Birder's Guide

MAR 2016

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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48 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2016 Bird Like a Neotropical Pro feld guides and try to understand the gen- eral differences between family groups. What features do euphonias share, and how are they different from tanagers, war- blers, and dacnises? Euphonias are plump, tanager-like fnches of the canopy that are generally yellow and black, with stubby bills and short tails; dacnises are war- bler-like tanagers with pointed bills; and Tangara tanagers are brightly-colored spe- cies of the forest canopy. Understanding broad characteristics will really help when you see a bird you do not recognize, be- cause it allows you to narrow down your choices to one group. After you have a handle on the general characteristics of each family, give your- self a little bit of time each day to study. Studying just a little bit each day will pre- vent overload and increase the chances that you will remember what you learned. The best approach is to create lists of ex- pected species for each of the places you plan to visit. Species lists can be gleaned from bird-fnding guides, eBird, and trip reports. eBird also has a great tool called Target Species that will help you build a list of target species for several locations. These are wonderful resources for know - ing which species to expect at a given location—essential information for win- nowing down the list of species to study. In Costa Rica, for example, I knew to expect Yellow-bellied Tyrannulets on the northern Pacifc slope and Brown-capped Tyrannulets on the Atlantic slope after reading A Bird-Finding Guide to Costa Rica by Barrett Lawson. These species are very hard to tell apart and vocally quite simi - lar. If I had not done my research, I prob- ably would have been staring at my feld guide for far too long, trying to fgure out which species I was looking at instead of focusing on all of the other cool birds around me. Another important aspect of birding in a new environment is to know what birds are going to be common and to learn to recognize them. Again, species lists from trip reports, bird-fnding guides, and eBird will help you determine which Male Masked Trogons (left) have very fne barring on the underside of the tail, while male Collared Trogons (right) have thicker bars there. Knowing the difference before you travel will help you identify them without having to waste time looking at a book in the feld. Photos © Josh Beck

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