Bird Findings

Pileated woodpecker

Remember your first sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker or a Peregrine Falcon? Or maybe your childhood discovery of a robin’s nest, or, sadly, the broken little blue eggshells beneath it?

Robin nest

The late-nineteenth century bird writing pioneer, Olive Thorne Miller, discovered a new bird species and wrote about it in the popular magazine, the Atlantic Monthly. She was then scolded publicly by the noted male ornithologist, William Brewster, for reporting her finding in a mere magazine instead of a proper scientific journal. He was embarrassed because well after her discovery he had announced in the Auk that he had found the new species. In a polite riposte, Miller wrote, “I should take pleasure in “sharing my discoveries’ were I so happy as to make any; but to me everything is a discovery; each bird on first sight, is a new creation; his manners and habits are a revelation, as fresh and interesting to me as if they had never been observed before.”

Fox sparrow

Rufous-sided Towhee

Northern cardinal

It is this joy, the feeling of revelation that is the essence of seeing live birds, whether for the first time, in some special setting, doing something you have never noticed before, or after a long, long absence. RCC Bird Watch and Wonder co-editor, Bob Musil, has noted his own joy at the rare appearances of a Fox Sparrow or a Rufous-sided Towhee jumping backwards in the leaf litter left beneath an azalea in his yard. He was even moved to reflect on his love for the common cardinal when one hopped off his small, stone St. Francis feeder onto his kitchen windowsill and peered through the glass as if to offer thanks.

Eastern bluebirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Bluebirds may be giving thanks, too, as they gathered for mealworms put out for them by Dale Mangum who sent us this happy group photo from Patuxent, Maryland. Bird watchers, of course, also note the numbers of birds they see at Christmas and other collective counts that are a key part of citizen science. We report the most interesting and important findings here, along with the arrivals of migrating birds tracked at places like Hummingbird Central, or your own observations of the first junco or whitethroat of winter, or the first Red-winged Blackbird or robin of spring. The mass arrival of some species also marks seasonal celebrations like those of the return of Turkey vultures to Hinckley, Ohio.

Dark-eyed Junco

Red-winged blackbird

Sometimes the wonder of birds comes from hearing them, whether you can identify the sound or not. Rachel Carson is best known for her exposé of the chemical industry in Silent Spring. But it is the loss of bird song that gives the book its title and its power. “On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”

Painted bunting

Carolina wren

Whether it is this wren you can hear that was part of Rachel Carson’s “dawn chorus,” a report or photo from you, from one of our followers across the nation, or a rare glimpse of a Painted Bunting in Maryland, you will find it here.

We think you will agree with Olive Thorne Miller, that each sighting, each finding, will be a true joy, a true discovery.

The Latest on Bird Findings

Protected Too Late: U.S. Officials Report More Than 20 Extinctions
The animals and one plant had been listed as endangered species. Their stories hold lessons about a growing global biodiversity crisis.

The ivory-billed woodpecker, which birders have been seeking in the bayous of Arkansas, is gone forever, according to federal officials. So is the Bachman’s warbler, a yellow-breasted songbird that once migrated between the Southeastern United States and Cuba. The song of the Kauai O’o, a Hawaiian forest bird, exists only on recordings. And there is no longer any hope for several types of freshwater mussels that once filtered streams and rivers from Georgia to Illinois. Read more 


A Rare ‘Bird of Two Worlds’ Faces an Uncertain Future
Marbled murrelets could benefit from a unique research project that’s uncovering information to help better protect this endangered species.

One thing sets marbled murrelets apart from other seabirds: They forage at sea but nest inland in mature forests. That makes them a “bird of two worlds,” says Oregon State University animal ecologist Jim Rivers.

But this unique characteristic also increases their vulnerability. Climate change threatens murrelets’ food sources in the ocean, while on land, logging, wildfires and habitat fragmentation have diminished their nesting forests. Read more 


Majestic pink spoonbill birds seen in D.C. area, far from Floridian habitat
The roseate spoonbill’s journey up the East Coast this year is a mystery

The beautiful and striking roseate spoonbill is usually found in Florida, the Southeast Atlantic coast, Cuba and near the Gulf of Mexico. But this summer, it’s been spotted in the District, Virginia, Delaware, New York and even as far north as Maine.

With its vibrant pink coloring, enormous wingspan, football-shape and rounded bill, the spoonbill is a sight to behold. Read more


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Past Issues of the RCC Bird Watch and Wonder

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