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Celebrating the National Parks Centennial

Crater Lake National Park

100 years ago today President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Parks Service Organic Act creating the new agency and mandating “… it conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The Scrub-Jay world just became more complicated, and interesting

Photo (c) Jim Livaudais 2016

In July 2016, the AOU Checklist Committee announced their decision (Retter 2016) to recognize two species of Scrub-Jay: Woodhouse’s (Aphelocoma woodhouseii) and California (Aphelocoma californica). Birders and ornithologists have long recognized the distinctions between these two species taxa. While this historical knowledge provides some useful guidance in separating the two, it has also given rise to some misconceptions. The two species differ in geographic range, have differing population traits, and are somewhat difference in appearance.

Celebrate the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial

Swainson's Thrush (c) Jim Livaudais 2016

Today, August 16th 2016, marks a historic day for migratory birds. On this day, 100 year ago, the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) signed the Protection of Migratory Birds—also called the Migratory Bird Treaty. The Migratory Bird Treaty represents the first international commitment to protect and conserve the migratory birds that we share with our international partners. This and three others that followed—with Mexico (1936), Japan (1972), and Russia (then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; 1976) —form the cornerstone of our efforts to conserve birds that migrate across international borders. The implementing legislation for the treaties in the United States, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), prohibits the take, possession, importation or exportation, transport, sale, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the strict terms of a valid permit. The bird species protected by the Act include nearly all species native to the signatory nations and their territories.

Taxonomy Update for 2016

Lesser Violetear from Costa Rica. This species is somewhat smaller, has more emerald green feathering, and typically lacks the blue chin and blue central breast of Mexican Violetear, although some (like this bird) can show hints of blue in those areas. Photo Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

The eBird taxonomy update is essentially COMPLETE. All major changes have occurred, and we have only a small number of minor changes yet to make. This may affect the lists of a very small number of users as we implement these over the next few days. We do this update once each year, taking into account the past 12 months of recent taxonomic knowledge on splits, lumps, name changes, and changes in the sequence of the species lists. As of this point, all eBird data will be reflecting the new taxonomy. This includes your My eBird lists, range maps, bar charts, region and hotspot lists, and data entry. eBird Mobile should also be updated to the new taxonomy. If you see unfamiliar bird names in the list, please refer to the story below to understand the change and why it happened. In addition, we list a number of new options for data entry (hybrids, spuhs, slashes, etc.), all of which are listed below.

eBird NW Summer 2016 Bird of the Season: Elegant Tern Sighting 6-26-16 North Potholes Reserve (eBird Checklist S30404849)

Elegant Terns at North Potholes Reserve, Grant County, Washington on 26 June 2016.  Photo by Cara Borre.

I was joined by Asta Tobiassen and our friend Nick Hamill for a day of birding on Sunday June 26, 2016. Our goal was to continue introducing Nick to new birding sites he could visit from his cabin in Cle Elum. That morning we decided it was time for Nick to experience Potholes.

We arrived to the north access location by late morning and stayed for a few hours birding in the hot sun. Nick and Asta are photographers, so it is not uncommon that I wander off from them as my primary focus is finding birds, not necessarily photographing them. As I scanned the water with my scope to the north of Road C NE, I found the typical water birds one would expect including American Coot, Pied-billed, Western and Clark’s Grebe and a few species of duck. I heard and saw a Caspian Tern fly over me, and decided to focus on terns that were roosting on downed foliage about 100-175 yards out into the water.

eBird Northwest introduces Birds of the Season


eBird Northwest introduces a new feature, highlighting an extraordinary eBird sighting for the season. Our first one is the first inland sighting of Elegant Terns in the Pacific Northwest, and one of only a handful of inland reports in the United States. It is also unexpected as this date is much earlier than birds typically arrive in our region when they invade the Northwest. Future eBird Northwest Birds of the Season could be out of place and time birds like this, or unusual plumages or behaviors, or documentation of nesting of poorly known species. We invite your feedback on this idea, and suggestions for future features, contact Bill Tweit at William.tweit@dfw.wa.gov.

Taxonomy update today—9 August

California Scrub-Jay, larger and bigger-billed than Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay and with a more prominent blue spur on the breast sides. Photo by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

The annual eBird taxonomy update IS NOW UNDERWAY. The process will continue for at least a couple days (until Wednesday, 10 Aug or Thursday, 11 Aug). We do this once a year to reflect the most recent changes in avian taxonomy: splits, lumps, name changes, and changes in the sequence of the species lists. You may notice some unusual behavior with your lists and other tools (see below), but this is nothing to worry about. The 2016 splits and lumps will be published very soon on this page. We will summarize these changes in an eBird story once the taxonomy update is complete. A more thorough discussion of this year’s changes can be found at the Clements Checklist, where the 2016 updates have been posted.

August eBirder of the Month Challenge

Red-tailed Hawk by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library

This month’s eBirder of the monthchallenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, is a photography and recording contest! Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy camera or microphone to win. Minimum entry requirements are an appreciation for birds, your optics of choice, and anything that takes a picture or makes a recording: phone, camera, voice recorder—whatever works! The next time you’re in the field, take a few seconds to immortalize some of the birds you’re encountering through image or sound, and add those media to your checklists. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from all complete, no-X checklists submitted in August that include at least 3 photos and/or 1 audio recording. This means that each checklist you enter with at least 3 photos or one audio recording counts as one chance to win. The more eligible checklists, the better chance to win! NOTE: the photos and recordings must be your own, and of the actual individual bird you observed in the field—shared checklists with media from your friend don’t count towards your total, but you can always add your media to a shared list to qualify! Checklists must be for observations during this month; not historical checklists entered during August. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

The Endangered Species Act: Making Birds Great Again

Image from original Huffington Post article

When most people think about the Endangered Species Act, they think about wolves, polar bears or salmon.

Less known is the quiet and remarkable work the Act has done to save so many of America’s birds from winging off into extinction.

This week the Center for Biological Diversity released a ground breaking analysis that found 85 percent of continental U.S. birds protected under the Endangered Species Act increased or stabilized their population sizes since being protected. The average population increase was 624 percent.

July eBirder of the Month Challenge

Nashville Warbler (c) Jim Livaudais 2016

This month’s eBirder of the monthchallenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, encourages going birding year-round. For many birders, July is thought of as an ‘off-month’; a time to take a bit of a breather between the delight of May and the excitement of August and September. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is perceived as the doldrums of summer, when breeding birds are at their quietest, and in the midst of the lull between June song and August migration. For many Southern Hemisphere birders, it is the dead of winter—lacking in song and the excitement of the spring that is soon on its way. Due to the lack of regular coverage, July has great potential to uncover novel movements for birds undergoing post-breeding dispersal, or hitherto unknown winter wanderings. All you have to do to find out is get out and see what you can find. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 31 or more complete no-X checklists in July. What better excuse to get out and bird? Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.