Nicholas Lund

nature and science

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

A Birder's Dilemma: Should You Name Your Baby After a Bird?

Back in January, my seven-month-pregnant wife Liz was a tornado of activity. She was setting up the registry, scheduling doctor's appointments, planning for the nursery, getting us on daycare waiting lists, and of course, carrying the baby. I, meanwhile, was sitting around, thinking about what we'd name the kid. It wasn’t as relaxing as it sounds. In fact, choosing a name for our baby boy, we learned, was next to impossible. Both of us made a list of names we liked, and then started culling. Fi

Birds on the Battlefield

On September 17, 1862, during what became known as the Battle of Antietam, Union troops needed to cross Antietam Creek to flank the Confederate Army. Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside had orders to take a stone bridge crossing the creek, even though it meant his forces would be wide open to Confederate fire from troops entrenched on high bluffs on the far side. The hours-long battle was expectedly fierce, and more than 500 of Burnside’s troops were killed or wounded in the attack. More than 20,00

Secrets of the Seabirds

The birds are the first thing many visitors notice when they arrive at Dry Tortugas National Park. Clouds of sleek brown noddies wheel and screech between the keys, massive brown pelicans plunge into the shallow water after fish, and magnificent frigatebirds, prehistoric and alien with their enormous wings and long forked tails, drift ominously overhead. In the middle of it all, forming unruly flocks thousands of birds strong, are handsome black-and-white seabirds called sooty terns. Though mos

Birdist Rule #59: Learn to Identify Warblers From Below

Birders know spring migration as a kind of paradise, when the weather is finally warm and the birds are once again plentiful. But even paradise isn’t perfect. The bugs are back, for one thing. And unlike birds sitting in bare winter trees, spring migrants always seem to be hidden behind newly emerged leaves. It’s even harder to see the bright and beautiful patterns of migrant warblers, who spend most of their time flitting about treetops and only showing us their butts. I’ve spent so much time

Four Quick Tips for Identifying Hybrids

Birders are obsessed with trying to tell species apart, but sometimes the birds themselves aren’t so picky. Occasionally, individuals from two different species will come together and pop out offspring with characteristics of each parent. These unique, field-guide-defying birds are known as hybrids. About 10 percent of the world’s avian species are known to have hybridized with another species. But why? There isn’t a clear answer. The romantic in me likes to think of it like Romeo and Juliet, w

Ten of the Best Podcasts About Birds

Podcasting has revolutionized the airwaves for millions of Americans, and birders are no exception. I personally have a rotation of eight or so podcasts that I listen to every day to and from work and, frankly, I don’t know how people got along beforehand. Read the newspaper? Boring. Make conversation? No thanks. Podcasts are a lifesaver for the introverts in all of us. Thankfully, there are a lot of birding podcasts to add to the roster. Some are short; some are long. Some focus on news and in
Load More Articles