Birder's Guide

OCT 2014

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 14 of 57

13 October 2014 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy That's how this country is. Guatemala is an extremely diverse country in a com- pact, rugged area. Two ocean coasts and a lot of mountain ranges create a series of diverse microclimates. In Guatemala, you can watch a Lesser Roadrunner scur- rying beneath dusty brown thorn bushes, walk half an hour, and see a Resplendent Quetzal glide between mist-enshrouded oaks cloaked in lush epiphytes. I have stood on the side of a steep mountain and heard above me Highland Guans and Slate-colored Solitaires while below me Brown Jays and White-crowned Parrots few from tree to tree. Every little microcli- mate and every obscure habitat niche hold surprises for the birder. Guatemala has it all: alpine meadows, tropical rainforests, Florida-like mangroves, Oregon-like pine forests, Arizona-like deserts, and Costa Rica-like cloud forests. Guatemala is dense birding. In terms of sheer diversity, imagine 75% of the num- ber of species on the ABA Checklist found in an area the size of Tennessee! For intra- American migration, Guatemala is the land where east meets west. Here you can see migrating Eastern and Western wood-pe- wees in the same tree. Guatemala is also the land where north meets south. You can see a Hairy Woodpecker in the same tree as a Common Chlorospingus. January 1, 2013. 1:30 p.m., Salama, Baja Verapaz On the road again. It is still early afternoon when I arrive in the dry Salama Valley. I hear the distinctive call of a Cassin's Kingbird. In 2012, I was surprised to fnd this species in the adjacent Chixoy Valley. According to the range maps in the feld guides, Cassin's Kingbird is not found anywhere near this part of Guatemala. Soon I see and hear more Cassin's Kingbirds. It was not an accident that I crossed paths with these birds. They winter here. There is so much that we don't know about birds in Guatemala. The distribution of Cassin's Kingbird is just one example. Doing a big year in Guatemala and putting my observations on eBird is a great way to contribute to our understanding of the birds of this great country. I can share in- sights about the birds of Guatemala with the rest of the world. From Guatemala, I can contribute what I learn about migrat- ing Bay-breasted and wintering Golden- cheeked warblers with the rest of the world. Through these observations, we can better understand the movements of birds that nest in such faraway places as the Northwest Territories and Texas, yet depend on Guatemala as either their fy- way or their wintering grounds. Because Guatemala has not been exten- Clockwise from top left: Keel-billed Motmot, King Vulture, Double-striped Thick-knee, Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, and "Plain" Pine Siskin (ssp. perplexus ). All photos © John Cahill

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