Finding hawks by watching doves


  No matter how serious you are about birding, or how much you want to see hawks, a Mourning Dove will always have a stronger interest in spotting them. Birds that are in mortal danger of hawk attacks have excellent eyesight and are constantly alert to any potential threat. It’s a safe bet that they will spot […]

The mysterious sounds of the American Woodcock


Download a free one-page guide to American Woodcock display The flight display of the male American Woodcock has to be one of the most remarkable avian performances in the world. And yet, despite the fact that countless ornithologists and birders have marveled at this spring spectacle, some very basic questions are still unanswered, including this […]

Why are they called goatsuckers?

Eastern Whip-poor-will head

The painting shown here was recently sold at auction Birds in the family Caprimulgidae, which includes Eastern Whip-poor-will (shown here), have been referred to as “goatsuckers” based on a superstition that goes back well over 2000 years. They all have tiny beaks that open to reveal an impressively large mouth used to catch flying insects, and […]

Red-winged Blackbirds showing off

The Red-winged Blackbird from the front, the way this display is intended to be viewed, the intense red of the shoulders is set off against a very deep black shadows of the body and underwing.

This is the time of year when Red-winged Blackbirds are returning to marshes all over the continent, and the males are performing their showy displays to impress females and intimidate rivals. You might think the display simply involves fluffing up the body feathers and especially the red patches on the wings, but there is a […]

Why do phoebes pump their tails?

Eastern Phoebe

Lots of birds have a habit of pumping (or wagging) their tails. It’s mostly open-country birds like phoebes, wagtails and pipits, Palm Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper, and others. Many hypotheses have been suggested to explain why the birds do it, but nobody came up with an answer until Gregory Avellis in 2011. He studied Black Phoebes […]

Cackling-ish Geese

Two Cackling-ish Geese. Concord, MA, 5 Nov 2014.

Cackling Goose is a rare fall migrant through Massachusetts and I usually see a couple of them each fall among the hundreds of Canada Geese around Concord. I look forward to the challenge of sorting through the flocks and picking these birds out, and once a candidate is located the identification has usually been straightforward – […]