By Guest Blogger Julien Ueda
Alvaro Jaramillo wrote the Birds of Chile and the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of California. As an expert in ornithology, he also runs his own tour company, Alvaro's Adventures. So, I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to learn from him.
From the start of the workshop, I knew I would learn a lot. I have stared at the two pages Sibley devoted to the many morphs of Red-tailed Hawks, but Alvaro simplified it by focusing on the dark patagials that appear in flight or the “dark, light, dark” pattern on the bird’s underside. Two rules … What a relief! But birding is more than identification.
Alvaro described the Harlan’s Hawk, a subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk, with its own set of color morphs and slight genetic differences that demonstrated the blurry lines we use to define species. He showed the Buteo phylogenetic tree and how some lineages migrated from the Americas to Eurasia and back again to give us the Ferruginous Hawk. He discussed prey specialization across raptor species and described ten thousand Swainson’s Hawks eating millions of dragonflies in Argentina. Alvaro taught me the story of each species through their ecology and evolution and gave me a greater appreciation for raptors.
Now spotting a flying raptor above the trail, I can say:
“Has to be a Red-tail with those dark patagials!
Prairie Falcons have dark wing pits!
It’s a December Accipiter, the retricies are about the same length, and much of the head is behind the wing. Must be a Sharpie!”
I would like to thank SFBBO for organizing these wonderful workshops and the donors who supported scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds. Your contribution works to make this hobby more accessible to all and lays the foundation for a more diverse world of birding.
Julien Ueda is a senior at Stanford University pursuing a biology degree in ecology and evolution. He is a docent at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve analyzing the preserve’s bird transect data and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology. Additionally, he practices wildlife photography
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