03 de diciembre de 2019

Northern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis abieticola) as a Distinct Subspecies

Introduction and Background
One of the most complicated discussions in the world of Red-tailed Hawks is the validity of the Northern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis abieticola). Ever since it was described over seventy years ago (Todd 1950), the Canadian Red-tailed population has been on a seesaw of being a separate distinct subspecies or a heavily marked type of the Eastern Red-tailed Hawk (B. j. borealis).

The subspecies was described in 1950 by W.E. Clyde Todd where he collected 10 abieticola and borealis specimens in Canada and noted how the northern populations was like borealis but "underparts more heavily streaked; throat and upper breast darker colored (more brownish, less rufescent); upperparts (including wings externally) darker colored (more blackish); and subterminal black band on tail averaging wider."

The American Ornithological Society declined the acknowledge of the subspecies in their last subspecies assessment in 1957 and ending the age of looking for geographical variation in field work. Thirty years later, Dickerman and Parkes (1987) published a more thorough paper on abieticola and supported Todd's hypothesis that indeed a northern population existed. It also explain explained how the northern populations differed from borealis and calurus. Dickerman and Parkes also stated that many "calurus" identified in eastern US were in fact abieticola. Field guides that list subspecies (Wheeler 2003, Pyle 2008, Stokes 2010) in the past have also failed to acknowledged a distinct population in Canada. At one point, abieticola was even considered an intergrade between borealis and calurus (Clark and Wheeler 1997, Wheeler 2004). For the space of sixty-three years, abieticola was just considered a more heavily-marked borealis and just that. In 2010, ebird finally recognized abieticola and added it as a taxon. Starting 2013 and still is today, Avibase has considered abieticola as a form of Western Red-tailed Hawk (B. j. calurus).

Light was finally shed on the abieticola case when Ligouri and Sullivan (2014) explored the topic and give a thorough discussion on the population. After spending some time explaining how abieticola differs from other subspecies. The reason the subspecies has gotten so much bad publicity in the past is due to the fact we know nothing about their nesting and to the extents of their breeding range so to assume that more heavily-marked individuals are from Canada is a narrow-minded hypothesis.

Wheeler (2018) goes in depth with the discussion claiming that abieticola was nothing more than a type of borealis due to lack of breeding data, borealis in the US showing just as heavily marked individuals in breeding season and Canadian intergradation between calurus and harlani has made heavily marked hawks more common in boreal forests.

Identification

Despite the information presented above, I will proceed to educate you in the identification of abieticola. The description I have provided is a direct quote from my other journal post "Identifying US and Canada Red-tailed Hawks" as it goes in depth what's expected in the subspecies or not.

Head: Dark head. Throat streaked, collared or dark. Darker cheek normal.

Upperparts: Light to moderate white mottling on the scapulars.

Underparts: Bellyband moderately to heavily-marked and always black or very brown black, with each streak resembling an arrow shape. Barring often occurs if the bellyband is moderate. Legs are often unbarred. Breast white but can often be tawny or rufous and these individuals often appear incredibly similar to heavily-marked rufous morph Westerns (calurus). Sides of the breast often have black "dribbling" marks.

Wings: Little to no rufous on lighter morphs, but often heavily rufous on rufous-breasted individuals. Patagials thin but darker than normal borealis. Well defined trailing edge. Underwing coverts are almost always whiter than breast with the exception being intergradation with calurus.

Tail: Similar to borealis except with a broader subterminal band and they are more likely to show partial or complete tail banding.

Morphs: Mostly light but rufous have occurred. Dark morphs are hypothesized.

Juvenile: Nearly identical to borealis but with more variance, including more heavily marked underparts.

Distrubition

It is believed that abieticola breeds across the boreal forest across Canada from Yukon to northeastern US. There is one confirmed sighting in California from raptor biologist and eBird admin Brian Sullivan who noted in his observation, "In all likelihood abieticola winters sparingly throughout the West, probably similar to harlani in this regard." Another abieticola was spotted by raptor biologist and colleague of Sullivan, Jerry Ligouri, in Utah.

Pit Falls in Wheeler's Work

I've had many hours of discussion with many raptor experts on the status of abieticola and I get very complex and differing statements. Several believe it's borealis due to inconsistency in diagnostic features, lack of breeding data and southern birds showing heavier bellybands. And it appears these experts are agreeing with Wheeler's statement "The 'Eastern' subspecies exhibits considerably more plumage variation than previously described or depicted in any publication." He goes on to further explain he figured this out by looking at museum specimens.

I believe this is the first pitfall in Wheeler's work is providing a modern example showing that borealis can indeed be more heavily-marked. He failed to provide photographic evidence pertaining to southern Red-tails exhibiting the heavy bellyband. In his final remarks on abieticola he does provide four photos from Canada that are Eastern-type hawks. I believe his purpose was to show that light-marked individuals can be found in northern Canada but it still doesn't answer my question, what about heavily-marked borealis?

I did find one iNaturalist sighting for a Tennessee Red-tailed Hawk in May. I have posted the observation link below. I can see how one might argue and claim this is a abieticola because of the black bellyband, dark throat and thick patagials. Not to mention it's breeding season and it's way out of its "breeding range". Despite the similarities this individual shares with northern populations, there's two solid features here that's telling me it's an abieticola. One, is that there is nearly no streaking on the sides of the breast and what there is, is not black as it should. Secondly, the subspecies is known to have broad subterminal bands despite the very thin one this individual is showing. So in a nutshell, I agree with Wheeler that borealis are indeed much more variable than previously believed but the features a heavily-marked individual has is still differing from northern populations. I will even mention, if this was an abieticola it doesn't mean it's not a nod to the subspecies being invalid. Let's remember in 2010, a Harlan's Hawk was found breeding with a Red-tailed in North Dakota when it's "breeding" range only a decade ago was only Alaska.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/25472293

I think the second mistake is claiming that northern Red-tails are exhibiting heavier bellyband due to intergradation with calurus. However, if that were true, why are we not seeing abieticola-like individuals in eastern Colorado. The Colorado Rocky Mountain front has been known for years as a heavy intergradation zone for calurus and borealis, yet we are not seeing these blobby bellyband individuals like in northern Canada.

Thirdly, if abieticola is not a subspecies, why are alascensis and furtesi still recognized? A group of birders called "Red-tailed Hawks of Western Canada" has admitted to the fact that alascensis is indistinguishable from calurus in the field because of the variance of the latter subspecies. As for fuertesi, I recently had a heated debate with another birder because I identified a Red-tailed as such in Oklahoma and the point of his argument was, how can we call it a possible fuertesi by a nearly nonexistent bellyband when some borealis in Ohio also exhibit no bellybands. Are we going to call them fuertesi too? As much as I hate to admit that (though the named subspecies has other differences from borealis), we can't ignore the fact that other subspecies are much more similar in appearance and yet none are reviewed for its validity.

Lastly, what about dark morphs? One of the reasons why calurus gets confirmed across eastern US is because they are the "only" subspecies with rufous or dark morphs. And it's easy to understand how one might show up in eastern US. The distribution of calurus is very similar to a Golden Eagle; summers/resident to western Canada, year-rounded resident to western US, winter visitor to Great Plains and annual or vagrant to eastern US. If you may see a Golden Eagle in Kentucky every winter, why not a calurus Red-tailed, a population with a very similar distribution.

However, there is a rising hypothesis that abieticola has dark morphs. This hypothesis started with Jean Iron (2012) who stated...

"When dark morph Red-tailed Hawks are seen in southern Ontario they are assumed to be from the western subspecies calurus. This is based on the belief that dark morphs do not occur in the Eastern Red-tailed Hawk borealis breeding population, whereas dark morphs occur in Western calurus. I wonder whether this assumption is always correct or if we should consider an eastern source for some of our dark morph Red-tailed Hawks.

The answer may lie in the northern Red-tailed Hawk population breeding in Canada’s boreal forest...I propose that a few dark morph Red-tailed Hawks probably occur in the abieticola population but have gone undetected in the vast boreal forest where few birders and ornithologists visit. This winter, 2011-2012, at least three and possibly four dark morph Red-tailed Hawks are overwintering near Toronto in Oakville, Oshawa, Guelph and Brantford. Some dark morphs may be breeding among the heavily pigmented abieticola population across the boreal forest. This makes more sense to me than thinking that all are western calurus."

Two years ago, eBird followed suite with the possibility that there are dark morph abieticola out there and proceeded in adding the slash calurus/abieticola. If you happen to be a user of eBird as well, if you see a dark morph Red-tailed Hawk east of the Rockies, it is best to use this slash instead of calurus/alascensis. I actually in fact used this slash a couple of days ago for a light morph Red-tailed (hard to believe) because it exhibited strong abieticola traits but the expected subspecies still couldn't be eliminated.

Conclusion

Though the subspecies may be thrown under the bus as a heavily-marked Eastern Red-tailed, abieticola still shows features that are inconsistent with even heavily marked southern Red-tailed populations. However, intergradation has probably interfered with them becoming such a clear-cut subspecies, especially if the intergradation zone between calurus and harlani extends from Gunsight Mountain, Alaska to North Dakota. There is also apparently problems identifying Red-tails in New England states as well as some Red-tails show very heavy brown bellybands and rich rufous breasts, suggesting a intergradation zone between borealis in that region.

As for it's validity as subspecies, I'm on the vote for yes it is. If it is true that abieticola can indeed have rufous or dark morphs, then it truly is a different subspecies from borealis. But we don't have that information yet. I see this decision of it's validity is very similar to the Harlan's Hawk being elevated to species status. Though it is behavioral and morphically different, we don't know how often it intergrades with other Red-tails and if they will willingly and consistent intergrade. It's just information we don't know yet and to make a decision on abieticola's status now appears premature and narrow-minded, especially in Wheeler's case as he failed to back up his statements with photographic evidence and/or data charts supporting his statements. As Jerry Ligouri stated...

"Although Northern Red-tailed Hawk is slowly becoming more familiar to raptor enthusiasts, much remains to be learned. With today’s advanced technologies for communication, documentation, and data archiving, birders can make solid contributions toward understanding this enigmatic bird’s identification, taxonomy, and natural history."

Acknowledgements

I would like to send some shout-outs to those who have helped me in my progression in understanding and identifying Red-tailed Hawks correctly. I would like to thank Jerry Ligouri and Brian Sullivan for spending some time with me, teaching me how to identify Red-tailed Hawks to subspecies level and how to identify abieticola. I thank Mike Borlé for taking his time in identifying several Red-tails I was skeptical about and trying to guess where the bird originated from. I also thank him for identifying my calurus/abieticola hawk. Shane Brown for sharing opinions on how "well-recognized" subspecies such as fuertesi or alascensis is not a valid subspecies. INaturalist psweet for recommending Wheeler's guide and giving me a new perspective on abieticola besides Ligouri and Sullivan's opinions on the matter. INaturalist Greg Lasley for tagging me in odd Red-tailed/Buteo observations and giving me a further appreciation for Red-tailed variation. INaturalist Bill Chambers for his comment, "when they come through you can really see the difference" when I identified one of his fall sightings an abieticola furthering my hunch that there's a distinct population up north.

Literature Source

- Dickerman, Robert W. and Kenneth C. Parkes 1987 -- Subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks in the Northeast (https://nybirds.org/KB_IssuesArchive/y1987v37n2.pdf)
- Dickerman, Robert W. 1989 -- Identification of Red-tailed Hawks Wintering Kansas
- Iron, Jean 2012 -- Dark Morph Red-tails: calurus or abieticola (http://www.jeaniron.ca/2012/darkredtailsTOCNews.pdf)
- Ligouri, Jerry 2001 -- Pitfalls of Classifying Light Morph Red-tailed Hawks to Subspecies
- Ligouri, Jerry and Brian Sullivan 2014 -- Northern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis abieticola) Revisited (https://northernredtails.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/rth_aabieticiola_north_american_birds_march_2014.pdf)
- Ligouri, Jerry and Jon Ruddy 2014 -- Northern Red-tailed Hawks (https://northernredtails.wordpress.com/)
- Ridout, Ron 2014 -- Identifying Northern Red-tailed Hawks (https://ebird.org/canada/news/identifying-northern-red-tailed-hawks/)
- Jon Ruddy 2014 -- "Northern" Red-tailed Hawk (abieticola): Identification, Natural History, and Winter Survey (http://jonruddy.blogspot.com/2014/02/northern-red-tailed-hawk-identification.html)
- Todd, W.E. Clyde 1950 -- A Northern Race of Red-tailed Hawk (https://northernredtails.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/toddwec-1950-annals-31_289_297.pdf)
- Wheeler, Brian K. 2018 -- Birds of Prey of the East
- Wheeler, Brian K. 2018 -- Birds of Prey of the West

Ingresado el 03 de diciembre de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 1 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de noviembre de 2019

Identifying US and Canada Red-tailed Hawks

I've been getting a lot of remarks, questions and rebukes over my identifications in regards to subspecies, sometimes in a common species we call the Red-tailed Hawk. Since I can't find a reliable source that complies every single US/Canada subspecies into one manuscript, I might as well write this and link to my identifications where I'm being asked for more information. Photos to be included to show the features I'm talking about. I hope you enjoy and learn something a little new about Red-tailed Hawks. Sources are sighted below.

Eastern Red-tailed Hawk -- Buteo jamaicensis borealis

Range: Central Alberta and Newfoundland south to south-central Texas and central Florida. Confirmed vagrant sightings in Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia (annual), California, Utah and Baja California. Probably would be annual in every Western US state if more eyes were out looking for the oddities.

Head: White supercilium is common. Throat is usually white, streaked or collared; dark throat is rare. Malar/cheek region usually dark.

Upperparts: Scapulars are moderately to heavily mottled white.

Underparts: Lightly to moderately marked bellyband. Barring occurs often on the flanks, rarely anywhere else. Breast almost always white but tawny does occur.

Wings: No rufous on the underwings. Patagials are thin or dull. Limited underwing markings.

Tail: Nearly all individuals white uppertail coverts. Subterminal band thin to moderate. Partial or incompletely tail banding is uncommon. Nearly all individuals have white tips to the tail.

Morphs: Only light.

Juvenile: Throat almost always white, supercilium often white, bellyband light to moderately-marked.

Photos -- (1) Clear-cut example of borealis. (2) Lightly-marked streak-throated borealis. (3) Clear-cut flying example of borealis. (4) Flying moderately-marked streak-throated borealis.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/35716511#_ga=2.25563518.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/51359071#_ga=2.267893197.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/49386431#_ga=2.230545887.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/96071241#_ga=2.65992173.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889

Northern Red-tailed Hawk -- B. j. abieticola

Note: No longer a valid subspecies on iNaturalist because the Clements Checklist does not recognized it, probably due to the publicization of "Birds of Prey of the West/East" by Brian K. Wheeler in 2018, who does not recognize the subspecies due to some borealis exhibiting similar features that were once diagnostic of abieticola. I personally, am a denier of synonymizing the subspecies due to the fact that eBird still recognizes the subspecies and one of the creators is Brian Sullivan who has equal experience to Wheeler in raptor biology. Also if borealis was so closely related to abieticola, why is there slash on eBird for calurus/abieticola and not borealis/abieticola?

Range: Breeds from Yukon and Newfoundland south to Montana and Michigan. Winters from cental Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia south to Louisiana and Georgia. Because of it's range along the eastern Rocky Mountain front, annuals probably winter in Western US but go unnoticed due to its close resemblance to some Western (calurus) Red-tails.

Head: Dark head. Throat streaked, collared or dark. Darker cheek normal.

Upperparts: Light to moderate white mottling on the scapulars.

Underparts: Bellyband moderately to heavily-marked and always black or very brown black, and the bellyband will either have arrow-shaped streaking or blobby blotched markings. Barring often occurs if the bellyband is moderate. Legs are often unbarred. Breast white but can often be tawny or rufous and these individuals often appear incredibly similar to heavily-marked rufous morph Westerns (calurus). Sides of the breast often have black "dribbling" marks.

Wings: Little to no rufous on lighter morphs, but often heavily rufous on rufous-breasted individuals. Patagials thin but darker than normal borealis. Well defined trailing edge. Underwing coverts are almost always whiter than breast with the exception being intergradation with Western Red-tails.

Tail: Similar to Eastern Red-tails except with a broader subterminal band and they are more likely to show partial or complete tail banding.

Morphs: Mostly light but rufous have occurred. Dark morphs are hypothesized.

Juvenile: Nearly identical to borealis but with more variance, including more heavily marked underparts.

Photos -- (1) Clear-cut example of abieticola. (2) Tawny-breasted abieticola. (3) Flying clear-cut example of abieticola. (4). Flying rufous morph abieticola.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/87408001#_ga=2.57662953.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/88975651#_ga=2.57662953.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/80930791#_ga=2.264183119.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/49383721#_ga=2.221592795.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889

Western Red-tailed Hawk -- B. j. calurus

Range: Summers from southern Yukon and southwestern Northwest Territory south to central British Columbia and Alberta. Resident from southwestern British Columbia and eastern Alberta to Baja California Sur and western Texas. Winters in central and southern Midwest States. Annual to most eastern US states.

Head: Throat mostly dark, some have streaked, collared or white throats and these variations seem to occur more often in northern Canadian breeding areas or southwestern US deserts.

Upperparts: Very dark brown, white scapular mottling is light and barely visible comparative to other subspecies, however it is visible enough to use as an id feature to distinguish from other Buteo species.

Underparts: Perhaps the most variable subspecies in terms of underpart markings. Bellyband can vary from a few streaks and barring on the flanks to a thick black band across the belly with barring extending into the breast. Though typical bellybands have barring on the flanks and belly.

Wings: Almost all individuals have tawny or rufous underwings that contrast with the whit remiges. Patagials are dark and noticeably thick, making a huge "U" shape cut on the humerus region. If the bird is in wing, these two features are key to whether your Red-tailed is Western or not.

Tail: Incredibly variable from the "classic" all red-tail with thin subterminal band to a thickly banded tail with no distinct subterminal band. Also note where the wingtips end on the tail. Eastern/Northern Red-tails have wingtips barely extending past the uppertail coverts while calurus can extend from midway across the tail to the tail tips.

Morphs: Light, Rufous, Intermediate (only juveniles) and Dark. However light morphs dominate other morphs and from a compilation of photos I did for research about 96% of all calurus Red-tails are light morphs and 3% are rufous morphs.

Juvenile: Throat usually dark but younger individuals may have white throats that resemble borealis or abieticola. To distinguish light morphs from other subspecies, look for heavily marked bellyband and underwings. Only subspecies that have intermediate and dark morphs which is heavy markings on the breast (intermediate) or black underparts with white streaking, similar to Harlan's juveniles (dark).

Photos (I finally get to use my own!) -- (1) Dark-throated moderately-marked light morph calurus. (2) Tawny-breasted heavily-marked light morph calurus. (3) Lightly-marked calurus. (4) Dark morph juvenile calurus. (5) Heavily-marked rufous morph calurus. (6) Lightly-marked rufous morph calurus. (7) Flying molting very lightly-marked light morph calurus -- note thick patagials. (8) Flying typical light-morph calurus. (9) Flying dark morph calurus -- note that this was a breeder I observed all season and if you see something like this in the field and this is your only shot, best identify it as rufous/dark morph. (10) Dark morph calurus with very thick subterminal band.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114078141#_ga=2.201850322.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/119750351#_ga=2.29769212.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/48783551#_ga=2.25492094.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/48783501#_ga=2.267712717.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114074651#_ga=2.32485757.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/169150031#_ga=2.259406921.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114112201#_ga=2.63454444.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/55849921#_ga=2.66452717.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/97549721#_ga=2.225244505.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/141548871#_ga=2.58520169.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889'

Alaskan (Western) Red-tailed Hawk -- B. j. alascensis

Note: Probably not a valid subspecies but no efforts have been made to synonymized it with calurus, which is my personal third reason why I disagree with the abieticola invalidation. Even the facebook group "Red-tailed Hawk of Western Canada" has admitted that "there's very little distinguishing features between calurus and alascensis, if any, thanks to the observers on our group." The Alaskan Red-tailed is supposed differs with having either a rosy pink breast or tawny-rufous heart-shaped breast markings, smaller size and shorter tail with more individuals exhibiting tail bands.

Range: Rarely found inland but lives from about Juneau, Alaska south down the Alexander archipelago, Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island. Wheeler (2018) has alascensis summer in Alexander archipelago and wintering on Vancouver Island and the Puget Sound, but I'm debatable on how he deduced that.

Head: Dark or streaked throat, similar to calurus.

Upperparts: Light or moderate white or even buff scapular mottling.

Underparts: Bellyband markings vary considerably from light to heavily marked. Barring occurs across the belly in most individuals. Conflicting sources state that alascensis has a rosy pink breast unlike other subspecies (Clark 2017) or heart-shaped breast streaking (Wheeler 2018). Whether the case is one or another, it appears the consistency though for the subspecies is look for darker breast than belly (if you were to remove the bellyband markings).

Wings: Underwings are seemingly incredibly similar to calurus; dark, thick patagials and rufous coverts that clash with the white remiges.

Tail: Variable. Museum specimens show partial banding to full tail banding. Moderately-thick subterminal band.

Morphs: Seemingly only light.

Juvenile: Similar to calurus but apparently darker overall with wider tail banding.

Photos -- (1) Possible alascensis. (2) Another possible alascensis. (3) Possible flying alascensis.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/22418541#_ga=2.195874927.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/154790291#_ga=2.267194445.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/53994671#_ga=2.234682589.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889

Fuertes or Southwestern Red-tailed Hawk -- B. j. fuertesi

Note: It is being debated on whether or not this is a valid subspecies as it appears to be a even less lightly-marked borealis. Though juveniles appear like borealis and the wingtips extend far past the uppertail coverts which is a feature much more similar to calurus.

Range: Arizona to Oklahoma and Texas. Vagrant to Arkansas, Louisiana, California and Nevada.

Head: White throat in most individuals but streaked, collared and dark throats have been spotted. Cheek is normally dark like in borealis.

Upperparts: Light to moderate whitish or buff scapular mottling.

Underparts: Very little to no bellyband and if markings do show, it's only two or three streaking marks. Arizona individuals appear to have more streaking (more being visually similar to a very lightly marked borealis) and even barring on rufous washed flanks.

Wings: Underwings completely white with the exception of thin but dark patagials and "chevrons" where the primary coverts end.

Tail: Tail is very similar to molting borealis/calurus, meaning it's not as red as other Red-tails and if a subterminal band is present, it's very thin.

Morphs: Only light morphs.

Juvenile: Similar to borealis but with longer wings and bellyband has a distinct "V" shaped patterning where borealis is just streaking.

Photos -- (1) Arizona fuertesi -- note slight rufous wash. (2) Arizona fuertesi on the far end of markings. (3) Flying Texas fuertesi on the far end of markings. (4) Flying Arizona fuertesi.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114896381#_ga=2.196605423.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/22509541#_ga=2.226865246.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/40878611#_ga=2.28777087.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/20812731#_ga=2.250607045.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889

Florida Red-tailed Hawk -- B. j. umbrinus

Range: Resident to Florida Peninsula. Vagrant to southeastern Georgia.

Head: Throat usually streaked or dark. Head dark.

Upperparts: Light white scapular mottling and well defined upperparts scalloping.

Underparts: Bellyband is typically moderately-marked but can be lightly-marked. Barred often occurs on the bellyband. Breast is normally rufous with light belly, putting on a very alascensis look but by range, it's incredibly unlikely they're the same.

Wings: Dark patagials that vary in width but is normally thin. Underwing coverts are rufous washed.

Tail: Little variation, typically dark red with moderately-thick subterminal band.

Morphs: Light only.

Juvenile: Similar to calurus juvenile variation, except without intermediate or dark morphs. Some can be extremely heavily marked.

Photos -- (1) Heavily-marked umbrinus -- note rufous breast and light belly. (2) Similar umbrinus features (3) Flying umbrinus (4) Heavily-marked juvenile umbrinus.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/42813881#_ga=2.33429117.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/141937951#_ga=2.260444238.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/23392821#_ga=2.260444238.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/49439481#_ga=2.58528361.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889

Krider's Hawk -- B. j. kriderii

Range: Breeds from southern Alberta and Ontario to northeastern Colorado and Iowa. Winters from eastern Colorado and southern Minnesota to eastern Texas and Florida. Can be vagrants to adjacent states of breeding/wintering ranges.

Head: Varies but is normally very whitish. Palest form has nearly completely white head. Darkest form has dark cheek and crown.

Upperparts: Heavy white scapular mottling and scalloping pattern is well defined on the rest of the upperparts.

Underparts: Little to no markings on the underparts and whatever markings an individual may have will be a few streaking. Underparts may have a buffy look, especially when compared side-by-side with the incredibly similar light morph Harlan's.

Wings: Patagials nearly none existent and thin with completely white underwing coverts. When compared to Harlan's look for buffy underparts, banded remiges and reddish-white tail with no other markings.

Tail: Variable with half of the tail being red to completely white. If the rectrices have a white base and reddish tail extends past half the tail, that's a solid candidate for Eastern X Krider's intergrade.

Morphs: Light only.

Juvenile: Heads are typically whiter than adults and white upperparts mottling is even more noticeable. Tail with whitish with banding.

Photos -- (1) Dark Krider's Hawk. (2) Lightest form Krider's. (3) Flying intermediately dark Krider's -- note buffy underwings. (4) Juvenile Krider's. (5) Flying juvenile Krider's.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/109267071#_ga=2.59160046.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/30529471#_ga=2.221634011.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/109377501#_ga=2.24056441.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/37820921#_ga=2.223885528.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/76574721#_ga=2.223885528.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889

Harlan's Hawk -- B. j. harlani

Range: Breeds mostly in Alaska and Yukon but recent evidence suggest they may breed throughout Canada all the way to North Dakota. Winters throughout western and central US.

Overall body difference: Besides I find Harlan's such a unique bird, I'm not going to go through all the body part features. All you need to know is; they are either black and white or cool brown and white, tail is incredibly variable from reddish mottled to brown mottling to white with reddish tip. Light morph adults can appear incredibly similar Krider's and are often misidentified in Western US but they differ with colder brown tones, white tail with mottled tail (usually in light morphs) and lack of buffy underwings. Harlan's also frequently show unbanded remiges and thicker patagials. Some Harlan's have Some juveniles can appear very calurus-looking but they differ with having "V" shaped tail banding.

Morphs: Around 84% are dark morph or intermediate morphs and the rest are light.

Photos -- (1) Light morph Harlan's. (2) White-spotted dark morph Harlan's. (3) Same dark morph Harlan's but shows awesome tail pattern. (4) Intermediate morph Harlan's. (5) Flying juvenile intermediate morph Harlan's. (6) Dark morph Harlan's.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/73157161#_ga=2.28774783.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/126158571#_ga=2.58512745.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/126158351
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/114075691#_ga=2.267317709.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/84836181#_ga=2.65919597.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/119476081#_ga=2.65919597.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889

Intergrades

We know for a fact that ranges overlap and intergrades do occur. Identifying them is the hard part because of feature overlapping among subspecies, so trying to weed out what's normal for one subspecies and not for another and trying to confirm it as an intergrade is either incredibly hard or impossible. Here's a list of intergrades that can or have occurred.

Western (calurus) X Harlan's
Northern (abieticola) X Harlan's
Western X Eastern (borealis)
Eastern X Krider's -- Most common intergrade
Northern X Eastern
Western X Alaska (alascensis) -- Probable
Eastern X Fuertes (fuertesi) -- Probable
Western X Fuertes -- Probable

Photos -- (1) Probable Western X Eastern intergrade (2) Probable Eastern X Krider's intergrade. (3) Probable Northern X Eastern intergrade -- note, though identified as abieticola, the bellyband is brownish and not the jet black typical of the subspecies, suggesting some intergradation but that can't be proven. (4) Harlan's X Western/Eastern or unusual light morph Harlan's. (5) Probable Northern X Harlan's intergrade.

https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/119765151
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/109391161#_ga=2.201199853.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/42791171#_ga=2.268898482.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/80131711#_ga=2.20846203.2114655241.1571538712-1175263981.1555651889
https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/172500461

Literature Sourced:

- Clark, William S. (2014) -- Harlan’s Hawks are & have been Breeding within the Red-tailed Hawk Range in Western Canada.
- Clark, William S. (2014) -- Harlan's Hawk differs from Red-tailed Hawk, especially in plumages
- Clark, William S. (2018) -- The Alaska Red-tailed Hawk
- Ligouri, Jerry (2004) -- Dark Red-tailed Hawks
- Ligouri, Jerry and Brian L. Sullivan (2010) -- A Study of Krider's Red-tailed Hawk
- Schmoker, Bill and Jerry Ligouri (2010) -- Photo Recovery of Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk in Colorado and Alaska
- Sullivan, Brian L. and Jerry Ligouri (2010) -- A Territoral Harlan's Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis harlani) in North Dakota, with Notes on Summer Records of this Subspecies from the Northern Great Plains
- Sullivan, Brian L. (2011) -- Apparent Eastern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis borealis) nesting in Alaska
- Ligouri, Jerry and Brian L. Sullivan (2014) -- Comparison of Harlan's with Western and Eastern Red-tailed Hawks
- Ligouri, Jerry and Brian L. Sullivan (2014) -- Northern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis abieticola) Revisited
- Wheeler, Brian K. (2018) -- Birds of Prey of the East
- Wheeler, Brian K. (2018) -- Birds of Prey of the West

Ingresado el 01 de noviembre de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de octubre de 2019

Annoyances with Identifiers

So I'm going to get on a little rant about the identifying stuff but I don't want to put anyone on the spotlight and the reason for this journal post.

In the last three or weeks, I've received a new string of comments in regards to I can't identify bird subspecies by range because my id is an assumption and it really doesn't amount to scientific accuracy. Well, I'm going to explain why that argument is invalid.

Let's say you're hiking at Mount Hood in Oregon, and you come across a female Blue Grouse (Genus Dendragapus) in the middle of the trail. Now answer my honestly, who here is going to immediately say Sooty Grouse? Nearly everyone right. But yet I think we ignore the fact that only a handful of years ago, the Sooty Grouse was once a subspecies of the Dusky Grouse in the Rocky Mountains. In fact, Cornell even states "Dusky Grouse occur mainly in the Rocky Mountains of North America; they have very little range overlap with Sooty Grouse. Females are very difficult to tell apart in the field. Now seriously, who is going really going to try to find the subtle differences between species even though there might not be a chance you can even see the features needed to make an id. So if a birder on iNat submits a female "Sooty" Grouse in the Oregon Cascades, it is not an id made from range? The very thing I'm told NOT to do?

I can come up with a few other examples of this. How many birders submit their sighting as a California Scrub-Jay just because it's the expected species? How many of us actually look for features on the bird supporting our id? To further support my point of view on this, I helped an ebird reviewer the other on a scrub-jay sighted near Los Angeles. It was originally reported as Woodhouse's but was switched to Cal. And I explained to reviewer why it was California Scrub besides range because the bird was a juvie and it looked more Woodhouse-ish then it should've been.

You might think the Scrub-Jay example might be on the far end of the identifying by range spectrum but how about this? Are you sure the magpies you see are Black-billed? I mean, are you sure it's an Eurasian Magpie? How do you really know and don't tell me it's because they are an Old World species.

More examples include, I report my Red-tailed Hawks as Western (calurus) because after 3 years of watching hawks, I know that's 99.9% of what I'm going to see. I will only report it to just species level if I see features that don't support the subspecies. So how is that not acceptable when I bet nearly all birders on the West Coast id their sandpipers as Western because the look-alike species the Semipalmated is uncommon or rare.

Lastly, in the Blue Mountains a Western Flycatcher is left at simply Empidonax sp because Pacific-slope and Cordilleran look too much alike. Yet birders will have no problem identifying a Pacific-slope on coastal Washington or a Cordilleran in Colorado because it's the "expected species". But do you really know?

So pretty much what I'm trying to say is, I don't care if you identify my observation to species level but if you're going to lecture me on not identifying subspecies by range, first make sure you don't identify species by range.

Ingresado el 18 de octubre de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de agosto de 2019

Changing Common Name for Blue-winged Grasshopper

Several species on iNat fall under the name "Blue-winged Grasshopper" and looking over these species, it is easy to see that some people don't realize that or don't know the difference from one species over the other. Here's a list of the four species falling under this name in the order that iNat shows them if you typed in "Blue-winged Grasshopper".

Blue-winged Grasshopper (Oedipoda caerulescens)
Blue-winged Grasshopper (Trimerotropis cyaneipennis)
Saussure's Blue-winged Grasshopper (Leprus intermedius)
Wheeler's Blue-winged Grasshopper (Leprus wheelerii)

Now to add a few rough distribution descriptions for each one. O. caerulescens is found throughout Eurasia. T. cyaneipennis lives throughout western US. L. intermedius lives in southwestern US. L. wheelerii lives in south-central US.

Well today, I corrected (as best as I could) 10 observations in North America all sighted within the last month, labeled as O. caerulescens, the European species. And I can see how that can lead to problems. When we have a site with a majority of users being America, I can see how one will just click O. caerulescens if they typed in the search "Blue-winged Grasshopper" for their sighting. Not only that, I've noticed that the auto-id on the mobile app also lists O. caerulescens if such an individual occurred.

I think it would be wise if we change the common names of both O. caerulescens and T. cyaneipennis to help eliminate confusion with ids. My suggestion is just add geographical additions to the name, example being the Eurasian Blue-winged Grasshopper and the American Blue-winged Grasshopper. It wouldn't be the first time people have done this for example; Eurasian and American Kestrel, Eurasian and American Coot or Eurasian and American Moorhen. Sure those examples refer to more closely related taxon but I think the point still stands. But from what I see observers doing, I think this would be a smart idea.

Ingresado el 07 de agosto de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de julio de 2019

Understanding My Grasshopper Slang

Before I learned about websites such as iNat or Bug Guide, I used to 'describe' my own grasshopper species so I could figure out what I was finding. For years, I pursued bug books but all of them were so vague and had little information on the diversity of grasshoppers. I know from an early age that if I was going to understand the grasshoppers, I had to do it myself.

Now what exactly made me so interested in grasshoppers? Well, when I was young, I own a variety of reptiles and to save money on buying crickets, I would go out with my brother and dad and catch a few grasshoppers from one of three fields in town. And me noticing their diversity is what sparked my interest.

Now, I said before that I created my own names for a few species. Some of these species I've found but for the most part, most of the grasshoppers I have found have not been identified yet. For those I have not found an id here, please pipe in your possible id. Here we go:

What I Called It -- Scientific Name (Common) -- Range (For unidentified grasshoppers I've seen) -- Notes

Black-winged Grasshopper -- Dissosteira carolina (Carolina Grasshopper)

Spitters -- Genus Melanoplus

Painted Grasshoppers -- Probably smaller members of Melanoplus -- Widespread -- Small grasshoppers, largest being about half an inch. I recognize them from the varying colored stripes on the throax that bend upwards towards the top in the middle, making it look like a diamond on the side. We saw many variations of these and I believe we saw multiple species.

Colored-legged Grasshoppers -- Unknown but possibly similar to Melanoplus -- Widespread in Rockies -- Small grasshoppers with transparent wings but had an excellent range of colored legs. Could've all been different species but I know they were mostly red-legged but there was also (in order of abundance) yellow, orange, blue and green.

Wingless Grasshopper -- Bradynotes obesa (Wingless Grasshopper)

Stick-Grasshoppers -- Subfamily Gomphocerinae (Stridulating Slant-faced Grasshoppers)

Tiger Grasshopper -- Unknown -- Saw frequently in Montana but not much elsewhere -- Similar to large members of Melanoplus but are more capable fliers and had two distinct yellow stripes of the top side of the wing, making it look like 'tiger' stripes.

Yellow-winged Grasshopper -- Probably Trimerotropis pallidipennis or similar species -- Widspread, saw wherever Dissosteira carolina was.

Red-winged Grasshopper -- Unknown -- Saw frequently in Montana and Utah -- The second smallest of the 'colored-winged' grasshoppers. They are usually black with vibrant red wings. In high elevations, I found red-winged grasshoppers that were very light mottled brown. I am not sure if they are the same species.

Blue-winged Grasshopper -- Unknown -- ONLY found at the lava fields rest stop between Pocatello and Idaho Falls, ID -- Small grasshopper (probably inch long females) that were black like the rocks and had vibrant royal blue wings.

Humpback Locust -- Unknown -- Found at a ranch between Greycliff and Laurel, MT -- Solid light green locust about 3 inches long. The individuals also have huge humps on the thorax.

Desert Locust -- Possibly related to Dissosteira -- Eastern Utah -- Large grasshoppers about 3 inches long that were excellent fliers. Colors ranged from a pale green to a mottled brown. They liked to hide in sagebrush.

Geyser Grasshopper -- Unknown -- Caldera region of Yellowstone National Park -- Small black and white striped grasshopper that I've only seen near geyser fields at the park.

Zebra Grasshopper -- Unknown but possibly related to the Geyser Grasshopper -- Short-grass areas of Montana -- Small black and white grasshopper with the barring going up and down, not head to wingtip. Legs are beautifully ringed black and white.

So hopefully, you can help me id some of these grasshoppers. And I can't wait to go out again and start looking for grasshoppers!

Ingresado el 04 de julio de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de junio de 2019

Time to Make Empid Complexes?

Over the course of two weeks, I've observed several species of empids in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene region, including Willow Flycatcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, a rare Alder Flycatcher (sadly unable to photograph/record it) and a potential Cordilleran Flycatcher. Anyone notice what the connection between the species I listed above? For those birders out there older than dirt, you would know that the Willow and Alder Flycatcher, and the Pacific-slope and Cordilleran Flycatcher were once the same species.

Probably the more well known complex is the Pacific-slope/Cordilleran (originally known as the Western Flycatcher) was split in 1989. Ever since then, they have been giving birders and even scientists headaches distinguishing them between each other. I will not go into the details of the taxon and why they were separated. The other complex was the Willow/Alder Flycatcher or the Traill's Flycatcher was split in 1973 for similar reasons.

The question I'm posing though is, should iNat curators start making empid complexes. And I think that it should extend beyond the two complexes I just mentioned. In cases dealing with empids, you can only separate certain species by call, habitat and range.

Here at the complexes I think should be added to iNat:

Western Flycatcher (Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher)

Traill's Flycatcher (Willow/Alder Flycatcher)

Hammond's/Dusky Flycatcher

Gray/Dusky Flycatcher

Now, you may ask, why is making the complexes important? That is because some of these empids CANNOT be identified to the species level by just a photo or such. Plus, we still don't know the range status of the Western Flycatcher in the Blue Mountains or northern Idaho. Not too mention, DNA analysis have been preformed in Idaho and there is hybridization between the species. By providing these complexes on iNat, we can id the empids to an even more correct id than just Empidonax genus.

Ingresado el 14 de junio de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 1 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de junio de 2019

In the Headlights

I believe its going to be hard to beat the amazing experience I had the evening of June 5, 2019. The goal of the trip was easy, go up the Grande Ronde River for 16 miles to Troy, a tiny community hidden in a deep and isolated canyon in northeastern Oregon. We would've never expected to find what we did that evening.

We were driving from Lewiston to Enterprise on WA-129 and OR-3. However, we heard from locals that Bighorn Sheep were spotted on the Grande Ronde River heading to Troy. We knew we were driving through in the evening, the best time to spot the elusive climber since they go to the water sources to drink before sunset. But I'll tell you right now, we did not see any sheep. Maybe next time.

Anyway, other things we saw up there was were Steller's Jays, Bald Eagles (including a nest!), Common Nighthawks, a single Common Poorwill and Spotted Sandpipers. That was just the animals I couldn't get shots of. One of the coolest things on the trip was, we rounded the corner and saw a mother Mule Deer with two recently birthed fawns by her side. While momma and one fawn charged up the hill, the second fawn just dropped to the ground and pretended to camouflage.

It was around eight o'clock by the time we got to Troy. What we didn't know at the time was that every other road out of Troy was impassible for our little car in daylight. So you can guess what we did. We turned back and didn't expected to see much. We were wrong.

While I was looking out over the river, finding any nocturnal creatures coming out, my dad swerved and slammed on the brakes exclaiming, "I think that was a snake!" We turned around and shone the headlights over exactly what my dad saw, the infamous Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. The only other time I had seen a rattlesnake was when I was on a Boy Scout High Adventure near Vantage, Washington along the Columbia River. However it was dead as some of my 'friends' harassed and killed it because "It was going to bite someone." Till that day, I had never seen a live rattlesnake. That moment of seeing that beautiful diamond pattern and the rattle on the tail was very special to me.

After taking pics, we anxiously prodded the snake off the road in case another car came up. We started driving slower after that and we had our eyes glued to the road. Soon, we saw another rattlesnake. Two in one day! The next snake was my favorite reptile of all-time, the Great Basin Gopher Snake. Not long after the gopher snake, we found another rattlesnake. Then another... and another... and another. After the sixth rattlesnake, a car passed us and we started addressing our concerns.

The next snake was dead hatchling Gopher Snake, right on the same corner we found the Mule Deer fawn. It wasn't much later when we saw another gopher snake run over. The next one was alive and we were realized to get it off the road. Then we found another rattlesnake. But the last rattlesnake was also ran over, presumable by the car that passed us earlier. The poor snake's head was smashed and I hope that however killed it has its fangs in his flat tire.

The last two snakes of the night were two young Gopher Snakes which we got off the road easily. It became quite some time before we had seen a snake and we were certain the reptile hunting was done for the night. Then a toad crossed the road. It was first Western Toad I have seen since moving from Montana over four years ago. After getting the little hopper off the road, we found another toad crossing the road. The last thing we saw that night was a skunk up on OR-3 five miles up the canyon.

As I said before, that evening was hard to beat. I saw my first live rattlesnake and it was amazing. The thing was, I am now starting to grow a very fond fascination of rattlesnakes. It was just an awesome time and I'm glad we followed a rumor about Bighorn Sheep.

Ingresado el 07 de junio de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 16 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de junio de 2019

When I Report Subspecies

This is a topic that I've been wanting to share for awhile and I hope you can bare with my bickering and complaining. But here's the topic that keeps stabbing my mind, identification of my sightings to the subspecies level.

There are about 10,738 species of birds in the world and about 20,000 subspecies. Though a lot of these subspecies are different in terms of size, there's still a good portion of them being different morphically. I want to show a few examples.

Most people across the US and Canada knows what a Dark-eyed Junco is. However, there are many subspecies that look a good deal different from each other. Most people in eastern US know the Slate-colored Junco (Junco hymealis hymealis) which are gray overall. However, birdwatchers in western US see the Oregon Junco (J. h. oreganus Group) which have black heads and orange sides. Even people in southwestern US and Mexico see different Dark-eyed Juncos, namely the Red-backed Junco (J. h. dorsalis) have a pale gray body, a black mask and a rich brown-red back.

Point I'm trying to get across is, these subspecies are easy to identify and record in iNat (well, with the exception of the Oregon Junco Group) and I think we should. And that's what I always do when I submit an avian species to iNat, I identify down to the subspecies level. Every time I identify to subspecies if the species has one.

The problems I've been observing though is the fact that most birders or 'experts' on iNat, do not even bother to dive into the rich diverse world of birds. I've stopped counting the occasions when I've had naturalists correct my identification to the species level. When this first started happening to me on this site, I guess you can say I was holding grudges on those naturalists that did that. One of my thoughts were, "I identified to the subspecies level and you really took the time to click the 'Add Id' button and typed the species name I just suggested, just a higher rank." To me I still don't find the logic to that. Such as, if I say I saw an Interior Western Screech-Owl and you know for a fact its Western Screech-Owl, just hit 'agree' for the love of science. Is it really that hard?

And I know, that probably sounds rude and all but I am trying to get you to know how I feel when I try to get more valuable information. And here's the excuse, comeback or whatever you may call it you would say to me. How do you know you're right? And so you know, I do agree with that statement. I can be wrong at times. An example being the Red-tailed Hawk. The differences morphically between subspecies is a lot more subtle than the Dark-eyed Junco. For Red-tailed Hawks, namely Eastern (Buteo jamaicensis borealis), Western (B. j. calurus) and Northern (B. j. albeticola) have their unique "traits" between each other but they have overlaps in features, meaning that you have the observe all the traits of the individual to identify it to the subspecies level. And you can find any of these subspecies virtually any of these subspecies anywhere in Canada/US, especially in the fall migration/winter.

Lucky for us however, the Red-tailed Hawk is just one of the few species where subspecies range overlap and a lot of them can be simply identified to the subspecies level through range, and for migratory birds, their summer range. Federally licensed birders have banded birds for years across the continent and their research has shown that subspecies that differ usually by can size can be identified to the subspecies level by range. It's actually what I did when I banded for a summer job.

But we also need to keep in mind of what's in the future of avian taxonomy. Nearly everyone who birds or have posted birds use the Biological Species Concept (BSC), which identifies subspecies by reproductive isolation. However, some believe the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC) to be more correct, as it identifies a species through range, characteristics and plumage differences. Let's show an example of the two concepts at work. A person using BSC will simply call a Song Sparrow and leave it at that. However, PSC believes that even subspecies are species and should be identifiable, so an observer using PSC would call it either Rusty Song (Melospiza melodia morphna) or Eastern Song (M. m. melodia) based on range, plumage and vocal differences.

And as we learn more and more about birds and their taxonomy, it appears that the Phylogenetic Species Concept is becoming more and more logical. If it would suddenly become our way of thinking of bird species, we'll suddenly see an increase of 8,000 species of birds. PSC also affects mammals too and I think if they applied it to them, I'm should the White-tailed and Mule Deer would be split.

Point I'm trying to get across is, if we suddenly see an increase of bird species, are we prepared to identify those birds to the new species level. I think it's better to be educated. So if you see an observation of mine with an id to the subspecies level, I want you to think about it before typing in 'Great Horned Owl' or whatever. If you feel that uncomfortable about agreeing with me, tell me. Send me a message and I will try my best to explain the differences in subspecies for that bird. I am willing to help educate. There's a lot of work to do on iNat, let's get going!

Ingresado el 01 de junio de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 10 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de mayo de 2019

My Global Big Day 2019

For those who are big birders, knew that yesterday (May 4th) was Global Big Day, a worldwide event where birders try to find as many species of birds in one day. Out of the several years this event has been done, the record was last year with over 7,000 out of the 10,438 species of birds were spotted.

Now, enough talk about what Global Big Day, I'm writing about how my Global Big Day went. I went birding across multiple regions in Union County, Oregon, a great place for all species. In the month of May, I have good chances of seeing over 172 species. I knew from the beginning I wasn't going to get close to seeing that many, but I wanted to see at least a hundred, just like in 2018 when I went across Walla Walla and Columbia counties. So with me, my father and my brother as a group, we explored the county's secrets with a dozen other birders.

We started out at six thirty in the morning and drive along the backroads from Union to Hot Lake, Oregon. In a course of an hour, we saw over 43 species, highlights being Wilson's Snipes winnowing, a feeding Golden Eagle and dozens of Common Yellowthroats singing. These two roads proved to me once again that birding is best in the morning, especially when I explain later on.

Next stop was Ladd Marsh WMA, a place where birds are cooperative and a great place to see all marshland type birds. Spending a considerable amount of time there, we were able to add 14 more species to our list. I especially enjoyed all the calling Sora, my first ever close experience with them. Though I never did got my photo, I got beautiful audios of their keweee calls. I also had one run nearly by my feet! Other highlights include rails, Marsh Wrens and swallows. We even got harassed by a pair of Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers because we got too close to their nests. Finding the harrier nest was a first.

After Ladd Marsh, we started our way to La Grande and heading up into the hills. On the way there in a flooded cattle field was a Greater Yellowlegs, my first sandpiper of the year (excluding the snipe). We climbed up to one of the hidden gems in La Grande, Oregon. A pair of watering holes named Morgan and Twin Lake. Recreation was in high demand at the larger, more accessible Morgan Lake, so we decided to hike the quarter mile to the lily pad covered Twin Lake. We were the only people there besides a pair of canoes. The lake's pristine habitat allowed us to see a hummingbird, nutcrackers and various diving ducks. A Spotted Sandpiper was also spotted along with several MacGillivray's Warblers.

Our next birding area was up along Spring Creek in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The place has been famously known for over forty years now as the place with the highest concertation of Great Gray Owls in the world, about 2 pairs per square mile! However, because the species is extremely sensitive to human interaction, so we are looking one of over 11 nesting platforms in over 5,000 acres of possible habitat. I'm not sure about you but it sounds like finding a needle in the world's largest haystack. Needless to say, we didn't find any owls after three long hours and eighteen miles of driving and hiking. On the bright side, we saw jays and crossbills. Chipping Sparrows were also in full force. We even saw a meadowlark and a pair of Barn Swallows, the last place I thought I'd ever see them!

The next couple mountain roads were kind of a letdown. We crossed the interstate and worked our work to Mount Emily in the east. We saw our first Mountain Bluebirds and juncos but nothing more. We worked our way back into the valley and we took several ranch roads heading to Elgin. However, it was nearly five in the afternoon now and we hadn't seen much in the past two hours.

Our last and final stop was at the Cove Sewage Treatment Plant. There we saw many goslings, a bufflehead and a Ruddy Duck. A female Great Horned Owl on a nest also greeted us. As much as I thought my day was over, I still saw something new. I was heading back into La Grande to finish off the day with a movie when a pair of Vaux's Swifts chirped and flew over my head. Over the course of the day, we saw 87 species and some of those birds I will never forget. I may have come short of my goal by thirteen (man, unlucky for me) but it was still a great day. I am not patiently waiting for October Big Day this fall.

Ingresado el 06 de mayo de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de abril de 2019

How to Enter Your Observations of Red Crossbill Types

Undoubtingly the most complex and confusing avian species in North America is the Red Crossbill. It wasn't in till 2011 when we started scratching the surface of the species. Several things were noticed in the crossbills across the continent, they all had different calls, beak shapes and trees they ate from. In the evaluation, 11 call "types" were described and in 2017, one of the call types was evaluated to the species status. Now, why am I'm explaining this when you can read the articles written by Matt Young and Tim Spahr on ebird? Because iNaturalist is breaking down the species to subspecies and not call types and I want to clear the confusion to those that will be identifying mine and other crossbill photos or audios.

Here's a brief rundown on Red Crossbill types and subspecies, according to the most recent revision by Matt Young.

Appalachian Crossbill (Type 1)
Taxonomy: Might be the type specimen of L. c. pusilla but has been often referred to L. c. neogaea (this subspecies is not in iNat). However it seems this call type needs a new name that hasn't been formally described yet.

Ponderosa Pine Crossbill (Type 2)
Taxonomy: Most appropriately placed with L. c. benti (Rocky Mountain Crossbill on iNat) but may also be L. c. bendirei (Bendire's Crossbill).

Western Hemlock Crossbill (Type 3)
Taxonomy: Likely L. c. minor (Lesser Crossbill) but Type 10 also falls into this subspecies category so a new subspecies may be described.

Douglas-fir Crossbill (Type 4)
Taxonomy: Unknown but it may be L. c. vividior (this subspecies not on iNat).

Lodgepole Pine Crossbill (Type 5)
Taxonomy: Most appropriately placed with L. c. bendirei (Bendire's Crossbill) but because of its range resemblance to Type 2, it may also be L. c. benti (Rocky Mountain Crossbill).

Sierra Madre Crossbill (Type 6)
Taxonomy: Very likely goes with L. c. stricklandi (Mexican Crossbill).

Enigmatic Crossbill (Type 7)
Taxonomy: Unknown but may be L. c. neogaea (not on iNat) or L. c. pusilla.

Newfoundland Crossbill (Type 8)
Taxonomy: Probably associated with L. c. percna. Also note that some authorities place L. c. pusilla as a synonym of L. c. percna.

Sitka Spruce Crossbill (Type 10)
Taxonomy: Best matches L. c. sitkensis (Sitka Crossbill on iNat) but is similar to Type 1, 3 or 4 and the type probably needs to be studied more.

Central American Crossbill (Type 11)
Taxonomy: L. c. mesamericana

So with all that information in front of you right now, here's how you'll enter your types in iNat if you wish to do so with subspecies.

Call Type Subspecies on iNat
Appalachian Crossbill (Type 1) L. c. pusilla
Ponderosa Pine Crossbill (Type 2) L. c. benti [Rocky Mountain Crossbill] (preferred), L. c. bendirei [Bendire's Crossbill]
Western Hemlock Crossbill (Type 3) L. c. minor [Lesser Crossbill]
Douglas-fir Crossbill (Type 4) Subspecies not on iNat
Lodgepole Pine Crossbill (Type 5) L. c. bendirei [Bendire's Crossbill] (preferred), L. c. benti [Rocky Mountain Crossbill]
Sierra Madre Crossbill (Type 6) L. c. stricklandi [Mexican Crossbill]
Enigmatic Crossbill (Type 7) L. c. pusilla
Newfoundland Crossbill (Type 8) L. c. percna
Sitka Spruce Crossbill (Type 10) L. c. sitkensis
Central American Crossbill (Type 11) L. c. mesamericana

As we continue to learn more information about the crossbill types, I will post more journal entries on them. I will try to be curator for iNaturalist to add the subspecies for Type 4. Hope you enjoyed and good luck looking for crossbills!

Ingresado el 24 de abril de 2019 por birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario