What will 2019 bring for wild birds? We'll get a mixed bag of good, bad, and some news that simply enlightens us about birds and their behavior.
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Birds in the News, January 2019

Dawn Hewitt | Managing Editor, Bird Watcher's DigestBy Dawn Hewitt
Managing Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest

What will 2019 bring for wild birds? With the climate warming at an unprecedented pace, odds are high that the news won’t be good, as researchers at Lund University reported in mid-December (see below). But not all news will be bad this year, as people continue to help conserve birds. For example, tourists in Costa Rica can effectively pay farmers to protect habitat for resplendent quetzals (read on). And some news, no doubt, will simply enlighten us about birds and their behavior. Whatever the new year brings, the staff of Bird Watcher’s Digest and Redstart Birding wishes BirdWire readers a happy and healthy 2019, full of amazing birds, and only good news.

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Northern Birdwatching in the Heart of the Adirondacks

Come for the resident Canada jays and stay for the Bohemian waxwings! The boreal habitats, wetlands, and mixed forests of the Central Adirondacks attract a healthy mix of northern bird species every winter.
Plan Your Birding Expedition »
Summer Heatwaves Bode Ill for Breeding Birds
Heatwaves can have a negative impact on breeding birds, according researchers at Lund University in Sweden. Their study, which was conducted in Sweden during the pan-European heatwave of 2018, and the results of which were published in Functional Ecology on December 11, showed that overheated birds have smaller offspring, and that those offspring may have lower chances of survival. Nesting Eurasian blue tits in an experimental group had body feathers trimmed to allow heat dissipation, while the control group was not manipulated. At the end of breeding season, parents with trimmed feathers had a lower body temperature and weighed more than those in the untrimmed group. The offspring of untrimmed parents were larger and often heavier, with higher chances of survival and reproduction.
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Program Rewards Costa Rican Farmers for Protecting Quetzal
Program Rewards Costa Rican Farmers for Protecting Quetzal
Arguably the most beautiful bird species in the world, resplendent quetzals are found only from extreme southern Mexico to extreme northern Panama. The IUCN considers resplendent quetzal as near threatened on its Red List, with the population on a "moderately rapid" decline because of deforestation for agriculture and livestock production, as well as timbering. Quetzals nest in tree cavities, which means large, old trees with holes in them are essential for the species’ survival.

Numerous ecolodges in the highlands of Costa Rica provide opportunities to view this spectacular bird, but Paraiso Quetzal Lodge has organized a co-op of local farmers who report daily on where quetzals are easily spotted. When tourists request a sure bet on a close-up view of the bird, the lodge makes arrangements with co-op members for tourists to visit, paying the farmers for every visitor. As a result, the farmers directly benefit from protecting quetzal habitat. Some co-op members have built quetzal viewing platforms, shelters, or benches overlooking trees that quetzals frequent, allowing great views and even close-up photos.
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Nanotechnology Allows Study of Hummingbird Behavior
Nanotechnology Allows Study of Hummingbird Behavior
Those who feed hummingbirds know how aggressive these birds can be—and how they sometimes earn the label of “bullies.” But this might be a human-caused behavior. In the wild, hummingbirds do not tend to interact much with each other. Where feeders are present, interaction increases, and so does aggression.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, attached passive integrated transponder, or PIT, tags to the legs of 230 Allen’s and Anna’s hummingbirds, and recorded their visits to feeders equipped with radio-frequency identification, or RFID, transceivers. This gave researchers around-the-clock information about how often individual hummingbirds visited the feeders and how long they stayed there. The purpose was to study how hummingbirds interact with each other at feeders, as well as to reveal potential disease transmission that could occur from such interactions.
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Reader Rendezvous
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South Africa 2019: Register Today!
Rendezvous with Us in South Africa—Only 10 Spots Left!
Who doesn't dream of Africa? For most birders and nature lovers, an African safari is at the top of the bucket list. It's certainly been on our Rendezvous radar for several years! To make this dream trip come true, we've partnered with Rockjumper Birding Adventures to create an 11-day tour to South Africa, October 1-11, 2019. Join us to see an awesome array of endemic bird species, plus some of the world's most amazing mammals!
Upcoming Festivals
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Podcasts
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Out There with the Birds #48: Back in My Own Backyard
Ben gives LeBron-like advice for buying binoculars for kids or beginning birders, explains the visual difference between roof- and Porro-prism binoculars, and updates us on his last backyard bird sighting: a red-breasted nuthatch. Bill talks about a rusty blackbird encounter and how to tell rusties from common grackles. Then the boys welcome Clay Taylor from Swarovski Optik to talk about his amazing backyard in Corpus Christi, Texas, which has become a magnet for birds and butterflies migrating along the Gulf Coast.
This Birding Life Episode #87: Melissa Groo—Wildlife Biographer
Melissa Groo joins Bill to talk about her life and the late start she got to her amazing career as a "wildlife biographer." Though she is most famous for her captivating bird and wildlife photographs, Melissa strives to convey more than that, capturing the personality, soul, and essence of her subjects in hopes of inspiring empathy from humankind for the plight of the natural world.
On Newsstands Now:
Watching Backyard Birds: February 2019
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If you love backyard birds, then you should be reading Watching Backyard Birds. It's the ONLY North American magazine devoted exclusively to backyard birds and the people who watch and enjoy them. Created by the friendly staff at Bird Watcher's Digest, every issue of Watching Backyard Birds is full of engaging, entertaining, and enlightening content and images.
  • Get one year (6 bi-monthly issues) only $16.00*
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* Canadian and international shipping apply. Orders shipping to Ohio are subject to sales tax.
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OUR COVER SPECIES
Pine Siskin: Perfect Feeder Visitor
A streaky brown finch adorns the cover of this issue, a winter visitor from the north. Pine siskins are often overlooked at thistle feeders, but they are interesting little birds.
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SPECIAL FEATURE
Top Ten Ways to Help Birds in Bad Weather
Birds have survived thousands of winters without human help, but we can make their lives easier during icy, frigid spells, and as a reward, draw them closer to us for better viewing. Find out ten simple ways to do this.
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SPECIAL FEATURE
How Birds Stay Warm in Winter
Perhaps you’ve seen a great blue heron or ducks on ice or nearly frozen water. Why don’t they get frostbite? Find out the many adaptations birds have evolved to survive frigid temperatures.
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