Tag: Birding

Birders: Report Forest Pests During the Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the largest citizen science efforts in the world. Learn how participants can expand their impact by reporting invasive forest pests.

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Zumwalt Prairie: Mountain Lions, Mountain Quail & More

Camera Trap Chronicles heads to northeastern Oregon’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve for a “backstage pass” to see the lives of big predators, cool birds, roaming herds and more.

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The Grouse in Winter

Self-made snow igloos, “reverse” migrations and big sagebrush. The unusual ways 3 grouse species survive and thrive in deep snow and frigid temperatures.

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Snowy Owl Invasion!

The snowy owls are here — especially if you live on the east coast! Birder extraordinaire Tim Boucher provides the latest on this natural phenomenon — and how you can see this dramatic bird near you.

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Wild Turkey Restoration: The Greatest Conservation Success Story?

Once, conservationists thought turkeys were doomed. Now, some consider the birds to be too abundant. How did we achieve this dramatic turn of events?

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Meet the Ocellated Turkey

Put aside thoughts of the Thanksgiving bird. There’s another turkey: a colorful bird that haunts Mayan ruins. Meet the Meleagris ocellata, the ocellated turkey.

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Theodore Roosevelt: The Birding Citizen-Scientist-in-Chief

Theodore Roosevelt not only created national parks and wildlife refuges, he also was an avid naturalist and a lifelong student of science. Our blogger looks at his “yard list” of birds spotted around the White House and compares it to the birds found there today.

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Weird Nature: An Owl That Uses Dung Tools

Sure, burrowing owls are incredibly cute. But did you know that they are also one of the most intriguing tool users in the animal kingdom?

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NASA Radar Helps Conservationists Study Songbird Migrations

NASA radar technology can detect the size, shape and speed of individual raindrops. It can also, it turns out, detect individual birds. Welcome to a powerful new tool in understanding songbird migration being deployed in eastern Maryland and Virginia.

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Spotting Banded Birds: Another Way Birders Can Contribute to Citizen Science

Anyone with a pair of binoculars is able to contribute to our understanding of migratory birds by simply keeping a look out for birds with bands. Birders Pat and Doris Leary have made significant contributions to science by focusing on bird bands and reporting their findings. You can help, too. Our blogger tells you how birders can turn every outing into an exciting citizen science project.

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Osprey Cam: Reality TV Featuring Our Wild Neighbors

There are some new neighbors in town, and I can’t stop spying on them!

Allie and Bama recently moved to Orange Beach, Alabama. They live on prime real estate in this pristine beach town along the northern Gulf Coast. The climate is sub-tropical, grocery shopping is close-by, and the commute to work is more than manageable. They utilize locally sourced food for nourishment and have recycled building material for their humble abode. Their family is healthy and quickly growing with the arrival of two new offspring.

Allie, Bama and their newborns are not your typical beach-town family. They are birds of prey, called osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and in late spring this spring, The Nature Conservancy and our partners installed a camera to monitor their activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We have been invited into the home of Allie and Bama, and it has been the best unscripted reality show I’ve ever seen!

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Everyday Nature: Cartoonish Coot Chicks

Most baby birds, cute though they may be, are not exactly colorful. This makes good evolutionary sense: Baby birds, unable to fly, make easy meals for predators.

They thus must blend into their surroundings. A drake mallard or canvasback is a colorful, striking water bird, but baby ducks are nondescript. They disappear into the marshy reeds, making it harder for a hungry raccoon or mink to find them.

Not so the American coot.

Adult coots are fairly drab birds. But their babies? They look like they were designed by a deranged tattoo artist.

The front half of the coot’s body is covered in orange-tipped plumes, giving them a jarring appearance. We’re not used to seeing baby birds covered bright feathers. While this orange fades rather quickly—in about six days—it still leaves them conspicuous when they are at the most vulnerable stage of their lives.

This coloration makes them more susceptible to predation. What advantage would such feathers possibly confer?

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Boucher’s Birding Blog: Mamba Meets Bushbaby

Sometimes when you go birding, you can’t help but see other animals – elephants, army ants, beautiful butterflies.

Occasionally, if you get out early (as birders always do), you can get to a park before the crowds and you might see something really special (and, in this case, gruesome).

In January, we traveled to Ghana for some superb birding. Our visit included the famous canopy walkway at the Kakum National Park near the Ivory Coast. The seven bridges strung high up in the trees usually teem with visitors who have no appreciation of the amazing birdlife.

They might notice the monkeys, but for most, the canopy walkway is just a low-tech amusement ride. They shriek as they bounce from one platform to the next on the narrow, swaying  wooden planks.

We arrived very early, our guide having arranged for the park to admit us before the regular opening hour.  We were the first visitors on the path that climbs to the walkway.

It was barely light as we tramped up the steep hill, trying not to trip over hidden roots and rocks. As we reached a turn, we heard a ruckus near the trail – about head height — and we all peered into the tangle of vines and branches.  We had the surprise of our lives.

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Review: The Wild Duck Chase

One of the most successful conservation efforts in world history was created by a political cartoonist and is funded by a stamp purchased at your local post office.

That may seem improbable. If you don’t hunt ducks, you likely haven’t even heard of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, a federal program that has conserved millions of acres and saved species once considered doomed for extinction.

This often-overlooked conservation success is the subject of Martin J. Smith’s well-reported and entertaining The Wild Duck Chase: Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest.

Smith expertly traces the beginnings of the Federal Duck Stamp, an episode in conservation history that may read like a far-fetched fantasy given recent headlines of gridlock and sequestration.

In the early 1900’s, due to professional market hunting and the destruction of wetland habitats, populations of ducks, geese and other water birds had crashed. Conservationists raised alarms and succeeded in passing some significant conservation legislation, but many recognized that there needed to be funding for wetland protection and restoration.

The problem? By the 1930s, Americans found themselves in the midst of the Great Depression. Certainly no one would care about ducks and wetlands when many Americans were out of work and struggling to support their families, right?

Not quite. In the forefront of the waterfowl conservation movement was Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling. Conservation, especially wetland conservation, was a frequent subject for Darling’s cartoons in the Des Moines Register.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a committee to address waterfowl conservation, he appointed Darling, considered by many to be an odd choice. After all, he was not a scientist or land manager.

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Why Grassland Birds are Poor Indicators of Prairie Quality

Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of birds. 

I really enjoyed working on my graduate research, which focused on grassland birds and their vulnerability to prairie fragmentation.

I also think birds are generally pretty and interesting.

However, the truth is that prairie birds make up only a tiny percentage of the species in prairies (most of which are invertebrates, followed by plants).

Still, grassland birds are often held up as indicators of whether or not a prairie – or a prairie landscape – is “healthy” or “high quality.”

A common refrain in prairie conservation goes something like this; “If we have our full complement of grassland birds in this prairie and/or landscape, it’s a good bet that all the other species are also doing well.”

Unfortunately, while prairie birds are relatively easy to study and monitor, they may not do a good job of reflecting how the rest of the prairie is doing.  Let’s look at some of the most important attributes of prairies and some of their major threats – and consider how well birds correlate with them.

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