Birds & Words #16

Urban birding, penguin panic, bird count, and more.

Missing emperors
For 60 years, up to 24,000 emperor penguin pairs have been known to flock to Halley Bay, their second largest breeding site in Antarctica. But in 2016, they abandoned the site after severe sea ice changes. Some of the pairs moved to a nearby colony but the rest are unaccounted for. Strange as it may sound, it’s not their disappearance that concerns scientists the most. Scientists had thought of Halley Bay as the last resort for emperors in a warming world.

Counting birds
Using data from eBird and weather radar stations, scientists have estimated the number of birds that migrate over the Gulf of Mexico every spring. On average, 2.1 billion birds head to their spring breeding grounds in North America. What’s more, the migration is happening as we speak. So keep your eyes peeled if you happen to be in their migratory path.

The urban wild
I wrote this! After months of writing for children, I am stoked to share something with grown-ups. This piece on urban wildlife features, apart from the occasional ant and deer, lots of birds—from great crested grebes dancing on water to woodpeckers drumming on trees.

Sexism in birding
Like everywhere else in society, there are gender bias and sexism in the birding community too. It is mostly dominated by male voices but things are changing with the hatching of women’s birding clubs. But are exclusive women’s clubs the answer?

Two new birdies
Scientists have recognized two new species of white-eyes from Indonesia. One of the newfound species has long puzzled taxonomists because of the geographical origin of Sulawesi Island, where it is found. The island was a result of a collision between the Asian and Australian tectonic plates and is home to species similar to those found in both Asia and Australia, leading to taxonomic confusion.

Upcoming birding events:
May 4 is the Global Big Day. It is also the Endemic Bird Day in India. Time to get your binoculars out. As Karen O’Neil says in the sexism piece, “If you don’t use your binoculars on a regular basis, you really can get rusty pretty quickly.”

May the Fourth be with you.