Canada’s Sparrows Are Singing a New Song. You’ll Hear It Soon

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‘Black Women Who Bird’ Take the Spotlight to Make Their Presence Known

As part of Black Birders Week, women are sharing their love of the outdoors and the challenges they face in them.

For the past week, Black birders, scientists, and nature lovers have flooded Twitter with their own stories. As part of the inaugural “Black Birders Week,” they’ve introduced the world to their work and passions, posting about their experiences outdoors and sharing everything from the joy it brings them to the racism they encounter in the field and their daily lives.

The social media campaign was created by a collective of 30 Black scientists and naturalists, called BlackAFinSTEM, in response to the recent racist incident in Central Park between a Black birder, Christian Cooper, and Amy Cooper, an unrelated white woman. After the video went viral, BlackAFinSTEM organized Black Birders Week, dedicating different days to hashtagged themes, such as #BlackInNature on Sunday and the #PostABirdChallenge on Monday. To round off the event, #BlackWomenWhoBird are taking the spotlight on Friday to make their presence known. 

“The visibility of Black women who bird is really not out there,” says Deja Perkins, a conservation biology graduate student at North Carolina State University and co-organizer of Black Birders Week. “We don’t really see representation of ourselves in this activity, so I think it’s really important for us to highlight that women are out here birding. And this is an activity that we would like other Black women to join in on.”

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New York is quiet. Listen to the birds.

By Antonio de Luca, Dave Taft and Umi Syam May 31, 2020

Illustrated by David Allen Sibley. Sonograms from Donald Kroodsma.

There is an obvious upside to the unnatural pall that has fallen over the city. Suddenly, in place of car horns, roaring planes, rattling trains and buses, New York City seems to be filled with bird song.

The birds are not new to the city. It’s just that the pause in the urban soundtrack happens to coincide with the peak of the spring migration along the Atlantic coast. The birds have always been here. This spring, we can hear them.

Here is a mix of the birds passing through New York right now. Some are easy to spot, and some offer more of a challenge; some are best found only in the mornings or at dusk. And some will probably only be heard, and never seen.

Yellow Billed Cuckoo

Coccyzus americanusYellow Billed CuckooPlay

LISTEN FOR

A sharp, staccato, “Kak-kak-kak-kak!” It’s the mysterious bird hiding the jungle in every Tarzan movie.

WHERE TO FIND ONE

Early mornings at the edges of woodlands. Stake out tent caterpillar nests; cuckoos have a weakness for them.

In flight, the yellow-billed cuckoo has attractive rust-colored wing patches, with white spots arranged in parallel lines along the underside of a long tail.

Long and lean, these birds perch in the dense tangles of local woodlands. Their ability to hide is legendary, but hearing them always confirms their presence, and that is always easier without airplanes overhead.

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Owls in the early modern imagination: Ominous omens and pitiable sages

By Haylie Swenson

Owls were bad omens for Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but the prophecy and wisdom they symbolized also made them objects of satire.

Owls were bad omens for Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The general of the French forces, facing an English emissary in Henry VI, Part 1, calls him “Thou ominous and fearful owl of death, / Or nation’s terror and their bloody scourge!” (4.2.15) Similarly, when Richard III receives bad news on the battlefield, he reacts by shouting “Out on you, owls! Nothing but songs of death” and striking the messenger: “There, take thou that till thou bring better news” (4.4.536-537). When in King Henry VI, Part 3 the titular king wants to wound Richard, he says “The owl shrieked at thy birth, an evil sign” (5.6.36). Continue reading