May 2023

This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats. 

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):
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Regular readers may remember our coverage of Red-legged Honeycreepers after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida in the last days of September. In our November E-bulletin we reported on “honeycreeper madness” – at least 15 Red-legged Honeycreepers that appeared across the Sunshine State in October.


As we noted, these birds were mostly one- and two-day wonders, “disappearing” after somewhat short visits. We surmised that some were still around, potentially looking for places to “settle” and potentially be available to be found again later. See here:


Well, maybe we were right.


The phenomena may have started in mid-to-late January, with a honeycreeper found in South Miami at the small, but attractive, Brewer Park, followed by another bird on the other side of the state, at Eagle Lakes Community Park in Collier County. This second honeycreeper soon disappeared, but the one in Brewer Park persisted.


By the first week of April, one honeycreeper was seen on Big Pine Key in the Palm Villa Neighborhood for a couple of days, and another one was seen at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West. This last bird at Key West was reported a couple of more times in April.


Perhaps the most reliable honeycreeper of the lot was the Brewer Park individual which was reported at least through 13 April. This female-type honeycreeper was usually seen in trees by the parking area or across the street from the park in a residential front yard.


You can see a photo of that bird – taken in late March – here:


(Note: elsewhere in Florida, and not to be outdone, there were other Caribbean rarities around, including a continuing long-term Bahama Mockingbird [since January], Cuban Pewee and La Sagra Flycatcher – three of them in three different South Florida locations – and highlights at the Dry Tortugas including Black Noddy and Red-footed Booby)





As mentioned above, the honeycreeper occurrence in South Miami at little Brewer Park was helped by checking out the front yard just across 57th Street opposite the site’s visitor parking lot.


The fact that there was a feeder on that private property – often visited by Painted Buntings – made the place more attractive and, frankly, it didn’t hurt. William Scott Wilson – Bill Wilson – resident of the home, seemed to keep track of the cryptic honeycreeper, and this was much appreciated by visitors seeking out the bird. 


Anyhow, this kind of casual monitoring by “rarity hosts” is sometimes forgotten in our birding community, and it needs to be openly appreciated more often.


It’s all part of the diplomacy of birding, sometimes crucial and formal when it comes to access, sometimes more free-and-easy, or even spontaneous.


In any case, it enhances – and makes more pleasurable – the whole experience. Yes, that’s because access matters.





In late April, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission met and approved funding going to Refuge System habitat acquisition through the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF). The funding is mostly obtained through the sales of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as "Duck Stamps," and from tariffs on firearms and ammunition imports.


The Department of the Interior announced that $21.7 million was made available and allocated to expand property at five National Wildlife Refuges:  

  • Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana – $1,466,000 to acquire 548 acres
  • Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in Kentucky – $6,621,000 to acquire 2,482 acres
  • Green River National Wildlife Refuge in Kentucky – $11,372,000 to acquire 1,335 acres
  • Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire – $1,066,450 to acquire 797 acres
  • Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington – $1,255,248 to acquire 239 acres


If these are not all officially “Important Bird Areas,” they are at least adjacent to – or part of habitat networks – that support IBAs.


As the press release from the DOI indicated:

“While Duck Stamps are required for waterfowl hunters as an annual license, anyone can contribute to conservation by buying them. A current Federal Duck Stamp is also a pass into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee. Because nearly all of the proceeds are used to conserve habitat for birds and other wildlife, outdoor enthusiasts including birders and nature photographers buy Duck Stamps to help preserve some of the most diverse and important wildlife habitats in our nation.”


You can read the full release here:


For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site at:





Also on the Federal scene, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released an announcement in early April for funding opportunities in a pilot program, authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, for the Federal Highway Administration to help reduce wildlife vehicle collisions.


While this may not benefit Black and Turkey Vultures habitually feasting on roadkill, other wildlife will surely benefit. Actions should include warning signs for drivers and construction of wildlife crossings both over and under roadways where habitats exist on either side of a busy roads. The program is authorized at $350 million over five years and the DOT will make over $111 million available through grants for applicants closing on 1 August.


More details can be found here, from the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI):





When it comes to California Condors, “it’s always something!” Early last month, three California Condors were found dead in Arizona, and researchers quickly discovered why. 


No, it wasn’t lead poisoning, as originally suspected; it was highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). By mid-April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 20 condors had died in the population that moves throughout northern Arizona and southern Utah. And tests confirmed that at least 10 of those birds were positive for the avian flu.


Fortunately, the virus was not detected in parallel condor populations in California and Baja California by late April, but scientists monitoring them were preparing emergency actions in case the situation changed.


This is probably part of the most recent and concerning developments over H5N1, something we’ll surely pick up again in coming months. It’s summarized here:


As for the condors, our regular readers may remember, the California Condor population dropped to just 22 birds in the wild back in 1982. Five years later, all remaining wild condors were placed in a captive breeding program to save the species from extinction. But, by the end of last year, 347 condors lived in the wild – 183 in California and 116 in the Arizona-Utah region.


But avian flu may be killing endangered California Condors at a high rate, as the data suggests, especially given the relatively limited number of these birds in the wild. The 20 recent deaths account for about 17% of the Arizona-Utah population. That's four times the number of deaths in the region last year.


You can find more information here from the USFWS in early April:

  and an updated media report from near the end of the month:





As we track the window-and-birds situation, it is important to note that in mid-April the Maryland General Assembly passed the Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act of 2023 (HB 6), passed with just 25 minutes to spare in the legislative session!


This new law will require all newly built, acquired, or renovated buildings receiving 51% Maryland state funding to follow standards for bird-friendly windows and shielded nighttime lighting. This should conserve energy as well as save birds. And this bill also can serve as another model for other states and a stimulus for counties within Maryland in passing their own detailed bird-protective building legislation.


The bill was driven by a broad coalition of organizations, mostly highlighted here, along with pre-passage arguments made to win support. See here for examples:





Hugh Willoughby a retired teacher, guidance counselor, birding editor, bird enthusiast, and all-around naturalist passed on 10 April at the age of 91.


Hugh was a well-known Rhode-Island birder. Among other things, he was a leader on the popular Rhode Island Audubon autumn weekends on Block Island for 37 years. He was also Senior Technical Reviewer for the publications of the American Birding Association (ABA) for 35 years, as well as a free-lance editor, running his own business from 1958, for 40 years.


His skills as a copyeditor were legion. Master of, among other things, the serial comma, Hugh would often praise the content of this Birding Community E-bulletin, while at the same time letting our two editors know that we had violated writing standards in one or another case when it came to misplaced modifiers, dangling participles, comma rule #3, or spelling gaffs.


This was often done with hilarity as well as a touch of grace.


Among awards received by Hugh Willoughby were the 2003 Rhode Island Distinguished Naturalist Award by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, Outstanding Naturalist by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and recipient of the Claudia Wilds Award from the ABA for his long and distinguished service to that organization.


 Hugh will be genuinely missed by many birders throughout the country. You can read more on Hugh Willoughby here:





On Saturday, 13 May, you can venture outside for as little or as long as you would like, and you can use eBird to keep track of the birds you see. Last year, participants on Global Big Day, more than 51,000 people from 201 countries, submitted 132,000 checklists with eBird, and they broke new world records for birding on a single day. Participation is easy.


Do consider bringing along someone new to watching birds. Find details here:




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