Monday, October 31, 2011

Pintails in Highland Park

Saturday's snowstorm was followed by a strong cold front that pushed some migratory birds southward. Other bloggers who got out yesterday morning will probably have more birds to report than I do. In the afternoon I walked around Donaldson Park, my local patch. Despite not bringing my binoculars, I saw five Northern Pintails in the park's pond. I see pintails at that location only once or twice a year, and only during fall migration. These birds most likely arrived on the previous night's cold front and will probably depart in the next day or so.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow in October?

Yesterday, New Jersey had a highly unusual October snowstorm, the first since 2008. Usually the state gets its first significant snowfall in mid-December. With a wet snow and leaves still on the trees, there were a lot of reports of limbs breaking (though I did not see any limbs down myself). Some of the trees, like the dogwood above, looked extra colorful with the combination of red or orange leaves with a white frosting of snow.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Flowering Dogwood in Autumn

In autumn, the leaves of flowering dogwoods turn red, ranging from a bright red to a dark purplish red. These two photos were taken on separate days. The one above is from Thursday when it was raining. The one below is from yesterday, when it sunny.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Loose Feathers #314

Merlin / Photo by Bill Thompson (USFWS)
Birds and birdwatching news
Nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Thursday, October 27, 2011

American Oystercatcher Banding

Banded shorebirds at Cedar Key, Florida
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is participating in a multistate banding project to monitor American Oystercatchers.
The oystercatcher is an especially easy bird to survey during fall migration due to its distinct features. Not only do they stand apart from other shorebird species with their unique orange bill and striking coloration, but color bands help us determine individuals as well.  Banding efforts have been underway in New Jersey since 2004 in order to give insight to researchers regarding the
oystercatcher’s breeding habits, pair behavior, and migration patterns. About 300 oystercatchers have been banded in New Jersey to date, including a significant percentage of the state’s estimated 400 breeding pairs.

Adult oystercatchers are captured every year during their breeding season using a trap called a noose carpet.  This flat trap, which is covered in noose knots, is partially buried under the sand near the oystercatcher’s nest. A wooden decoy is placed in the middle of the trap.  When the breeding pair catches sight of the decoy imposter, they approach it to defend their territory and get caught in the trap.  Once trapped, researchers place two orange bands with a two letter/digit code, denoting that they were caught in New Jersey, and one silver U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band on their legs. They also take a variety of body measurements and obtain a DNA sample from a feather for further research.  Chicks are also banded a few weeks after hatching and before they are able to fly.

The process of banding oystercatchers, while time consuming, has taught us many important things.  Among many other findings, banded birds have helped us confirm that oystercatchers are long living, and exhibit strong site fidelity and pair bonds.  Individual color bands have also shown us their migration route, as well as how long they stay at their migration stopover sites and wintering grounds.
Oystercatchers banded in each state covered by the project are given a different color band. If you happen to spot a color-banded oystercatcher, you can report the observation to the American Oystercatcher Working Group.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Boreal Habitats and Birds at Risk

Oscar Lake in the Northwest Territories
©D. Langhorst, Ducks Unlimited
Three conservation organizations (Nature Canada, NRDC, and the Boreal Songbird Initiative) have issued a report discussing the threats to birds in three areas of the boreal forest that are currently coming under increasing pressure from human activity. You can view a quick summary, a press release, or the full report (pdf). The forests and wetlands of the boreal are home to billions of birds from over 300 species, which use the habitats for nesting, and in some cases wintering, territories. That includes more than half of the world populations of 96 species. Alterations to those habitats, especially to water quality, will effect how well they can support bird life. Many species that breed in the boreal forest winter in the United States or further south. Changes in boreal habitats could, in turn, affect how many birds we see during spring and fall migrations.

Major flyways coming out of Canada's boreal forest
©Boreal Songbird Initiative
Here are a few affected areas discussed in the report:
  • In the Hudson and James Bay Lowlands, forests were flooded as part of hydroelectric projects. The area provides breeding habitat for 28 waterfowl, 21 other waterbirds, and 19 shorebird species. Hydroelectric energy is clean in the sense that it does not produce carbon emissions, but it comes with the cost of lost breeding grounds for birds and contaminated fishing areas for native inhabitants.
  • At the Peace-Athabasca Delta, tar sands mining is reducing water quality, and flows have dropped. The delta is recognized as a global IBA and a significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention. It is home to 215 bird species, including the endangered Whooping Crane, which breeds in Wood Buffalo National Park. The delta itself is protected, but the waters flowing into the delta are not, and those upstream activities threaten the productivity of the wetlands downstream.
  • Logging activity in the Lake Superior Watershed is reducing biodiversity and removing important food sources for the millions of birds that live there. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on earth and drains over 49,000 square miles, much of which lies in the boreal forest. Bird species that breed in this watershed include several that depend on spruce budworm outbreaks, which are reduced when timber companies spray with pesticides.
Rusty Blackbird
©Jeff Nadler
The boreal forest provides habitat for threatened species such as the Rusty Blackbird, Yellow Rail, and Whooping Crane. Conserving those and other species will require maintaining human activities in the forests at a sustainable level.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Late Season Pollinators

As long as there are flowers blooming and the temperature is above freezing, there will be pollinators active. I have been seeing fewer larger bees, but there are still a lot of small bees and syrphid flies. The hoverfly above was busy sipping nectar while it got pollen stuck to its feet.

This small black bee was busy working the same flower head, but it picked up much more pollen on its hairy body.

These photos were my first attempts at photography using a film canister as a flash diffuser. You can read more about the technique at the link. I like the results so far. Using the film canister allowed for a brighter image, with a sharper look because of the faster shutter speed, and very few harsh reflections from the flash.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Injured Hawk Rescued and in Treatment

Last week, observers in San Francisco Botanical Gardens spotted a Red-tailed Hawk that had a nail stuck through its head. It seems that the nail must have been fired from a nail gun. For most of the last week, the hawk eluded rescuers, but last week, it was finally caught.
The juvenile bird was trapped Saturday evening at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. It was immediately transported to the wildlife center where specialists stayed late to receive it, Dmytryk said.

WildRescue had been notified of the injured bird nearly a week ago and had tried to trap it several times last week without success.

But observers got close enough to the bird to see the nail extending from its cheek through the front of its head. They said the hawk appeared to be in pain.

Dmytryk's group had been using a trap called a bal-chatri, a trap made of wire mesh, to try to catch the injured hawk.
According to the report, the nail dropped out while the hawk was being taken to the wildlife center. The bird is currently alive and recovering.

There is a reward for information about the shooting since it is a federal crime to kill or injure birds without a take permit (or a hunting license in the case of game birds). I think it is terrible that someone would injure the hawk (deliberately or not) and then leave it without trying to get help for it. Fortunately, the hawk appeared to be able to hunt and eat, but it could easily have been otherwise. These are wild birds and deserve to be treated humanely and with respect.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Autumn at Fairview Farm

Throughout the spring and summer, Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve is a great place to observe insects, particularly butterflies and dragonflies. It has two small, fenced-in butterfly gardens, one full of wildflowers and the other sown with a mix of wildflowers and ornamental flowers. The rest of the property has a small pond and a variety of open and wooded habitats that contain foodplants for a variety of insects. The meadows seemed like they might be attractive to sparrows during migration, so that is where I birded yesterday.

As it turned out, I ended up not seeing that many sparrows yesterday. I saw a small flock of crisp-looking Savannah Sparrows in one of the butterfly gardens. Plus there were some Song Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows around. But the fields seemed to have very little sparrow activity at all.

There was a bit more activity in the wooded and edge areas, where I saw a lot of Yellow-rumped Warblers. I saw my first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the fall, as well as a Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and some Palm Warblers. Towards the end of the morning, I heard and then saw two Ring-necked Pheasants along the entrance road into the preserve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fallen Leaves

Autumn foliage is not at its peak quite yet in central New Jersey, but already quite a lot of leaves are blanketing the ground. Here are some photographs of fallen leaves that I took this week.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Loose Feathers #313

Rufous Hummingbird / Photo by Dave Menke (USFWS)
Birds and birding news
Nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oiled Pelicans Honored with a Photography Prize

Last summer saw the publication of multiple portfolios of images documenting the wildlife harmed by BP's months-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Subsequent to their publication, I saw some suggestions that the photographers deserved journalism prizes for their powerful depictions of the suffering inflicted by the sticky oil slick. One of those photographers, Daniel Beltrá, has now been awarded the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year for 2011. The photo that won him the prize is at right.

Here is a bit more about the winning photograph:
Daniel Beltra, who hails from Spain, entered an exceptional portfolio of pictures entitled The Price of Oil into the WPY's photojournalist category, which he also won. Most were aerial shots of the Gulf of Mexico slick and the desperate efforts made following the blow-out to clean up the mess; but it is the pelican portrait that stands out.

The birds are seen clustered in a box at a rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. At that moment, the animals had just gone through the first stage of cleaning, which involved spraying them with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers. The resulting smelly, mucky residue dripped from the birds' plumage on to a white sheet.

"The problem with birds is that as soon as they get dirty, they try to clean themselves, which means they swallow a lot of oil. By November 2010, I think they had recovered over 6,000 dead birds," Daniel said.

"There was a closed door on the box. Every so often it would be opened and a bird would be taken out to be cleaned properly. I had a 35mm lens and when that door was opened, I would look in and grab three or four shots. The intent was not to disturb them any more than was necessary."
Here is the website for the competition and gallery of winners, including a collection of images by Daniel Beltrá.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Red Maple Leaves

Two Red Maple leaves, lying on the sidewalk.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Movies with Birds

With the release of The Big Year into theaters this weekend (based on a book I reviewed yesterday), a film critic decided to list the top 12 bird-related movies. They are:
  1. Winged Migration
  2. The Birds
  3. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
  4. The Birdman of Alcatraz
  5. March of the Penguins
  6. Surf's Up
  7. Fly Away Home
  8. Chicken Run
  9. A Dispatch from Reuters
  10. Rio
  11. The Raven
  12. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole
Some are documentaries, and not all involve wild birds. Do you agree with this list? Would you add any other movies?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: The Big Year by Mark Obmascik

Birding has long had a competitive side, which is most evident in the completion of big years. Compiling a long life list has an element of competitiveness, but it requires steady effort over many years to rise to the top. A big year, on the other hand, requires an intense effort over a single year, often to the exclusion of other activities. A big year birder is competing against previous records, personal milestones, and any other birders that might be doing a big year in the same year. It requires both visits to regular hotspots and chases for individual rarities, some of which may occur at unexpected sites.

A big year is the attempt to see as many species as possible within a defined area during a single calendar year.  The geographic area for a big year can be large or small. It could be done at a city, county, state, or national level. It could be restricted by means of transportation, as BIGBY birders do. For North American birders, the most prestigious big years are those that cover the entire ABA Area, which includes the mainland United States and Canada, plus a handful of nearby islands and pelagic zones.

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik chronicles the efforts of three birders – Sandy Komito, Greg Miller, and Al Levantin – as they attempt an ABA Area big year in 1998. Each of the birders came from a different background and approached the big year with different resources. Levantin and Komito were both well-funded with steady lives at home, but Miller was barely afloat financially after his divorce and only completed his big year with extensive borrowing and overtime hours at the nuclear plant where he worked. Each of the three had their own reasons for starting a big year and only learned of his competitors as the year progressed.

It would be hard to imagine a better year than 1998 to break a big year record. Airfares were relatively cheap, and security was not as tight as it is now, making it possible to make more last minute flights. More importantly, a powerful El Niño created unusual weather patterns in and around North America. These weather patterns pulled many vagrant species from Asia into Alaska and from Mexico and Central America into the southwestern U.S. Other birds showed up in odd places too, like a Xantus's Hummingbird in British Columbia. Because of the high degree of vagrancy that year, it will be very difficult for future birders to break the record set that year.

This book is a good introduction to the competitive side of birding for anyone new to the subject. For that reason, it does not surprise me that The Big Year appealed to filmmakers. Obmascik does not assume much knowledge about either birds or the history of birdwatching as a hobby. He spends a chapter on the development of birdwatching, starting with Audubon and continuing through Peterson and Fisher's first North American big year up to the years before Komito, Levantin, and Miller each decided to attempt a big year in 1998. There are some inaccuracies in this account. In particular, Obmascik overstates the role played by Peterson's 1934 edition of A Field Guide to the Birds. However, the historical account is informative on the whole and provides the necessary context for someone new to birding to understand what Komito, Levantin, and Miller were trying to accomplish.

If you are a birder, chances are that you already know who finished in first place that year and how many species he saw. If not, there are a few places during the narrative where the outcome seems in doubt. Either way, the narrative is engaging and dramatic. In addition to telling a compelling story, Obmascik offers colorful descriptions of the places, birds, and situations the birders encountered during the big year. Consider this description of the Brownsville Municipal Landfill, home to a vagrant crow:
Nobody besides the crow liked going there. To say it stunk did injustice to the word stunk. It reeked. It rotted. It marinated decades of throwaway table scraps in the fecund humidity of the Rio Grande Valley and then roasted it under the South Texas sun. It smelled so bad it made grown men cry.
The version I read for this review was a special edition of The Big Year published in conjunction with the movie version that was provided to me by the publisher. This edition has a promotional photo for the movie on the cover. The paper and binding feel rather cheap and flimsy. This was the first time I read The Big Year, so I do not know how it compares physically to older editions. The movie opened in theaters this weekend; here is the trailer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An App to Identify Birdsong

I mentioned this already, but it really deserves its own post. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin are developing an app to identify recorded snippets of birdsong:

Photo: Jeff Miller
For more than a year, Berres (and his graduate students, of course) have been testing and improving the fruit of that inspiration: WeBIRD, the Wisconsin Electronic Bird Identification Resource Database.

Like music-identification apps Shazam and MusicID, WeBIRD allows anyone with a smartphone and a mysterious bird nearby to record the bird’s call, submit it wirelessly to a server and (after a few seconds) receive a positive ID on the species of bird tweeting away within earshot.

“I am amazed at how good it is,” says Berres, who has also used WeBIRD to identify grasshopper species by their clicking calls and frogs by their croaks. “In fact, not only can WeBIRD tell you which species you’re hearing, it’s good enough to identify individual birds from their song.”

For birders, the former qualifies as a reason to rejoice. For researchers, the latter could change the nature of field studies. For the birds, WeBIRD — which hopes to make available to the public in time for the spring migration in 2012 — could be a lifesaver....

Accurate automated analysis of recorded songs could help researchers track the comings and goings of flocks and individuals. Instead of sending students and scientists out into the wild to collect data — collection that could be hindered by variations in hearing, fatigue, biting insects and the very presence of a human being — a research team could venture out periodically to collect recordings of research plots and analyze the results with WeBIRD.

To place a bird call with its species is a chore far more complicated than the music-matching apps....

“When a bird sings, the song itself may have varying amplitudes and frequencies,” Berres says. “It can also speed up a little bit, slow down a little bit. They may throw in a note here or take out a note there.”

Birds also differ their calls throughout the day. And a bird of a particular species on UW–Madison’s lakeside campus may develop an accent of sorts, distinct from birds of the same species living just a few miles away at the UW Arboretum.

The WeBIRD algorithm dices bird calls into time-ordered chunks of frequency and energy, using data-organization techniques more often applied by geneticists to jumbled bits of DNA geneticists to “align temporally misaligned data, working around a lot of the variation,” Berres said.
An app like this was bound to come along sooner or later, and however well it works, it is likely to change birding. If its use becomes widespread among birders, more birders will be able to identify birds by sound. Will this tool be accepted by the birding community? Will identifications by app count the same as identifications by ear or sight? Will the ABA adjust its listing guidelines in light of the new app? These things will all need to be worked out once the app becomes publicly available.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bird Impacts of the New Zealand Spill

An oiled White-capped Albatross (Forest & Bird)
BirdLife has a bit more on how birds are being affected by the oil spill in New Zealand that I mentioned in yesterday's Loose Feathers. It seems that breeding seabirds are most affected:
Many seabirds are currently breeding on offshore islands in the Bay of Plenty and nearby regions and any impact on the parent birds will also affect their chicks. These seabirds breed in burrows so any birds with oil on their feathers could carry that oil into their nests and harm their chicks as well. If the parent birds have swallowed oil, both they and any chicks they feed are likely to die or be harmed, and the chicks of parents that die will starve.

Karen Baird said it was important that experts should get out to the breeding colonies to check on the harm occurring there. Among the dead birds recorded so far are 178 Common Diving-petrels Pelecanoides urinatrix, 114 Fluttering Shearwaters Puffinus gavia, 68 Buller’s Shearwaters Puffinus bulleri and 13 Little Penguins Eudyptula minor, along with smaller numbers of albatrosses and other species of petrel....

Eleven oiled Little Penguins were taken to the Oiled Wildlife Response Unit in Mount Maunganui overnight and five New Zealand Dotterels Charadrius obscurus had been removed from areas threatened by oil pollution at Matakana Island, Maketu and Pukehina.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Loose Feathers #312

Roseate Spoonbills / Photo by Jonathan Milak (USFWS)
Birds and birding news
Nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper is a native vine that grows distinctive five-leaf bunches. In the spring and summer, the leaves are green, but right now, the leaves have turned a rich, dark red. In fall, the vine produces dark berries, which become food for migrating birds.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Honeylocusts in Autumn

I may have mentioned before that honey locust are one of my favorite trees. My affection for them stems partly from familiarity. As I was growing up, I could see a magnificent honeylocust tree out my bedroom window every day. Honey locusts are also common on my local patch in several groves. These honey locust groves provide some of the best birding, as it is relatively easy to spot birds among the small leaflets. In winter, the bare branches take a variety of gnarled forms, making them photogenic in even the bleakest of winter weather.

In autumn, the compound leaves turn a golden yellow before they fall. They are one of the first trees to turn, so that they are often bare by the time other trees are at their autumn peak.

Honey locusts are in the legume family (Fabaceae). In the fall, they produce curved seed pods, which hang from their branches. The distinctive pods are about 6-8 inches long and contain numerous seeds. I remember playing with these pods as a kid, but I am not sure whether I ever connected them with these marvelous trees.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Canada Geese on Golden Water

Canada Goose flocks are starting to reach their winter numbers at my local patch. During the summer, there are usually about 50-100 geese present, as many of the geese move to other places to find breeding sites. By the beginning of autumn, the goslings have matured and the flock starts to swell with new arrivals. During the winter, about 400 geese are present on any given day.

Right now even these common geese are photogenic, at least when they pose on water that is reflecting colorful foliage.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monarch on Buddleja

Monarchs are still present in good numbers. I have not seen a repeat of the numbers that occasioned my monarch migration post. However, they are still present in higher numbers than I would see during the summer, so presumably their number is being swelled by southbound migrants. If you want to see migrating monarchs, now is the time to do it, before the cold sets in.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Whooping Cranes Headed South

Whooping Cranes / USFWS Photo
This year's flock of captive-bred Whooping Cranes will be headed south soon, under the guidance of Operation Migration's ultralight aircraft.
There are 10 cranes in the 2011 flock, five male and five female. This year, the birds were trained how to follow the ultralight planes at a new site, the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area, which is southeast of Necedah, Wis., where earlier flocks have been trained.

The endangered birds are part of an effort by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a consortium of government and private agencies from Canada and the United States that works to ensure the crane's survival.

Before the whoopers are born, the sound of ultralight aircraft is played near the eggs. After they are born, the birds are fed and cared for by people dressed in whooping crane costumes carrying whooping crane puppets. No one ever speaks near the birds to prevent them from bonding with humans.

The birds imprint on the ultralights and their costumed pilots, and are trained to follow the aircraft to learn how to migrate.

The program is designed to create a second migratory flock of whoopers in the event members of the only existing wild migrating flock, which flies from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, get sick or die off. The goal is to have 125 individual birds, including 25 breeding pairs, in the Eastern Migratory flock.

Once the birds finish their southern migration, they fly north on their own in the spring. The first year of the program, 2001, was also the migration that took the least amount of time, only 48 days. The longest migration was 97 days in 2007. The length of the trip depends on weather conditions. For the safety of the pilots and their precious charges, they only fly in favorable weather.
Half of the cranes will spend the winter at St. Mark's NWR, and the other half will winter at Chassahowitzka NWR. Currently there are 96 Whooping Cranes in the eastern migratory population and about 400 overall in the wild.

You can follow updates about the journey on the Operation Migration website.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Early Autumn Butterflies

While many butterflies are already past their flight periods, some are still flying in good numbers. There are, of course, Monarchs that have been migrating through in a steady stream. However, they are not the only ones present.

Late summer and early autumn seems to be the prime season of Common Buckeyes in New Jersey. They are present for most of the warmer months, but I usually do not see them in such numbers as in early October.

Common Buckeyes are easily recognized by their eyespots and the white and red markings along the leading edge of the forewing.

Other butterflies that fly throughout the summer are also present, like this Orange Sulphur.

Early autumn is also a good time to spot southern butterflies that have strayed north. A regular southern visitor to New Jersey is the Fiery Skipper. The primary range of this species is in the southeast, but it wanders north from August to October.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Loose Feathers #311

Le Conte's Sparrow / Photo by Alex Galt (USFWS)
Birds and birding news
Nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity
Blog carnivals

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Large Yellow Underwing Caterpillar

The caterpillar above is the larval form of Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba). I found it as it was walking across a bicycle path in Donaldson Park yesterday morning.

The Large Yellow Underwing moth is a relatively recent addition to North American lepidoptera. The species is native to Europe and was introduced to North America via Nova Scotia in 1979. Since that time, the species has spread across the continent, and it seems to be one of the more common large moths in this area. I have seen adults frequently at UV lights at night. These moths tend to flutter around and not settle down. This would not be so bad except that it often spooks some of the other, more docile moths as I try to photo them on the sheet. Above is a photo of an adult from August 2010.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Review: Birds of North America and Greenland

In addition to its successful field guide series, Princeton University Press publishes a series of regional illustrated checklists of birds. Illustrated checklists are typically small, light, and compact, especially compared to full-fledged field guides. In areas where the standard field guides are too large to carry comfortably, they offer an easily portable alternative. The latest addition to that series is Birds of North America and Greenland, written and illustrated by Norman Arlott.

The new checklist includes all of the bird species recorded in the 48 contiguous United States, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, which is over 900 bird species. The species are listed on even-numbered pages (the left page) and species are depicted on the facing odd-numbered pages (right page). The English names for birds do not follow those listed by a single taxonomic authority. Instead Arlott states in the introduction that "I have headlined the English names that I believe are those used by most birders in the field." This means that sometimes older names are given, and other times the name used among British birders is given instead of the name favored by the American Ornithological Union. In some of these cases, an alternative name is listed in parentheses, so this should not cause much confusion. Each entry also contains the bird's scientific name. The scientific names listed do not reflect the recent reorganization of the wood warbler family, which was formally announced after the book went to press.

Species accounts are necessarily short. They give brief information about visual identification, voice, habitat, and distribution. Each includes a small range map. These range maps are hard to see in some cases because they are placed so close to the binding. The painted illustrations are of high quality and accurate, as far as I can see. The oranges and browns in the illustrations seem a bit too reddish compared to how a bird would appear in the wild, but this is a minor issue. The guide illustrates the adult male and female plumages (when a bird is sexually dimorphic) and the adult non-breeding plumage (if it differs signficantly from breeding plumage). No immature plumages are shown to save space, even for difficult species like gulls.

While Birds of North America and Greenland is visually attractive, it is difficult to identify a use case for this checklist. North America is already very well covered with field guides. Arlott's guide does not have much of a size advantage over the Kaufman guide, a basic guide that covers the same area as Arlott's. Sibley's regional guides (east, west) are also only slightly larger and provide thorough coverage (including multiple plumages) of the birds in their areas, as does the National Geographic guide. One advantage Arlott's checklist does have is that it covers Greenland, which is often not covered in field guides for North America but whose checklist includes some species that could end up as vagrants in North America. However, I am not sure that is enough of an advantage to warrant carrying it instead of other guides to the same area. Perhaps a visitor to North America could get some use out of this book, but a visiting birder (or a North American birder traveling around the continent) would be better served by an existing full-fledged field guide.