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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49 March 2016 | Birder's Guide to Travel species are likely to be most common. Even if you do not learn every bird you are likely to see, recognizing the common birds quickly will give you more time to look for new species. With a species list in hand for the places you plan to visit, now it is time to start digging in and trying to learn key fea - tures for identifcation. Start simple with groups of similar species. Euphonias, for example, all appear superfcially very sim- ilar, but they do have key features that will distinguish each species in the feld. Using a combination of range, elevation, and physical characteristics, suddenly they do not seem so confusing. I also try to think of sayings to help me remember bird names and key features. Masked Trogons and Collared Trogons overlap in some areas in South America, and they look remarkably similar upon frst glance. For the life of me, I could not keep the features of each one straight in my head, until I created a saying to help me remember. At a masquerade ball, you wear a mask and some of your fnest items, just like the Masked Trogon, which wears a black mask and has very fne bar- ring on the underside of its tail. Creating your own sayings really does help, even if they are cheesy. It can be helpful to look at photos of birds online, because sometimes birds look different in the feld, where they might be seen in different postures and lighting, compared to how they are de - picted in a feld guide. Looking at pho- tos online can also be a good way to quiz yourself and test your knowledge, but be careful to use reputable bird photography websites, as bird photos are frequently misidentifed online. Habitat and elevation can also be a use- ful clue to separate similar species. Read descriptions in the feld guides to ascertain where to expect each species, and look Distinctive behaviors, such as the tail- wagging exhibited by this male Capped Conebill, will help you quickly recognize certain species at a glance, thereby allowing you to move on to the next bird in quickly- moving mixed-species focks. That is, if you can look away! Photo © Francesco Veronesi Bicolored Antbirds are obligate ant-followers. That means following their vocalizations almost always leads to an ant swarm, the holy grail of Neotropical birding. But you have to know what they sound like frst. Photo © Patty McGann Neotropical mid- and understory focks are often led by particularly vocal species that function as look-outs for the entire fock. Knowing what these species are—and their vocalizations—can turn an otherwise dull hike into a bird bonanza. Shown here, a male Black-throated Shrike-Tanager. Photo © Rolando Chávez.

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