This issue explores ancient birds, a deeper understanding of flocking behavior, and how noise pollution is affecting bird communication.
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Birds in the News, July 2019

Jessica Melfi | Assistant Editor, Bird Watcher's DigestBy Jessica Melfi
Assistant Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest

From extinct massive ground birds to present-day flocking homing pigeons, humans have been interacting with birds for millions of years. This issue of BirdWire explores some surprise discoveries of ancient birds and bird records, a deeper understanding of flocking behavior, and how human noise pollution is affecting bird communication.

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For all of July, while supplies last, save 50% on the Bino Dock! Not only does it turn your car's cupholder into a binocular holder, but it also transforms a boring road trip into a birding adventure with optics within easy reach.
Ancient Ornithological Revelations: Giant Fossils Found, Giant Geoglyphs Identified
Fossils of one of the largest-known birds have been discovered in a Crimean cave, the first avian giant known to exist in the Northern Hemisphere. The 1.5 to 2 million-year-old fossils are believed to be of a fast, flightless bird three times the size of the largest living bird. Weighing nearly 1,000 pounds, it would have towered over early humans.

Meanwhile, in southern Peru, an ornithological approach has shed some light on the identity and purpose of the birds depicted in giant 2,000-year-old desert etchings known as the Nazca Lines. As a result, one etching was reclassified as a hermit, and two others were determined to be pelicans—birds that are native to Peru but not local to the area. The pre-Incan people could have seen these exotic birds on food-gathering expeditions and then recorded them upon returning to their homeland. (An early version of listing perhaps?) Sixteen massive birds are among the numerous figures that stretch across 200 square miles of desert plains.
Read more about these ancient ornithological revelations:
Pigeons Flap Faster to Flock Together
Bird life is ruled by energy-efficient behavior, as demonstrated by long-distant migrants like geese that fly in an aerodynamic V-formation. But new research reveals that homing pigeons actually add an extra wingbeat per second in order to fly in flocks, causing them to exert more energy than flying solo. The pigeons aren’t moving any faster with the extra wingbeat, so scientists believe other benefits, such as safety in numbers, must outweigh the extra energy exertion. The additional wingbeat also allows them to meet the demands of moving together in a cluster flock, which requires a higher degree of control for tighter and more rapid directional changes.
Noise Pollution Hampers Bird Comunication
Noise Pollution Hampers Bird Communication
Birds depend upon song to establish territory and attract a mate, with the varying complexity of their notes reflecting the intent of their communication. However, a new study from Queens University Belfast shows that human noise is disrupting birds’ ability to hear and interpret each other clearly, which could affect their reproduction and ultimately their survival. In the study, European robins on territory were exposed to playback in both the presence and absence of noise, with more complex songs indicating aggressive intent. The presence of noise hindered the birds’ ability to accurately assess the songs and appropriately respond to potential threats. Further investigation is needed to determine how to protect wildlife from human noise pollution.

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Reader Rendezvous
Reader Rendezvous: Costa Rica, Part II--January 7-14, 2020
Costa Rica, Part II—Jan. 7–14, 2020
Our 2018 Costa Rica Reader Rendezvous was so popular, we decided to bring it back for 2020—but added a western hotspot twist! Bird Watcher’s Digest and Crescentia Expeditions custom-designed this Rendezvous for you, which covers four of the top birding areas in Costa Rica. We’ll also be staying at five breathtaking ecolodges along the way. Dates are January 7–14, which avoids the rainy season this time! All BWD fans are welcome, but if you&rrsquo;ve never birded Costa Rica or the tropics, this might be the trip you’ve been waiting for!
Upcoming Festivals
Out There with the Birds Episode #56: Introducing Two New Hosts: Wendy Clark and Dawn Hewitt, Part I
The winds of change are gusting through Bird Watcher's Digest. Two new hosts join Alvaro and Raymond on our OTWTB podcast: BWD publisher Wendy Clark and BWD editor Dawn Hewitt! In this two-part episode, Wendy and Dawn discuss the recent changes that have taken place at BWD, how they became birders, and much more!
Best of This Birding Life: The Early Days of Bird Watcher's Digest
Best of This Birding Life: The Early Days of Bird Watcher's Digest
As you may know, our beloved TBL host Bill Thompson, III, died on March 25, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. What you may not know is that Bill's mother, Bird Watcher's Digest founding publisher Elsa Thompson, died in a fire in her home in Marietta, Ohio, on May 25. We know you share our grief in losing these two wonderful people who have contributed so much to the world of birding. In honor of BT3 and Elsa, we're re-airing this episode from 2013, when Bill interviewed Elsa about the early days of Bird Watcher's Digest, why the family started the magazine, and what it has meant in their lives.
On Newsstands Now:
Watching Backyard Birds: August 2019
Watching Backyard Birds August 2019
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.
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In Memory of Our Matriarch, Elsa Ekenstierna Thompson
Co-founder of Bird Watcher’s Digest, the company that publishes this magazine, Elsa Thompson passed away unexpectedly on May 25, 2019.
Gray Catbird
The aptly named gray catbird is a regular summer visitor to many backyards in the eastern two-thirds of the United States and southern Canada—though many a birder has been fooled into looking for a feline after hearing a catbird’s soft mew.
Robin and Cardinal Caught Co-nesting
A pair of robins, a pair of cardinals, and six babies sharing one nest? This innovative housing arrangement was not without tension, but perhaps humans could take a lesson in tolerance and cooperation from these cohabiting families.
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