Frequently Asked Questions - Watching and Identifying Birds
One good on-line source is www.AudubonGuides.com where you can order guide books on birds and many other natural history topics, as well as field guide apps for "smart phones" and other digital devices. Here, you can also keep a life list, and upload bird sightings with photos. Audubon VideoGuides are available in DVD or VHS format and can be ordered online at www.mastervision.com/mv-bird.html.
Audubon nature stores can be found across the country at Audubon Centers. For a nationwide list, check out http://marketplace.audubon.org. Most bookstores carry an array of birding guides, as do local bird stores which also carry CDs and DVDs of bird songs and video identification.
Ivory-billed woodpeckers were originally found throughout the lower Mississippi River states in large, bottomland forests. The last scientifically-confirmed sighting was in 1948, but since then sporadic sightings have led researchers to venture deep into remaining southern forests in the hope of documenting their existence. Another, more common woodpecker, the Pileated woodpecker, is commonly mistaken for the Ivory-billed as it is a similar crow-size with a black and white body and wings, and the male and female Pileated both have the striking red crest, like the male Ivory-billed. The Pileated Woodpecker can be found throughout the Eastern and extreme Northwestern U.S. and Canada in smaller woodlots that have large, old trees for nest sites. Some even nest in tall wooden light poles on ball fields.
If you think you have seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the southeastern U.S. swamps, you can check your identification and report the sighting at a special website: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/identifying.
It's possible, but more likely it is a partial albino. Many common backyard species display a genetic mutation that affects the color of their feathers, or at least those with the pigment melanin. Only some birds are true albinos, indicated by the presence of pure white feathers, white bills, and eyes that lack pigment (so they appear pink). Partial albinos will have some white feathers (such as wings, or head) or markings combined with normal coloration on other parts. A similar condition, Leucism, is one where a bird exhibits a lighter than usual coloration, but is not pure white. This is due to a genetic mutation preventing melanin from being deposited normally on feathers. Any of these aberrations in pigment can make it tricky to identify the bird, but careful examination of its size, body features, behavior, and other birds it may be with will reveal its true identity.
Your local Audubon chapter is the first place to look, as most offer local and regional field trips throughout the year. Some even offer longer trips to other countries. To find the Audubon chapter nearest to you, visit http://audubon.org/search-by-zip.
Many companies offer trips to some of the world's best birding spots. Many reputable ecotourism companies advertise in Audubon magazine-- visit www.AudubonMagazine.com and click on "Advertisers" for a list and direct links.
During the Great Backyard Bird Count in mid-February, you can post photos taken during the count week. Check out www.BirdCount.org for details. Images taken of birds seen on the Christmas Bird Count (from December 14 to January 5 each year) can be uploaded here: http://www.audubon.org/mediaset/cbc-photo-contest. You will need to have your CBC Count Code and State available for entry. You can also post bird sightings on a map and upload photos at www.AudubonGuides.com.
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