We Love Birds Bulletin

Posts from Bexar Audubon Society about
birding and conservation articles, programs, webinars, classes,
and other newsworthy items for BAS members.

February 24, 2022

How Well Do We Really Know Cardinals?

A familiar favorite may be more mysterious than you think. New research suggests that the Northern Cardinal warrants a closer look—and perhaps a split into multiple species.

“Everybody thinks, ‘It’s a cardinal, I know what a cardinal looks like,’ ” says the study’s lead author. “But when you really start digging in you realize, ‘Oh, maybe they’re not what I thought they were.’ ”

Learn more about the case in support of a split—and get ready to rethink this iconic backyard bird.

From National Audubon: Examine the Evidence and Think About It.

January 18, 2022

Visit Environment for the Americas website for more information.

November 7, 2021

Virgin Birth in Condors?

close-up photo of california condor
After 30 years of breeding condors, a secret comes out. Justin Hofman / Alamy

It was a real surprise a few years ago when scientists conducting routine DNA testing among captive California Condors came up with some unexpected paternity. Two birds – known by their tracking numbers as SB260 and SB517 – were not related to their presumed fathers! Apparently, they had no known fathers at all. Fully 100% of their DNA had come from their respective mothers.

This is known as parthenogenesis, a phenomenon that has been studied in invertebrates, as well as in various species of snakes (e.g., boas and pythons), lizards, sharks, rays, and some bony fish. Yes, sometimes it even occurs in birds, such as turkeys and chickens, a subject mainly studied by the poultry industry.

The condor study, led by the much-respected research group at the famous San Diego Zoo was published in late October in the Journal of Heredity.

A good summary, presented by Sarah Zhang, staff writer at The Atlantic, can be found here.

October 27, 2021

Project FeederWatch Starts November 13

5 Years of Project FeederWatch - The Zen Birdfeeder
Project FeederWatch provides valuable information about movements of wintering birds that may be visiting your feeders this winter (photo by Kerrie Wilcox).

Are you ready? It’s time to Join or Renew now for the 2021-22 Project FeederWatch season, which runs from November 13 through April 30. If you are a first-time FeederWatch participant you will receive the ever-helpful double-sided bird identification poster, and FeederWatch calendars will be mailed to all participants who wish to receive them. It’s time to start getting ready for the coming Project FeederWatch season by reading the online instructions, then begin counting your birds when the season starts.

For more details, click Here.

October 25, 2021

Saudi Arabia’s First October Big Day of Birding

In celebration of Global Bird Weekend and World Migratory Bird Day, on Saturday, October 9th, birdwatchers in Saudi Arabia took part in this year’s October Big Day. During the event, the global birding community tried to record the highest number of bird species possible in a single day. By the end of the day that Saturday, the Saudi Birding Team had recorded a total of 221 species, putting the Kingdom in 44th place out of the 193 countries in which birdwatchers submitted checklists to eBird, an online database of global bird observations developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Greg Askew, an Aramco employee in Saudi Arabia who gave a presentation to Bexar Audubon this summer, helped organize the event. Read the story here.

October 7, 2021

Keep Cats Safe at Home

PET SAFETY BEGINS AT HOME. October is National Animal Protection and Safety Month — the ideal time to review simple ways to keep your beloved pets safe, healthy, and happy at home. Just a few safety measures and modifications to your home, garage, and yard can head off pet accidents, avoiding unnecessary (and costly) trips to the veterinarian or hours of panic searching for a lost pet. Check out these valuable tips and the benefits of catios, including Cassie’s catio story. Various catio resources are available, including DIY catio plans by Catio Spaces. Use promo code BASLovesBirdCityTXSA and 10% will come back to us as a donation.

October 6, 2021

A Stunning Collection of Bird Portraits Explores the Nature of Beauty

Photographer Tim Flach’s new book invites us to marvel at the sheer diversity of avian species.
Both sexes of the Inca Tern, left, sport a red beak and fleshy bright yellow gape patches—and a snowy white mustache that flutters in the wind as they fly. The King Vulture is a largely silent bird with an extremely colorful head that it bows during courtship. 

With their sensuous textures, striking color patterns, and whimsical highlights, birds’ beauty certainly delights us, but its real audience is birds themselves. Avian ornaments have evolved through their capacity to intrigue, entrance, inform, and attract mates. In this way, birds are agents in their own evolution. 

Read and see more by evolutionary biologist Richard Prum HERE.

October 6, 2021

Fall Feeding Stations

Wild Birds Unlimited - Nature Shop

As fall colors progress southward with the cooling temperatures of October, birds that will become winter feeder visitors are working their way south too. Re-imagine your feeding station with many goldfinches, siskins, nuthatches, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, and native sparrows on hand. Plus local birds like cardinals, chickadees, and jays are scouting where reliable food sources exist as they transition from summer insects and berries to fall seeds and suet. It’s time to transition to offer “fall and winter foods” – if you haven’t already made that move. Read more from The Birding Wire HERE.

Don’t forget to check out your local Wild Birds Unlimited store for all the feeders and food items that you and your backyard birds could want. And be sure you have native plants at your home that offer fruit and berries for our winter residents and visitors. For help with selecting appropriate plants for our area, check out the Native Plant Society Chapter nearest you and the National Audubon Society Plants for Birds website.

October 4, 2021

During his experiment, evolutionary biologist Jay Falk found out that colorful female Jacobin Hummingbirds had lower chances of being chased away by other hummingbirds when they accessed feeders than their drab counterparts.
Credit: Jorge Alemán, STRI.
Deceiving Plumage
Female Hummingbirds That Look Like Males
To Avoid Harassment

One of the most distinctive features of many birds is their colorful plumage, an attribute that scientists have frequently associated with sexual selection because it is often observed in reproductive adults: the flashier their feathers, the more likely the birds are to find a potential mate. However, after looking at over 400 hummingbirds in Panama, Jay Falk, a former pre-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, suggested another possible explanation.

“In the case of hummingbirds, specifically the white-necked Jacobin that I study, males are colorful and most females are comparatively dull,” Falk said. “But if you look closely, it turns out that about one-third of female Jacobins look like males.” Oddly enough, all juvenile females exhibit this flashy plumage. Yet, as they become sexually mature, most of them lose it. So, if mating is not a priority for these young females, why would all of them exhibit the colorful feathers? Read the entire article HERE.

October 1, 2021

Why Most Birds Look Their Best in Fall Plumage
A FAMILIAR BIRD TRANSFORMED: A female American Robin in worn plumage (left, typical of July) and fresh plumage (right, typical of October).

If I asked you to name the season when birds are looking their best, I suspect you would answer “spring.” That’s when most species are in their most showy and colorful breeding plumage. But I would like to make a case for fall as the season when birds are actually at their most beautiful.

Spring birds certainly capture the headlines with their bright colors and contrasting patterns. Birds like buntings, warblers, and tanagers have just returned to their nesting territories and use their brilliant color to show off for mates and rivals. The beauty of fall birds is more subtle – delicate shadings of gray and buff, crisp pale edges, all feathers new and unblemished. Read the rest of the article here.