Travel & Outdoor


September/October 2020

BirdWatching is a must-read for anyone who loves birds, whether you are a casual birdwatcher or avid birder. Each issue includes articles by the best known, most respected names in birding, identification tips, spectacular photography, hands-on information about the best birding locations in North America, answers to intriguing reader questions, and much more.

United States
Madavor Media, LLC
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6 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
black birders matter

The mostly white birding community, myself included, has received quite an education in the last few months about the experiences birders of color have in nature. After birder Christian Cooper’s video in May of a racist action by a white woman in Central Park went viral, a group of 30 Black birders, scientists, and naturalists launched Black Birders Week, a social media campaign aimed at telling Black birders’ stories. On Facebook Live events hosted by Audubon, Cooper said he wouldn’t feel comfortable birding in Texas, and other Black birders mentioned other southern states where they won’t go birding. Jason Ward of the YouTube series Birds of North America described being followed by a police SUV in an Atlanta park until he raised his binoculars “looking at nothing” to prove his purpose…

2 min.
birders call for name changes

This summer’s movement for racial justice and atonement finally spurred Mississippi to remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag, Washington’s NFL team to change its racist team name, and statues of Confederates and other racist historical figures to be taken down. Will the names we use for birds be next? The practice of naming species after people was common in the 1800s, when white naturalists honored their friends, family members, or colleagues (often other white naturalists) with eponyms — birds named in their honor. Today, many of those names are fraught with ethical problems. McCown’s Longspur, for example, was named for an officer of the Confederacy who defended slavery and also battled multiple Native American tribes. Townsend’s Solitaire and Townsend’s Warbler bear the name of John Kirk Townsend, a naturalist who robbed…

2 min.
working to save chile’s smallest bird

Karolina Araya Sandoval grew up in the northern Chilean town of Arica. Nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” for its Mediterranean climate and famed for its rich alluvial soil, Arica sits at the edge of the world’s driest desert, the Atacama. Not far away, the Chilean Woodstar makes its last stand. Chile’s smallest bird, this critically endangered hummingbird is now found only in two deep, arid river valleys, and fewer than 400 are thought to remain. Sandoval and her colleagues dedicate themselves to helping the endemic species rebound. The bird prefers native scrub habitat. It migrates altitudinally and appears to rely on continuous vegetation along rivers to undertake such movements. After Sandoval studied veterinary medicine in the country’s south, she returned home and assisted with annual monitoring of the woodstar’s population. She…

1 min.
read more online

DUCKS SPLIT, CROWS LUMPED This year’s most notable changes to the official Checklist of North American Birds include the splitting of Mexican Duck from Mallard and the lumping of Northwestern Crow with American Crow. The changes were announced in late June and published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances. The bulk of the Mexican Duck population lives in the interior plateau of central Mexico. Richard Crossley, in his Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl, writes that fewer than 1,000 individuals occur in the United States. Mexican Ducks that breed in the U.S. are found in southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and west-central Texas. SIBLEY SELECTS ART CONTEST WINNERS This spring, BirdWatching teamed up with David Sibley and his publishing company, Knopf, on a bird art contest. We invited artists to submit their images of wild birds on…

2 min.
investigating warbler colors

A new study has narrowed down the region of the genome that drives the black color in the throat and face of warblers by studying the hybrid offspring of Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers. The hybrids have a mix of coloration from the parent species, which allows researchers to identify which regions of the genome are associated with which color patterns. The study also reveals a more complex basis for the amount of yellow in warbler bellies and raises concerns about how hybrids of these species are classified. The results appear in the journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances. “The distinct plumage of these otherwise very similar birds has perplexed ornithologists for more than a hundred years,” says Marcella Baiz, postdoctoral researcher at Penn State and first author of the paper. “Our research team previously…

2 min.
checklist confusion

How many raptor species exist on planet Earth? If you look at the four most widely used lists of recognized bird species, you’ll get four different answers. The Howard and Moore Checklist of the Birds of the World lists 528 raptors (hawks, eagles, kites, vultures, falcons, caracaras, owls, and seriemas). The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World records 561. The Handbook of the Birds of the World/BirdLife International list has 567, and the International Ornithological Community World Bird List contains 580 raptors. This broad discrepancy is a problem, especially for bird conservation, says Chris McClure, director of global conservation science at The Peregrine Fund. Altogether, the four lists count 665 species-level raptor taxa at least once, only 453 of which (68 percent) are consistent across all four lists. Of the disagreements, 67…