Saturday, August 31, 2013

Warbler Guy, does the new American Birding Association "Birder's Guide" magazine have articles about wood-warblers?

Good question, Tom R. (in Seattle).

I'm confident the answer will eventually be an ongoing "yes," though I have the premiere issue of this new magazine and, gulp, I feel deprived because no mention of wood-warblers occurred among the excellent initial articles.

No doubt, the rising popularity of birders pursuing wood-warblers nationwide means this new periodical (that replaces the now-defunct Winging It ABA publication) promises to be a wonderful source for The Warbler Guy and you to read about worthy wood-warbler birding places.

Here's a review of Birder's Guide as it appears on the web site:

Birder's Guide is the new, quarterly, full-color ABA magazine. Instead of 96 pages of black-and-white content appearing in your mailbox each year (Winging It), you'll now receive about 192 pages of a full-color, glossy magazine—on top of the 6 issues of Birding you already get! And that doesn't include the expanded online content we have up our sleeves.
Our first issue, A Birder's Guide to Travel, is, well, precisely that! Within its pages you will find practical, useful tips from experienced travelers on what technologies can make your trip most productive, on how and what to pack, and, most importantly, on where and when to go, and why. Making a reappearance is the ABA's much-valued Pelagic Directory, which had been on hiatus the past two years. ABA members will receive two more issues ofBirder's Guide later this year: A Birder's Guide to Listing and Taxonomy and A Birder's Guide to Gear. We’re trilled to offer the first (and all subsequent issues of) Birder’s Guide as a downloadable e-magazine, available at the following link:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Any common bird name changes to the annual American Ornithological Union (AOU) Check-List, Warbler Guy? In turn, does the American Birding Association (ABA) adopt these new bird name changes, including splits that create two new species?

Jake, that's a great question.
The recently published July issue of The Auk (published by the AOU) has the answer. 

It features the annual supplement to the AOU Check-List*, and, indeed, the ABA Checklist automatically adopts changes in taxonomy adopted by the AOU.
(* = Fifty-Fourth Supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-list of North American Birds(pp. 558-571)  
R. Terry Chesser, Richard C. Banks, F. Keith Barker, Carla Cicero, Jon L. Dunn, Andrew W. Kratter, Irby J. Lovette, Pamela C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen Jr., James D. Rising, Douglas F. Stotz and Kevin Winker)

But do NOT get too excited. Sit back in your chair. The ONLY new landbird split for the entire 2013 list centers on the SAGE SPARROW. It's a GREAT, handsome bird species, no doubt. 

The newly split Bell's Sparrow, this one from Baja California, Mexico, photo by Jorge Montejo via flickr

BUT not a wood-warbler. 

So, ho-hum, here are the details on the split: The old, you're-sooooo 2012 version of the SAGE SPARROW
is now the Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) and Bell’s Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli).

The Bell's species includes the intermediate-looking, interior-California-breeding subspecies called canescens as the scientific name trinomial. Some experts believe this population may eventually be split from Bell’s Sparrow and become a species of its own. Most if not all vagrant records of “Sage Sparrow” in the central and eastern parts of North America relate to Sagebrush Sparrow.

OK, now back to the edge of your chair and out the door with your binoculars as you enjoy the southbound wood-warbler migration. Pinch me, as I'll soon enjoy seven days in WI while searching for wood-warbler dispersers and migrants as I head to the Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Door County area for birding by myself and with friends.

(Err, I must admit, some day soon, I'll again be able to lead tours there in the spring and fall....For now, it's a mere personal foray and no tours or classes scheduled, BUT feel free to tempt me by contacting me, if you wish: danieledelstein at att dot net....and warblerwatch dot com)

Thanks to the ABA's Michael Retter who helped me read and learn about the aforementioned split. He's a treasure and his writing is easily found at the ABA birding blog:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Yellow-rumped Warbler split opinion? Why? (i.e., Why does the American Ornithological Union (AOU) and the International Ornithological Union (IOC) split their opinion as to whether the YRWA warrants splitting into full species or should remain as subspecies)?

Andrea, your question to the Warbler Guy (above) shows me you are as passionate about warblers as me.

So put on your Focus Cap for a few seconds of intense reading pleasure that aims to educate:

As brief background, in 2011 the AOU voted down a measure that would have split Yellow-Rumped Warbler into two, three or four species*.

(Audubon's Yellow-rumped subspecies appears in photo.)

As many of you already know, the Yellow-rumped Warbler currently occurs as four subspecies, according to many researchers: the “Myrtle” group (coronata), and the “Audubon’s” group (auduboni), “Black-fronted” (nigrifrons), and “Goldman’s” (goldmani)

The taxonomy of these Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies was under consideration in 2011 for change by an AOU committee and, currently, is not under consideration for a status change by this committee (according to my "sources").

(NOTE  #1: In the N.A. Birds Online account for this species, the following additional subspecies is described in the "Myrtle group (below photo)":  Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies: D. c. hooveri (McGregor, 1899). This subspecies breeds in central and s.-central Alaska, se. Alaska, Yukon Territory, Mackenzie, and nw. British Columbia; intergrades with auduboni known from Stikine River, AK (Gibson and Kessel 1997). Like nominate coronata, slightly larger, with longer wing (minimum wing length 73.5 mm in females, 75.5 mm in first-year.
males, and 78.0 mm in adult males); more streaked below (Alternate-plumaged males) or paler brown (females). Characters broadly clinal where range meets that of nominate coronata; for this reason, hooveri not recognized by Hubbard (1970). More recently, hooverimaintained as valid (Godfrey 1986Gibson and Kessel 1997, R. Dickerman and P. Unitt pers. comment.

NOTE #2: The IOC splits two subspecies in this group and recognizes Audubon's and Myrtle as two species).

(* = The AOU vote was 7–4 against any divisions of the Yellow-rumped complex. The committee members suggested the need for further genetic analysis and determination of the extent of interbreeding in the subspecies’ contact zones where the “Myrtle” group (coronata), and the “Audubon’s” group (auduboni) mix in western Canada. The status of two other subspecies — “Black-fronted” (nigrifrons), and “Goldman’s” (goldmani) remain unchanged.

Black-fronted is a resident in Mexico, and Goldman’s occurs only in southernmost Mexico and Guatemala. Neither of these two subspecies has been observed in the American Birding Association geographical area.)

As for why, the IOC considers the Myrtle and Audubon's to represent two distinct species, the following 10 naming rules appear to guide the IOC's reasons for adopting name choices, with one or more the reason why the IOC divides the Yellow-rumped Warbler into two species: Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler and Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler:

  1. Each species should have one name only >>
  2. A species name must be unique >>
  3. Anglicized names are acceptable >>
  4. Established names should prevail >>
  5. Local names should not have priority >>
  6. Offensive names should be changed >>
  7. Patronyms are acceptable without bias for or against >>
  8. Simplicity and brevity are virtues >>
  9. Use of the word “island” will be limited >>
  10. Species in the same genus may have different group names >>
For more information, see: 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Warbler Guy, do you have a list of birding resources to share (books, audio/video/slides/bird song-call recording equipment)? Can you post a link to a handout that features bird watching books, bird watching guides, bird watching videos, tapes, and CDs, etc.?

Birding Resources

Daniel Edelstein • 415-382-1827 •

(my seven-year-old wood-warbler blog)

(my Merritt College blog)


Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds, John K. Terres,
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1980

The Birder's Handbook, Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobbins, Darryl Wheye, Simon & Schuster, 1988

Birds of North America: A Guide to Field Identification, Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun, Herbert S. Zim, Golden Press, New York, 1966
(The only field guide I’ve seen that features “sonogram” charts that
show the frequency range and song progression for birds.)

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Nat. Geographic Society, 6th edition

Ornithology, Frank B. Gill, WH Freeman and Co.

Sibley Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley, Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, David Allen Sibley, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2001

Warblers, Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett, The Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1997.

Warblers of Ontario, Chris G. Earley, Point Pelee Nature Series, Lithosphere Press, 1999

(The) Warbler Guide, Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, Princeton Univ. Press, 2013


Birding By Ear, Roger Richard Walton and Robert Lawson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990,,, 607-254-2404; 607-254-2473 (Note: Different published versions include "Eastern Central" and "Western")

Bird Songs, Cornell Lab or Ornithology, 1990,,, 607-254-2404; 607-254-2473
(Note: Different published versions: "Eastern Central" and "Western")

Songs of the Warblers of North America, Donald Borror and William W. H. Gunn, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Library of Natural Sounds, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850,,, 607-254-2404; 607-254-2473 (CD)

Recording equipment, Full Compass Inc., Madison, WI
(speak to Sheldon Allen,, 800/356-5844 x1132)

Slides of birds, VIDEO, (Slides cost $2.95 each)

Watching Warblers (video), M. Male and J. Fieth, Blue Earth Films, 1996

Note: Many of these resources are available through the American Birding Association’s “Birder’s Catalog,” 800/634-7736; or Buteo Books, 800/722-2460. Cheapest prices are usually obtained through or