Birder's Guide

OCT 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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Page 10 of 51

9 October 2017 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy creaming Pihas are a nuisance to any serious attempt at an Amazonian Big Day. Though they are commonly cited as "the voice of Amazonia" (Schulenberg et al. 2010), on 23 July 2015 at Los Amigos Biological Station during a Big Day in the Peruvian Amazon, I strategically avoided the sten - torian Screaming Piha leks because no other birds could be heard over the rau- cous terrors. This station in southern Peru lies with - in a land grant of hundreds of square miles of pristine Amazonian rainforest, where charismatic fauna roam. Routinely sighted are jaguars, tapirs, anacondas, Harpy Eagles, poison dart frogs, and 10 monkey species. The reserve is home to about 600 avian species, all found within walking distance of the station. It is a five- hour boat ride away from the nearest city and composed of several open-air build - ings with metal roofs and walls of mos- quito screen. Over three field seasons at Los Amigos, each three months long, I investigated the behavioral ecology of the profoundly fas - cinating understory mixed-species flocks as part of my doctoral thesis at Michigan State University. As involved as I was with my research, the birder in me could not turn my eyes away from the unique bird - Westborough, Massachusetts Sean M. Williams S ing opportunities in my Amazonian back- yard. Finding as many species as possible in 24 hours is one of the most exhilarat- ing challenges for avid birders, but it is far from easy in the tropical rainforest. Seeing any bird well enough to identify is an accomplishment due to the darkness of the densely foliaged understory and the height of the canopy. Therefore, find - ing birds by voice is critically important. Tropical birds tend to be extremely sedentary by virtue of their long lives and year-round territory occupation (Martinez and Zenil 2012). An individual bird down to the size of a chickadee may be found in the same territory for over 10 years (Snow and Lill 1974)! Staking out birds in territories, nest sites, and at roosts is a significant component in the Neotropical Big Day bird-finding algo - rithm. During many long days of follow- ing flocks for my research, the birds and I became close friends. Not only had I learned to identify the avian sounds of the forest, but also learned the exact locations of many rare species. The three field sea - sons prepared me for this day, the biggest of all my Big Days. Over the course of my field seasons, fierce friajes—bone-chilling and blustery winter storms occurring in May through

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