Birder's Guide

MAR 2017

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 © Peter Christian Photo © Ron Knight 20 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2017 20 Best Birds in Britain #18 • Tawny Owl Strix aluco The Tawny Owl is our most familiar and widespread owl. It is strictly nocturnal and, unless located at roost or disturbed, rarely seen during the day. The famous twit twoo call is not actually made by one owl, but is a combination of the female's con- tact call (ke-wick) with the male answering (hoo-hoo-hoo). It is thought that twit twoo may have derived from Shakespeare try - ing to make the overlapping calls fit into a verse in his play Love's Labour's Lost. Tawny Owl vocalizations are often used as a spooky sound effect in film and on television. #19 • White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus My last two species have been included as much for their habitat preferences as for the birds themselves. While explor- ing some of the beautiful riverine valleys of western and northern Britain, there is always a chance of finding the charis- matic dipper bobbing on a stone or rock along a fast-flowing river or stream. Far more striking than its American relative, this dipper has a distinctive white throat and breast, and red-brown belly. Dippers feed underwater and have specialized white eyelids to protect the eyes whilst submerged; rather than swim, they walk along the river bottom in search of their insect prey. #20 • Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax In the U.K., choughs (pronounced chuffs) are restricted to the west coast of Britain and Northern Ireland and inhabit some of our most spectacular coastal cliffs. I al - ways enjoy walking the rugged coastlines of Cornwall, in southwest England, or Wales searching for this characterful bird with its onomatopoeic call—and watching as it gracefully flies along the cliff faces. Like the similarly aerodynamic ravens, choughs are members of the corvid fam- ily. Although a chough is featured on the Cornish coat of arms, it had become ex- tirpated in Cornwall until changes in land management led to natural recolonization in 2001. Legend has it that King Arthur turned into a chough on his death and that, when the chough returns to breed in Cornwall, Arthur will rise again. After 15 years, I don't believe there have been any reported sightings of Arthur yet! ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– What do you think? What would be on your list of the top 20 birds in Britain? Join the discussion online. # 19 # 20

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