Birding Online: July 2023

Associate Editor, Birding magazine

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An image of the cover of the July issue of Birding magazine. It can be clicked as a hyperlink to the July issue. In the image, a black and white woodpecker flies with both wings outstretched and light shining through its flight feathers. The background is blue with a white title at the top that says ABA Birding.

On the cover: a Red-headed Woodpecker in the Black Hills of South Dakota, photographed by Tom Johnson.

As we roll past the summer solstice, the July issue of Birding should be hitting your mailboxes, chock-full of new bird research and birding tech, book and binocular reviews, and Belted Kingfishers. Let’s make like a kingfisher and dive right in.

We at Birding are honored and excited to celebrate Lang Elliott’s Hear Birds Again project, consisting of an app that works together with binaural headphones to adjust for high-frequency hearing loss and allow birders to hear those high-pitched songs and calls they have been missing. Lang Elliott has been working on technology to hear birds for decades, and after commissioning, crafting, and testing numerous devices over the years, the Hear Birds Again project emerged. The app is free to all, and open-source, meaning developers have access to the code to continue improving on the project, or to make their own. Click here to read Elliott’s own words on how the app was born, why it matters, and how to use it, and click here for the website.

We can soar over to Frontiers in Ornithology for more new research in the world of birds. William von Herff points out three fascinating findings on how raptors eat. Great Gray Owls navigate acoustic mirages to hear their prey through deep snow; accipiters eat prey of different sizes, which may contribute to the increase of Cooper’s hawks in urban environments; and scientists in Florida documented the first instance of Black Vultures appearing to kill and eat a member of their own species. Click here to read the details. And don’t miss out on Devin Farmiloe’s piece on how Mountain Chickadees’ ability to remember where food was cached is associated with their genetics.

Over in “Celebrations,” ABA members celebrate all kinds of birding achievements and memories, especially Belted Kingfishers: perching, eating, sashaying, displaying, you name it. N. John Schmitt brings us an incredible story of a Belted Kingfisher being pursued by (and then pursuing) a Merlin, complete with original, beautiful sketches and watercolors to bring the memory to life. Click here to enjoy. And remember, all ABA members are welcome to submit stories to “Celebrations.” Just email me at with your name, hometown, date and location of your birdy achievement, and any details that make it special to you, ideally between 50-150 words. We love to hear what you’re up to and what memories you’re making with birds.

For another fascinating observation of aggression between species, flip open to the Featured Photo, where Max Breshears documents an altercation between a Surfbird and a Black Turnstone. The two birds called, pecked, and clawed at each other, and even landed on top of each other. Max shares photos of the two birds, both fighting and at peace, and considers why this might have happened. As many birders know, sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time to see something really surprising.

Or not. Some birders are attempting to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and see nothing. How hard could it be to actively bird for an hour and see 0 birds, or miss one particular bird, on purpose? Well, Joshua Stone and Stuart Winter have attempted exactly these challenges. Joshua Stone calls his quest to see no birds for an hour a “Goose Egg.” He explains how it works and why he does it, and he will make you laugh the whole way. Click here to enjoy. Stuart Winter, on the other hand, has an even more specific goal: he has purposefully dodged seeing an Atlantic Puffin. Why? And why are “puffins not really birds, but fish”? Click here to find out.

The bird ID app Merlin has been around for years, and as it has grown more sophisticated, more and more people have begun using it as a tool for identification. It makes identifying birds by sight and sound more approachable for beginners, and has plenty to offer to more advanced birders, too. The proliferation of digital cameras has also made snapping photos of birds, looking at the photos at home, sharing them, and identifying them much easier. With the spread of these technologies, has field ID died? Pete Dunne says “not so fast.” Click here to read his perspective.

We can’t forget the July Birding Interview, a visit to Galápagos finch researchers B. Rosemary Grant and Peter R. Grant, who have been studying evolution for decades. They talk about their research, how to bird the Galápagos, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book about them (The Beak of the Finch), and more. Click here to read this fascinating interview.

If you haven’t already heard, Maggie FitzGibbon recently joined the ABA team as the new Membership & Communications Manager. She introduces herself and her goals for the ABA in the ABA Spotlight. Click here to join her.

And last, but not least, reviews! In Tools of the Trade, Adrianna Nelson reviews the Swarovski NL Pure Binoculars. For the Book & Media Reviews, you’ll find abridged versions in your physical copy, and the extended versions online. Emily Simon reviews Susan Fox Rogers’ “Learning the Birds: A Midlife Adventure.” Bryony Angell reviews Rosemary Low’s “Female Heroes of Bird Conservation.” Aidan Place reviews Michael Webster’s “The Condor’s Feathers: Travelling Wild in South America.” And Rebecca Minardi brings her usual Bird Book Bulletin, a list of the newest bird books, games, and music.

We hope you enjoy the July issue! Until we meet again, happy birding.