Swallows are some of the first long-distance migrants to return to their breeding territories—a genuine sign of spring. Can you identify these eight?
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Test Your Knowledge of North America's Swallows!

By Dawn Hewitt
Managing Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest

Swallows are some of the first long-distance migrants to return to their breeding territories—a genuine sign of spring. They are aerial insectivores: Although they have short bills, their mouth opening, or gape, is huge for Hoovering up insects, especially those flying low above water. In flight, they flit and flutter, zig and zag, swoop and dive, and it can be a challenge to follow and fix on them with your binoculars. Swallows tend to perch on exposed branches and wires, where it's easier to get a look at them. About 90 species of swallows exist worldwide, but only eight species regularly occur and breed in continental North America. Can you identify them?

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Mystery Swallow #1
Mystery Swallow #1
This is our continent's largest swallow. Males are uniformly bluish-black above and below, which is distinctive. Females have a dark hood and upper breast, but a pale, smudgy belly. Hint: This species usually nests in colonies, so many people provide gourd or "apartment" complexes to attract them.

What swallow is this? Find out »
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Mystery Swallow #2
Mystery Swallow #2
Males have metallic-green or blue-green backs; females are brown above. Both are white below, and the tail is notched. A cavity nester, it has benefitted from the popularity of bluebird nest boxes. Hint: When bluebird houses are not available, it nests in tree cavities.
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Mystery Swallow #3
Mystery Swallow #3
Our smallest sparrow is brown above and white below. Its distinguishing feature is a dark breast band. Hint: It excavates a hole for its nest in vertical cliffs of dirt or sand, usually close to water.
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Events and Happenings
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American Birding Expo, September 21-23, 2018
Have You Seen Our Video for the American Birding Expo?
The American Birding Expo is five months away! We will be in the biggest hall at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA, from September 21-23, 2018! Want to know what's in store for you at the largest shopping experience for bird watchers in North America? Watch our video to find out!
Out There with the Birds Episode #33
Out There with the Birds Episode #33: Spring Bird Festivals Overview
This episode is a crazy quilt of topics including an overview of spring birding festivals, a review of the guys’ travel plans, the technological challenges of list keeping, the humor of Al Batt, Audubon’s Elephant Folio, loud rock concerts, choosing the best optics, and a special musical interlude from a podcast listener. And a sort-of update on the OTWTB Global Big Year Challenge™. Special thanks to SWAROVSKI OPTIK, Tamron, and Redstart Birding, our podcast sponsors!
This Birding Life #79
This Birding Life Episode #79: Meet the California Young Birders Club
Host Bill Thompson, III, interviews Elisa, Cayenne, BJ, and Ryan, founding members of the California Young Birders Club. These young adults share their birding origin stories, discuss what it’s like to be a birder among their peers, the advantages of technology, and their plans for the future. This Birding Life is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, Redstart Birding, and the American Birding Expo.
On Newsstands Now:
Bird Watcher's Digest: May/June 2018
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Generations of bird watchers have trusted our magazine for compelling content about birds, bird watchers, and birding adventures. Each issue includes articles from gifted writers who not only know about birds, but also know how to present expert advice in a way that’s friendly and accessible—perfect for beginners and experienced birders alike.
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OUR COVER SPECIES
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Just in time for the return of a beautiful bird with a beautiful voice, Ed Kanze provides an appreciation of rose-breasted grosbeaks, and recalls a gut-wrenching encounter.
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IDENTIFY YOURSELF
You Can Do Dowitchers!
Long-billed and short-billed dowitchers are nearly identical. Nearly. Bird ID guru Alvaro Jaramillo explains exactly what to look and listen for to distinguish them like a pro!
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OPTICS REVIEW
Swarovski BTX Spotting Scope
The comfort of binocular vision with a spotting scope? That's what Swarovski's new BTX eyepiece module allows. No more eye fatigue from one-eyed scope use. Optics expert Ben Lizdas calls the BTX "a La-Z-Boy recliner for your eyes."
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