Inca tern. It’s hard to miss this gull cousin, with its snow-white curlicue moustache. The ornament, prominently displayed during mating, actually indicates reproductive strength; the longer the moustache, the stronger the bird. The extraction of guano—bird excrement used as fertilizer—disturbs nesting colonies off Peru and poses a real threat.
Roseate spoonbill. The oar-shaped beak of the aptly named roseate spoonbill doesn’t just look cool; it actually serves a purpose, helping the wading species spoon up small food from the water below. While it may appear the flamingo’s doppelganger, the two species share little besides their blush-tinted hue and come from different families altogether.
Blue-fronted Amazon. Since the early 1980s, when the blue-fronted Amazon was listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, CITES has confirmed more than 400,000 seized from the wild. Despite their popularity as pets, these birds, which have at least nine different vocalizations, are neither endangered nor threatened.
Red-legged seriema. Run, don’t fly, from a threat. That’s the unofficial motto of the red-legged seriema, which can travel short distances in the air bet prefers darting from predators at 15 miles per hour. Above all, these birds, one of just two species in the South American Carimidae family, favor ambling from meal to meal and performing duets to showcase their distinctive yelp-like calls.
King bird-of-paradise. At only six inches long, the male king bird-of-paradise pales in size to its larger New Guinea brethren. What it lacks in bulk is offset by its rainbow physique: a red, orange, and yellow head, green neck and tail-streamer feathers, and blue feet. Plus, the less colorful females tend to the species’ tree-cavity nests.
Victoria crowned-pigeon. A flashy regal crest and masked red-orange eyes befit this sociable but laid-back bird, which spends its days on the forest floor looking for food. Despite unknown population estimates, logging and hunting in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have made the species vulnerable to decline. Hunter seek both the pigeon’s feathers and its meat.
When it comes to protecting natural havens for bird species, shade-grown-coffee farms are second only to virgin forest. A writer’s journey through Nicaragua illustrates just how key coffee farms can be for the well-being of a certain warbler.
Charley Harper perfected an inimitable style that celebrated nature’s colorful purity. Now designer Todd Oldham, in an excerpt from his new book, talks about his friendship with Harper and about the artist’s work.
Not even a tragic accident could derail two young men’s inspiring project to study one of North America’s least-understood birds. Their groundbreaking research is helping ornithologists understand how to help these birds as a warming climate alters their mountain home.