News & Features

Birders Can Help the Threatened Red Knot and Other Shorebirds

Tagged Red Knot on New Jersey shore by GregoryBreese, USFWS

The Red Knot has been designated as “shorebird of the year” and is one of the species being counted and celebrated as birders and conservationists mark World Shorebirds Day on September 6, a celebration of these extreme migrants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rufa subspecies of the Red Knot as Threatened, giving it protection under the Endangered Species Act. This designation means that the population is at risk of becoming endangered throughout all or part of its range. For more about this Federal listing and what it means for Red Knot, please see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: For more about World Shorebirds Day:

Pennsylvania is one of the states that knots visit in passage in their vast migration. Birders can really assist the fate of the Red Knot by making observations of knots found and entering their observations into eBird where any wildlife management agency, conservation organization, or researcher can see those records. Red Knots are observed in very few locations in the state, primarily Presque Isle and Conojehola Flats, with some flyovers at other spots, but that does not stop the state’s birders from enjoying them where they are found in the state and at the shore in other states. Another way to assist is to participate in the innovative bandedbirds project ( More about that later. The Red Knot is one of several shorebirds that have declined or are imperiled due to their vulnerability to the loss of coastal habitat all along their long migratory routes and issues on their fragile breeding grounds.

Public Welcome to Comment on Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan

Purple Martin in flight by Jake Dingel, PGC

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are seeking public input through Sept. 11 on the draft 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan. The purpose of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan is “to conserve Pennsylvania’s native wildlife, maintain viable habitat, and protect and enhance Species of Greatest Conservation Need.” First developed in 2005, the plan has been the Commonwealth’s blueprint for managing and protecting imperiled species. As required by Congress, State Wildlife Action Plans must be revised no less than every 10 years. For the past 10 years the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan and associated funding from State and Tribal Wildlife Grants have been crucial for protecting and recovering imperiled species and their habitats. It has worked well and the new plan will refocus efforts on behalf of these species. The draft plan and comment forms can be found at: Questions can be directed to the Game Commission at or to the Fish and Boat Commission at Please use “SWAP” in the subject line. Comments are accepted through September 11th.

Game Commission Seeks Public Comment on Osprey Management Plan until August 29

A handsome Osprey perched, by Jake Dingel

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking public input on its draft osprey recovery and management plan, which can be reviewed at the agency’s website, Public comments on the plan will be accepted through Aug. 29, and can be sent by email to; or by mail to Osprey Recovery and Management Plan, Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg PA 17110-9797. The plan can be accessed at both the Birding and Bird Conservation page and the Threatened and Endangered Species page on the Game Commission’s website. Both pages can be found under the Wildlife tab on the website’s homepage. From the pages, click on the link titled Osprey Recovery and Management Plan, which is found near the top of each page.
Developed by biologists within the agency’s Wildlife Diversity Division in cooperation with East Stroudsburg University, the Osprey Recovery and Management Plan sets management goals through 2025 to establish and maintain a stable population of breeding ospreys in Pennsylvania for current and future generations to enjoy. The plan sets a recovery goal of at least 50 nesting pairs with at least four watershed-based population clusters of 10 pairs or more. However, the wildlife agency anticipates that the state should be able to support several more pairs because this species has adjusted well to the human landscape. Birders have assisted in Osprey management by providing information about nesting pairs and will continue to be essential to monitoring of this species.

The Owls of Penn’s Woods

Long-eared Owl by Wayne Laubscher

Seven species of one of the more mysterious and, at times, misunderstood group of birds, the owls, make Pennsylvania their home as breeding birds. An eighth species is a nearly annual vagrant from the Arctic. Most are nocturnal- active at night. These are among the most appealing birds in the state and an inspiration to explore Penn’s Woods and learn more about birds. A wonderful way for people to connect to nature. Birders can challenge themselves by adding more owl reports to eBird and other surveys. These charismatic birds of the night inspire a great deal of interest by the public in birds and nature. Birders of Pennsylvania are fortunate that our state has so many owl species and many opportunities to enjoy them. Owls can be found even after their nesting season since the young can be vocal and some species announce themselves once the brooding season is over.

Those Crazy Cuckoos Are Back!

Black-billed Cuckoo by Jake Dingel

Two of the most unusual birds in the state are the two cuckoos, the Yellow-billed and the Black-billed cuckoos. Cuckoos are just really odd birds. They are stealthy and reptilian in their movements, yet graceful fliers and elegantly plumaged birds. This year may be a particularly crazy one for cuckoos with the increase in gypsy moth infestations. I’ve noticed hillsides of barren trees from gypsy moth caterpillar damage and the summer is still young.
Cuckoos really respond to these outbreaks because they feed on hairy caterpillars. We have also experienced how they respond to cicada outbreaks with the same resounding flurry of activity. They not only gobble up gypsy moth caterpillars but also tent caterpillars and fall webworms, avoided by most other birds. As such, they really provide an ecological service as well as an economical one. This might be a bad year for tree foliage but a great year to experience the crazy cuckoos.

Osprey Nest Reports Always Appreciated

Osprey On Nest by Joe Kosack, PGC

The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not conduct statewide Osprey nest surveys every year, but always cares about Ospreys. This year is one of the “off years” so the agency is not doing a full-scale survey. However, this charismatic fish-eating raptor is a state Threatened species and nest information is always appreciated. Many of the currently known nests were submitted to the agency by the general public. Ospreys often nest in areas with many other species so eBird reports for Osprey nesting locations are always good to add. Many Ospreys are nesting at impoundments including Army Corps and state park dams, but also along rivers especially near people. There is an Osprey nest survey web page on the Game Commission website that has more information about this survey, including a link to the survey form. Please see:
There also is a comprehensive description of the species in the state in the agency’s Wildlife Section:

DO THE BLITZ: The Second Annual Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Blitz

Louisiana Waterthrush at nest with salamander by Bob Wood, symbolizes quality riparian forests.

Birders are invited to participate in the Second Annual Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Blitz (PAB3). What is the PA Breeding Bird Blitz? The PAB3 is a great time to get out during the peak of the breeding season. This event is a fun means of gathering data on an annual basis of the breeding bird population in Pennsylvania. This event is being organized by the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology with the approval of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. When is the PAB3? It runs from Friday June 19 through Monday June 22. This is a great excuse to go out and find interesting birds and records during the nesting season. Of course, there are great scientific and conservation reasons to do bird surveys during the breeding season, but it also can be a lot of fun. There are three ways to participate, listed below in the story. So, what’s in it for you? The chance to have a lot of birding fun in the summer and the ability to compete for birdy prizes. Follow the story or visit the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology website for more details.

Remember to DO THE BLITZ!

In Search of Pennsylvania’s “Butcher-bird,” the Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike at Gettysburg, PA, by Geoff Malosh

Reports of Loggerhead Shrikes in Pennsylvania are few and far between. That is why it is considered a state Endangered species. Is it gone from the state? Or is it a matter of birders and biologists not looking in the right places? There does seem to be a glimmer of home with recent nesting season activity reported in neighboring states along Pennsylvania’s southern border. These reports are encouraging and should entice birders to conduct searches of this peculiar songbird in spring and summer. Small populations persist in northern Virginia, primarily in the Blue Ridge, the Valley and Ridge provinces of the state and in the southeast. During West Virginia’s recent atlas efforts, 2009-2014, provisional reports show Loggerhead Shrike was confirmed in seven atlas blocks in southeastern and northeastern parts of the state. This is a relatively short distance from the Mason-Dixon line as a shrike flies, with the potential for shrikes to show up in Pennsylvania. The shrike’s occurrence in those same areas of West Virginia is further supported by eBird reports some of which include breeding behavior observations. Franklin and Adams Counties seem to have the best chance for Loggerhead Shrike enclave, but there may be other unsearched areas where it is eluding observation. Its habit of impaling prey on the thorns or barbed wired give it the nic-name of “butcher bird.” New locations tend to be associated with grazed pastures, something to look for. In some older references, it was called “Migrant Shrike.” We invite the state’s birders to search for Loggerhead Shrikes and report these observations to the Pennsylvania Game Commission as well as to eBird. Follow the story below for more information.

Let’s Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day!

IMBD 2015 Theme of Restore Habitats, Restore Birds can readily be embraced by PA birders!

In Pennsylvania, bird migration can be as dazzling as the swirling flocks of snow geese that descend by tens-of-thousands of birds to refuel at Middle Creek WMA before continuing their Arctic-bound journey; it can be as fleeting as a Golden Eagle soaring over the Tussey Mountain Hawkwatch on a southerly March wind; or it can be as subtle as a Louisiana Waterthrush arriving from Caribbean wintering grounds to establish a territory along the stream bank of small stream in Moshannon State Forest. Regardless of size or scope, bird migration is a spectacular phenomenon that connects us to faraway lands and diverse cultures and people. Birds connect us together across political and geographical borders. It is cause for celebration.
International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) celebrates the amazing journeys of birds. Nearly 350 migratory birds live out their full life cycles by traveling the Americas. Many birds make epic flights that span thousands of miles. These migrants face perilous obstacles and threats along the way, both natural and human-related. An alarming number are endangered, threatened or species of conservation concern. Annual migration cycles bridge breeding grounds, wintering grounds, migration routes and stopover areas. The health of those environments is imperative. Protecting and restoring our migratory bird populations requires conservation and cooperation on an international scale. IMBD promotes international conservation by raising awareness and educating at the local, regional, national and international level. As with migration, IMBD links continents and nations by including countries and territories in North America, Central America and South America in this unique celebration.

Birders Are Needed to Monitor Wetland Birds

American Bittern at "the Meadows" in SGL 57 by D. Gross

Most birders know, first hand, the value of wetland habitats. Be it forested wetland, emergent marsh, shrub-scrub wetland or boreal swamp, quality wetland habitat is rich in its diversity of wildlife and an exciting place to search for birds. Our wetlands hold uncommon and secretive species including a host of species of greatest conservation need that can be challenging to detect and to identify, especially in our larger wetlands. Several formerly common birds have dwindled over the past two decades as wetland habitat continues to decline. Many of our wetland-dependent species are declining in the state according to the Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania. Wetland birds are undoubtedly in need of our monitoring attention.
As our wetlands begin to stir with the extraordinary sounds of the nesting season, birders are once again invited to participate in the 2015 Marsh Bird Survey effort. The Pennsylvania Game Commission, assisted by Audubon Pennsylvania and its local chapters, the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology, and wetland survey volunteers, will conduct wetlands surveys across the state this year with a concentration on large wetlands of 10 hectares (25 acres). Breeding season data collected on any size wetland, however, is valuable and contributes to wetland conservation. Birders should also recheck locations where they have observed our wetland-dependent species and attempt to confirm nesting by these species.