Birder's Guide

AUG 2013

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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Photo © SuSan MyerS Photo © SuSan MyerS It's hard to pick the best out of a large group of very attractive and enigmatic species, but to my mind the Blue-headed Pitta is simply one of the world's most dazzling creatures. For many birders, the pittas are the Holy Grail. A friend of mine, Chris Goodie, spent a whole year seeing all the world's pittas. Check out his slide show at . I chose the Blueheaded Pitta for its beauty and charisma. But I could equally have selected Bar-bellied Pitta (Vietnam), Ivory-breasted Pitta (Halmahera), or Gurney's Pitta (southern Burma and Thailand)… 3•Great Slaty Woodpecker (I apologize for sounding biased.) This species is the world's largest extant woodpecker (the larger Imperial Woodpecker of Mexico is now, sadly, extinct), and, rather unusual for a woodpecker, it is gregarious. The species is active and noisy, with a very distinctive braying call, and usually appears in groups of up to seven birds. Personal tastes vary, and others might prefer the diminutive and crazy Gray-and-buff Woodpecker or the stately White-bellied Woodpecker, but for me, the Great Slaty Woodpecker illustrates better than any other species the fact that birds are simply fying dinosaurs. (Mulleripicus pulverulentus) 4•Indian Peafowl Northeast Himalayas, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. I've never met a birder who doesn't claim woodpeckers as one of his or her favorite groups, and Asia has the best collection of any continent. (Pavo cristatus) India and Sri Lanka. Everybody knows this bird, and many will wonder why on Earth I've included this bird on my list. All I can do is trot out the old platitude that "familiarity breeds contempt." To appreciate the beauty of this bird in its natural habitat is a truly wonderful experience. It's not just the peahen who is captivated by the male's shimmering display!  5•Mrs. Gould's Sunbird (Aethopyga gouldiae) The Himalayas, western and central China, northern Southeast Asia, and Vietnam. There are many very fancy Asian sunbirds. Like little jewels on wings, they make up another group from which it's hard to choose a favorite. But this one qualifes because of its tasteful color scheme as well as its name. Elizabeth Gould never received enough credit during her short lifetime, so it's ftting that such a gorgeous creature bears her name. Elizabeth was the artist who created many, if not most, of the magnifcent bird and macropod illustrations that were attributed to her husband, John Gould, or to Henry C. Richter, another illustrator employed by her husband. She died at the age of 37 soon after the birth of her eighth child. That should give you Photo © Kwan Choo 26 Birder's Guide to Travel | August 2013

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