Birder's Guide

JAN 2019

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 13 of 67

12 Birder's Guide to Travel | January 2019 20 Best Birds in the ABA Area 1 | Kirtland's Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii Of all our breeding warblers, the rare Kirtland's might best be dubbed "the comeback kid". Human fire suppression led to dra- matic decreases in the post-fire stands of young Jack pines that serve as the Kirtland's primary breeding habitat. Over the past 50 years, intense habitat and cowbird management have fostered a re - covery of this species, which bottomed out at an estimated 167 singing males. The current population of roughly 4,500 individuals is far beyond the original re- covery goal. Most exciting is that geolo- cators placed on breeding birds over the past few years have allowed ornitholo- gists to finally identify their equally criti- cal Bahamian wintering grounds. 2 | Wood Duck Aix sponsa Male Wood Ducks are just downright gaudy with their fancy white stripes and colors. They look like something a fash- ion designer would create for a military dress uniform. Separate out the differ- ent sections and they all have beautiful aspects: iridescent colors, brilliant red eyes, a green helmet, and that delicately spotted reddish brown breast. Who isn't impressed by a gorgeous male Wood Duck? Females are more subtle, but beautiful nonetheless. Then there are the plunge-diving ducklings who launch themselves from their cavity nests, some as high as 60 feet, only to bounce off the ground un- scathed before tottering off after their mother toward water. 3 | Black Rail Laterallus jamaicensis In the hard-to-see category, our smallest rail is a standout. No bigger than a spar- row, the Black Rail runs along trails like a mouse in marshes that are largely inac- cessible. Detections are typically "heard- only" birds, and their growly kee kee krrr vocalizations are mostly nocturnal. Given how tiny they are, it is no surprise that they keep hidden. During winter high tides, groups of us would gather at Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve to look for Black Rails when they were forced into the open by rising water. We always hoped to spot them before lurk- ing hungry herons and egrets snatched them up and gulped them down. 4 | Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens Yellow-breasted Chat is a great descrip- tion for this big, quirky bird. In spring, males perch in the open, puffing out their throats while emitting a discor- dant series of whistles, trills, and ratch- ety notes even during the night. They continue to sing during their enthusi - astic, bouncy display flights. Finding them when they aren't singing is tough, as they remain buried in their brushy habitat. Despite being twice the size and possessing a bill more like a tanager, the chat was formerly considered a wood- WHAT IS THE ABA AREA? • Essentially, you can think of it as the portion of North America found north of the U.S.–Mexico border. The 50 United States, Canada, and St.-Pierre-et-Miquelon (a small French territory off the coast of Newfoundland) com- prise the ABA Area. Also included is adjacent ocean up to 200 miles from shore, unless there's another country within 200 miles, in which case the "border" is half- way to that country. It's the area whose birdlife is covered by the American Birding Association Checklist. Until November 2016, when the ABA membership voted over- whelmingly to add the 50th state to the ABA Area, Hawaii had been excluded. # 2 Photo © Bryce Bradford

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