Bird Fact Friday – Weekly Warbler: Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat, Spring Male, credit Scott Whittle

From page 254-255 in The Warbler Guide:

The Common Yellowthroat is one of our most widespread warblers. It is wren-like, and often skulks in marsh or low brush near water. It hops when on the ground, and it is frequently seen at or below eye level. The Common Yellowthroat has a small bill, a short neck and overall a plump appearance. It has short, rounded wings and a cocked tail in flight, and it is generally a weak flier. The adult male has a broad black mask across forehead and face, with paler border above, which is unique among warblers. When disturbed, it often pops up quickly, and then dives back down into cover. The Common Yellowthroats are the only U.S. and Canada warblers to nest in open marshes.

The Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
Drawings by Catherine Hamilton
Warbler Guide App
Species Account Example: American Redstart Male

Warblers are amwarblerong the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

Bird Fact Friday – Weekly Warbler: Blackburnian

Blackburnian Warbler, Spring Male, credit Scott Whittle

From page 166-167 in The Warbler Guide:

The Blackburnian Warbler has fiery orange throat, face, and under-eye arc. Its auricular patch has distinctive triangular shape, pointed at rear and bottom. The Blackburnian Warbler has broad white wing patch, and two pale braces on back unique among warblers. Especially in a dim forest, the bright flash of a Blackburnian can be startling as they sally for insects. Blackburnians nest and are often found high in trees, but color often makes them quickly identifiable. Adult females in spring are not as bright orange as males. The Blackburnian Warbler is a long-distant migrant, and it has relatively long wings.

The Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
Drawings by Catherine Hamilton
Warbler Guide App
Species Account Example: American Redstart Male

Warblers are amwarblerong the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

Bird Fact Friday – Weekly Warbler: Magnolia

Welcome back to the warblers!

Magnolia Warbler, Spring Male, credit Scott Whittle

As the warbler migration season approaches, we’re again highlighting some fun facts about the warblers with our Weekly Warbler feature. Kicking it off today is the Magnolia Warbler.

From page 340-341 in The Warbler Guide:

The Magnolia Warbler has bright yellow underparts and throat. Its tail pattern is unique and diagnostic—it has a black tail with broad white base. It often spreads tail, showing white tail spots very high in tail. The Magnolia Warbler has a black face mask with white eyebrow stripe and white under-eye arc. It is one of the three warblers that have a bright yellow rump (along with Yellow-rumped and Cape May). The Magnolia Warbler has a heavy black necklace that extends down sides. It is moderately active, usually in low to mid-story. During migration it is versatile, foraging in many habitats.

 

The Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
Drawings by Catherine Hamilton
Warbler Guide App
Species Account Example: American Redstart Male

Warblers are amwarblerong the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

Anurag Agrawal on Monarchs and Milkweed

AgrawalMonarch butterflies are one of nature’s most recognizable creatures, known for their bright colors and epic annual migration from the United States and Canada to Mexico. Yet there is much more to the monarch than its distinctive presence and mythic journeying. In Monarchs and Milkweed, Anurag Agrawal presents a vivid investigation into how the monarch butterfly has evolved closely alongside the milkweed—a toxic plant named for the sticky white substance emitted when its leaves are damaged—and how this inextricable and intimate relationship has been like an arms race over the millennia, a battle of exploitation and defense between two fascinating species. Check the PUP blog each Monday for new installments in our “Monarch Monday” blog series by Anurag Agrawal.

What makes monarchs and milkweeds so special?

AA: Monarchs and milkweed are remarkable creatures, they’re on a wild ride! From the monarch’s perspective, its only food as a caterpillar is the milkweed plant. This makes them highly specialized, highly evolved, and very picky eaters indeed. They’re actually not that unique among butterflies, but they are extreme. Milkweed does everything in its power to defend itself against being eaten by monarchs. They make sandpapery leaves, toxins that can stop a human heart, and a thick poisonous goo that can glue an insect’s mouth shut. Again, although milkweed is not unique among plants, it is extreme. In what is called a coevolutionary arms race, monarchs and milkweed have been continually evolving over the eons to keep up with each other. As such, they have a lot to teach us about the way nature works, the way plants and animals interact, and about the various paths that evolution can take different species. And this is all to say nothing of the monarch’s spectacular annual migration, often over 3,000 miles flown by individual butterflies, using the sun to navigate, and having stored away milkweed’s poisons to protect themselves from being eaten by birds. Monarchs and milkweeds are royal representatives of all interacting species.

Why did you write this book?

AA: After studying monarchs and milkweed myself for over 15 years, I felt like I had a lot I wanted to share, especially with non-scientists and nature lovers. Monarchs and milkweed are such fascinating organisms, and yet so much of their beautiful biology is not widely known. I also wrote the book because there are areas of my own knowledge about monarchs and milkweed that I wanted to immerse myself in, but that I had not yet done any research on. So as an author, getting to visit the overwintering sites in Mexico, to study the population decline of monarch butterflies, and to understand their mating rituals were all fascinating detours from my everyday research life at Cornell University. The book was incredibly fun to write, and getting to work with artists and historians made it all the more rich. I hope that anybody that has an appreciation for nature, an interest in science, or just a curiosity about the ecology of plants and butterflies will enjoy this book. Working on this project has surely altered the course of my own research, the classes I teach, and how I see the natural world.

Why have you highlighted some of the personalities of the scientists studying monarchs and milkweeds in this book?

AA: One of the most amazing things about monarchs and milkweeds is the scientists who have studied them. They were such remarkable characters, especially those pioneering studies back in the 1950s: tremendously creative, sometimes competitive, and with some of their discoveries worthy of a Nobel prize. Getting to know them, both from their discoveries and their personalities, and how they interacted, has enriched my appreciation for how science is done. It also highlights the meandering and sometimes serendipitous nature of discoveries. I wanted to share the thrill of science, its ups and downs, and the process by which it is done with the curious reader.

Can you share one of your ah-ha! moments from studying monarchs and milkweeds?

AA: One of my favorites was from when I was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. One day I was eating lunch by myself in a small downtown garden. Just by chance, I happened to sit on a bench beneath a very tall milkweed plant that had a very large monarch caterpillar feeding away. Without giving away all the details, that one hour encounter, in the middle of a city with 3 million people, changed my perspective on monarchs and milkweed forever. It was so unlikely an event, perhaps 1 in a 1,000 that a butterfly had been flying by and happened to lay an egg on this Toronto milkweed, and then a further 1 in 100 chance of that egg hatching and surviving to be that large caterpillar that I could watch it. And probably a 1 in a million event that I would happen to be eating lunch there, that day, to observe the events. In biology one has to work hard, be patient, and occasionally get very lucky! Throughout my studies on monarchs and milkweed, I have had tremendous luck in encountering wonderful biology that has had profound consequences.

Is the monarch butterfly going extinct?

AA: The answer to this very important and timely question is both simple and complex. On the simple side, there is no way the monarch butterfly is going extinct anytime soon. Having said that, the butterfly, and especially the long-distance migration that occurs every fall from Southern Canada and the USA, all the way to Mexico’s highlands in Michoacán, is indeed declining at a rapid pace, and we should all be worried about the sustainability of the annual migration. There’s so much information and misinformation floating around in the news these days about the causes of the monarchs decline. What I’ve tried to do in the book is outline the best knowledge that we have to date and to examine the facts critically, so we can really understand what might be going on. Unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers, but we can reject some of the most prominent explanations for the population decline of the monarch butterfly. As I argue in the book, planting milkweed certainly won’t hurt, but it is unlikely to save the monarchs annual migratory cycle. It is perhaps ironic that I spend eight chapters of the book discussing and detailing the importance of milkweed for monarchs, and nothing could be more true than their intertwined and intense evolutionary battle, but at this stage, and thinking about their conservation, it does not appear that milkweed is what is limiting the monarch’s population. Monarchs will persist for a very long time, but given that they are migratory butterflies that taste their way across North America, their declining population is something we must try to understand. Much more than the monarch is at stake, these butterflies are sentinels for the health of our continent!

Anurag Agrawal is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Entomology at Cornell University. He lives in Ithaca, New York. He is the author of Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution.

Bird Fact Friday – Why do birds sing?

From page 18 of Better Birding:

Songs differ from “calls” in that songs are longer, often more complex vocalizations. In most birds (though not all) songs are given by males, usually on the breeding territory, and serve the dual purpose of attracting females and driving away rival males. In some species both males and females sing. When females sing, it is less often about attracting males (though it probably does help strengthen pair bonds) and usually more about territorial defense against neighboring pairs. Often, the species in which females sing are less migratory or resident, so territories require year-round defense from rivals.

Better BirdingBetter Birding
Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field
George L. Armistead & Brian L. Sullivan
Introduction

Better Birding reveals the techniques expert birders use to identify a wide array of bird species in the field—quickly and easily. Featuring hundreds of stunning photos and composite plates throughout, this book simplifies identification by organizing the birds you see into groupings and offering strategies specifically tailored to each group. Skill building focuses not just on traditional elements such as plumage, but also on creating a context around each bird, including habitat, behavior, and taxonomy—parts so integral to every bird’s identity but often glossed over by typical field guides. Critical background information is provided for each group, enabling you to approach bird identification with a wide-angle view, using your eyes, brain, and binoculars more strategically, resulting in a more organized approach to learning birds.

Bird Fact Friday – What’s the best weather for peak hawk flights?

From page 10 in Hawks from Every Angle:

During spring, many peak flights occur ahead of a warm front, as birds heading north use southerly prevailing winds. Most fall flights occur after the passage of a cold front, when northerly winds that assist birds heading south are most prevalent. Geography, however, determines which specific wind directions will lead birds to each site. The most favorable winds for ridge sites are those that strike the ridge at an angle that produces optimal lift. At coastal and shoreline sites, optimal winds are those that “push” birds towards the shorelines. Even during snow squalls or light drizzle, optimal wind conditions can produce significant hawk flights.


hawksHawks from Every Angle
How to Identify Raptors In Flight
Jerry Liguori
Foreword by David A. Sibley

Identifying 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 at 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, including plumage, shape, and flight style traits, are discussed. For all birders who follow hawk migration and have found themselves wondering if the raptor in the sky does in fact match 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.

Bird Fact Friday – The most loquacious geese

From page 235 in Waterfowl of North America, Europe, and Asia:

A snow goose can be very loquacious, even noisy, especially in flight, when taking off or landing. It produces loud, raucous, barking calls gwok or ga-ik, as well as other sounds more like those of grey geese, lower and hoarser: gung, wa-iir or hun-hrr. Large flocks utter these calls continuously and at different pitches, linked to the birds’ size.

Waterfowl of North America, Europe, and Asia
An Identification Guide
Sébastien Reeber

This is the ultimate guide for anyone who wants to identify the ducks, geese, and swans of North America, Europe, and Asia. With 72 stunning color plates (that include more than 920 drawings), over 650 superb photos, and in-depth descriptions, this book brings together the most current information on 84 species of Eurasian and North American waterfowl, and on more than 100 hybrids. The guide delves into taxonomy, identification features, determination of age and sex, geographic variations, measurements, voice, molt, and hybridization. In addition, the status of each species is treated with up-to-date details on distribution, population size, habitats, and life cycle. Color plates and photos are accompanied by informative captions and 85 distribution maps are also provided. Taken together, this is an unrivaled, must-have reference for any birder with an interest in the world’s waterfowl.

Bird Fact Friday – Why do birds molt?

From page 32 in The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds:

Birds essentially do the same things cyclically, and this includes molting. They do this for a number of reasons. It is important that feathers be kept in good condition to keep the bird warm, dry, and mobile. Of course, some like to look good to attract a mate! Having an understanding of molt and how it affects a bird’s appearance is a large help not only in identifying birds but also in ageing and sexing them.

The Crossley ID Guide
Eastern Birds
Richard Crossley
Introduction

Crossley ID GuideThis stunningly illustrated book from acclaimed birder and photographer Richard Crossley revolutionizes field guide design by providing the first real-life approach to identification. Whether you are a beginner, expert, or anywhere in between, The Crossley ID Guide will vastly improve your ability to identify birds.

This is the first book to feature large, lifelike scenes for each species. These scenes—640 in all—are composed from more than 10,000 of the author’s images showing birds in a wide range of views—near and far, from different angles, in various plumages and behaviors, including flight, and in the habitat in which they live. These beautiful compositions show how a bird’s appearance changes with distance, and give equal emphasis to characteristics experts use to identify birds: size, structure and shape, behavior, probability, and color. Each scene provides a wealth of detailed visual information that invites and rewards careful study, but the most important identification features can be grasped instantly by anyone.

Bird Fact Friday – How to identify birds in various light conditions

From page 5 in Hawks from Every Angle:

Understanding how various light conditions can affect the appearance of raptors is important in identification. Lightly colored birds can lack contrast and appear uniformly dark in poor light, such as when backlit or against a cloudy sky, whereas true dark morph birds show a contrast underneath between the body and flight feathers. By contrast, birds can look paler than usual when illuminated by highly reflective ground cover such as snow, sand, and pale grasses. Several conditions affect the way a bird’s size and shape are perceived. Against a bright blue sky, birds often appear smaller than usual; however, birds may appear larger than usual when observed against cloud cover.

hawksHawks from Every Angle
How to Identify Raptors In Flight
Jerry Liguori
Foreword by David A. Sibley

Identifying 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 at 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, including plumage, shape, and flight style traits, are discussed. For all birders who follow hawk migration and have found themselves wondering if the raptor in the sky does in fact match 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.

Bird Fact Friday – Weekly Warbler: Yellow warbler

Good news for all the birders out there! We are hosting a Warbler Guide App giveaway today on Instagram (princetonupress). Follow us and like our post to enter, and we will be randomly selecting a winner among the participants on Monday, Feb 6.

From page 466-467 in The Warbler Guide:

The yellow warbler has a plain face with round, black eyes. Its stout black bill stands out against its yellow face. There is yellow edging on its wing feathers. Some of the yellow warblers show red streaking in breast; however, the amount of red beast streaking is variable, usually dull or lacking in females. The yellow warbler is a very widespread species: it can be found in low trees and woodland edges, and often in willows or wet areas.

The Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
Drawings by Catherine Hamilton
Warbler Guide App
Species Account Example: American Redstart Male

Warblers are amwarblerong the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

Bird Fact Friday – Weekly Warber: Northern parula

Welcome back to the warblers!

From page 366-367 in The Warbler Guide:

The northern parula is very small and active. It has bright yellow throat and breast, and green back patch surrounded by blue. It has broken eye-arcs, which look prominent on its plain bluish face, black lores, and white wing bars. The northern parula is an acrobatic feeder, often hanging upside down. Its bill is brightly bicolored, unlike most other warblers. It is featured on the book cover of The Warbler Guide!

The Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle
Drawings by Catherine Hamilton
Warbler Guide App
Species Account Example: American Redstart Male

Warblers are amwarblerong the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

Announcing the Warbler Guide App, Version 1.1

Everyone loves warblers, and we’re excited to announce the Warbler Guide App Version 1.1 designed for both Android & Apple devices, just in time for the coming spring migration!

Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson revolutionized how birders study, find, hear, and see warblers with their acclaimed book, The Warbler Guide. Now, with higher-resolution, rotatable 3D models that zoom to feather-level detail, refined search criteria, and new help sections, the Warbler Guide App Version 1.1 is better than ever at using audio and visual clues to help you make rapid and confident warbler identifications. Intuitive audio and video filters, a full song library, and useful comparisons make this an exciting, multi-faceted tool for any birder to use. Take a peek.

Unique new app-only features:

  • High-resolution, zoomable, and rotatable 3D models of birds in all plumages, to match field experience of a birder
  • Intuitive, visual, and interactive finders with filters for possible species based on audio and visual criteria chosen by the user
  • Playback of all songs and vocalizations with sonograms makes study of vocalizations easy
  • Selectable finder sortings grouped by color, alphabetical order, song type, and taxonomic order
  • Interactive song finder using objective vocabulary for fast ID of unknown songs
  • Simultaneous visual and song finders makes identifying an unknown warbler even easier
  • Half-speed song playback allows for easier study of song structure
  • Comparison species with selectable side, 45 degree, and undertail views
  • Features 75 3D images
  • Covers 48 species and 75 plumages
  • Includes 277 vocalizations, 156 songs, 73 contact calls, and 48 flight calls
  • Detailed “how to use” tutorial screens