Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Breeding phenology and performance for four swallows over 57 years: relationships with temperature and precipitation


Marty L. Leonard

 "Aerial insectivores, birds that feed on insects caught in flight, are experiencing steep population declines possibly because of shifts in the timing and/or abundance of aerial insects."
Learn more by reading this paper at:


Friday, June 21, 2019

Whitman's bird

Praised by many, reviled by some, both in his day and since, Walt Whitman was a quintessentially American poet. He believed fiercely in America and in democracy.

Although you can read widely on Whitman and his work, about his personality and beliefs, I'm writing here to focus on his interest in a bird - the Hermit Thrush.

In his famous elegy for Abraham Lincoln, written shortly after Lincoln's death, he incorporated lyric imagery about the Hermit Thrush in the 206 lines of "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd".

More on the poem, the repeated emphases on the thrush and its song, and perhaps why Whitman chose this image:  https://hokku.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/whitmans-trinity-of-remembrance-when-lilacs-last-in-the-door-yard-bloomd/

Some say the Hermit Thrush is North America's finest avian singer. As subjective as that evaluation may be, most of us who have heard it will at the very least agree it is a wonderful song.

Hear one at:  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Hermit_Thrush/sounds

Read more at:  https://northernwoodlands.org/outside_story/article/twilight-singer-hermit-thrush

And about Hermit Thrushes' song variation:  https://academic.oup.com/auk/article/134/3/612/5149313

But finally, let Whitman have his say; let it drift over you, like the thrush's song itself:


5 In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

6 Solitary, the thrush,
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.

7 Song of the bleeding throat!
Death's outlet song of life—(for well, dear brother, I know,
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would'st surely die.)

and again a bit later...


20 Sing on! sing on, you gray-brown bird!
Sing from the swamps, the recesses—pour your chant from
the bushes;
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.

21 Sing on, dearest brother—warble your reedy song;
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.

22 O liquid, and free, and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul! O wondrous singer!
You only I hear……yet the star holds me, (but will soon
Yet the lilac, with mastering odor, holds me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

insects and birds - population relationships

If you have been reading recent news about insect declines, you may notice that they often reflect, or approach in some ways the similar kinds of declines in certain bird species or species groups. The links between insect and bird declines are not proven, but evidence is growing that worldwide changes affect many groups of organisms, including birds.

Here are some sources that help to explain what is happening, and implications of these occurrences:

Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life


As Insect Populations Decline, Scientists Are Trying to Understand Why


Insect and bird populations declining dramatically in Germany

Why insect populations are plummeting—and why it matters


Could Loss Of Flying Insects Be Leading To Loss Of Birds?


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

read about and join the Midwest Aerial Insectivore Discussion Group

If you're interested in learning more about our aerial insectivores (swallows, swifts, nightjars, flycatchers), read about them and join the Midwest Aerial Insectivore Discussion Group.

Cliff Swallows - Ph. by Ken Thompson - Wikim. Commons

Monday, March 18, 2019

Gyrfalcon - some new or recent research and readings

The Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) is a raptor of remote arctic landscapes that nevertheless has a long association with humans. It is much sought-after by birders.

Ph. by Ómar Runólfsson - Wkim. Commons

Multiple organizations and individuals devote effort to research on this species, its ecology, distribution, and abundance.

See a few articles linked below that describe recent or new work or information on Gyrfalcons. 

BirdLife International information:

Predator‐prey feedback in a gyrfalcon‐ptarmigan system?

Research on Gyrfalcons' behavior on pack ice:

Gyrfalcon research at the Peregrine Fund, a world-wide raptor research and conservation organization:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

the source for bird sounds, world-wide

If you've never visited it, winter is a great time to spend a few hours at xeno-canto.org (https://www.xeno-canto.org/ ) - perhaps the most comprehensive site for bird sounds world-wide.
When you visit, type in the name of the species in which you have an interest, and explore the possibilities. New sounds for species from around the globe are being added continuously: