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 – […]

Four new prints to benefit conservation

Male Blackburnian Warbler, now available as a limited edition 9 x 11 print

Limited edition prints are now available of the four paintings shown below. These gouache paintings were completed between 2011 and 2014, and a portion of the proceeds from their sale will be donated to benefit efforts to preserve and manage bird habitat. Be sure to check out the other conservation prints available here. [wp_cart_button name=”Tree […]

Print to support shorebird habitat preservation

Avocets and Semipalmated Sandpiper

My newest print to benefit conservation efforts is this 2014 gouache painting of a Semipalmated Sandpiper with American Avocets (more info about my gouache technique here). This is a common scene in the Mississippi River Delta region, where catfish ponds and other managed wetlands create habitat for large numbers of American Avocets, migrating Semipalmated Sandpipers, […]

Saw-whet Owl print to benefit research

Northern Saw-whet Owl portrait

I have made prints of this gouache painting of a Northern Saw-whet Owl from 2006 (more info about my gouache technique here). This painting also appeared in a weekly newspaper column “Sibley on Birds”, and the original was auctioned to benefit the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art. A portion of the sale of each […]