Advanced ID Tip: Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s?

Sharp-shinned & Cooper’s Hawks are 2 of the most mis-identified birds in North America based on their similar markings & structure. The smallest members of the Genus “Accipiter” in North America, these birds are woodland hawks characterized by long tails & short wings, which aid them in chasing avian prey through dense cover. Some field guides in the past have sought to simplify the ID process by looking for a short cut to ID, by relying on a single characteristic – the shape of the tail, “Is it square or round?”. However, like any tough identification, attempts to oversimplify just lead…


Gyrfalcon Invasion

As many people are aware, starting with the winter of 2012/2013, Snowy Owls staged a dramatic and widespread invasion into southern Canada and the northeastern United States, with the biggest numbers being from December to February. Gyrfalcons, the other massive arctic raptor, also pushed further south and in larger numbers than usual that winter. Sightings of these almost mythical falcons jumped from average winter counts of about four Gyrfalcons reported east of the Dakotas to a shocking fifteen birds! January to February 2014 had nineteen Gyrfalcon sightings across the same range, also coinciding with higher-than-average Snowy Owl numbers. Winter 2015 is off to a…


Chasing Noah

Noah Strycker is an enthusiastic birder, a great writer, and is presently on the adventure of a lifetime! For many years he penned a featured column in WildBird magazine and was affectionately referred to as “BirdBoy”. He has long since outgrown that nickname, and currently works as an Associate Editor of “Birding” magazine (ABA). His prolific writing portfolio contains over 75 other articles for various birding & wildlife magazines and he has penned two books as well: “The Thing With Feathers” and “Among Penguins“. Since the stroke of Midnight on January 1st, 2015, Noah has been on an amazing journey which will carry him to…


Kimberley Birdwatching’s Ashmore Expedition October 2014 Summary

The 2014 annual Spring eight-day Broome-Ashmore-Lacepedes-Broome expedition through Queensland, Australia, organized by George Swann of Kimberley Birdwatching (KBW), ran from October 20 – 27, 2014. The birding personnel were Tim Faulkner, Liz Faulkner, Rob Gibbons, Ian Halliday, Brian Johnston, Peter Madvig, Wayne Merrit, Scott Ryan, Jenny Spry, John Weigel, George Swann & Mike Carter. The following details about this expedition were written by Mike Carter and George Swann. Trip Details We sailed from Town Beach at Broome on 20 October (Day 1) at 08.40 and spent the next two days and nights traveling at sea. Our boat was the air-conditioned…

ID Tip: Green-Winged Teal

If it looks like a sandpiper, acts like a sandpiper and flies like a sandpiper it must be a sandpiper, except when it’s a duck. There is only one duck that regularly and artfully pulls off a sandpiper impersonation: the Green-winged Teal. Green-winged Teal frequently forage on mudflats, busily poking and prodding at the mud, just like a sandpiper. The females are garbed in drab brown similar to many sandpipers and in the late summer and early fall and the males are also mostly or fully brown. Identifying female ducks, particularly small female dabbling ducks, can be a challenge at…


Spoonies: Headstarting

Chukotka, Russia is where I’ve spent the last three Summers, coaxing spoon-billed sandpiper chicks from eggs to fully-fledged birds. The village of Meinypil’gyno – a multicoloured cluster of stilt houses with no roads in or out – is surrounded by moraine hills which are the only known breeding ground for the curious sandpipers with the spoon-shaped bill. I’m there as part of a team with a mission: to make sure as many young spoon-billed sandpipers as possible safely survive their first fragile weeks and set off to migrate along the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. The method we use is…


David Lindo: Exploring Serbia

When I start talking to people about Serbia, the images that most people conjure up in their minds is the vision of the devastating atrocities that occurred during the Yugoslav Wars of the nineties. I, too had the same thoughts when I was originally invited to visit Serbia’s capital, Belgrade in September 2009. I was invited to launch an urban birding watchpoint atop the USCE Tower, a 25-floor skyscraper situated on the confluence of the Rivers Sava and Danube. It was a successful short weekend trip during which I met with the main woman at the Serbian Tourist Board. She summarily…

ID Tip: Immature Night Herons

Something new to look at on juvenile night-herons? Adult Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons look quite different, rarely presenting an identification challenge. Juvenile night-herons on the other hand can be challenging if you don’t know what to look for. There are a number of well-known differences. Yellow-crowned have longer legs and are lankier and more “heron-like” overall, while Black-crowned have shorter legs and are very stocky. Yellow-crowned are darker brown with sharply defined streaking, while Black-crowned are paler and more grayish with broader but more diffuse streaking on the chest. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have an all-black bill, while Black-crowned have a large…

ID Tip: White Geese

As winter approaches, birders in North America will soon be confronted with the identification challenge of separating Snow Geese from Ross’s Geese. Typically this is pretty easy, but the small numbers of Snow X Ross’s goose hybrids that exist add an additional layer of difficulty. In this photo, we have a typical Snow Goose at the back with the long neck, sloping forehead, and long bill that shows a significant “grinning patch”, the oval-shaped opening between the upper and lower mandible. The bird in the center is a typical Ross’s Goose, much smaller than the Snow Goose with a rounded…

ID Tip: Yellowlegs & Stilt Sandpipers

Like many species of waterbirds, shorebirds often fly in mixed flocks. Call me crazy, but looking through a mixed flock of fast-moving birds trying to sort out all the species involved is one of my favorite things to do. It can be quite a challenging exercise and requires concentration, stable optics and the ability to judge size and shape quickly. Personally, I’ve always had difficulty picking out Stilt Sandpipers in distant flocks of Yellowlegs. During the fall, flocks of Yellowlegs are frequently seen flying in and out marshy wetlands. In many areas these flocks may include a few Stilt Sandpipers…