All Posts

by Anders Gyllenhaal

In a world turned upside-down, birds can help restore some sanity

Second of two parts There’s not a lot to be optimistic about during the virus meltdown, but here’s something bird enthusiasts can celebrate: The news is full of suggestions that people take up birdwatching to battle stay-at-home boredom and anxiety. As birders all know, the more people get interested in ...
Read More

How the Northern Cardinal is helping me through the virus crisis

First of two parts If there’s a singular song of spring, it’s the call of the Northern Cardinal. That loud, distinctive whistle is often the earliest note of the morning in much of the country. When the full bird orchestra eventually joins in, the Cardinal still holds the first chair ...
Read More

An unexpected discovery: These birds are a lot more like us than we knew

When researchers built a giant grid of radio receivers for tracking birds in the sandy fields south of Orlando, they hoped to find new ways of protecting the struggling Florida Scrub-Jay. Florida Scrub-Jay / Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal They discovered something else along the way. Birds are a lot more ...
Read More

Here’s a springtime gift: Powerful new birding tools arrive just in time for the migration

For years, the twice-a-year migration of billions of birds was one of nature’s most spectacular events that we never really got to see. That’s because most of the action takes place out of sight, far above us and often at night. That began to change in the last decade with ...
Read More

A Tricolored Heron worthy of the Olympics

It’s a move that seems to defy physics: The Tricolored Heron hovers in midair just above the surface when it dips its neck down and snags its prey from near the surface of the water. This medium-sized heron is named for its striking collage of blue, purple and white plumage ...
Read More

Here’s some good news: How a finicky, focused bird made its way back

A couple of days ago someone asked me what bird I’ve found most interesting to write about so far. The answer caught me by surprise – it was the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the only endangered woodpecker in the country and the bird I happened to be researching at that very moment ...
Read More

How to get started as a birder: Six suggestions from the experts

Somewhere in the inner workings of migratory birds, a signal goes off that tells them it’s time to head north. Is it just our imagination, or do birders get the same kind of inkling as spring comes within reach? Either way, it’s time to get ready for the best part ...
Read More

How did a Great White Pelican fly around the world? Here are some answers.

How does a huge, lumbering bird like the Great White Pelican fly halfway around the world to reach a place like Florida? Great White Pelican lands on Merritt Island Refuge/Photos by Anders Gyllenhaal It’s a question birders and experts alike have been asking in the weeks since one of these ...
Read More

How on earth? Great White Pelican shows up on the other side of the world

It wasn’t a Great White Shark, but for Florida’s best birders, it may as well have been. When the first reports hit that a Great White Pelican – usually found in Africa or India – had been spotted in a wildlife refuge near Titusville, well, you can imagine what happened ...
Read More

Floridians and their Scrub Jay: Can they coexist?

It’s the height of the birding season in Florida, where some 500 species can be found from the sawgrasses marshes of the Everglades to the North Florida oak hammocks. But if you had to choose a single ambassador for the state’s huge bird population, it would be the Florida Scrub ...
Read More

In the blink of an eye, this bird reminds us how much there is to learn

Great Blue Heron Anders and I are back in Florida for the next several weeks, indulging a passion for chasing the birds. It’s our sixth birding adventure to the winter home of millions of birds – from stately herons and egrets, to sassy songbirds, opportunistic seagulls and menacing hawks. It’s ...
Read More

How an invisible bird is saving the rainforest

In almost every interview with scientists and researchers, a question comes up about why birds are important to people. One of the most compelling answers I’ve ever heard came in an interview for a piece running in the Washington Post this week exploring the powers of bioacoustic research. A Puaiohi ...
Read More

Hummingbirds on the move: Evolution on fast-forward

A few weeks ago, dozens of readers from around the country shared their hummingbird stories on our Facebook page after we ran a post on the growing numbers of the tiny birds that are skipping migration and staying in the U.S. for the winter. Birdwatchers from Michigan to Texas, Seattle ...
Read More

Third major report in succession establishes a new era of bird research

We spent many hours during the last spring migration at the crest of Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, hanging out with some of the area’s most experienced birders waiting to see what species would appear next. When the mornings were slow, the conversation sometimes turned to how unpredictable the migration ...
Read More

What started 150 million years ago — and is just as fascinating today?

Osprey One of the most startling developments in all of nature occurred 150 million years ago, when a string of conditions came about that enabled a branch of the dinosaur family to lift off the ground and take flight. Scientists are still trying to explain exactly how this occurred. It ...
Read More

Here are 5 top-flight gift ideas for your favorite birder

Finding holiday gifts for birders is relatively easy since birders tend to love all things birdy. And there are a lot of birdy gifts out there. The challenge is targeting the type of birder you’re dealing with, and then homing in on just the right choice for them. Here are ...
Read More

Can the Wild Turkey survive? Thanksgiving is the least of its troubles.

Something is after the Wild Turkey. Actually, almost everything is. A pair of Wild Turkey hens forage in a field in Eastern Maryland. A combination of coyotes, hunters, loss of habitat, hawks, climate change and troubles in the nest is undermining the species that once competed for the title of ...
Read More

Getting a close-up view of some beautiful birds

The inherent contradiction of birding is that we want to get as close a look as possible of subjects who want to stay as far from us as they can. CloseUps, our new feature on Flying Lessons, seeks to answer that urging with a series of photos that help you ...
Read More

Probing a hummingbird mystery — one band at a time

Ruby-throated Hummingbird The tiny captive is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, held firmly in fingers that are far bigger than he is. What happens next will help solve an intriguing migration mystery affecting one of the world’s most intriguing birds. Along the North Carolina coast, hummingbirds are creating a birders’ kerfuffle by ...
Read More

How one squirrelly nuthatch can change your world view

Last in a series If it’s a crisp fall morning, with the sun highlighting the gold and orange of the still-moist leaves, it’s possible that luck could bring you a visit from a nuthatch. And if you get that chance and if you have the time, you’ll want to sit ...
Read More

“This isn’t only a bird crisis. The birds are just the messenger.”

Part of a series John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, has spent his career talking about why people should care about birds. John Fitzpatrick This fall, that argument has shifted to include a tougher, more compelling question: Why should people care that a quarter of the bird ...
Read More

Headed for the birding superhighway and a perfect migration pit stop

We’re on our way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to witness something magical. By the hundreds, flocks of songbirds, ducks, swans, skimmers and other shorebirds will touch down on this chain of islands and wildlife preserves to take advantage of nature’s perfect pit stop. A Black Skimmer at ...
Read More

10 things you can do to help stop the alarming decline in birds

Part of a series The recent study that found a quarter of the bird population has been lost in the U.S. and Canada made such a big splash that it had one unexpected consequence: Some people came away thinking things are too far gone to do anything about it. The ...
Read More

Why 3 billion birds vanished: Understanding the startling new research

First in a series Many causes contribute to the losses. Solutions will be just as complex. Three billion birds have vanished in North America in the span of a single lifetime. They’re just gone. It’s as simple as that. But at the same time, this staggering finding from the study ...
Read More

New research finds 30 percent of the bird population lost over 50 years

Every birder will want to tune into a study published today in the journal Science that reaches a startling conclusion: Three billion birds — or 29 percent of the total population across all species — have been lost in North America since 1970. The research is much more than a ...
Read More

Great Egrets: Putting on a bird ballet

Our trip along the storied Montezuma wildlife drive in upstate New York had been all but devoid of birds the first hour. Then we turned the corner at the halfway mark and came upon a scene that instantly made up for the quiet start. Two dozen Great Egrets stood clustered ...
Read More

Nature’s jewels: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the move

The statistics for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are almost as stunning as a close-up look at their iridescent plumage. Zeroing in on the male hummingbird Their wings can flap up to 80 times a second. They weigh about 3 grams – a wisp of a bird at a tenth of an ounce ...
Read More

Birds in training: A couple of young Sapsuckers learning the ropes

The Sapsucker mom trying to teach her fledglings We were just finishing our morning coffee, dawdling at our campsite in update New York, when we looked up to see something precious: A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feasting on the fluid of a birch tree not 15 feet away. As we sat still ...
Read More

What will it take to mobilize the country’s birders?

Our long-planned visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., this week began just as the White House announced plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act. The move seemed to strike at the heart of the lab’s work to protect birds in a time of accelerating declines. We ...
Read More

Recruiting new birders at the Airstream Rally: Have I lost my mind?

With only a few days to go until our “Beginner’s Guide to Birding” seminar at the 62nd International Airstream Rally, I still couldn’t figure out what to say. When Anders and I volunteered to do the talk months before, the mission seemed simple: Persuade our fellow campers to try their ...
Read More

Birders love exotic species, but it’s everyday birds that get people talking

When we post photos on Facebook, as we try to do every couple of days, we learn all kinds of things from the thousands of readers following our Flying Lessons page. Some tell birding stories. Others share photos. Together, they let us know which species they like best. Raptors are ...
Read More

One magical night: A chance encounter with three baby owls

Trying out an owlish stare. They were just weeks from leaving the nest for the last time, still learning to fly, but the trio of fledgling Eastern Screech Owls seemed ready to conquer the woods. Every night at dusk, they’d materialize around our campsite in the hills of Virginia and ...
Read More

What’s this bird? How a drab little guy stumped the experts

When you upload a bird photo to the terrific Facebook group called “What’s This Bird?” you tend to get an identification back in a matter of seconds. A few nights ago, however, something was wrong. I like to count how long it takes for my mystery bird to be pegged, ...
Read More

Audubon honors magnificent bird photography worthy of a museum

The grand prize winner was taken by Kathrin Swoboda of Vienna, Va. See the gallery below for photo details. The grand prize winner of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards captures a Red-winged Blackbird in a scene that would be at home on the wall of an art museum. The most ...
Read More

A ray of sunshine, the Goldfinch takes center stage

The American Goldfinch is a symbol of summer. Impossibly yellow in May, June and July, they stand out like flashes of sunlight flitting across meadows, farmlands and treetops. Then as the summer ends, the intriguing cycle of nature begins. Like a debutante with a closet full of clothes, the Goldfinch ...
Read More

The hidden miracle of summer: Here comes a new feathered generation

Early one morning on a bird walk in Cape May, N.J., our guide was excited to show us something exquisite: A tiny and all but hidden nest of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting on a nest woven into a tree branch We walked in utter silence, single file, through ...
Read More

How a Waxwing woos a mate: A story with a surprise ending

Two Cedar Waxwings materialized above the wildlife park in Northern Virginia and pirouetted into an aerial ballet. They rose and fell, circled high above the lake, then swooped down close to the ground. They pulled all this off in precise formation like two tiny jets on military maneuvers. And then ...
Read More

The day I learned birding etiquette: Or how to mind your manners on the trail

In our early days on the trail, it took a while to realize that birding has its own, largely un-communicated set of dos and don’ts. I’ll never forget the morning we pulled into a nature preserve parking lot alongside a group of folks wearing khaki vests and putting away cannon-sized ...
Read More

Magnificent photography fuels a campaign to save the Earth’s rarest eagle

Toward the end of the full-length documentary “Bird of Prey” about the quest to save the Great Philippine Eagle, a chick followed from birth to adulthood takes off for its first flight and slowly soars high above the jungle. A Philippine Eagle soars over the jungle. Photo by Neil Rettig ...
Read More

Spoonbills flee South Florida’s troubles. But what about the others?

One of the biggest questions hanging over the birding world is what will the rapid changes in the environment mean for various species. In a piece in The Miami Herald running this weekend, we return to a topic from a few months ago and try to go much deeper into ...
Read More

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: