Monday, January 31, 2011

new Checklist of the Birds of Wisconsin

I've been working on updating the Birds of Wisconsin checklist for the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology website for almost a year - the old one was outdated. Jesse Peterson (WSO's former president and current Membership Chair) has recently helped me with it, and it is now ready. Thanks to Jesse for his assistance with this process. Thanks also for suggestions and additional ideas to Bettie Harriman, Tom Schultz, and Jeff Baughman.

See the new checklist at:

This checklist incorporates the most recent updates in nomenclature and sequence - it follows the most recent changes mandated by the American Ornithologists' Union's North American Classification Committee (NACC) for their Check-List of North American Birds. There are many changes to scientific names, many changes to the sequencing of species within the list, and one
family has been completely eliminated from the WI list. Thraupidae, which used to be the family containing the North American representatives of the tanagers, is gone from our WI list. The 3 species we see in WI (two are rare) are now classified in the Cardinalidae. The Thraupidae still exists, of course, but only those tanager species breeding in the tropics are included in that family now.

The position of the longspurs and Snow Bunting in the list has been moved (now placed in their own family, the Calcariidae), the genus name for the waterthrushes is different, as is the scientific name for Winter Wren (now split from the newly-named Pacific Wren of the west coast and Pacific Northwest), and many other changes will be noticeable as you look through the
list. Note the new common name for Whip-poor-will - it is now Eastern Whip-poor-will. This separates it from the recently-split Mexican Whip-poor-will.

Bill Mueller
Conservation Chair, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

bird conservation and other news

See recent news at the BirdLife International news page, here.


See recent info from Conservation International on their biodiversity and human health initiatives.


And, if you haven't seen it in a while, see recent information from the World Wildlife Fund at their website. (Did you know, for example, that there are only ~3200 tigers remaining in the wild today?)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

a book about economics and truth

If I could suggest one book that I think all citizens should read this year, it would not be a book about ecology. This is a fact that even I find surprising; but after reading the first lengthy essay in this amazing book, it's the truth contained herein that is so powerful and provocative. This book is a series of essays on economics, entitled What Matters? - Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth, by Wendell Berry, (with a forward by Herman Daly), published by Counterpoint Press. If you already know the work of Wendell Berry, the clear-eyed wisdom found here probably won't surprise you after all. And if you've never read anything by Wendell Berry, this is as good a place to begin as any.

Here are two reviews from somewhat different perspectives:
this one, from the Englewood Review of Books, or this one.

I heartily recommend it: Economics for people who never studied economics, and for those who did.

Monday, January 24, 2011

another fine new field guide

Perhaps we shouldn't really call this book a "field guide" - in fact, the publishers (Princeton University Press) call Birds of the West Indies, by Norman Arlott, an "illustrated checklist". It's smaller than most field guides by half - only 240 pages. But that small size packs a lot of information, on 550 species from the West Indies region. Each matching text page with its facing page of gorgeous plates displays from six to ten species. You'll find that the West Indies are rich in nightjar species, hummingbirds, and cuckoos. Some species are very familiar to the North American birder, because of course there are many of "our" breeding species that winter in the West Indies, and they are all illustrated and described here, in addition to the many endemics found in this region. The last 70 pages are all maps, somewhat simplified, showing the range of the species highlighted on the overall map of the region. I always like guides with maps arranged nearer the plates and descriptions, but it's rather easy to see why this method of organization was chosen, due to the small size of the book and the limitations that creates. A fine book for any birder traveling to the islands - and I wish I was headed there right now. I'd be taking this book with me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

more on Bobwhites

Early in the week we had a little flurry of posts on Bobwhites, and I had a fair number of backchannel queries about this species.

The image here is the BBS trend graph for the entire central BBS region.

Here's a quote from the Birds of North America species account for the bobwhite:
"On continental scale, this species is declining significantly in most states in U.S. Texas is a notable exception, where populations show stable trends over broad areas, especially in southern part of the state, but not in eastern or panhandle regions. During 1965–1995, regional, statewide, and local declines of 70 to 90% were common and widespread in 80% of states with Northern Bobwhite. Numerous extinctions of local populations were prevalent throughout geographic range in South and Midwest."

This is from the following source:
Brennan, Leonard A. 1999. Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

using some solid references about WI birds

When learning about bird distribution, abundance, ecology, status, management, conservation, and where to find birds in Wisconsin, there are a few recommended and very solid sources of information that can be easily found online in some cases, or in public libraries or bookstores in other cases. If you are a beginning or intermediate birder, you may not have found your way to these items yet - but if you really want to learn more about birds in this state, these can be very helpful:

Robbins, S. 1991. Wisconsin Birdlife: Population & Distribution - Past & Present. University of Wisconsin Press. (This might be referred to as "the" book on Wisconsin birds, by the dean of Wisconsin ornithologists, the late Rev. Samuel D. Robbins, Jr.)

Cutright, N. J., B. R. Harriman, and R. W. Howe. Eds. 2006. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Wisconsin. Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Inc. (Our state atlas, the product of thousands of hours of mapping the breeding distribution of birds in WI, with species accounts for all of our breeding species.)

Find the online parts of the atlas info at:

I was shocked recently to learn that some active birders do not know about the atlas, or the atlas website. That's really the reason for this post.

Find the All-Bird Conservation Plan of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative online at:
See the species accounts at:

See the website of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology at:

For birdfinding, nothing can match the Fifth Edition of Wisconsin's Favorite Bird Haunts, edited by Daryl D. Tessen, published in 2009 by WSO. At 540 pages, it contains detailed information about the best places to find birds in Wisconsin - it's really a comprehensive resource.

A very useful reference and one of the all-time bargains in ornithology, the little blue pamphlet called Wisconsin Birds: A Checklist with Migration Graphs, Sixth Edition, by Stanley A. Temple, Robert C. Domagalski, and John R. Cary, published in 2003 by WSO, is one of a short list of indispensible references - and you won't believe how inexpensive it is (see ).

I'll stop there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

good news for wetland birds in Iraq

See some great news at the BirdLife International news page, here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

mountaintop removal coal mining and bird conservation

Mountaintop removal coal mining is a practice that much evidence suggests is damaging to ecosystems, destroys bird and wildlife habitat and negatively impacts human communities. Learn more about it at this website.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

American Bird Conservancy News

News from the American Bird Conservancy is available at this link.

latest BirdLife International news

See the latest news from BirdLife International at this link.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

my vote for best field guide of 2010

Since many new field guides are published each year, it's not easy for one to rise above the pack. But this book - Birds of the Middle East, Second Edition - by Richard Porter and Simon Aspinall (Princeton University Press) is the obvious choice for "first place" for me.

The reasons? The artwork is spectacularly good. Images of many plumages are included. The authors have expanded their coverage of species by 1oo over those found in the first edition - there are now more than 800. There are more species accounts and more than 820 maps. Maps are on the facing page, which is still not true for all field guides. The book is still really "field guide-size" - making it easier to actually use in the field.

For those heading to the Middle East, this book should make birding easier for you. And I pick it up every few days just to look at some of the plates, (owls, for example...and large falcons...and the many Middle Eastern wheatear species!)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

widespread decline in North American bumble bees

Worrisome news about bumblebee declines:

"the relative abundances of four species have declined by up to 96% and that their surveyed geographic ranges have contracted by 23–87%"

Friday, January 7, 2011

bird conservation reminder for the new year

Go to this link at the Saving Our Shared Birds website for a timely reminder. Please get involved in any way you can in 2011.

bison and Yellowstone

Each year, America's wild bison face hazing and slaughter as they leave the safety of Yellowstone National Park -- one of the last havens they have left.

I hope you will join me to stop this out-dated and terrible policy.

Please take action at this link.