Bird Fact Friday – Bergmann’s Rule

From page 51 of The Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife:

A nineteenth-century German zoologist observed that overall body size tends to be greater in representatives of bird and mammal species living permanently in cooler climates than in those living in warmer climates because large bodies retain heat more effectively than smaller ones.

The Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife
Christopher W. Leahy

LeahyThe quintessential A-Z guide, this is a book that anyone interested in birds will want to have close at hand. First published more than twenty years ago, this highly respected reference volume has been fully revised and updated. It captures the fundamental details as well as the immense fascination of North American bird life in a style that is authoritative, yet fresh, witty, and eminently readable.

Both a practical handbook for amateurs and a handy reference for seasoned birders, it provides accounts of the basic elements of birdlife, as well as a wealth of easy-to-access information on such subjects as bird physiology and anatomy, terms and jargon, name definitions and etymology, and ornithological groupings.

Readers will discover everything from the color of a dipper’s eggs (glossy, white, and unmarked) to the number of species of woodpeckers in the world (216). They will also find more than one hundred of the best-known and most colorful colloquial names for birds, alphabetized and briefly defined. Collective nouns relating to birdlife–for example, “an exaltation of larks”–are included in the “Nouns of Assemblage” section. Biographical sketches of persons responsible for describing or naming a significant number of North American species are also included, as well as handsome and accurate illustrations by Gordon Morrison. And for those who want to go beyond reading about their favorite birds and take to the great outdoors, the book offers still more useful information: descriptive entries on a selection of the best-known birdwatching spots of North America.

Bird Fact Friday – Birds protected by religious tradition in India

From page 20 of Birds of India:

The enlightened and benevolent attitudes of Hinduism and Buddhism towards wildlife have helped to conserve the rich natural heritage of the Indian subcontinent. India has a tradition of protection of all forms of animals dating back at least 3,000 years when the Rig Veda mentioned the right of animals to live. Sacred groves, village tanks, and temples where the hunting and killing of all forms of life is prohibited can be found throughout India.

Birds of India: Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives
Second edition
Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp & Tim Inskipp

IndiaThe best field guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent is now even better. Thoroughly revised, with 73 new plates and many others updated or repainted, the second edition of Birds of India now features all maps and text opposite the plates for quicker and easier reference. Newly identified species have been added, the text has been extensively revised, and all the maps are new. Comprehensive and definitive, this is the indispensable guide for anyone birding in this part of the world.

Bird Fact Friday – Sneaky Little Birds

From page 7 of Birds of the West Indies:

In some cases, bird species that we once concluded were extinct have in fact only eluded human detection. For example, the Puerto Rican Nightjar was collected in 1888, but then not seen again for 73 years before it was rediscovered in 1961. Stories like this remind us of how fragile animal species can be, spurring us to greater awareness and conservation efforts.

Birds of the West Indies
Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith, & Janis Raffaele

Interview with Herb Raffaele
BirdsFully illustrated, easy to use, and completely up-to-date, Birds of the West Indies is the only field guide that covers all of the bird species known to occur in the region–including migrants and infrequently occurring forms. Each species is represented by a full description that includes identification field marks, status and range, habitat, and voice. A map showing the bird’s distribution accompanies many species accounts, and plumages of all species are depicted in ninety-three beautifully rendered color plates.

Bird lovers, vacationing tourists, local residents, and “armchair travelers” will all want to own this definitive field guide to the birds of the West Indies.

• Includes all species recorded in the region
• Features ninety-three color plates with concise text on facing pages for quick reference and easy identification
• Species accounts cover identification, voice, status and habitat, and range
• Color distribution maps

Bird Fact Friday – Falcons’ need for speed

From page 85 of Hawks from Every Angle:

While in direct pursuit of small birds, their main prey, falcons may reach speeds of more than 80 miles per hour. The Peregrine Falcon can exceed 200 miles per hour in a steep dive!

Hawks from Every Angle: How to Identify Raptors in Flight
Jerry Liguori
Foreword by David A. Sibley

FalconIdentifying hawks in flight is a tricky business. Across North America, tens of thousands of people gather every spring and fall at more than one thousand known hawk migration sites–from New Jersey’s Cape May to California’s Golden Gate. Yet, as many discover, a standard field guide, with its emphasis on plumage, is often of little help in identifying those raptors soaring, gliding, or flapping far, far away.

Hawks from Every Angle takes hawk identification to new heights. It offers a fresh approach that literally looks at the birds from every angle, compares and contrasts deceptively similar species, and provides the pictures (and words) needed for identification in the field. Jerry Liguori pinpoints innovative, field-tested identification traits for each species from the various angles that they are seen.

Featuring 339 striking color photos on 68 color plates and 32 black & white photos, Hawks from Every Angle is unique in presenting a host of meticulously crafted pictures for each of the 19 species it covers in detail–the species most common to migration sites throughout the United States and Canada. All aspects of raptor identification are discussed, including plumage, shape, and flight style traits.

For all birders who follow hawk migration and have found themselves wondering if the raptor in the sky matches the one in the guide, Hawks from Every Angle—distilling an expert’s years of experience for the first time into a comprehensive array of truly useful photos and other pointers for each species–is quite simply a must.

Key Features:

• The essential new approach to identifying hawks in flight
• Innovative, accurate, and field-tested identification traits for each species
• 339 color photos on 68 color plates, 32 black & white photos
• Compares and contrasts species easily confused with one another, and provides the pictures (and words) needed for identification in the field
• Covers in detail 19 species common to migration sites throughout the North America
• Discusses light conditions, how molt can alter the shape of a bird, aberrant plumages, and migration seasons and sites
• User-friendly format

Bird Fact Friday – Passenger Pigeons

From the appendix of The Passenger Pigeon:

The Passenger Pigeon had a typical high-speed wing, a feature shared with other fast-flying birds such as the Peregrine Falcon, in which the wings are long and narrow. The Passenger Pigeon was one of the fastest-flying birds.

The Passenger Pigeon
Errol Fuller
Introduction

k10337At the start of the nineteenth century, Passenger Pigeons were perhaps the most abundant birds on the planet, numbering literally in the billions. The flocks were so large and so dense that they blackened the skies, even blotting out the sun for days at a stretch. Yet by the end of the century, the most common bird in North America had vanished from the wild. In 1914, the last known representative of her species, Martha, died in a cage at the Cincinnati Zoo.

This stunningly illustrated book tells the astonishing story of North America’s Passenger Pigeon, a bird species that—like the Tyrannosaur, the Mammoth, and the Dodo—has become one of the great icons of extinction. Errol Fuller describes how these fast, agile, and handsomely plumaged birds were immortalized by the ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, and captured the imagination of writers such as James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. He shows how widespread deforestation, the demand for cheap and plentiful pigeon meat, and the indiscriminate killing of Passenger Pigeons for sport led to their catastrophic decline. Fuller provides an evocative memorial to a bird species that was once so important to the ecology of North America, and reminds us of just how fragile the natural world can be.

Published in the centennial year of Martha’s death, The Passenger Pigeon features rare archival images as well as haunting photos of live birds.

Bird Fact Friday – Penguins!

Dear Readers,
You may have noticed our Friday feature has changed from ‘Book Fact Friday’ to ‘Bird Fact Friday.’ We’ve seen how engaged people are with our Birds and Natural History list, and so we wanted to bring you more nature-related content! Going forward, we’ll have weekly bird posts focusing on everything ornithological. Check this space Friday mornings and don’t forget to tweet your nature pictures to @PrincetonNature!

Princeton University Press

From part 3 of Penguins: The Ultimate Guide:

Unlike many other diving birds, penguins swim with their wings while steering with their feet. Rotating shoulder sockets allow enough twist to generate thrust with both up and down wing strokes, a trait shared only with hummingbirds.

Penguins swimming

© Penguins: The Ultimate Guide, pg. 173

 

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide
Tui De Roy, Mark Jones & Julie Cornthwaite

k10335Penguins are perhaps the most beloved birds. On land, their behavior appears so humorous and expressive that we can be excused for attributing to them moods and foibles similar to our own. Few realize how complex and mysterious their private lives truly are, as most of their existence takes place far from our prying eyes, hidden beneath the ocean waves. This stunningly illustrated book provides a unique look at these extraordinary creatures and the cutting-edge science that is helping us to better understand them. Featuring more than 400 breathtaking photos, this is the ultimate guide to all 18 species of penguins, including those with retiring personalities or nocturnal habits that tend to be overlooked and rarely photographed.
A book that no bird enthusiast or armchair naturalist should do without, Penguins includes discussions of penguin conservation, informative species profiles, fascinating penguin facts, and tips on where to see penguins in the wild.

A new free download from the authors of The Warbler Guide helps age and sex West Coast warblers

We’ve now given away close to 60,000 free downloads of the Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. Last fall we surprised everyone with a sheet with advice on aging and sexing Eastern Fall warblers. This year, we are delighted to present Tom and Scott’s tips on identifying, aging and sexing Western Fall warblers.

Make the most out of the remaining weeks of fall birding by downloading this free tip sheet today.

Simply click the image or PDF link below and download to your device or computer.

Capture

Aging and Sexing Warbler Tip Sheet, credit: Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, authors of The Warbler Guide.

Click here to view PDF [right click and save if you wish]

Birding in the Unknown: Tips and Tales from Birds of Peru Author Tom Schulenberg

[Note: Those of you who regularly read Princeton University Press’s blog will have noticed that we have only featured posts by our colleagues and/or authors, however, when someone has the opportunity to travel to Peru, to meet with Tom Schulenberg (the lead author of Birds of Peru), and to see and talk about the birds of Peru at great length–you take them up on the offer of a guest post. We are pleased to present this guest article from Hugh Powell, a science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We welcome your feedback on this type of article — should we do more of this?]


 

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Tom Schulenberg, center, and Dennis Osorio, left, search for an elusive subspecies of Rufous Antpitta in the Cajamarca highlands, Peru. Photo by Hugh Powell.

It’s not often a bird watcher gets the chance to tour a new country accompanied not just by a good field guide but by the field guide’s author. That’s what happened to me in May 2014, when I joined Tom Schulenberg on the World Birding Rally in northern Peru. Schulenberg, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is the lead author of Birds of Peru.

Schulenberg_BirdsPeruSchulenberg describes his role in the book as almost accidental—he began visiting Peru in the late 1970s as a graduate student, and his original role with the book was just to help with maps. The true architects of the book, Schulenberg says, were John O’Neill (“the person who more than anyone else in the modern era put Peru on the ornithological map,” according to Schulenberg), and Ted Parker, the now-legendary field ornithologist whose career was cut tragically short in a plane crash in Ecuador in 1993. In the mid-1990s, Schulenberg took up the mantle of the book, recruiting ornithologists Doug Stotz (Field Museum of Natural History) and Dan Lane (Louisiana State University) as additional coauthors.

The field guide was a major undertaking—Peru is home to 1,800 species of birds, more than any country in the world except Colombia. The book was eventually published in 2007, nearly 35 years after O’Neill and Parker first envisioned it.

In late May, at the close of the 8-day rally (during which our group found nearly 800 bird species), I sat down with Schulenberg to learn more about the genesis of the book and the joys of birding in Peru—or, as he put it, “the fun of being completely overwhelmed by what you see.”

Why Peru? Was it just happenstance that you went there instead of somewhere else in the world?

tom_playback_ruiz
Tom Schulenberg plays the song of a unique subspecies of Rufous Antpitta using his phone. Photo by Flor Ruiz.

It wasn’t happenstance. I joined the AOU when I was in my early teens, and one of the first issues [of the Auk] I received was the issue in which John O’Neill and George Lowery described the Elusive Antpitta from this indigenous village called Balta near the Brazilian border. There was this color frontispiece of an antpitta, and the introduction of the paper talks about how even after years of work, within a few square miles you can still be encountering species you didn’t know were in the area, and sometimes they might even be new to science. I was just totally blown away. I had no idea that people were still discovering new species of birds, and I was completely entranced by this idea of an avifauna so complex that you could be there for years and still be learning new things about it.

So you went to graduate school at Louisiana State University with O’Neill as your mentor. And pretty soon his prediction about finding new birds actually came true for you?

peru_powell-2
Cloud forest beneath a blanket of cloud at Alto Mayo, San Martin, Peru. Photo by Hugh Powell.

It’s not like I went to Peru really expecting to find new species—I was just trying to work on my life list. But the possibility always was there. And on my [second] trip to Peru we found several species that were undescribed or recently described. We found Cinnamon Screech-Owl, Megascops petersoni [like many tropical ornithologists, Schulenberg reflexively refers to birds by their scientific names in conversation]; Hemitriccus cinnamomeipectus, the Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant; Johnson’s Tody-Flycatcher, Poecilotriccus luluae; which actually had been collected in the 1960s by Ned Johnson from Berkeley, but at that time Ned had not yet gotten around to describing it. Grallaricula ochraceifrons, Ochre-fronted Antpitta, we caught two in a single night in adjacent nets. [But all those were in the process of being described by other scientists, and] “all” we got out of it was the Pale-billed Antpitta. It was a fantastic trip though—I’m not complaining.

What field guide did you use before Birds of Peru?

Now remember that when some of the greats first started going down, people like John Terborgh and John O’Neill, there was literally nothing except the primary literature. But in 1970 an ornithologist [named] Meyer de Schauensee published a one-volume guide to the birds of South America, and it had some illustrations, but the illustrations were not great, and there was basically no attempt to illustrate every species. Instead what you had was about a paragraph on each species.

chestnut-eared_aracari-perrins
Chestnut-eared Aracari at Lago Lindo, Peru. Photo by Niall Perrins.

It definitely was difficult to use, and we disparagingly and no doubt unfairly started referring to it as “Meyer de Schloppensee.” But you know, that was our bible from ‘77 until 1986 when Hilty and Brown published the really revolutionary Colombia field guide.

Why did you publish the book with Princeton?

In 1986 Princeton published the Colombia guide by Hilty and Brown, and it was just a total bombshell all across northern South America—it was very good. It was the size of a Manhattan telephone directory. Some birders would even buy copies and rip out the plates, which now that the book is out of print and copies sell for hundreds of dollars, you could cry over that. Anyway the Colombia book was one of the things that made us very comfortable with working with Princeton, because it was so good and set a very high bar.

The modern format of Birds of Peru—text facing illustrations on every page—left little room for text about each species. How did you handle that?

The shorter species accounts were a challenge in many ways. We had only 110 words per species, on average, so there’s no character development that’s for sure. We had to leave out a lot of words.

tom_tomas-powell
Tom Schulenberg, right, and Thomas Valqui, are experts on Peruvian birds and served as judges during the 2014 World Birding Rally. Photo by Hugh Powell

Because the illustrations were opposite the text, we rarely describe what the bird looks like, and that saves a lot of space. Instead we focused on things like aspects of its behavior, or its habitat associations, its vocalizations. We tried to point out what you really need to focus on to ID the species. And we got that information from a lot of very knowledgeable people. If you look in the book, I think we have the longest acknowledgments section on record.

Where are the best places to go birding in Peru?

Well the nice thing about watching birds is you can never be bored, and that’s certainly true in Peru. Wherever you end up, you’ll be seeing interesting species about which not much is known. Certainly there are some places that get a lot of attention. The altiplano, though it might not have the most species, has very remarkable things like the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. And then down in the Amazonian lowlands, those are the most species-rich places, and it’s both challenging and very rewarding to bird there. There’s the dry deciduous forest in the northwest, where we were [during the World Birding Rally], it’s got lower diversity but incredibly high numbers of individuals. I’m always amazed to go into those forests and see the sheer number of birds that are in that habitat. And there are the foothills, the places where the Andean habitats mix with Amazonia, and there are lots of species occurring in these narrow elevational bands. Pretty much anywhere you are in Peru, there’s lots there.

What do you look forward to when you go birding in Peru?

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Rufous-crested Coquette near Moyobamba, Peru. Photo by Alfredo Fernandez.

Part of the fun of going down there is the experience of being overwhelmed by what you see. Especially in humid forest on the eastern slope, where you start to get the Amazonian influence. You’ll run into a tanager flock, and just the sight of all these birds running around in the treetops, it’s challenging and exciting at the same time.

But if you pay attention to that flock, and if you can get beyond the gaudiness of the Saffron-crowned Tanagers and the Golden Tanagers, there are all these other dull-colored birds. Don’t pass them over too quickly. There’s this whole other set of birds that, as you gain experience, you may find are more interesting. You know, What’s this foliage-gleaner? What’s this antwren? And you’ll start to get sucked into the whole depth of birds Peru has to offer.

People go gaga over Paradise Tanagers, but I’m more likely to get excited by something like a Gray-mantled Wren. That’s a bird that’s at relatively low density, it has a narrow elevational range, so you have to pay attention. But when you see it, it’s sort of a sign that I’m in a really nice spot here, and there are probably other things here that are worth looking for.

Do you have any practical tips for people traveling to Peru?

Well, first is, you should do it.

peru_powell-1
Looking down the valley of the Utcubamba River near Chachapoyas, Peru. Photo by Hugh Powell.

Then, let’s see: Study your field guide. Look at the range maps. There’s information in those maps, so don’t ignore it. Use eBird—it has become a great supplement to anyone traveling in Peru to find out what’s been seen where. Keep your binoculars clean, and have a great time.

Is there a best season?

Peru is so large and so variable, you can’t go wrong. It’s a little more rainy during our northern winter, especially in the southeast of the country, in Amazonia. You can get into more trouble there with roads that time of year. But it doesn’t really matter what season you go.

And how long a trip should a bird watcher plan to take?

I think something like three years is a good time frame to shoot for.

For the record, he was laughing. But at the same time, he also seemed perfectly serious.


Hugh Powell is a science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


Read more about the World Birding Rally on the Cornell Lab blog, the ABA blog, Nature Travel Network, and 10,000 Birds.

Watch This: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 8 (Announcing the Winner!)

Sharon StitelerToday’s the day! In this final episode filled with thank-yous and shared memories, Sharon Stiteler of Birdchick reveals the theme of the series: good ol’ ROY G BIV (the rainbow). There were hints in Clay’s shirts and Sharon’s nail polish, and in the order of the birds themselves. Were you able to guess it?

And now: we know you’ve all been anxiously awaiting the announcement for the Winner of the Swarovski Spotting Scope, so without further delay: Congratulations to Peter Lawrence of Ottawa, Canada! Enjoy your new scope, brought to you by Swarovski Optik North America, Birdspotters Birding App, and of course, Princeton University Press.

Check out the episode here, and remember: when in doubt, visit south Texas!

11-Year-Old Birder Raises Money for Conservation with #PhotoBigDay

Dessi1Dessi Sieburth, an 11-year-old birder from Pasadena, California, has just set the PhotoBigDay record for Antelope Valley, and for a great cause.

Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, co-authors of The Warbler Guide, started PhotoBigDay earlier this spring. Big Days are a tradition in the world of birding, a challenge to see how many different species of birds you can spot in a single day. Today, Big Days have become increasingly competitive, with seasoned birders and ornithologists using advanced equipment to catalogue species midnight to midnight. Stephenson and Whittle created PhotoBigDay with ordinary birders in mind, and with an added twist: participants must document every bird they see on film.

big photo day white faced ibisSieburth recorded 85 species on his PhotoBigDay, including:

  • White-Faced Ibis
  • Snowy Egret
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Caspian Tern
  • American White Pelican
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Western Tanager
  • Nuttal’s Woodpecker
  • Osprey

Sieburth used his PhotoBigDay as a fundraiser for conservation, and raised $200 so far for the preservation of a local migration area and seed for bird feeders.

 

Photos here are courtesy of Beatrix Schwarz, Dessi’s proud mother!

Watch this: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 6

This episode features some pretty great guest appearances by professional actors like Kelvin Hatle, Dawn Krosnowski and Birds and Beers regular Duck Washington, so don’t miss it! (I especially enjoyed the discreet whipping-out of binoculars – only a birder could pull that off).

Alas, the series is coming to an end – have you guessed the theme yet? For details on how to submit your guess and potentially win a Swarovski Spotting Scope, check out the BirdChick’s web site: http://www.birdchick.com/wp/2014/06/digiscoping-with-clay-and-sharon-episode-5-florida-birding/

Watch this: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 5

I had a fantastic time at Space Coast in January and this episode finds Clay and Sharon exploring the nearby Viera Wetlands where they run into some frisky herons that pretty much dash Sharon’s hopes of working a little less “blue” in 2014.

Have you caught on to the series theme yet? For details on how to submit your guess and potentially win a Swarovski Spotting Scope, check out the BirdChick’s web site: http://www.birdchick.com/wp/2014/06/digiscoping-with-clay-and-sharon-episode-5-florida-birding/