Our Favorite Stories from 2016

Generations of bird watchers have trusted our magazine for compelling content about birds, bird watchers, and birding adventures. Each issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest includes articles from gifted writers who not only know about birds, but also know how to present experts advice in a way that’s friendly and accessible—perfect for beginners and experienced birders alike.

If you are a Bird Watcher’s Digest subscriber, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. (If you are not a subscriber, we can help with that.)

Here, for your reading enjoyment, are some of our favorite articles from this past year.

Prothonotary warbler. Photo by Doug Tallamy.

Prothonotary warbler. Photo by Doug Tallamy.

“What Do Birds Eat? We Don’t Really Know!” by Doug Tallamy

From the March/April 2016 issue

“Ask any ornithologist, or knowledgeable birder for that matter, what birds eat and he or she will tell you seeds, fruits, and insects. Backyard bird watchers know that sunflower seeds and suet are all you need to keep winter residents happy, and because that’s the only time many of us feed birds, we tend to think of all birds as seed or suet eaters. Many birds do include seeds in their diet during the months in which seeds are plentiful, but only a few groups (e.g., finches and doves) are able to complete their life cycle on seeds alone.”

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Canada geese over Eagle Lake. Photo by Bret Goddard.

Canada geese over Eagle Lake. Photo by Bret Goddard.

Migrations: “This Never Gets Old” by Scott Weidensaul

From the March/April 2016 issue

“Amy was pouring her first cup of coffee when I came inside. ‘Pull on a coat. You have to see this,’ I said hurriedly. Still groggy from sleep and gripping her mug as she shrugged into a jacket, she complied. After months of bracing ourselves for the bite of cold and wind when we stepped out the door, the change was a shock. The air on this mid-March morning was mild and still, soft on the skin and rich in our nostrils with the moist smell of mud and warming earth. But neither of us really noticed, because our ears were full of sound. Everywhere we looked, skeins of geese were streaming north, a continuous din of honks trailing behind.”

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Greater yellowlegs photo by Alvaro Jaramillo.

Greater yellowlegs photo by Alvaro Jaramillo.

Identify Yourself: “Ol’ Yeller-legs” by Alvaro Jaramillo

From the May/June 2016 issue

“I have recently been thinking more of bird identification issues that are widespread in North America. Of course, people who write identification articles tend to want to look at problems that have not been tackled before or topics on which they can show a novel viewpoint or concept. Anything that may seem overdone will get less attention, and the perception of being old news means that some of these topics get little coverage in birding magazines for years. But, these identification challenges remain commonplace. In the same way that birders seek out the rarity and sometimes ignore the common, writers also ignore the common—the very topics that require the most attention. With this in mind, let’s think again about the yellowlegs and species that can look like them. ”

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American dipper photo by Dominic Sherony / Wikimedia.

American dipper photo by Dominic Sherony / Wikimedia.

“Desperately Seeking Ouzel” by Al Batt

From the May/June 2016 issue

“One fine morning during my early teen years, I was admiring the battered binoculars of a friend. He told me of his plans to head out West, a place he’d never been. ‘Out West’ brought visions of the Rocky Mountains, Wyatt Earp, and water ouzels to me. The water ouzel is what I called the American dipper. I wasn’t alone. Many people called them water ouzels. I’d read about water ouzels. I’d never seen one, but I liked them anyway. I wanted to play the guitar in a garage band called The Water Ouzels. We’d make a cassette tape of our songs, sell 19 copies to relatives and girlfriends, and then spend the rest of our lives living in our parents’ basements. He’d never seen a water ouzel, either.”

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BWD editor Bill Thompson, III, in a photo blind.

BWD editor Bill Thompson, III, in a photo blind.

“Top 10 Backyard Photo Tips” by Bill Thompson, III

From the May/June 2016 issue

“If you’re an aspiring bird photographer but you can’t afford to jet off to Africa or even the Everglades where world-famous photography opportunities abound, consider an option closer to home. Perhaps even at home! Backyard bird photography can be wonderful in many ways. The birds are close, accustomed to human activity, and you can lure them into range legally using food, water, shelter, and perches, which are techniques that you can’t employ in most wildlife refuges or national parks. Here are a few tips and tricks to improve your bird photography results in the backyard.”

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Cooper's Hawk. Photo by Julie Zickefoose.

Cooper’s Hawk. Photo by Julie Zickefoose.

True Nature: “A Gift, Hurled from the Other Side” by Julie Zickefoose

From the July/August 2016 issue

“I was sitting at the drawing table, trying to keep my spine straight as I finished the last of a tedious couple of months of edits and revisions to a how-to book I put together 15 years ago. One doesn’t really ‘write’ a how-to book. One puts it together. I entered the last edit on page 230; pasted in the painstaking revision of a six-page Resources section, every entry and detail of which had needed updating; and sent the dang thing off to the publisher. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good book. How-tos are just not my bag and never were. I’d rather write in loops and curlicues than neat, straight lines.”

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Costa's Hummingbird (male). Photo by Alan Vernon / Wikimedia.

Costa’s Hummingbird (male). Photo by Alan Vernon / Wikimedia.

“Hummingbird Heaven” by Charles W. Melton

From the July/August 2016 issue

“Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures and one of the most popular subjects for hard-core listers and backyard bird watchers alike. For those hummingbird enthusiasts who wish to see the greatest variety of species, as well as large numbers of individuals, a visit to southeastern Arizona is a must. Each year, about 17 species of hummingbirds are reported in the entire United States. In this corner of Arizona, bird watchers can reliably see 12 species in a 3-to-4 day trip and up to 15 species in exceptional years. There are some locations in this area that have recorded 14 species of hummingbirds in a single day!”

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Photo by Bill Thompson, III

Photo by Bill Thompson, III

Birding Optics: “Affordable 8×42 Binoculars,” by Michael & Diane Porter

From the July/August 2016 issue

“The first thing new birders need is binoculars. They need binoculars that will provide a good, clear, bright image. Just as importantly, those binoculars should be easy and comfortable to use. The trouble is that there are countless binoculars among which to choose, with varying quality and enormously varying prices. Where to start?”

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Rusty blackbird. Photo by Andy Reago and Crissy McClarren / Wikimedia Commons.

Rusty blackbird. Photo by Andy Reago and Crissy McClarren / Wikimedia Commons.

“Rusty Blackbird: A Species on the Brink,” by Alana Westwood

From the September/October 2016 issue

“‘Majestic’ is a word that will never be used to describe the rusty blackbird. Its drab plumage and reclusive ways keep it squarely out of the spotlight. Early accounts of rusty blackbirds describe their migratory flocks as ‘blackening the skies.’ Today, in many places, it can take a Herculean effort just to find a rusty or two. Rarely seen and hardly noticed, the rusty blackbird has begun to slip away.”

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Kirtland's Warbler

Kirtland’s Warbler by USFWS / Wikimedia Commons

“What’s in a Name? A Brief Foray into Scientific Naming,” by D. M. Recktenwalt

From the November/December 2016 issue

“Even the most ornithologically challenged individual can usually identify a pigeon, a duck, a starling or a sparrow. Devoted bird watchers can, without reaching for a guidebook, identify many more of the birds they see. We take pleasure in seeing ‘old friends,’ such as goldfinches (Spinus tristis) and Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula). We’re willing to travel, sometimes great distances, for the chance to see new species; we get really excited when we observe a rare species.”

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