In this issue: Getting ready for nesting season; dance lessons from albatrosses; rethinking redpoll evolution; a global Big Day, and more.

Cornell Lab eNews

April 2015

Common Redpoll, left, and Hoary Redpoll, right
One species or two? Common Redpoll (left) by Sharon Watson via Birdshare, Hoary Redpoll (right) by Chris Wood.

How Many Species of Redpolls Are There, Anyway?

Redpolls are tiny, incredibly hardy arctic finches. For most of us, they are longed-for visitors that show up at feeders every few years. When they do, there's always the hope of finding a pale Hoary Redpoll among the brown, streaky Common Redpolls. But a new look at these birds' DNA could change all that. Despite differing appearances, they are genetically almost identical. How can that be? Read the full story.

photo by Sterling Moore via Birdshare
Do you know the name of this spotted songster? Photo by Sterling Moore via Birdshare.

Which Species Is This?

Here's a bird that looks somewhat familiar yet somehow unusual. It's small but not squat, with a bill stranded somewhere between short and long. It's spottier than a sparrow and thinner than a thrush. The open bill is a hint too—this bird is a prodigious songster. It's also an emblematic species of an immense North American ecosystem, from which it takes its name. Do you know which species this is? Check your guess and learn more.

Coming Soon: Learn much more about this species and its fragile ecosystem in The Sagebrush Sea, a gorgeous documentary set to air on the award-winning PBS series Nature, on Wednesday, May 20.
learn to dance like an albatross - video

So You Think You Can Dance—Like an Albatross?

This delightful video features four subadult Laysan Albatrosses practicing their courtship moves. The birds' antics are funny, but the video explains how it all comes together for a serious purpose. All those bill snaps, head tucks, and "sky moos" help establish and strengthen pair bonds. All the footage and albatross sounds were recorded on our albatross cam streaming live from Kauai, Hawaii. Watch the video—then check out the live cam.

More Busy Nesters: Nesting is well underway on our Red-tailed Hawk cam (Big Red and Ezra have 3 eggs), Barred Owl cam (2 eggs), and Barn Owl cam (5 eggs). Watch them all—and get ready for hatching toward the end of the month.
Killdeer by Sue Bishop
Can you see the eggs nestled in the gravel beneath this Killdeer? Photo by Sue Bishop via Birdshare.

Keep an Eye Out for Five of the Coolest Nests in North America

To celebrate spring, our Citizen Science team put their heads together and nominated five avian architects whose nests they admire. From the Killdeer's collection of sticks to the oriole's woven sock nest, the birds on this list make homes that fit their habitat in simple, daring, and fanciful ways. See the full list—or if you like minimalists, check out our picks for birds that don't make any nest at all.

Love Nests? Try NestWatch. Our free project has tons of info on common nesting birds, tips for birdhouses, and ways for you to contribute to science.
"Mabel," the goshawk trained by author Helen Macdonald
The author's goshawk, Mabel. Photo courtesy of Helen Macdonald.

A Falconer Reviews the Bestseller H Is for Hawk

In a deeply moving memoir, the science historian and poet Helen Macdonald chronicles her grief after losing her father, and the training of a goshawk that helped her through it. H Is for Hawk has won acclaim in both the U.K. and the U.S. for its lyrical writing. Lifelong falconer Tim Gallagher gives it equally high marks for the way it weaves falconry through the story. His review offers a unique perspective on this absorbing book.
Boreal Birds Need Half: A campaign backed by the Boreal Songbird Initiative, Ducks Unlimited, Cornell Lab, and others urges protection of our continent's "bird nursery."
Hone Your Hawk Eye: We're offering a six-part series of raptor ID webinars. You can register for live webinars or access archives for ones you miss. Details here
Enter the April eBird Challenge: Watch for raptors this month and enter them into eBird for a chance to win Zeiss binoculars.  
Hummingbird Migration Made Visible: Data from eBirders helped scientists map the migration routes of five species. See the routes.
National Geographic blog explores our 271-bird mural, From So Simple a Beginning, one bird at a time.
Take a Road Trip: Our Upcoming Bird Festivals and Events webpage makes it easy to plan your next birding destination. You can look through listings by calendar or on a map, so you can start planning your road trip right from the page.

Global Big Day: The Birds Are Counting on You

Join the Lab and get a coffee mug, tote bag, notebook, or other great items
Click to see the full world map and download a version for your desktop.

This spring, the Lab’s Team Sapsucker is going global with our annual “Big Day” conservation fundraiser—and inviting you to come along. The goals are ambitious: with your help, we hope to tally 4,000 bird species in a single day and to raise $500,000 for conservation.

Team Sapsucker will be birding in Panama, where migrating birds converge in the millions to cross the land bridge that connects the Americas. You can join in by spending a few minutes birding on May 9 and entering your sightings at Generous help from Panama's Canopy Tower will help your donation to go directly to conservation. 
To get ready for this global first, download this magnificent world map (perfect for your computer desktop) and help us count down the days to Global Big Day on May 9, 2015.
Find Us on Facebook: If you're on Facebook but don't follow us yet—please join our community of 399,000 fans for a daily dose of bird quizzes, gorgeous videos, fascinating articles, and tons of photos. 
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Attention Educators: Check Out These Resources

8 tips for teaching class outdoors
Make Every Day Earth Day: We're celebrating Earth Day all month! Educators and students that create an earth-friendly project and share it on our Action Map could win bird feeders or even a mini-grant of up to $750. 

Curriculum Kits on Sale: Most Wanted Birds and Nature Detectives have great ideas and materials for classroom activities, and both are on sale this month for 20% off—plus you'll get a free bird feeder.
Professional Development: Save $40 on our in-depth, 6-week course Investigating Behavior: Courtship and Rivalry in Birds. And plan now for our 3-day Summer Educator's Retreat. Retreat tuition includes curriculum kits and a pair of Celestron binoculars.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at

Copyright © 2015 Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All rights reserved.

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