The American White Pelican

The American White Pelican

It is fall, and the time when many Californians catch sight of flocks of the white pelicans flying in formation between their breeding grounds in the northern interior of North America, to winter along the Pacific Coast as far as Mexico, on the Salton Sea, 

The Eccentric Surf Scoter

The Eccentric Surf Scoter

One of my favorite species of birds is the surf scoter, a sea duck that is abundant during October through April along the North American west coast as far south as central Baja (Mexico), after breeding in the boreal forests and tundra of Alaska. It 

Curlew Day

Curlew Day

In chapter 5 of She Wore a Yellow Dress, I describe my first date back in 1965 with a fellow Hull University undergraduate who became my wife.  She curiously asked about my favorite hobby, and when I said it was bird watching, she wanted the 

Coming to Terms with Terns

Coming to Terms with Terns

One of the very few families of birds that remained constant when I moved from England to California in 1979 was the family of terns. I regularly saw Sandwich, Arctic, common, black, and little terns during my visits to Spurn Point in Yorkshire, and during 

The July 2021 Pelagic Bird Spotting Experience for a Struggling Bird Identifier

The July 2021 Pelagic Bird Spotting Experience for a Struggling Bird Identifier

This is a memoir of a COVID-invigorated Bird Spotter and his July 2021 journey from Half Moon Bay to the pinnacles of the Southeast Farallon Islands, and waters beyond, in search of pelagic birds: puffins, shearwaters, storm-petrels, and albatross. My thanks go to Alvaro Jaramillo 

From Racing Pigeons to Mourning Doves

From Racing Pigeons to Mourning Doves

For thousands of years, domesticated pigeons have been an integral part of human life. Egyptian hieroglyphics and stone carvings in Mesopotamia (now modern Iraq) indicate that these birds were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago. Over centuries they have been kept as symbols of  prosperity, 

Population Decline among Wild Birds, with Special Attention to the Eurasian Skylark and the American Bobolink

Population Decline among Wild Birds, with Special Attention to the Eurasian Skylark and the American Bobolink

It was the summer of 1954 when my childhood hobby of birds’ egg collecting  came to an end. The British government implemented the Protection of Birds Act, 1954 that forbid me to take wild birds’ eggs, and at the same time, protected adults and their 

Learning About Sparrows, Those “Little Brown Birds”

Learning About Sparrows, Those “Little Brown Birds”

During the 1950s and 1960s, as a young birder in the north of England, I ignored the rather common, drab and inconspicuous-looking birds known as house sparrows and tree sparrows. Both are Old World species, distributed across Europe and Asia, and rarely migrate significant distances. 

History of the Crow

History of the Crow

Recently, I came across a glossy, all-black American crow removing fiber from the back of my outdoors lounge chair. It gave me a look of disgust and then resumed its destruction, presumably using the stuffing to decorate its nest some distance away. Both sexes look 

The Worldwide Beauty of Birds

The Worldwide Beauty of Birds

Blue-crowned mot mot   The first resplendent quetzal I ever saw was on April 5, 1998 in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica. The species is considered by many to represent the most beautiful bird in the world, and although it was partially obscured by 

Waterhen, Moorhen or Gallinule – Which is It?

Waterhen, Moorhen or Gallinule – Which is It?

Growing up in Yorkshire, I called them waterhens (now more usually known as moorhens). They are humble birds, preferring freshwater wetlands, and are sedentary, except that they are joined by birds moving from north-west Europe to winter in the UK.  As their name implies, they 

Mafia-Style Behavior Among Birds

Mafia-Style Behavior Among Birds

Meet the Eurasian common cuckoo bird and the North American brown-headed cowbird, both brood parasites. ­­ As a boy many years ago in northern England, I pursued a little brown bird called a hedge sparrow, flicking its tail and shuffling through dense bramble undergrowth and 

A Species of Duck that Gives its Name to a Color

A Species of Duck that Gives its Name to a Color

Eurasian/common teal bird (male)    The first Eurasian or common teal I ever saw was a flock flying south over the sea at Spurn Point, Yorkshire, in England, during the early 1960s, presumably on their way to their wintering grounds around the Mediterranean. Spurn Point 

Dotterel, a small plover, and a word in Britain used to describe a person easily deceived; why?

Dotterel, a small plover, and a word in Britain used to describe a person easily deceived; why?

As a small wader and member of the plover family of birds, the dotterel is known for its friendly, sweet and trusting behavior towards humans. Consequently, it was hunted for sport, was easily caught, eaten by royalty as a delicacy during English Tudor times, and 

Roman Coin for a “Butcher Bird”

Roman Coin for a “Butcher Bird”

Eurasian Red-Backed Shrike   I must have been aged 13 at the time during the 1950s, when looking down near the blade of the spade, I spotted a large round object. It was dirty black, except for a distinctive blue-green patina caused by its copper