Backyard and Beyond

The water beading off this Pied-bill Grebe… You know, I think this plumage is more interesting than the breeding plumage. This cinnamon tinge to the neck is not, by the way, found in all non-breeding birds.

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Some Notes on Juncos

Wickersham's Conscience

Juncos are a very common bird, but they also represent one of the great ornithological puzzles. Depending on who you talk to, there are between three and twelve species. The number of species depends on whether you think the confusing color patterns represent color and song variations on one species or separate species. As Birds of North America puts it,

The phylogenetic relationships of all junco taxa clearly involve more complex questions than can be answered by presently available evidence.

That’s something of an understatement. A few photos may illustrate the challenges.

Dark-eyed Junco, "Slate-colored" variety, Fairbanks, Alaska Dark-eyed Junco, “Slate-colored” variety, Fairbanks, Alaska

If you live in Alaska, this is the Junco you see most often. The whole back and chest is dark gray, with a sharply defined white belly. Dark-eyed and pale, pinkish-billed, it shows white outer tail feathers in flight.

Dark-eyed Junco, "Oregon" variety, Boise, Idaho Dark-eyed Junco, “Oregon” variety, Boise, Idaho

But this is a Dark-eyed Junco, too…

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Curlew GPS tracking on the Humber Estuary

Waders of the tidal flats

One of our most iconic wader species has a near-threatened status with a 48% decline of breeding birds since 1995 in the United Kingdom (UK), there is also a decreasing trend of wintering birds in estuaries over the last 15 years  On the Humber Estuary the population is stable with a five-year average of 2,806 birds (Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS)) which makes the Humber Estuary one of the top seven sites for wintering Curlew in the UK.  Morecambe Bay, with 11,193 Curlew, is the largest wintering site in the UK (BTO WeBS online).

Extensive Curlew research work is led by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) across the country to understand the cause of the decline.  The research work, undertaken on both breeding and non-breeding grounds, combines a range of desk-based and fieldwork studies.  The species’ home range and habitat selection (using GPS tracking data) is one of…

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