film the bird from a blind, but Allen noticed that the grouse seemed skittish when he was in the blind because, Allen surmised, the bird knew there was a person in there. So, Allen asked Little to follow him into the blind and leave the blind once he was all set up, serving as Doc’s “go-awayster.” The grouse, sensing that nobody was in the blind, returned to normal behavior and Allen was able to document its behavior on film—a first in the study of animal behavior.

Finding bird nests and helping Doc with his projects was great fun for Little, but when Kellogg asked him to help aim the large parabolic microphone, Little was thrilled. Back in the day it took two people to record bird sounds, one person to crank the recorder and one person to hold the parabolic microphone. Little loved aiming the microphone and found recording birds to be super satisfying and that, Little says, is how his recording career got started.

Despite being steeped in ornithology, Little’s career isn’t in ornithology. When it came time for Little to go to college, Kellogg told Little not to bother taking ornithology because he already knew everything. Instead Kellogg told Little to study electrical engineering if he really wanted to advance the field of sound recording. Little heeded Kellogg’s advice and studied electrical engineering at Cornell. He then went on to have a 37-year career at Bell Telephone Laboratories and AT&T Headquarters. A fulltime job and a new family meant that Little didn’t get much time in the field recording, especially early on at Bell Labs. But whenever the chance presented itself, Little was game to get out in the field and record birds.

During college Little worked at the Library of Natural Sounds (now the Macaulay Library) keeping the equipment in shape and helping master vinyl records of bird sounds, the sales of which helped support the Lab. When school was out of session, Little headed out in the field at every opportunity to get recordings of species missing from the archive. He even built his own recording unit, an Eico kit tape recorder to record birds around his home.

In 1961 Little was in the Rocky Mountains recording birds for Peterson’s guide to bird sounds with a Nagra III-B tape recorder, which was one of the first recorders that allowed one person to handle both the recorder and microphone.

ML8992 visualization
0:55 / 2:01
American Dipper (Northern) Cinclus mexicanus [mexicanus Group] © Randolph Little
Wyoming, United States 20 Jun 1961
Macaulay Library
Those recordings with a portable recording unit were memorable for Little, but perhaps the most memorable recording, Little says, took place on Baffin Island, Canada. William “Bill” Gunn, a renowned recordist, wanted to publish a collection of the sounds of North American shorebirds and one of the last recordings Gunn needed for his collection was a Common Ringed Plover in North America. Gunn called upon Little to help him with the last recording. Little jumped at the opportunity to join Gunn in the field, but Gunn’s health was deteriorating, so Little headed to the arctic alone to get the coveted recording. On the first flight up to Baffin Island, Little only got as far as Frobisher Bay. The second flight took him to Baffin Island, but it took three attempts to actually land the plane due to weather. Finally, Little made it to Baffin, but the weather was still miserable with strong winds blowing across the treeless tundra. Little spent several days out on the tundra trying to get a recording of the Common Ringed Plover with little success. On the very last day at the last minute before his plane was about to leave Little heard a Common Ringed Plover flying overhead. He started recording immediately when a second plover circled in and landed near the rock shelter he built early. He scurried back to the rock shelter and recorded a pair of Common Ringed Plovers in the nick of time. “Holy cow, how lucky can you be,” said Little as he hurried back to catch his plane.

ML230190 visualization

1:20 / 1:20
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
© Randolph Little
Nunavut, Baffin, Canada 27 Jun 1984
Macaulay Library
Little’s passion for sound recording isn’t just about getting the recordings, he also wants to pass along his knowledge and passion for recording to others. He began passing on what he learned from Kellogg and his own experiences at the annual Macaulay Library sound recording workshops. Little taught his first workshop in 1987 and continued to help teach it for more than 30 years. And to this day Little still participates in the workshop—he never lets a teaching moment slip by him. Little says, “just because you can hear a bird doesn’t mean you can make a decent recording of it. You need to train your ear to think like a microphone. How loud is the signal relative to the background noise? Most people’s first recording attempt is like taking a snapshot, but it’s nothing to write home about. Learn to listen like a microphone.”

I asked Little if he had any other advice to pass on to fellow recordists. Without skipping a beat, Little says, metadata, the information added to each recording that tells others more about what was going on during the recording, like behavior of the bird, its gender, and habitat. “A recording without metadata is not very valuable, but even a poor-quality recording with metadata can be quite useful,” say Little. “Oh and carry a notebook,” Little says, even if you get made fun of for carrying one like he did. It’s good practice to take notes, says Little.

ML13982 visualization z
0:59 / 1:28
Kirtland’s Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii
© Randolph Little
Michigan, United States 06 Jun 1964
Macaulay Library
Little is a truly dedicated recordist with 2,014 recordings and counting in the archive. The first solo recording he archived in the Macaulay Library was in 1959 and he continues to archive recordings today. That’s 60 years of recording—an achievement that is unmatched in the archive’s history.

Little’s involvement with the Cornell Lab and Macaulay Library doesn’t end with sound recording; Little served on the steering committee for the Library of Natural Sounds and the Cornell Lab’s administrative board from 1998 to 2011. Little says his proudest accomplishment was helping rebuild the academic capacity of the Lab of Ornithology.

Little also serves as the unofficial historian of the Lab. He has been at the Lab practically from the beginning and continues to share his knowledge and passion about the Lab with the world. Little self-published a book about the Lab’s history in 2003 called “For the Birds: Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Sapsucker Woods,” an entertaining and informative read full of personal narratives and history.

It seems fitting to end Randy’s story with his signature email closing, Good recording. Thank you, Randy Little for your commitment to the Cornell Lab and the Macaulay Library!

Listen to more of Little’s recordings.

eBird Stories—Sarah Kamis: Beginning Birding

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 16:00

eBird Stories—Sarah Kamis: Beginning Birding
By Team eBird August 4, 2019

Big Belt Mountains
Sarah Kamis birding at Big Belt Mountains in Montana.

Thank you to everyone who has shared their eBird stories. It is so wonderful to hear the variety of pathways that people follow in birding. The eBird community is incredibly diverse, encompassing people with a variety of backgrounds from around the world—all sharing a passion for birds and a desire to learn more. In this eBird Story, Sarah Kamis shares how she discovered birding and the value birding brings to her life.

My birding story by Sarah Kamis

At our camp on the riverbank, I’m grumpy after waking up from a nap. I don’t feel like joining my exuberant friends around the fire, so I walk downstream to a marshy bank that meets a canyon wall. Armed with my camp chair, beer, and binoculars I decide to see what happens in the peace and quiet. Not yet a birder, just a camper with binoculars, I’m simply happy to be alone in nature.

I’m four months in to a very rewarding, but very stressful job as an advocate working with individuals who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Most of my time is spent working directly with people who are in crisis from a recent assault or who have experienced months or years of psychological abuse. There’s no way around the stress of these interactions, but I am continuously awed by the strength and ingenuity of the individuals I work with. I fervently tell them that I believe in their inherent rights to dignity, respect, and safety. That belief doesn’t make me impervious to the stress of the job though. It’s a difficult job to separate from the rest of my life; more and more I’m unable to control when thoughts of work enter my mind. I need to pay more attention to my well being if I want to continue this job.

Back on the riverbank I spot a blur of brown flitting through the bushes. It quickly disappears. My post-nap grump hasn’t worn off and I begrudge that the quiet skies aren’t yielding any majestic eagles. The brown blur comes back. With some pessimism I put my binoculars to my eyes, but as I do the blur jumps down out of sight. Keeping my binoculars up, I wait skeptically. Suddenly the blur hops back into sight, and my mouth drops open. It’s NOT a brown blur. Facing me head-on is a fierce, black bandit-mask and a vibrant yellow throat. The mask encircles his eyes just the way a cartoon robber’s mask would, but his forward stance and no-nonsense stare make him seem much more serious than a cartoon. I follow him as he dances through the tangled brush and dips down to the water’s edge. I’ve entered a dreamy escape from time that all bird watchers can relate to. With a lightened mood I go back to camp and join the back-country shenanigans of my friends and to discover in my beginner’s birding book that I have just seen my very first Common Yellowthroat.

When I spotted that Common Yellowthroat, I unknowingly found a vital part to managing my work stress. Bird watching brings me into the here and now, the ebb and flow of movement and sound, the vast life right outside my back door. Through eBird I discovered that my home is 100 yards from a hotspot that has 85 species listed. Through the last half of May I spent nearly every morning before work craning my neck and whipping my head around. I watched Redstarts flit around the tree edges, a Lazuli Bunting diligently deliver his song, and a brief glimpse of a MacGillivray’s Warbler. There I’ve become enamored with the ardor of House Wrens and frustrated by the similarities of flycatchers. I truly couldn’t continue my job if it wasn’t for bird watching, and eBird helped me dive headfirst into the world of birding.

October Big Day—19 October 2018

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 11:42

October Big Day—19 Oct 2019
By Team eBird July 31, 2019

Global Big Day has become a May tradition for tens of thousands of eBirders: 24 hours to put your favorite park/county/state/province country/continent on the global birding stage. Last year we couldn’t wait a full year between Global Big Days, and October Big Day was born. On 19 October, October Big Day is back! Can we beat last year’s total of 6,331 species on a single October day?

How to participate
Get an eBird account: eBird is a worldwide bird checklist program used by millions of birders. It’s what allows us to compile everyone’s sightings into a single massive October Big Day list—while at the same time collecting the data for scientists to use to better understand birds. Sign up here. It’s 100% free.
Watch birds on 19 October: It’s that simple. You don’t need to be a bird expert, or go out all day long. Even 10 minutes in your backyard will help. October Big Day runs from midnight to midnight in your local time zone. You can report birds from anywhere in the world.
Enter what you see and hear on eBird: You can enter your sightings via our website or—even easier—download the free eBird Mobile app. You can enter and submit lists while you’re still out birding, and the app will even keep track of how far you’ve walked, so you can focus on watching birds. While you’re downloading free apps, try out the Cornell Lab’s Merlin Bird ID app for help with identification. Please enter sightings before 23 October to be included in our initial results announcement.
Watch the sightings roll in: During the day, keep an eye on how the lists are growing in different parts of the world. Follow along with sightings from more than 150 countries. Stats will be updated in real-time on our October Big Day page.

Share Your eBird Story, Inspire Others

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 12:32

Share your eBird story
By Team eBird July 19, 2019

Do you have a story about eBird, the Macaulay Library, or Merlin? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your experience, your discovery, or what is happening in your community. All stories will be read and a selection will be published on our website and shared on social media.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out how Teresa and Miles Tuffli got started birding or Steve Howell’s article on the Tropical Mockingbird. Generally, these are the kinds of stories we are looking for:

Personal stories (Did eBird, Merlin, or the Macaulay Library help you discover birding or become a better birder? Has birding helped you personally?)
Stories about data (Have you discovered something cool using eBird data or the Macaulay Library? Do you have tips for using eBird data?)
Stories about bird identification (Did these resources help you uncover the ID of a mystery bird? Do you have tips for a challenging species ID?)
Community stories (Has birding helped the community where you live? Do you use eBird in your community?)
Submission guidelines

Send your story in an email to with Bird Stories in the subject line
Length: 300-800 words
Include a photo of yourself birding
Select media from the Macaulay Library to help illustrate your story (send links to images or audio files)
Agree to share your story online

Kate Lowry, June 2019 eBirder of the Month

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 15:46

Please join us in congratulating Kate Lowry of Lynchburg, Virginia, winner of the June 2019 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Kate’s name was drawn randomly from 2,530 eBirders who submitted at least 20 eligible eBird checklists with breeding behavior codes in June. Kate will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular for her eBirding efforts. Here’s Kate’s birding story:In the winter of 2013, I discovered FeederWatch from the Cornell Lab. That first year, I struggled to identify 8 or 10 species of birds at my feeders. NestWatch was the next step that same summer, ultimately leading to data recording for various nesting songbirds, as well as 20+ nest boxes and 12 Purple Martin gourds that we have gradually established on our property. As I explored Cornell’s “All About Birds” website to learn more about the birds that I was seeing, I gained confidence in identification.In 2014, I began to submit lists to eBird on my laptop. However, the eBird Mobile app has been a game-changer in terms of ease of use. I find that if I have even a short amount of time, I can easily submit a checklist. As an example, I was leaving work one afternoon and noticed some bird activity at the edge of the grass bordering the parking lot. A Hermit Thrush, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, a Northern Harrier, and a Red-tailed Hawk (which caught a rodent as I watched), all popped up within a few minutes and were soon entered as a checklist on my phone!Carolina Chickadee by Kate Lowry/Macaulay LibraryOver the past decade, my husband has been planting native flowers, shrubs, and trees on our property, as well as cultivating a large organic vegetable garden that includes many small fruits. This has led to an ever increasing diversity of species and numbers of birds in the area. For several years I used Habitat Network (Yard Map), another Cornell Lab project, to record our progress. I love the fact that with eBird I can document and track species recorded here in our “Yard” or home “Patch” from the Explore page.Another asset I find useful on eBird is the option to explore “Hotspots” and download printable checklists from the Explore page. When we travel, I use eBird to help me find nearby birding sites and to learn the most common species that I might see based on date-specific checklists that I print from Explore. The bar charts are also useful and provide quick visual information.Finally, the eBirder of the Month Challenge has motivated me to take a fresh look at birding, whether it be noting breeding behavior, recording bird songs, or joining other birding enthusiasts for a day’s outing. A big thanks to Team eBird and Carl Zeiss Sports Optics for providing support to so many enthusiastic birders worldwide!Eastern Towhee by Kate Lowry/Macaulay Library

Macaulay Library Photos Help Build New Australian Birds of Prey Book

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 23:32

Photos in the archive help build new Australian Birds of Prey book
By Mat Gilfedder 22 May 2019
Black Falcon
Black Falcon Falco subniger
© Brian Sullivan
New South Wales, Deniliquin, Australia 11 Oct 2013
Macaulay Library
Thousands of birders and photographers archive their media every year in the Macaulay Library. Some of these photos are now featured in a new field guide on Australian birds of prey. Mat Gilfedder and his coauthors searched the Macaulay Library for photos of Australian raptors in flight and reached out to each photographer for permission to use their photo in the book. Here’s Mat on his new book.


As a bird photographer and Chair of the eBird Australia committee, I am passionate about how we can use images to enhance the identification of birds and to improve the practice of bird watching.

The Macaulay Library offers a critical resource because it contains millions of bird images that can be accessed by birders around the world who wish to appreciate the wonders of these glorious creatures.

I recently worked on a book project with Dr Stephen Debus and Dr Rich Seaton that required many images of Australian birds of prey in flight. Tracking down flight shots of raptors at several angles and with consistent poses for all 26 of the regularly recorded birds of prey in Australia was a difficult task.

Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) Original photos by: Mat Gilfedder, Jon Norling, Brian L. Sullivan

Little Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides. An example of the composite plates (original photos by: Andrew Martin, Richard Seaton, David Whelan, Mat Gilfedder)
Thousands of images were donated to the project from almost 50 photographers, including many images sourced through the Macaulay Library (with permission from the photographer). We used a selection of these to prepare a carefully curated set of plates to show each of the 26 Australian bird of prey species from multiple angles, together with maps (derived from eBird data) showing their expected distribution.

The use of many images enabled us to highlight each bird’s subtle differences when in flight – the shape of their tail, the angle of their wings, the and how their feature vary between species. Our aim was to enable birders to use images and observations collected from a range of sources to improve their observation efforts and enhance their bird watching experience.

The book is a great tool for identification, and a great example of the collective power of citizen science in action. We hope it will help inspire eBirders to contribute even higher quality data for understanding and conserving our amazing birds of prey.

Front cover, version 4; 27 September 2018.
Australian Birds of Prey in Flight: A Photographic Guide

Published in USA by CSIRO Publishing (May 31 2019)

The Macaulay Library does not receive proceeds from the sale of this book.

Sparrows Have Evolved Four Different Ways to Survive in Saltwater Habitats

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 15:25

Multiple paths to saltwater tolerance evolved independently among birds
Email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

L-R: Swamp Sparrow, Kelly Colgan Azar; Song Sparrow, Jennifer Taggart; Savannah Sparrow, Kelly Colgan Azar; Nelson’s Sparrow, Brian Harris.
Salt Regulation Among Saltmarsh Sparrows
Evolved in Four Unique Ways
Study defines four of nature’s solutions to the same problem

For release: July 16, 2019

Ithaca, NY—In nature, as in life, there’s often more than one way to solve a problem. That includes the evolutionary process. A new study in Evolution Letters finds that different bird species in the same challenging environment—the highly saline ecosystem of tidal marshes along ocean shores—were able to evolve unique species-specific ways to address the same problem.

Jennifer Walsh
Jennifer Walsh taking sparrow measurements in the field. Photo by Adrienne Kovach. “For tidal saltmarsh species, the challenge is how to maintain the right balance between water and salt concentrations in their cells,” explains lead author Jennifer Walsh, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “When cells are exposed to salt water, they shrink. If they’re exposed to too much fresh water, they expand. Without the right balance, the cells can die.”

Walsh and colleagues from eight other universities studied the genomes of four sparrow species: Savannah, Nelson’s, Song, and Swamp Sparrow. These were chosen because each of these species has a population living in saltmarsh habitat as well as a separate upland population. This makes it possible to compare the genomes of the two populations and see where they differ. Some of those differences are tied to adaptations evolved in saltmarsh-resident sparrows to control the balance of water and salt concentrations—a process called osmoregulation.

One gene that appears to be important in Savannah Sparrows plays a role in inserting physical channels in the cells. Those channels help the cells resist expansion and contraction from changes in salt levels by allowing exchange of water across the cell wall. Swamp Sparrows show a similar response to salt water, but the genes responsible for forming these channels are completely different. Song Sparrows seem to have adapted through mechanisms that reinforce cell walls so they can expand and contact more quickly in response to salt. The Nelson’s Sparrow takes yet another route—evolving a gene that changes its behavior. Their genetic adaption curbs thirst so they only drink the least amount of salt water necessary and salt levels are kept within bounds. The four sparrow species evolved four different, complex mechanisms to deal with salt, each likely governed by many genes working in tandem.

Sparrow graphic
Upland versus saltmarsh dwellers of the same species with corresponding differences in appearance and salt tolerance. Illustrations by Jillian Ditner, Cornell Lab Science Illustrator.
The researchers also found that the osmoregulatory adaptations evolved at a rapid pace, at least on an evolutionary scale—probably over the past 10,000 to 15,000 years—and that New World sparrows have colonized marshes over and over again.

The saltmarsh sparrows also evolved some shared traits across species that may help them survive the hot, salty, harsh conditions of their environment: a larger bill to better dissipate heat, a modified kidney structure, and darker plumage which may provide some UV protection and help feathers withstand abrasive vegetation. But why live in a saltmarsh at all?

“Sometimes birds move into marshes because, if you can adapt to the environment, it’s actually a pretty good place to be,” Walsh says. “There’s no competition because so few species live there, and there is never, ever a shortage of insects for food.”

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology, as well as a seed grant from the Cornell University Center for Vertebrate Genomics. Co-authors are from the University of Montana, University of British Columbia, the Iolani School in Hawaii, University of Connecticut, University of New Hampshire, University of Maine, University of Delaware, and Benedictine College.


Jennifer Walsh, Phred M. Benham, Petra E. Deane-Coe, Peter Arcese, Bronwyn G. Butcher, Yvonne L. Chan, Zachary A. Cheviron, Chris S. Elphick, Adrienne I. Kovach, Brian J. Olsen, W. Gregory Shriver, Virginia L. Winder, and Irby J. Lovette. (2019) Genomics of rapid ecological divergence and parallel adaptation in four tidal marsh sparrows. Evolution Letters.

Editors: Download graphic and images for use with stories about this research

Media Contact:
Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, (607) 254-2137,

Birding Festivals and Events

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 09:37
googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_default', [300, 250], 'div-dfp-slot1').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_default_bottom', [300, 250], 'div-dfp-slot2').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_leaderboard', [728, 90], 'div-dfp-leaderboard').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().setTargeting('pid', ['/feed/']).setTargeting('url', ['aab']); googletag.enableServices(); }); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-dfp-slot1'); }); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-dfp-slot2'); }); Upcoming Bird Festivals and Events

A great way to enjoy bird watching is by going to festivals—they’re organized to get you to great birding spots at a great time of year, and they’re a great way to meet people. Experts and locals help you see more birds, and you’ll meet other visitors who share your hobby. While you’re there, keep an eye out for Cornell Lab representatives, as we do attend several festivals each year.

To list your festival on this page, please contact our advertising manager:
Susanna Lawson
phone: 434-983-1771
fax: 434-983-1772

Festivals by Location

Click on a pin for details, contact information, and festival website. You can zoom and scroll the map to get a closer look at the pins.

Festivals by Date

Click on an event URL for full details. Scroll down the list to see all scheduled events.

July 2019 eBirder of the Month Challenge

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 09:08

July eBirder of the Month Challenge
By Team eBird June 30, 2019
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
© William Higgins
Macaulay Library
This month’s eBirder of the Month Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, encourages you to get out birding every day in one of the least-eBirded months of the year. The eBirder of the Month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 31 eligible checklists during July. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month. July is an interesting time in much of the world, when the boreal breeding season is winding town and spring is around the corner in to the southern reaches of our planet. Many birds are wandering from their normal habitats, and there’s a lot for us to learn about where and when birds occur. Let’s get out and see what we can find in July!

One of the most interesting phenomena of July, yet something that often goes undetected, is post-breeding dispersal. You may have seen us write about post-breeding dispersal before, and that’s because it’s so cool! Many species that are habitat-specific in the breeding season become more generalist, moving out to areas that they wouldn’t normally occur in during the breeding season.

These subtle movements can be really important to document, as the use of these additional habitats after the breeding season can be critically important for conservation. If you have a forest-breeding bird, conserving the forest will help during that season, but what if the majority of the population relies on a specific type of scrubby habitat for young juveniles and molting adults? Understanding the full annual cycle and habitat use of a species is essential for most effective conservation. Your checklists this July, wherever you are in the world, will help make a difference in our shared understanding.

Each month we will feature a new eBird challenge and set of selection criteria. The monthly winners will each receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular. In addition, don’t forget about the 2019 Checklist-a-day Challenge—can you submit 365 eligible checklists this year?

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics is a proven leader in sports optics and is the official optics sponsor for eBird. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and support the vital scientific data being collected by dedicated eBirders.” – Richard Moncrief, Birding and Nature Observation Segment Manager at Carl Zeiss SBE.

In July, Win a Spot in the Cornell Lab’s Shorebird Identification Course

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 08:00

Win a free spot in the Cornell Lab’s shorebird identification course
By Team eBird July 1, 2019
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
© Ryan Sanderson
Macaulay Library
Do you enjoy shorebirds, but could use some tips and tricks for identification? Do you need some sandpipering review? We can help! We’re excited to partner with the Cornell Lab’s Bird Academy to offer a suite of exciting educational resources in thanks for your eBirding: in July, every eligible checklist that you submit gives you a chance to get free access to Be a Better Birder: Shorebird Identification Archived Live Series.

Ten lucky eBirders will get this course for free from their July eBirding in time for the peak shorebirding season of July-Sept. Enjoy the thrill of naming shorebirds without thumbing through your field guide. If you like taking part in the eBirder of the Month Challenges, here are even more excuses to motivate yourself to get out birding. Each month of 2019 will feature a different Bird Academy course offering—tune in at the start of August to see what’s on tap for next month.

GPS Tracking of Endangered Black-capped Petrels Could Reveal New Nesting Sites

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 15:00
Black-capped Petrel (white-faced form) by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

In May 2019, five scientists accomplished a long-held goal: to catch at sea and track one of the rarest seabirds of the Atlantic, the Black-capped Petrel. Now, after placing GPS transmitters on 10 birds they caught off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, they’re hoping the birds will lead them back to an undiscovered nest site.

hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); -->

“That’s sort of what the dream is, that they’re going to take you to a whole new island that no one knew about,” is how Patrick Jodice, of Clemson University’s South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, describes the tracking project. Finding new nest sites could be a major step forward in conservation of this endangered bird. As the story unfolds, we can all follow along via a real-time map of where the birds are going.

Once an abundant nesting bird on several Caribbean islands, the Black-capped Petrel was almost made extinct by introduced predators and hunting. Today, Hispaniola (home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic) is the only known nesting island left—though research led by Adam Brown of Environmental Protection in the Caribbean suggests they may also nest on the island of Dominica.

Base map from Neotropical Birds Online; map data originally provided by BirdLife International.

Here’s the mysterious part: these endangered seabirds are fairly commonly seen in the Gulf Stream, supporting a global population estimate of about 1,500 breeding pairs. But scientists know of only about 50 nest sites—so where are the remainder? Some are probably elsewhere on Hispaniola—the birds nest in hard-to-reach burrows, and they visit their nest sites only in complete darkness, so they’re hard to find. But scientists believe there must also be nesting areas on other islands that we don’t know about.

“Once you see where they nest and how secretive they are,” Brown says, “It wouldn’t be surprising to find them in an entirely new place.”  Tagging the birds at sea may finally give researchers an answer.

That’s how Jodice found himself 30 miles off Cape Hatteras, bobbing among 6-foot swells in an inflatable motorboat along with collaborators Brad Keitt of the American Bird Conservancy, Clemson research associate Yvan Satgé, Chris Gaskin of the Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust, and pelagic birding guide Brian Patteson.

The team used a net gun designed by Gaskin to snare the birds as they flew close to the boat. The satellite tags are solar powered and weigh only 6 grams (less than 3% of a petrel’s weight). Once a tag is placed on a petrel, it sends the bird’s location back to Jodice’s team for 6 hours at a stretch, after which it goes offline to recharge for 28 hours (during which time the bird can travel up to 360 miles) before turning back on.

Once the team started catching petrels, they were relieved to find some with dark faces and others with white faces. This color variation may reflect the existence of two groups of Black-capped Petrels that nest in different locations (a pattern that’s known in other seabird species). All the currently known nest sites are of the dark-faced morph, so the team will be watching especially closely the movements of the four white-faced individuals they tagged.

The banding expedition took place toward the end of the petrels’ nesting season, which runs from November to June. So far, all 10 birds have stayed in the Gulf Stream about 1,000 miles (at least 2 days’ flight) north of the Caribbean islands, indicating they are probably not currently breeding. According to Jodice, they may have already fledged chicks, their nests might have failed early, or some of the birds may not have bred at all this year. Black-capped Petrels spend at least 4 years as subadults before beginning to breed, so it’s possible some were still too young to nest.

The "dark-faced" form of the Black-capped Petrel has sooty black completely surrounding the eye. All known Black-capped Petrel nest sites are for this dark-faced form. Photo by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.The "white-faced" form of the Black-capped Petrel has more white in front of and above the eye. There are currently no known nesting sites of the white-faced form. Photo by Steve Kelling/Macaulay Library.

“We’re still very much in the pilot phase of understanding this species,” Jodice said. By following these 10 petrels, his team will learn how the species uses the western North Atlantic, and could identify critical foraging areas, he said. As an example, in 2014 researchers put satellite tags on nesting Black-capped Petrels and learned for the first time that some individuals forage in parts of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and an area off Venezuela. And the GPS tags have a potential life of 6 months, so it’s possible that some of these little devils (to use a colloquial name) will lead Jodice and his team back to their nest sites this November.

If a new nesting island is discovered, it will open up a new chapter in conservation of the species. Human encroachment into the forests where petrels nest poses the number one threat, according to Jennifer Wheeler of Birds Caribbean. “Petrel conservation can’t happen outside the human context,” she says. But new efforts will be able to take cues from a decade of work in Boukan Chat, Haiti, home to many known Black-capped Petrel nests. There, strategic local outreach has resulted in successful coexistence between petrels and the community. And if it can happen in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, it can happen elsewhere, Wheeler says.

Elizabeth Serrano ’20 is an Animal Science major at Cornell University. Her work on this story was made possible by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Science Communication Fund, with support from Jay Branegan (Cornell ’72) and Stefania Pittaluga.

Living Bird Magazine—Latest Issue

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 10:39
A female Golden-winged Warbler. Photo by Scott Keys. More From Living Bird hbspt.cta.load(95627, '096b8ce3-0e2d-46c5-bbf7-12de3323c8da', {}); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_default', [300, 250], 'div-dfp-slot1').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_default_bottom', [300, 250], 'div-dfp-slot2').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_leaderboard', [728, 90], 'div-dfp-leaderboard').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().setTargeting('pid', ['/feed/']).setTargeting('url', ['aab']); googletag.enableServices(); }); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-dfp-slot1'); }); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-dfp-slot2'); }); Feature ArticlesThe Forgotten Female: How a Generation of Women Scientists Changed Our View of EvolutionBy Kathi Borgmann Female Red-backed Fairywren. Photo by Hayley Alexander.Old Flames: The Tangled History of Forest Fires, Wildlife, and PeopleStory By Hugh Powell; Photographs by Jeremy Roberts Black-backed Woodpecker by Jeremy Roberts/Conservation Media.A Swainson’s Hawk Reunion Celebrates a Conservation SuccessBy Scott Weidensaul Swainson’s Hawk by Chris Vennum.Are Woodpeckers Evolving to Look Like Each Other? A New Study Says YesBy Marc DevokaitisPerspective: Federal Energy Policy Could Silence the Timeless Sounds of Sage-GrouseBy Tom ChristiansenOn Kauai, Hawaiian Ducks Are in a Dire Situation. Dogs Are HelpingBy Kim Steutermann Rogers Hawaiian Duck by Gary Kramer.City Birding Escapes: Where to Go and What to See in New York CityBy Annie Novak Columns & DepartmentsView from Sapsucker Woods: 50 Years of Florida Scrub-Jay Studies Show Value of Long-Term ResearchBy John FitzpatrickIndigenous Forest Guards Achieve Breakthroughs in Protecting the Great Philippine EagleBy Marc DevokaitisBlue Gemstones with Wings: Lazuli and Indigo BuntingsIllustrations by Bartels Science Illustrator Jessica FrenchCelebrities, Strangers, and Friends: What Google Searches Tell Us About How People Relate to BirdsBy Kathi BorgmannBirding Gets the Fantasy Sports TreatmentBy Marc DevokaitisThe New, Incredibly Patient Hobby of Google Street View BirdingBy Darien FiorinoScientists ID why Gouldian Finches Have Red, Black, or Yellow HeadsBy Pat LeonardDo Birds Dream?Adapted from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Handbook of Bird BiologyThe Ornithologist Who Refused to Be Limited by 1950s Expectations of WomenBy Bob MontgomerieGallery: Sunset on the Jersey ShoreBy Ray Hennessy

NestWatcher Finds Rare Albino Tree Swallow Nestling

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 13:18

NestWatcher Finds Rare Albino Nestling
Photo © Edie Wieder
By Robyn Bailey, NestWatch Project Leader.
On June 12, 2019, NestWatcher Edie Wieder reported an albino nestling Tree Swallow in a nest box in Needham, Massachusetts. Edie monitors 20 bluebird nest boxes as a volunteer with the Trustees of the Reservation in Massachusetts, and this is her second year participating. Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the body from producing melanin. Tree Swallow nestlings typically have sooty gray upper parts, like the sibling pictured below, and that gray coloration is due to melanin. Notice also how the bill is pinkish in this first photo of the rare youngster.

An Albino Tree Swallow In The Nest
An Albino Tree Swallow In The Nest
Look closely! This all-white Tree Swallow nestling blends in with its feathery nest.

Photo © Edie Wieder

Edie reports that both parents had normal coloration, as did all four of its siblings. The finding was especially surprising because this particular nest was one in which the female preferred to stay on the nest during nest checks, even after the young had hatched. Edie wasn’t sure what she would find when she checked the nest on June 12th, but she certainly wasn’t expecting to find a snow-white nestling. At first, she was confused, thinking another bird might have laid an egg in this nest…except she knew that there aren’t any pure white cavity-nesting species in her area. She snapped a photo so she could leave the birds in peace and examine the evidence later. It wasn’t until later that she realized how rare her sighting was.

A Vision In White
A Vision In White
Notice how the bill has darkened to yellow in this photo, a sign that not all pigments are absent.

Photo © Edie Wieder

Not all color is derived from pigment. As adults, Tree Swallows get their iridescent blue-green plumage from the structure of their feathers, which scatter light. The feathers have a base of melanin, so if you were to destroy the structure of the feather, you would see only gray. This albino nestling will not obtain the iridescent teal plumage as an adult because there is no base of melanin, which plays a role in the scattering of light.

By comparing these two photos, we can see that the bill changes from pink to yellow; however, this is no trick of the light! Albinism is a lack of melanin, which is made by the body; however, other pigments may still be present in the body. Carotenoids are the class of pigments responsible for oranges and yellows, and albinistic birds can have them in spades (check out this yellow albino American Goldfinch). Unlike melanin, carotenoids are obtained from the diet. From the change in bill color, we can deduce that by the time the second photo was taken, the little nestling had obtained enough carotenoids through its diet to change the bill color to yellow. Therefore, the bills of typical Tree Swallow nestlings must contain both melanin and carotenoids, with the black hues masking the underlying yellow. In the albinistic nestling, there is nothing to mask the yellow color.

Female Tree Swallow On The Nest
Female Tree Swallow On The Nest
The blue-green color in adult plumage is a result of feather structure, rather than pigment.

Photo © Edie Wieder

Although difficult to see in the photos, Edie reports that the eye was red rather than the typical dark brown. The eye, containing no other pigments, appears as red due to the underlying blood vessels. Pink or red eyes are a good indicator that a bird is truly an albino, rather than a species that just happens to be all white (like the White Tern).

Albinism is rare, with estimates ranging from 0.05% to 0.1% frequency in birds. A sighting this unique might come only once in a NestWatcher’s lifetime, so keep your eyes out for unusual birds. Thanks to Edie’s observations, we can all share in the joy of discovering something unexpected.

What’s All The Buzzing About: Do Flicker Nestling Vocalizations Mimic Bees?

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 13:07

Sign Up

What’s All The Buzzing About?
Photo © Lee Pauser
By Robyn Bailey, NestWatch Project Leader
The young of woodpeckers are notoriously noisy; so much so that you can often find a nest full of young just by following the raucous begging calls to a nearby tree. I have often wondered why this behavior occurs, because if I can find the nest so easily, surely a predator can find them much more readily. This year, and not for the first time, I was able to find a nest of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers outside my home simply by looking up to locate the source of an incessantly loud noise. How can this be adaptive?

Northern Flicker Nestlings
Northern Flicker Nestlings
These two Northern Flicker nestlings look defenseless, but are they?

Photo © Lee Pauser

It seems that Lee Pauser had the same question about some Northern Flickers in his California nest box. Lee wrote to NestWatch observing that the nestlings sounded like a swarm of bees, but he hadn’t seen any documentation confirming this experience. However, there is one reference in the literature to the “nestling buzzing” vocalizations of this species. According to a dissertation written in 1990 by S. Duncan, the nestlings make this buzzing sound when their nest hole is darkened, as when a parent returns to feed them, or if a predator happens to appear in the nest entrance. The buzzing chorus has a frequency and energy spectrum that is said to be similar to a swarm of agitated honey bees (Duncan 1990). Now I haven’t been particularly inspired to get close to a swarm of agitated honey bees, so I will have to take Duncan’s word on this. To my ear, the nestlings do sound like insects, but perhaps more like cicadas than bees.

Listen in on this video captured by Lee Pauser on May 27, 2019.

Video Player


Do you hear bees? Or just hungry birds? Keep in mind that Lee’s box only has two nestlings in it, whereas the more typical 6-7 young would likely be more convincing. If Duncan’s hypothesis is correct, this could be a form of mimicry that may be intended to convince would-be predators that the nest hole is actually full of noxious honey bees. Similarly, some species of harmless snakes will rattle their tails vigorously to convince predators that they are, in fact, rattlesnakes (check out this milk snake doing its best rattlesnake impression). The key is that the mimicry must be convincing in order to work, but it need not be perfect.

Have a listen to this colony of honey bees, recorded in Ontario in 1958.

And here are the flickers again on June 3, 2019, still buzzing away.

Video Player


This mimetic behavior is poorly studied, and I am unaware of any other species which might produce a similar sound. It’s possible that Gilded Flickers also have this vocalization. Until 1995, they were considered to be the same species as Northern Flicker. However, I was unable to find any media or literature that referred exclusively to this Sonoran Desert species after it was split from Northern Flicker. If you have media of this species, we would love to accept it!

What do you think? Would these nestlings stop you in your tracks? Or do you know your birds from your bees?


Duncan, S. 1990. Auditory communication in breeding Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus). Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
Filed under:
defensehoney beemimicryNorthern Flicker

Defending the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Clean Water: Our Conservation Science Director Testifies to Congress

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 08:51

Amanda Rodewald, senior director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, was at the nation’s Capitol last week to defend two core conservation policies at risk of reinterpretation and weakening by the current presidential administration.

On Thursday June 13, Rodewald testified before the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife to speak against the Trump administration’s proposed reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The treaty between the U.S. and Canada was ratified by Congress in 1918, and another version of the MBTA was signed between the U.S. and Mexico 20 years later. The act forbids both the purposeful and the incidental killing of a wide range of migratory birds. In December 2017, the Interior Department, under the Trump administration, issued a memorandum that sought to reinterpret the MBTA’s applicability in cases of incidental take.

hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); -->

“The exclusion of incidental take renders the [MBTA] impotent on most sources of mortality for migratory birds and eliminates a powerful incentive for industry,” Rodewald said at the House hearing.

Under the reinterpretation, companies that unintentionally kill birds (“incidental take”) would no longer be liable for the deaths they caused. In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed more than a million birds, for which the British oil company BP paid more than $100 million—funds that were used to restore damaged Gulf coastlines and bird habitat. But under this reinterpretation, companies like BP that kill birds due to negligence would no longer be subject to penalties.

“This proposed reinterpretation is inconsistent with previous administrations of Republicans and Democrats alike,” Rodewald said, noting that presidents from both parties have consistently used the incidental-take provisions of the MBTA as incentives for companies to reduce their harm to birds.

More on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Rodewald stated that incidental take from industry accounts for upwards of 1.1 billion bird mortalities each year. She cited examples from the Nixon, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working with power companies to avoid bird electrocutions and collisions and reduce the more than 30 million birds killed by power lines annually.

“I am not arguing that we should try to eliminate all human-caused mortality of birds,” Rodewald said. “But we can and should take active steps to reduce harm where possible, and the MBTA helps us to do that.”

Earlier in the week, Rodewald coauthored an opinion article with scientists from Ohio State University and the University of South Florida that argued against another Trump administration reinterpretation—the proposed rollback of the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule.

“The proposed rule does not reflect the best-available science and, if enacted, will damage our nation’s water resources,” the authors wrote in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A.

The proposed rule will weaken the Clean Water Act protections for one-fifth of streams in the U.S. and over half of wetlands, leaving millions of miles of streams and over 16 million acres of wetlands more vulnerable to pollution.

According to Rodewald and coauthors, the proposed rule eliminates “protection for all ephemeral streams and non-floodplain wetlands, irrespective of connectivity and the consequences for downstream waters.

“The current administration’s proposed rule at once contradicts both the rich body of evidence about water connectivity and the clearly articulated mandate of the Clean Water Act.”

The Clean Water Act of 1972 states a clear mandate “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” and over nearly five decades it has invested more than $1 trillion in reducing water pollution in the U.S.

“The apparent opposition to enacting science-based policies undermines decades of efforts—and investments by tax-paying Americans— to clean and protect our nation’s waters,” Rodewald and her coauthors wrote. “Every nation’s citizens need clean water to be healthy and productive—today and into the future.”

Winny Sun’s work on this story was made possible by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Science Communication Fund, with support from Jay Branegan (Cornell ’72) and Stefania Pittaluga.

Living Bird Summer 2019—Table of Contents

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 14:46
A female Golden-winged Warbler. Photo by Scott Keys. More From Living Bird hbspt.cta.load(95627, '096b8ce3-0e2d-46c5-bbf7-12de3323c8da', {}); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_default', [300, 250], 'div-dfp-slot1').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_default_bottom', [300, 250], 'div-dfp-slot2').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.defineSlot('/106885985/aab_leaderboard', [728, 90], 'div-dfp-leaderboard').addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.pubads().setTargeting('pid', ['/feed/']).setTargeting('url', ['aab']); googletag.enableServices(); }); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-dfp-slot1'); }); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-dfp-slot2'); }); Feature ArticlesThe Forgotten Female: How a Generation of Women Scientists Changed Our View of EvolutionBy Kathi Borgmann Female Red-backed Fairywren. Photo by Hayley Alexander.Old Flames: The Tangled History of Forest Fires, Wildlife, and PeopleStory By Hugh Powell; Photographs by Jeremy Roberts Black-backed Woodpecker by Jeremy Roberts/Conservation Media.A Swainson’s Hawk Reunion Celebrates a Conservation SuccessBy Scott Weidensaul Swainson’s Hawk by Chris Vennum.Are Woodpeckers Evolving to Look Like Each Other? A New Study Says YesBy Marc DevokaitisPerspective: Federal Energy Policy Could Silence the Timeless Sounds of Sage-GrouseBy Tom ChristiansenOn Kauai, Hawaiian Ducks Are in a Dire Situation. Dogs Are HelpingBy Kim Steutermann Rogers Hawaiian Duck by Gary Kramer.City Birding Escapes: Where to Go and What to See in New York CityBy Annie Novak Columns & DepartmentsView from Sapsucker Woods: 50 Years of Florida Scrub-Jay Studies Show Value of Long-Term ResearchBy John FitzpatrickIndigenous Forest Guards Achieve Breakthroughs in Protecting the Great Philippine EagleBy Marc DevokaitisBlue Gemstones with Wings: Lazuli and Indigo BuntingsIllustrations by Bartels Science Illustrator Jessica FrenchCelebrities, Strangers, and Friends: What Google Searches Tell Us About How People Relate to BirdsBy Kathi BorgmannBirding Gets the Fantasy Sports TreatmentBy Marc DevokaitisThe New, Incredibly Patient Hobby of Google Street View BirdingBy Darien FiorinoScientists ID why Gouldian Finches Have Red, Black, or Yellow HeadsBy Pat LeonardDo Birds Dream?Adapted from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Handbook of Bird BiologyThe Ornithologist Who Refused to Be Limited by 1950s Expectations of WomenBy Bob MontgomerieGallery: Sunset on the Jersey ShoreBy Ray Hennessy

Gallery: Sunset on the Jersey Shore

Mon, 06/17/2019 - 14:46
Forster’s Tern at sunset by Ray Hennessy.

From the Summer 2019 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

More From Living Bird

There is something really special about watching a flock of birds without another human soul around you. I came upon a small flock of Forster’s Terns and Black Skimmers loafing and preening at sunset at Island Beach State Park along the central New Jersey shore. The light was gorgeous, and the very humid atmosphere cut down the power of the sun until it was just a glowing ball above the horizon. At the moment this tern began to preen, I got this shot, exposed for the back-lighting sun with just enough detail to see the bird and the pink glow on some of its feathers.


Welcome to the American Ornithological Society (AOS)
Advancing Scientific Knowledge and Conservation of Birds

© 2019 American Ornithological Society