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May 11, 2021

Return of Bird of the Week: Black-faced Nunbird

Black-faced Nunbird, Eastern Peru

Here’s another member of the Puffbird family, and close cousin to last week’s White-fronted Nunbird, the Black-fronted Nunbird. At least in WC’s experience, this is a much more common species, and unlike its cousins, hangs out in the lower understory, making it a little easier to photograph. It’s also a little more active than its more sedate White-fronted cousin. Its call is very different, an upslurred  “curry-curry-curry” to WC’s elderly ears. The head is uniform black, with that bright orange bill. There’s a small bare patch on the face, behind the eye, also black. The body shows highlights of blue-gray…

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Return of Bird of the Week: White-fronted Nunbird

White-fronted Nunbird, Ecuador

There are whole families of birds that are only found in the Neotropics – Central and South America – that are almost unknown to all but hard core birders. One of those families of birds is the Bucconidae, the Puffbirds. They take their English name from their somewhat puffy appearance. It’s called “lax plumage” and gives the birds a disheveled, puffy look. There are 36 species of Puffbirds. WC has only seen and photographed a few of them. One of them is the White-fronted Nunbird. Nunbirds take their name from their mostly black feathering which looks vaguely like a nun’s habit….

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Return of Bird of the Week: Long-tailed Sylph

Long-tailed Sylph, Ecuador

A reader has pointed out that the Bird of the Week feature has had almost exclusively hummingbirds for a half a year now. It’s a fair point. WC is far from exhausting his collection of hummingbird photos, but there are dozens of other families of birds. So WC will change tracks starting next week. But let’s end the hummingbird series with a bang: here’s a Long-tailed Sylph. It’s a difficult bird to photograph. A photographer is forced to a vertical composition, and the famous “Rule of Thirds” has to be thrown out at the start. And no matter what the…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Collared Inca

Collared Inca, Peru

The taxonomy of this hummingbird is a mess. Depending on which ornithologist you are talking to, the Collared Inca is actually four species (GReen, Collared, Gould’s, Vilicamba) or just one. WC ran out of digits attempting to count the subspecies; again, it depends entirely on the bird researcher. WC has seen three of these “species” but counts it as one. Birds of the World (paywalled) has lumped the four and treats them as a single species. This is a cloudforest bird, resident year-round in the humid montane forests of the Andes, mainly at 1,800–3,000 meters altitude, sometimes lower at 1,500 meters….

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Return of Bird of the Week: Gray-breasted Sabrewing

Gray-breasted Sabrewing

Return of Bird of the Week was delayed a day for the Fourth of July. With that behind us, let’s have a look at another hummingbird. This is a species WC has only seen once, and only briefly. This is the best of the three poor quality photos WC managed to get before the bird left. Like last week’s much more colorful Violet Sabrewing, this is a member of the genus Campylopterus, probably the drabbest member of that genus, and the subspecies Obscurus, the drabbest of that species. Kind of the polar opposite of its Violet cogener. WC has not been…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Violet Sabrewing

Violet Sabrewing, Costa Rica

Another stunningly beautiful hummingbird, to which WC’s photo doesn’t being to do justice. A gem of purple, blue and green, with a strongly decurved bill, this is another ridiculously colorful hummingbird. It’s also Central AMerica’s largest hummingbird, measuring 15 centimeters (a little over 5.25 inches). Unlike most hummingbirds, male Sabrewings compete for females on a lek. As many as ten birds gather and sing in saplings in the forest understory or edge, two to four meters above the ground. The song is described as “a long series of evenly spaced but variable notes: cheep tsew cheep tik-tik tsew cheep …, high-pitched…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird, Sawtooth NRA, Idaho

WC has access to his bird database again, so we’ll return to Hummingbirds for a bit longer to pickup some of the North American species; to this point, all but one of the 20 or so hummingbirds WC has shown have been endemic to Central and South America.[^1] We’ll start these last few with the Rufous Hummingbird. Alaska’s sole breeding hummingbird species. The Rufous Hummingbird has the longest migration of anybird species, at least if you measure the length of migration in the length of the bird doing the migrating. WC has photographed this species in Resurrection Bay, west of…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting Male, Boise Foothills, Idaho

We’ll take a break from hummingbirds for a bit. WC is being forced to change his digital asset management software – the software that stores and organizes his 180,000 plus photos – and the change process makes all those photos unavailable for the duration. Which is probably measured in days. Happily, WC has been testing other digital asset management software, and has bird photos cached there. Including some shots of Lazuli Buntings, photographed last month in the Boise foothills. There are a handful of North American bird species that WC thinks are a terrific introduction to the pleasures of birding….

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Return of Bird of the Week: Volcano Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird, Costa Rica

The Volcano Hummingbird is tiny, even for a hummingbird, just 7.5 centimeters (a little less than 3 inches) long. It also has a tiny habitat, ranging in the higher mountains of Costa Rica to western Panama. And within that habitat it prefers to scrubby vegetated areas. In that part of Central America, taller mountains tend to be volcanoes; hence, the species’ common name. The background in this first photo is in fact a volcanic cinder field. The species also has tiny territories, in some cases just 15 square meters, which the males defend aggressively. Unlike a lot of hummingbirds, the…

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The Anti-Greta, Climate Change & the Alaska Senate Race

By Zachary Brown She stood in the roiling crowd, amid clean-cut college kids and potbellied dudes in cowboy hats and media men dashing this way and that. Her stringy blonde hair, her dark eyeliner, her sneakers and the flannel tied round her waist, all gave a picture of punk defiance. How ironic, I thought, given the suit-wearing merchants of the status quo she represents. They chose someone small and thin as a garter snake for their enormous, dreadful task. Meet Naomi Seibt: the anti-Greta. The GOP needed an answer to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has gained astonishing traction…

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