In this issue: How to tell a caw from a croak, eight migration mysteries solved, the story of the Laysan Albatross, FeederWatch season approaches, and more.

Cornell Lab eNews

October 2014

Video: how to tell a raven from a crow

Here's How to Tell a Crow From a Raven, Blindfolded

Crows and ravens look almost alike, and with ravens expanding their range of late, telling the difference is a growing challenge. Our own Dr. Kevin McGowan has studied crows for 30 years—and his advice is to use your ears. Learn to tell a caw from a croak, and these big black birds will confuse you nevermore

What If They're Silent? See our Crows vs. Ravens page for McGowan's visual ID tips.

Was That Helpful? Dr. Kevin McGowan teaches a series of bird ID webinars that feature his signature blend of comprehensive coverage, expert tips, and insightful Q&A. Learn your raptors through October; sign up for waterfowl webinars beginning Nov. 10.
artwork by Luke Seitz
Artwork by Luke Seitz.

Eight Migration Mysteries Explained by BirdCast and eBird

How do you explain frog-like peeping in the fall night sky? What's a tropical Purple Gallinule doing in Iceland? Why do Chipping Sparrows in Colorado migrate east before they head south? BirdCast project scientists are intrigued by the many mysteries of migration—both how birds get to the correct places, as well as what causes them to veer off course. With the help of eBird data submitted by bird watchers like you, they're unraveling these mysteries and learning some surprises
Do you name of this little water bird?
Do you know this bird photographed in March in Florida? If not, get some help from Merlin Bird ID on your iOS or Android device. Photo by Rob & Amy Lavoie via Birdshare.

Which Species Is This?

Fall means saying goodbye to many songbirds but hello to lots of waterfowl that are on their way south. This little creature is a familiar sight in ponds across North America, where it seems to spend almost as much time underwater as above it. With its brown colors and unconventional pose this bird isn't exactly easy as pie, but it's still distinctive. Do you know which species this is? Check your guess and learn more

Want a Hint? Our Merlin Bird ID app can help you learn birds by asking a few short questions and giving you a smart list of possibilities. It's free for iOS and Android—download it and try it out with the photo above (taken in Florida in March).
Laysan Albatross on Kauai, Hawaii
Laysan Albatross by Hugh Powell.

The Laysan Albatross Made an Amazing Comeback. Will It Be Enough?

They survived tremendous losses from feather hunting in the 1910s. Despite dangers from industrial fishing and plastic pollution, Laysan Albatrosses are today the second most abundant albatross in the world. But virtually all of them nest on tiny, flat coral atolls, where rising sea levels caused by climate change pose a real danger. The main Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Oahu may represent the brightest hope for the species—but only if they can survive alongside humans. Read the article and find out what you can do to help.

Watch an Albatross Grow Up in this highlight video of Kaloakulua, the chick from our 2014 Laysan Albatross camera. Browse the full timeline here.
Spotted Towhee and native fruits by Simon Richards
Spotted Towhee by Simon Richards via Birdshare.

Let Them Eat Berries

When the leaves fall and the insects vanish, birds turn to berries and other native fruits to get through the season. Planting native shrubs and trees is a great way to augment your bird feeders—and now is a good time to plant. Our Citizen Science blog has a list of top 5 native berries plus recommendations specific to your area. 

Put Your Yard on the Map. Keep track of your gardening adventures, share advice, and see what others are doing with our free, fun YardMap project.
Take the October eBird Challenge: It's a great month to watch the skies for migrants—and it could win you Zeiss binoculars and Princeton University Press books. Details here.  
Courtship and Rivalry: A few spaces are still available for our popular online course that dives into intriguing aspects of bird behavior. Develop skills you can use to enhance your enjoyment of birds, any time, anywhere! Course runs October 22 to November 25—details are here.
Taxonomy Untangled: Scientists recently updated the master list of the world's bird species and families. Neotropical Birds editor Tom Schulenberg walks you through the main changes.
You Go This Way, I'll Go That Way: The Northern Wheatear breeds in North America but winters in Africa—and can fly either direction around the world to get there. 
Birds of North America Online Celebrates 10 Years:
Access to the definitive life-history accounts for 700+ North American breeding species is available on a one-month trial for $5 or just $42 per year.  
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.

Project FeederWatch Starts Next Month. Are You In for the Count?

Join Project FeederWatch this winter
This winter, why not join the more than 50,000 people who have participated in Project FeederWatch? Our 28th season begins November 8. The information you and others report online provides a crucial resource to help us track changes to bird populations across North America. We need your help!
We welcome people of all interests and skill levels. An $18 fee ($15 for Lab members) covers staff time and project kits including a calendar and a bird ID poster. Returning this year will be the BirdSpotter photo contest, this time with TWO weekly winners. Join today and receive your kit before the new season begins!
Enjoy the Living Bird digital version

Announcing Living Bird Digital

Our award-winning member magazine, Living Bird, is renowned for its great stories and beautiful photography. Now you can enjoy a replica of the print magazine via Living Bird Digital.

Back issues are free to read online. Cornell Lab members can read the magazine on a tablet or smartphone app, and get exclusive access to the newest issues. Try out a back issue or join the Cornell Lab today for full access.

Find Us on Facebook: If you're on Facebook but don't follow us yet—please join our community of 325,000 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

Student birders courtesy BirdSleuth
Spending 15 Minutes a Week watching birds can help children build interest in the outdoors and an ability to think scientifically. We've got five ideas for how to get them started.

Challenge Your Students to a Bird Quest: This free booklet sets out six challenges that will help students learn about birds by drawing on expert online resources from eBird. Download it here and start exploring!

What's a Good Field Guide for Kids? We asked teachers and quizzed our staff to come up with some sound advice for choosing a field guide that kids will find useful and fun. See our suggestions.
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

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