Northern Flicker, which used to be known as the Red-shafted Flicker (Photo: Gregg Thompson)
Watching the birds at your feeder is a pleasure for many, but as Mary McCann comments in today’s BirdNote, identifying them can be a headache, as some as reclassified and now have new names.
[MUSIC - BIRDNOTE® THEME]
CURWOOD: One of the joys of having a birdfeeder in your yard is seeing and identifying who comes to dine with you. But as Mary McCann observes in today’s BirdNote, nowadays, that can be a bit confusing.
How Birds’ Names Change
Or Who Took my Rufous-sided Towhee?
[Spotted Towhee trill]
MCCANN: A listener recently wrote us: “Years ago, some of the birds at my feeder were the Rufous-sided Towhee, Oregon Junco, and Red-shafted Flicker [Spotted Towhee trill; Northern Flicker wick-wick-wick call]. But I can’t find them in my current field guides. They're gone, and so are the marsh hawk and sparrow hawk.”
[American Kestrel call]
Well, the listener’s right. Some of these long-familiar bird names have passed into history.
The study of birds, like any science, remains a work in progress. New findings about birds’ DNA or other attributes bring changes in classification of species, which often result in new names. Take the Rufous-sided Towhee, found across North America. Differences between its western and eastern forms – plumage, songs, genetics – brought an official split into two distinct species: the Spotted Towhee in the West [Spotted Towhee trills], the Eastern Towhee in the East [Eastern Towhee “drink-your-tea” song].
The Red-shafted Flicker, on the other hand, was lumped with the Yellow-shafted Flicker, because so many hybrids were found. Now, they all fly from tree to tree as the Northern Flicker.
[Northern Flicker wick-wick-wick call]
But where have the “marsh hawk” and “sparrow hawk” gone? Check your field guide for the Northern Harrier and the American Kestrel.
[American Kestrel call]
I’m Mary McCann.
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Spotted Towhee song recorded by K. Colver #49764. Eastern Towhee recorded by W.L. Hershberger #94294. American Kestrel recorded by D.S. Herr #133146. Northern Flicker recorded by R.C. Stein #6819.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and produced by John Kessler.
Ambient sounds recorded by D.S. Herr.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2005-2017 Tune In to Nature.org February 2017 Narrator: Mary McCann
CURWOOD: And if you like, you can flit on over to our website, LOE.org, for some pictures.
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