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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Page 52 of 75

51 March 2016 | Birder's Guide to Travel and songs of species that are considered leaders or core members of mixed-species focks and/or are followers of army ants. Black-throated Shrike-Tanagers, Dusky- throated Antshrikes, and Cinereous Ant- shrikes are frequently core members of mixed-species focks, so learning their calls can inform you that other cool but less vocal birds may be around. If you hear a Bicolored Antbird, which is an obligate army-ant follower, be on the look-out for army ants and other ant-following species. Numerous strategies exist by which to learn bird sounds, but I think the best strategy is to create your own mnemonic or saying for each one. When my part- ner and I were preparing to head to the Amazon for the frst time, we were over- whelmed trying to learn the songs of more than 50 species of antbirds. Every time we played a song, we tried to think of a say- ing to help us remember. Even though we came up with some seriously silly sayings, it really helped. When I heard "free-beer" coming from the understory in the Amazon, I remembered that I eat Dots (the gummy candy) when I have beer, and that I was hearing a Dot-backed Antbird. Other clever mnemonics we cre - ated helped us identify Spotted Antbirds (which excitedly sing "There's ants, there's ants, there's ants!") and Chestnut-backed Antbirds (which beckon you to come closer with every song: "Come here. Come right here"). Xeno-canto and the Macaulay Library both have thousands of recordings that you can listen to for free online. Compact discs of bird songs and calls are also avail - able for many countries at various stores online, such as Buteo Books. Mastering Neotropical bird identifca- tion is challenging, but I hope the tips and tricks shared here will help make your birding experience even more amazing. Sitting down to plan a birding trip to the Neotropics is a rewarding way to learn more about this amazing area, and studying the bird species you are likely to encounter ahead of time will certainly make your trip more worth- while and memorable!

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