Birding Online: April 2017

Welcome to Birding Online! Here, all ABA members can access the extended online content from the April 2017 issue of Birding magazine. The complete issue, containing both print and online content, can be found at:

The April issue is a lovely combination of stunning photos by photographer Marie Read, new knowledge about female birdsong, discussion of conservation issues, and interviews and stories from numerous birders. The contributors to every Birding magazine are always incredible – and so is this cohort.

Speaking of Marie Read’s photography, the April cover features one of her photos of a Roseate Spoonbill. If you want to see more of her images and read about her process, you’re in luck – just flip open to her Photo Salon and enjoy.

Cover image of Roseate Spoonbill by Marie Read. Tampa Bay, Florida; March 2012.

Moving on to specifically online content, in this issue’s extended News and Notes, you can read not only the two sections that are available in print about beak deformities and the choice of the Gray Jay as Canada’s national bird, but also “An Odor of Floating Plastic is a Tragic Lure to Seabirds.” This third section casts a crucial light on the impact of floating trash on seabirds such as the Laysan Albatross.

Lauryn Benedict and Karan Odom’s research on birdsong in female passerines raises an important question: how often do female songbirds really sing? Have we scientists and nature-lovers been underestimating the vocalizations of female birds? You, and all other lovers of birds, can help answer this question. First, you can read their article in Birding to understand the context and importance of this topic. Then, visit their website at to learn more about their efforts. When you do take note of female birds singing, you can submit your observations on a number of websites, and know that you have contributed to an important project of citizen science.

In Diana Doyle’s last column as “Tools of the Trade” Department Editor, she leads a discussion between 15 birders about the tools and techniques that they use in the field and at home to improve their birding experiences. Do you want to chime in with your own tips and tricks? Terry Rich will soon host a conversation on the ABA Blog about the “Essential Extras,” conventional or not, that all of us use in our birding. Stay tuned here and on the ABA Blog to join in the conversation.

As always, the Featured Photo asks us to consider a tricky identification question: in this case, blackbirds in flight, with discussion by Tom Johnson. You can read his extended analysis online in the issue, or share your own thoughts on the ABA Blog.

Featured Photo from April Birding, by Tom Johnson.

And last but not least, in this issue’s “Book Reviews,” Carrie Laben reviews Robert Alvo’s Being a Bird in North America, North of Mexico, Volume 1: Waterfowl to Shorebirds, and Marky Mutchler reviews Nathan Pieplow’s Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America. You can enjoy their extended reviews in the online issue, or on the ABA Blog: here for Carrie Laben’s review, and here for Marky Mutchler’s.

And so concludes April’s extended online content – or should I say so it begins? Dive in, enjoy, and let us know what you think.

  • Geoff Rogers

    Re Diana Doyle’s Tools of the Trade and How We Bird: I guess no one goes into the field anymore with fowling piece and goodly measure of shot and black powder (just kidding, of course). I actually know some folks who added to our ornithological knowledge in this way and yes, they’re still around. Seriously, one might ask if eBird Mobile and specifically the virtual keyboard are inadvertently displacing two other venerable tools: the field notebook and the handwritten word. This may cause Joseph Grinnell to rest less than easily but legible cursive writing is no longer a desired skill. I know there are apps that allow one to write cursively on the screen but they have drawbacks. The virtual keyboard appears to deter extensive note-taking as at least one person mentioned in the article is on record elsewhere saying she doesn’t like typing with her thumbs (me too), uses a notebook in the field, and then uploads all to eBird afterward. I too am experimenting with a “hybrid” system but a slightly different one. Recently I went from decades of written notebooks to eBird Mobile to record species and number of individuals. If notes are desired I write them by hand into a waterproof notebook (for me, much faster than thumb-typing). I combine the two at home afterward and then upload after review. This system frees up space in my notebook and encourages documentation. It also allows a more orderly recording of species and numbers which makes end of the day compilation easier.

    What’s with the two cell phones for Linda Gustafson? Is one a backup? Now and prior to eBird Mobile I’ve always carried a phone for emergencies and have Sibley on it but rarely use the app. Of more use to me are the PDF species accounts from the San Diego County Bird Atlas.