Nicholas Lund

nature and science

How to Pronounce 17 Tricky North American Bird Names

A wise person once said that you should never make fun of someone for mispronouncing a word because it means they probably learned it by reading. Birders can relate. We read all kinds of unusual names in field guides but rarely get the chance to hear them spoken out loud. And it’s not like the birds come and introduce themselves. Consequently, there can be a lot of trepidation when pronouncing a bird’s name in front of another birder for the first time. For example, when describing my excitemen

Into the Wild: Wintry Portland a destination for snowbirds | The Portland Phoenix

Every Mainer knows a snowbird: Someone who is here for the summer, but spends the winter somewhere warm, like Florida or Arizona. You may even be one yourself, but do you know Maine is actually a winter destination for some actual snowbirds? Many birds spend their summers in the Canadian boreal forests or the Arctic tundra, feasting on the plentiful insects, or breeding on remote water bodies. But when winter hits the Arctic gets a whole lot loss enjoyable, so lots of these birds escape to the

Into the Wild: Meet the Cooper’s hawk, Portland’s deadliest bird | The Portland Phoenix

Have you ever seen a flock of pigeons flying over Portland and thought about eating one? Just grabbing and chowing down on one of those little bread-crumb-fattened birds on your way to the office? It’s not such a crazy idea – after all people pay through the nose for a squab dinner at a fancy restaurant – but I’d guess that wild-caught pigeon is not on the menu for most of us. It’s a different story for Cooper’s hawks, the most fearsome aerial predator in the city of Portland. These birds love

My Brief Reign and Embarrassing Fall as a Fantasy Birder

I was the king of the fantasy birding world on January 1, 2019. The first day of the inaugural Fantasy Birding Big Year competition had ended and I, your humble internet bird correspondent, was perched alone atop the leaderboard. Unfortunately, my lead would not last long. Eventually, hundreds of other players joined the game, and they were smarter, more organized, and more dedicated than me. I was quickly dethroned, and spent the rest of the year cursing and clawing my way across the continent

How Many Bird Species Does Santa Claus See On Christmas Eve?

The current world record for number of bird species seen in a single calendar day is 431, set by a team of birders working their way across Ecuador. It’s an incredible record, one that required exhaustive planning, a group of skilled birders at the top of their game, and a fair amount of luck in getting favorable weather and avoiding delays. It’s probably about as perfect a Big Day attempt as there can be. But, I bet it’s already been beaten. In fact, I bet it’s beaten repeatedly by just one m

Into the Wild: Where to find a wild phoenix | The Portland Phoenix

I’ll write about a lot of animals in this column about Maine wildlife, but I won’t write much about the phoenix. Because, you know, it’s not real. The phoenix is a part of ancient Greek folklore, a giant bird associated with the sun. It’s said to have lived for 500 years before dying and being born again, though there’s disagreement about whether that rebirth occurs in an explosion of flames or after regular decomposition. There’s also disagreement about what the phoenix looked like. It was of

Why are crows and ravens such jerks?

When Edgar Allen Poe had to find a bird annoying enough to drive a man insane, the choice was easy: a raven. Corvids—the avian family that includes ravens and crows—are notorious for causing mischief to humans and animals alike. They steal food, knock over trash cans, harass dogs, tailgate raptors, raid nests for eggs, and engage in all kinds of behaviors that have people wondering, “Why are these birds such jerks?”

The Best Places to See Seabirds Without Getting Seasick

Have you ever been seasick? It is—and please indulge me in a pause here for dramatic effect—THE worst. Being seasick is the absolute worst. So what can the sensitive-stomached birder do to see great seabirds without losing their lunch? Seawatching, of course. I’ve given you a general primer already, but seawatching is the great hope of land-lubbers who want access to pelagic species without having to board a boat. But not all seawatches are equal. Some spots are better than others, and some ar

A Dilettante’s Guide to Maine Birding

The team’s luck improved after missing that yellow rail. Sheehan, the only team member who lived in Aroostook, led the crew to all his regular haunts: Lake Josephine, Lake Christina, Burnt Landing Road. The birding was good, and the group identified more than 100 species, including an elusive American three-toed woodpecker and a spruce grouse, before heading to the Presque Isle airport just shy of 8 a.m. They’d been up all night, but no one slept on the 175-mile flight to Waterville. “We were t

Let's Fix All The Bird Logos In Pro Sports

There are 12 teams across the Big Four leagues named after birds, and to be honest, it’s a pretty raw deal for the birds. The teams get, for free: an entire graphic identity based around attractive and charismatic wildlife to put on shirts and hats and stuff to sell for a ton of money. The birds, each a marvel of evolution, sculpted into their current forms over millennia by the unceasing struggle to survive and propagate, get: a bunch of their habitat chopped down to build a stadium with public

How to Tell a Canvasback from a Redhead

When you’re all set on identifying Mallards and are ready for the next level of waterfowl, Redheads and Canvasbacks are waiting. These are stately diving ducks, with clean colors and dignified postures that tell you right away that they won’t be begging for bread crumbs. But the two species look similar—the drakes with coppery heads, dark chests, and light-colored bodies, and the hens a fairly uniform brown. So, some ID cheats are recommended. First, know that range maps won’t help. Both of the

Birdwatching like it's 1889: my bird odyssey in Red Dead Redemption 2

The first time I see ravens, I flush them out of an alpine meadow carpeted with wildflowers. I pause to watch the flock fly off towards the distant, snow-capped peaks, trailed by their echoing croaks, when a man riding by on horseback bumps into me. Irritated, I shoot the man dead, and take his hat. So it goes in Red Dead Redemption 2. Available since October, the video game is set in an imagined version of the American west in the year 1899. It’s a huge release, one of the bestselling video g

Birdist Rule #96: Know Which Wrens Live Near You

Wrens aren’t our flashiest birds, but they more than make up for it with their big personalities. Small and brown, they rarely sit still, whether vigorously defending  their nests and territories, pecking for food on the forest floor, or just incessantly chattering away. They’ll get into shouting matches and physical confrontations with interlopers, including much larger species and humans, and even destroy eggs of other birds. In other words, wrens don't mess around. They’re also loud. Really

Birding Like It’s 1899: Inside a Blockbuster American West Video Game

The first time I see ravens, I flush them out of an alpine meadow carpeted with wildflowers. I pause to watch the flock fly off towards the distant, snow-capped peaks, trailed by their echoing croaks, when a man riding by on horseback bumps into me. Irritated, I shoot the man dead, and take his hat. So it goes in "Red Dead Redemption 2." Available since October, "Red Dead Redemption 2" (RDR2) is a video game set in an imagined version of the American West in the year 1899. It’s a massive releas

Can't Take a Birding Vacation? Try Google Street View Instead

I am the most well-traveled birder I know. In the past week alone, I have seen Torrent Ducks in the Urubamba River in Peru, watched an Ivory Gull fly over the ice floes in Nunavut, and witnessed a Black Kite alight on a perch in Queensland, Australia. I’ve watched tiny, endangered Cobb’s Wrens scatter under my feet on a beach in the Falkland Islands. I’ve seen condors soar in the Andes. I’ve been to all seven continents in the past seven days without getting a single immunization or enduring a

This New Guide Finally Simplifies Gull IDs

No family of birds causes quite as much heartburn as gulls. Just as I might convince myself that a stray plastic bag is a Snowy Owl, I sometimes also hope that a gull is actually a plastic bag so I don’t have to try to key it out. Those birds really get in your head. But what is it that makes the gull family such a feared foe? It’s not their diversity; there are only about a dozen regularly expected gull species in any one place, far fewer than the beloved warblers or even the cryptic sparrows.

Birdist Rule #43: Personalize Your License Plate With Something Birdy

Tasked with locating their mates among a dense mass of identical-looking birds, Emperor Penguins have evolved an elaborate vocal organ which can emit two sounds at once. Birders have it easier. Tasked with locating each other among the throngs of similar-looking cars on the road, we can just personalize our license plates. The other week I saw an out-of-state plate in a ferry terminal parking lot that read B1RDER, and I knew immediately that these people were my people. I didn’t even need to me

Learn the Fall and Winter Colors of These Common Bird Species

If there’s one thing you need to know about seasonal feathers, it’s this: Birds in spring are dressed to kill, while birds in fall are dressed to chill. During breeding season, birds employ all manner of seduction on potential mates, including beautiful songs, choreographed displays, and bright, crisp feathers. Like a fancy tuxedo on prom night or a few sessions in the tanning bed, many male birds put on their nicest duds each spring to impress. Once breeding season is over, though, it’s back

Where to Find the Rarest Swift in North America

The number one thing you should know about Black Swifts is that pursuing them always leads to an adventure. You’re not guaranteed that when seeing most species—no birder ever regaled you with the thrilling story of the time they saw a House Sparrow—but as one of the most mysterious and difficult-to-find birds in North America, finding Black Swifts is never a snooze. My first attempt to chase them involved hiking deep into and up a canyon in western Colorado. I was dripping sweat and breathing h

10 National Parks That Are Surprisingly Great for Birding

The National Park Service manages 417 of the most beautiful landscapes and important historical and cultural sites in America. Many of these national parks are world-famous for their wildlife. For birders, however, the most popular national parks aren’t always the areas with the largest bird diversity. A big plot of land does not guarantee a big list of birds. Features like high habitat diversity, whether a park is a migrant trap, and the “Central Park” oasis effect can all lead to a large numb
Load More Articles
Close