This sampler contains short excerpts from the following new and forthcoming books from Comstock Publishing Associates, an imprint of Cornell University Press. In some cases, the pages have been cropped from the original trim size to fit this sampler. Full details about each book are available on our website, cornel Ipress.cornel 1.edu. Anne Armstrong, Marianne E. Krasny, & Jonathan Paul Schuldt, Communicating Climate Change: A Guide for Educators, available December 2018 P.A. Buckley, Walter Sedwitz, William J. Norse, & John Kieran, Urban Ornithology: 150 Years of Birds in New York City, available November 2018 John Seibert Farnsworth, Coves of Departure: Field Notes from the Sea of Cortez, available November 2018 Marianne E. Krasny, ed., Grassroots to Global: Broader Impacts of Civic Ecology, available now Liliana Chavarria-Duriaux, David C. Hille, & Robert Dean, Birds of Nicaragua: A Field Guide, available now
CHANGING THE WORLD ONE BOOK AT A TIME
COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE A Guide for Educators Anne K. Armstrong, Marianne E. Krasny, and Jonathon P. Schuldt
COMSTOCK PUBLISHING ASSOCIATES AN IMPRINT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS
ITHACA AND LONDON
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Copyright © 2018 by Cornell University All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850. Visit our website at cornellpress.cornell.edu. First published 2018 by Cornell University Press Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data [CIP to come] The text of this book is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0): https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.
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Par t 1 BACKGROUND
1. Climate Change Science: The Facts
2. Climate Change Attitudes and Knowledge
3. Climate Change Education Outcomes
4. Climate Change Education Vignettes
Part 1 Recap
Par t 2 THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CLIMATE CHANGE
6. Psychological Distance
7. Other Psychological Theories
Part 2 Recap
Par t 3 COMMUNICATION
8. Framing Climate Change
9. Using Metaphor and Analogy in Climate Change Communication
10. Climate Change Messengers: Establishing Trust
Part 3 Recap
Par t 4 STORIES FROM THE FIELD 11. Climate Change Education at the Marine Mammal
Center, Sausalito, California
12. Climate Change Literacy, Action, and Positive Youth
Development in Kentucky
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13. Building Soil to Capture Carbon in a School Garden in
14. Psychological Resilience in Denver, Colorado
Part 4 Recap
Notes Bibliography Index
99 117 129
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“If only they knew more about the issue, they would act!” Have you said that to yourself or your environmental education colleagues before? Looking at an issue like climate change, we see that a wealth of information and a high level of issue awareness among the U.S. public have not led to the kind of action needed to reduce climate threats to human and natural systems. Americans’ climate change concern still ranks lower than their concern for other environmental problems like water supply and pollution, as well as lower than their concern for health care and the economy. Climate change concern has, however, increased significantly since 2015.1 Yet these high levels of awareness and growing concern mask the range of opinions that environmental educators might encounter at a local level, as well as the emergence of climate change as a highly politicized issue in U.S. politics.2 Although climate change remains a challenging topic for environmental educators, environmental education is an important player in fostering positive climate change dialogue and subsequent climate change action.3 Environmental education programs, organizations, and online resources related to climate change abound in formal, nonformal, and informal settings.4 The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) boasts a collection of over six hundred climate change education resources reviewed by scientists and educators that range from activities to demonstrations, visualizations, and videos curated from around the Internet. National environmental education training programs like Project Learning Tree focus their attention on climate change, with a module for secondary education called “Southeastern Forests and Climate Change.”5 The National Network for Ocean and Climate Change 1
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Interpretation (NNOCCI) has trained over 150 educators in thirty-eight states in research-based techniques for engaging audiences with climate change. And the Planet Stewards program of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers face-to-face training for educators, as well as a webinar series on climate change science and education. As interest from environmental educators has grown, so has research on developing effective climate change programs, particularly in formal education settings.6 Yet the question remains: How do we optimize programs for attaining climate literacy and action to address mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and, when necessary, adaptation to changes already taking place? A review of climate change education literature focused on education in formal settings found that making climate change “personally relevant and meaningful,” and engaging learners through inquiry and constructivist learning, correlated with a program’s success in increasing climate science understanding, shifting climate change attitudes, and inspiring action.7 Research from environmental psychology and climate change communication offers useful, tangible insights into designing climate change education programs that are personally relevant and meaningful.8 For example, environmental psychology informs climate change communication research on framing and metaphors, and it can also directly inform how educators think about and assess their audiences (figure i.1). Similarly, climate change communication research on framing can inform environmental educators’ strategic choice of program language. Training programs like NNOCCI have adopted evidence-based methods drawn from climate change communication and environmental psychology, and educators who participate in this program adopt research-based practices and value a research-based approach.9 Environmental pyschology research (e.g., on attitudes, identity, psychological distance, and climate skepticism)
Climate change communication research (e.g., on framing and metaphors)
Climate change education practice • Audience assessment • Program message development • Program language FIGURE I.1 How environmental psychology research and climate change communication research can inform climate change education practice
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Climate change education and climate change communication share similar goals and desired outcomes, and their definitions reflect these similarities. Climate change education, or climate change environmental education, encompasses a range of “interdisciplinary learning opportunities that people of all ages need to develop the competencies, dispositions and knowledge to address climate change.” It approaches climate change with an “understanding of the socio-political and economic considerations; the scientific basis; and the communication, collaborative problem-solving and analytical skills needed to generate and implement feasible solutions.”10 According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, climate change communication is “about educating, informing, warning, persuading, mobilizing and solving this critical problem. At a deeper level, climate change communication is shaped by our different experiences, mental and cultural models, and underlying values and worldviews.”11 The first part of this definition speaks to goals held in common between climate change communication and environmental education, like climate literacy and action, while the second part touches on linkages between climate change communication and environmental psychology. This book seeks to provide environmental educators with an understanding of how their audiences engage with climate change information, as well as with concrete, empirically tested communication tools they can use to enhance their climate change programs. We define “environmental educator” broadly, to mean people “focused on using best practice in education . . . to address the social and environmental issues facing society.”12 We focus primarily on the first three steps of developing a climate change education program (figure i.2): identifying climate change education outcomes and resources, assessing audiences, and strategizing programs. Part 1 of this book provides overviews of climate change science, climate change perceptions and knowledge, and climate change education outcomes. It also introduces three vignettes referenced throughout the chapters describing how fictional educators address climate change education challenges. Part 2 explores how psychology research explains the complex ways in which people interact with climate change information; this research is useful in informing educators’ audience assessment. Part 3 presents communication strategies with a focus on research about framing, metaphors, and messengers that can help educators formulate program language. At the end of parts 2 and 3, we summarize the research with an eye toward applications to environmental education. Finally, part 4, “Stories from the Field,” highlights four educators’ climate change education programs, and illustrates connections between their teaching strategies and the research covered in parts 2 and 3.
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1. Define your goals. • Which climate change education outcomes do you want to achieve? What changes or actions do you want to achieve as a result of your program? • What resources do you already have to help you achieve your outcome? What resources will you still need? 5. Evaluate. • Compare results with your intended climate change outcomes and indicators of success. • Make decisions about program continuation and modification.
4. Implement and monitor. • Develop activities and pilot test. • Implement activities. • Monitor activities and adapt as needed to help you meet your outcome.
2. Identify and assess your audience. • Whom do you want to reach with your program? • What is your audience’s background? What do they already know about climate change? What attitudes and values do they hold? • How can you involve them in the planning process? 3. Strategize. • Which activities will help you meet your outcome? • Which climate change messages will resonate best with your audience? • How will you evaluate and monitor your program?
FIGURE I.2 Program development cycle Adapted from Susan Jacobson, Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals, 2nd ed. (Washington: Island Press, 2009), 50–51
Bottom Line for Educators The complexity of climate science combined with the complicated political and cultural contexts in which people live makes climate change a particularly challenging topic to approach no matter the educational setting. This book introduces environmental psychology and climate change communication research that can assist environmental educators at several program development stages. Of course, educators also need a foundation in climate change science, which is where we turn next.
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In part 1, we begin with a chapter on how climate change works and how we know the climate is changing. Chapter 1 also includes examples of climate change actions directed at the largest sources of greenhouse gases. Chapter 2 summarizes research on climate change attitudes and knowledge. Chapter 3 outlines a variety of climate change education outcomes to assist educators in defining what they want to achieve with their programs. Chapter 4 presents three vignettes of fictional climate change educators, Elena, Jayla, and Will, who conduct programs in different settings with different audiences. Together, these four chapters provide background and context for the environmental psychology and communications research presented in parts 2 and 3.
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1 CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE TheÂ Facts
In this chapter, we present a short summary of weather and climate as well as an overview of climate change causes, evidence, and impacts. We also introduce actions needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus mitigating climate change. Because environmental educators know their communities, they can play a key role in distilling scientific information and guiding discussion about complexities associated with weather, climate, and climate change. They can also lead their students and communities in taking meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gases.
Weather and Climate Weather varies minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month, and season to season. Temperatures go up and down; some days are cloudy and rainy, while others are sunny; and sometimes the air is still, whereas other times we are refreshed by a gentle breeze or buffeted about by a strong wind. Occasionally, we get floods or droughts. In contrast to the short-term atmospheric changes we call weather, climate refers to longer-term variations. We can think of climate as the average weather for a particular region and time period, usually over thirty years. For example, increases in average temperatures over decades provide evidence of a changing climate. Looking to the future, scientific climate models predict longer and more severe periods of dry weather in some regions, while other regions will likely 7
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8 CHAPTER ONE
experience an increase in annual precipitation, as well as more severe rain events. In 2017, warmer and wetter atmospheric conditions and warmer ocean temperatures intensified Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in the eastern United States, while dry weather exacerbated California wildfires—all the result of a warming planet. The more extreme weather events that we are experiencing currently will likely only intensify as average global temperatures continue to rise.
Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change Humans, like all life on earth, depend on energy coming from the sun. But we also depend on the energy reflected from the earth’s surface back into the atmosphere. This balance between energy coming in and energy going out has been maintained for billions of years, allowing life on earth to survive and thrive. But what happens if excess greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere block more energy from leaving the atmosphere, upsetting that balance? What if, instead of leaving the atmosphere and going back into space, some of the excess energy is returned to the earth’s surface? Put simply, the surface of the earth—including its oceans, land, and air—heats up. Greenhouse gases are essential to life on earth. For example, plants depend on carbon dioxide (CO2), which is also an important greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. And greenhouse gases help to maintain the earth’s surface and oceans at temperatures that enable life to flourish on our planet. But as greenhouse gases accumulate beyond their historic levels, they prevent more and more of the energy reaching the earth from going back into space. The earth absorbs sunlight energy and reemits it as heat, or what scientists call long-wave infrared radiation. Imagine this infrared radiation heading toward space. It bumps into gases in our atmosphere, like oxygen and nitrogen, and continues on its way. But if it bumps into a molecule of a greenhouse gas—say CO2—that molecule absorbs the infrared radiation coming from the earth’s surface. The molecule of CO2 then vibrates and releases heat. The heat from the molecule can go in any direction, including up toward space or back down toward the earth. So far, no problem. Some heat radiates out to space, and some warms up the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface (figure 1.1). But when humans start changing the balance of gases in the atmosphere—specifically, by significantly increasing the concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases—more heat is emitted, including heat headed back toward the earth’s surface. This leads to warming of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land surfaces.
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CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE 9
FIGURE 1.1 The greenhouse gas effect Lindsay Modugno, Jeff Pace, and Dan Lidor, “The Effects of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise on the Coast,” Sandy Hook Cooperative Research Programs, January 2015
To help people envision this process, scientists have used the analogy of a blanket surrounding the earth. On a cold night, you sleep under a blanket, and your body generates heat. The blanket traps that heat, allowing you to sleep through the night. But if your blanket is too thick, it may trap too much heat, and you start sweating and feel uncomfortable. So you can imagine the earth as being wrapped in a blanket of greenhouse gases that is trapping more heat. So what are these greenhouse gases, and where do they come from? The most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, or CO2, which accounted for 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by weight in 2015 (figure 1.2). When we burn fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil, which consist largely of carbon, the carbon combines with oxygen to form CO2. Other sources of CO2 include burning wood and decomposition of solid waste. Cement manufacturing is another significant source of greenhouse gases, accounting for 5 percent of global CO2 emissions.1 Other greenhouse gases are less common but more potent than CO2—that is, they absorb and release more heat per pound emitted. These include methane,
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10 CHAPTER ONE
Nitrous Oxide 5% Methane 10%
Fluorinated Gases 3% Carbon Dioxide 82%
FIGURE 1.2 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2017
which accounted for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. Methane (CH4) is emitted in the mining and transport of natural gas, by livestock, through rice cultivation and other farming practices, and when organic waste in landfills decomposes. Similarly, nitrous oxide (N2O), 5 percent of emissions, is emitted by agricultural and industrial activities, burning fossil fuels, and solid waste decomposition. Finally, fluorinated gases are produced by some industries and have the highest global warming potentials. Whereas methane is about thirty times more potent as a greenhouse gas relative to CO2, nitrous oxide is nearly three hundred times as potent, and fluorinated gases can be thousands or even tens of thousands of times more potent.2 In fact, scientists have known about the heating effect of CO2 since the 1850s, when the scientist John Tyndall conducted meticulous experiments on the ability of atmospheric gases to absorb and transmit radiant heat.3 He found that CO2 absorbed heat more readily than other atmospheric gases, like oxygen and nitrogen, which have simpler molecular structures relative to CO2. Tyndall also speculated that small changes in gasses that absorbed the sun’s heat “would produce great effects on the terrestrial rays and produce corresponding changes of climate”4—something that has since come to pass. But even before Tyndall, Eunice Foote conducted an experiment in which she placed cylinders containing CO2 and normal air in the sun and compared their
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CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE 11
temperatures. Just as Tyndall grasped the connection between CO2 heating up faster than other gases, Foote wrote about CO2: “An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must have necessarily resulted.”5 It appears that Foote was not allowed to present her work at a scientific conference, as female presenters were uncommon in that era. Instead, in 1856, Professor Joseph Henry presented Foote’s work at the meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Albany, New York, where he prefaced his explanation by pointing out that science is “of no country and of no sex.”6 More recently, researchers discovered that Foote herself published a short paper outlining her results recounting how the container containing CO2 (known at the time as “carbonic acid gas”) became itself much heated—very sensibly more so than the other—and on being removed, it was many times as long in cooling. . . . . . . On comparing the sun’s heat in different gases, I found it to be in hydrogen gas, 104°; in common air, 106°; in oxygen gas, 108°; and in carbonic acid gas, 125°.7 In short, thanks to the experiments of Foote and Tyndall, we have known for over a century and a half about the connection between CO2 and heating of the atmosphere.
Evidence of Climate Change So far, we have explored the mechanisms for how greenhouse gases trap heat. But what is the evidence that the earth’s climate is heating up? And even if it is warming, how do we know that factors other than greenhouse gases are not responsible? The evidence comes from measurements of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and of recent and historical changes in the earth’s surface temperature. Between 1970 and 2000, total greenhouse gas emissions from human activities like burning fossil fuels increased an average of 1.3 percent each year. Between 2000 and 2010, total emissions increased an average of 2.2 percent per year. While this may not seem like a lot, it is similar to compound interest rates—a little bit each year can mean big changes over multiple years. In the year 1970, humans emitted twenty-seven billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, whereas by 2010, we emitted forty-nine billion tons of greenhouse gases per year.8 Focusing just on CO2, in 1850, around the time
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Urban Ornithology 150 Years of Birds in New York City
P. A. Buckley, Walter Sedwitz, William J. Norse, and John Kieran
COMSTOCK PUBLISHING ASSOCIATES an imprint of Cornell University Press Ithaca and London
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Copyright © 2018 by Cornell University All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850. Visit our website at cornellpress.cornell.edu. First published 2018 by Cornell University Press Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Buckley, P. A., author. | Sedwitz, Walter, –1985, author. | Norse, William J., –2006, author. | Kieran, John, 1892–1981, author. Title: Urban ornithology : 150 years of birds in New York City / P.A. Buckley, Walter Sedwitz, William J. Norse, and John Kieran. Description: Ithaca : Comstock Publishing Associates, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Identifiers: LCCN 2017054478 (print) | LCCN 2017057126 (ebook) | ISBN 9781501719639 (epub/mobi) | ISBN 9781501719622 (pdf) | ISBN 9781501719615 | ISBN 9781501719615 (cloth ; alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Birds—New York (State)—New York—History. | Bird populations—New York (State)—New York—History. Classification: LCC QL684.N7 (ebook) | LCC QL684.N7 B825 2018 (print) | DDC 598.09747—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017054478
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Contents List of Figures ix List of Tables xi Preface xiii Acknowledgments xv Introduction 1 Avifaunal Overview 27 Terminology 27 Subarea Coverage 27 Historical and Recent Data Sources 28 Van Cortlandt Contrasted with Central and Prospect Parks 34 Ecological Connectivity 36 Breeding Species 36 Winter Species 48 Migration 52 Resource Concerns 59 The Future 67 Introduction to the Species Accounts 73 Species Accounts 81 Appendixes 1. Tables 413 2. Scientific Names of All Organisms Mentioned in This Book Other Than Birds in the Species Accounts 459 3. Glossary of Symbols, Abbreviations, and Terms Used in This Book 462 4. N ames of All Observers Appearing Anywhere in the Body of This Book 465 5. Stranger in a Strange Land: An Andean Gull in the Bronx 468 6. Specimens in Museum Collections from Van Cortlandt Park, Kingsbridge Meadows, Woodlawn Cemetery and Jerome Reservoir, and Riverdale 470 Literature Cited 487 About the Authors 495 Indexes 497 English Bird Names Scientific Bird Names Subjects
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Introduction It was a dark and very stormy night. On 18–19 November 1932 two large low-pressure systems—one well east of Cape Cod, the other southwest over the Appalachians—interacted with a high-pressure system over the Gulf of St. Lawrence to generate abnormally strong onshore winds and heavy coastal rains on the Atlantic Coast. In consequence, flocks of hundreds of thousands of small highly pelagic, plankton-eating seabirds named Dovekies (scientific names of most native birds appear in the Species Accounts, and of all other organisms in Appendix 2) were abruptly blown onshore, alongshore, or very near shore, from Nova Scotia to Cuba. Such an event had never been previously known and has never recurred. The 19th was a Saturday and the 20th a Sunday, the only reason anyone was out and about. Had it been midweek, many of the storm’s effects and most of the Dovekies would have arrived and departed, or died, unnoticed. But by Saturday and Sunday morning, they began popping up around New York City in the most amazing places, including the Hudson River, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (Prospect Park), and Bronx Park. More to our point, they were even in the Northwest Bronx: two were on Jerome Reservoir on Sunday, unsurprising in that Jerome Reservoir is the largest freshwater body in the Bronx and so a major target for storm-blown waterbirds. It is inconceivable there were none on high-elevation Hillview Reservoir, the same size as Jerome, but nobody looked. It’s also likely there was one on Van Cortlandt Lake, but nobody looked there either. But a group of five Dovekies had made it to nearby Spuyten Duyvil, where too exhausted to fly or dive, they huddled low to the water and
drifted with the currents. Befitting the depths of the Great Depression, they were noticed by some local boys—who quickly commandeered a rowboat, then chased, caught, cooked, and consumed all five. The 1932 Dovekie wreck is among the most out-of-reality bird events in and near our study area, which is delimited and described below. Yet it is a fine example of birds’ unpredictable propensity for appearing anywhere, anytime. The Northwest Bronx has seen its share of unexpected birds, but its avian importance lies in the regularity with which migrants of all kinds use it to feed, rest, and breed. It was there that the pioneering Bronx ornithologists Eugene P. Bicknell and Jonathan Dwight began to take scientific notice of them, documenting their occurrences and recording which bred where and for how long, which were migrants, and which were only winter visitors. They backed up their field notes with an array of museum specimens still extant. This when the area was still in Westchester County, less than 100 years after the American Revolution and only 20 after the death of John James Audubon in upper Manhattan. These two ornithologists began one of the longest continuous chronicles in American ornithology and the only one anywhere in, or even near, New York City. THE PRECONTACT ENVIRONMENT
The northwestern corner of the modern borough (county) of the Bronx in New York City is bounded by the Hudson River on the west; the Harlem River Ship Canal, Harlem River, and Fordham Rd. on the south; the Bronx River on the east; and the city of Yonkers on the north (Figs. 1, 2). Note that all photos and maps
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Figure 1.Â Northwest Bronx and adjacent Yonkers in 1891, showing the relative locations of all 7 study subareas. Only 4 appear on this map: Kingsbridge Meadows (1), Van Cortlandt Park (2), Woodlawn Cemetery (3), and Jerome Meadows (4), but the sites of future Hillview Reservoir (5), Jerome Reservoir (6), and Jerome Swamp (7) are indicated. From Bien and Vermeule 1891a. Courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection.
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Figure 2.Â Northwest Bronx and adjacent Yonkers in 2015, indicating the 4 extant subareas: Van Cortlandt Park (named), Woodlawn Cemetery, Hillview Reservoir (1), and Jerome Reservoir (2). Image courtesy of Google Maps.
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I n tro d u c tio n
look northward unless specifically indicated otherwise. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Northwest Bronx showed some of the greatest relief, most varied habitats, and elevational extremes within the borough, including its highest elevation: 282 ft (86 m), in Riverdale west of Fieldston Rd. and W. 250th St., in the woods past the end of Goodridge Ave. This is only 2 m higher than the highest natural point on the island of Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park. Geologically, the Northwest Bronx lies within the Manhattan Prong of the New England Geomorphic (or Physiographic) Province that extends southward from the Hudson Highlands through Westchester, the Bronx, Manhattan, and extreme western Queens, finally terminating on Staten Island. In the Northwest Bronx it is expressed as two long north–south ridges paralleling the Hudson River: Riverdale (or Spuyten Duyvil) Ridge just east of the river and Fordham Ridge to the east, with Van Cortlandt Park surrounding the valley of Tibbett’s Brook between them (Figs. 1, 3). Within Van Cortlandt Park, maximum elevations are c. 210 ft (64 m) (Northwest and Northeast Forests), 190 ft (58 m) (the Ridge, aka Croton Forest), 180 ft/ 55 m (Shandler Area), and 140 ft/43 m (Vault Hill). Woodlawn Cemetery reaches 210 ft (64 m) and Hillview Reservoir 310 ft (95 m). The basal rocks on the ridges are schists and gneisses, with occasional outcrops like the Yonkers granite on Vault Hill in Van Cortlandt, and marble underlies most of the NE–SW trending valleys. Other visible geological features include fault lines like the one outlining Mosholu Parkway between Van Cortlandt and Bronx Parks. Away from the ridges, the coastal lowland areas within the Manhattan Prong lie generally at an elevation of 20–25 ft (6–8 m), just as they do along the entirety of Tibbett’s Valley in Van Cortlandt Park. Ecologically, all of the mainland south of the Hudson Highlands east of the Hudson River is considered the Manhattan Hills ecozone or province, while all of Long Island falls in the Coastal Lowlands ecozone. In the Northwest Bronx, permanent, yearround freshwater streams of consequence were
few (Fig. 3): the Bronx River on its eastern boundary and Tibbett’s Brook flowing south from southern Yonkers through the valley described above and emptying via Kingsbridge Meadows into Spuyten Duyvil Creek. A handful of probably seasonal streams drained Riverdale Ridge west into the Hudson River and east into Tibbett’s Brook and then south to Kingsbridge Meadows. Similarly, a few small streams drained Fordham Ridge west into Tibbett’s Brook and east into the Bronx River and Jerome Meadows south-southeast into Mill Brook (now gone, occupied by Webster Ave; Fig. 3) and east into an unnamed stream (now gone) that ran the length of modern Mosholu Parkway, emptying to the Bronx River at Bronx Park. No large bodies of freshwater existed, but a few small ponds were scattered throughout Riverdale and the future Van Cortlandt Park (Fig. 3). Freshwater marshes existed in patches along Tibbett’s Brook and the Bronx River (Fig. 3), but the only major one was Van Cortlandt Swamp, which ran the length of Tibbett’s Valley from the modern Yonkers line south into Kingsbridge Meadows. South of today’s Van Cortlandt Park, Tibbett’s Brook became brackish, then salty and tidal as it flowed through Kingsbridge Meadows on its way to the northwestern corner of Spuyten Duyvil Creek at modern W. 230th St. At the northeastern corner of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, Van der Donck Meadows with its brackish and freshwater marshes extended north to the east of modern Broadway, approximately following the track bed of the New York Central Railroad’s Putnam Division, to about modern W. 237th St., where it merged with Kingsbridge Meadows, bracketing the dry land between them known as Kingsbridge Island (Figs. 1, 3, 11, 15). The few saltmarshes were in isolated patches along the Harlem River, the most prominent being at Sherman Creek (modern Dyckman St. in Manhattan) and then along Spuyten Duyvil Creek from the Harlem to the Hudson Rivers. Kingsbridge Meadows was also largely in saltmarshes, but the Hudson River shore in Riverdale lacked any even before the railroad was built there in the late 1840s (Figs. 3, 4).
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Figure 3. Surface water and wetlands in the Northwest Bronx when Henry Hudson dropped anchor in the Hudson River at Spuyten Duyvil in October 1609. Note the absence of any freshwater bodies larger than tiny ponds; Jerome Meadows draining west to Tibbett’s Brook and east to the Bronx River; prominent north–south Mill Brook drainage; limited stream drainage and absence of marshes in Riverdale; and the few saltmarshes only on the Harlem River, Tibbett’s Brook, and Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Location of 19th- and 20th-century features, clockwise from the lower left: Inwood Park (1), Hudson River (2), Spuyten Duyvil Creek (3), Riverdale (4), Van Cortlandt Park (5), Parade Ground (6), Lincoln Marsh section of Van Cortlandt Swamp (7), Van Cortlandt Swamp without Van Cortlandt Lake (8), Sycamore Swamp (9), Woodlawn Cemetery (10), Woodlawn Cemetery ponds (11), Bronx River (12), Williamsbridge marshes on Bronx River (13), Mill Brook (14), Jerome Meadows (15), Tibbett’s Brook (16), Kingsbridge Meadows (17), Kingsbridge Island (18), Van der Donck Meadows (19), Harlem River (20), Marble Hill (21), Yonkers (22). Original image courtesy of Chris Spagnoli and Eric Sanderson, the Welikia Project, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, modified for use here.
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Figure 4.Â Spuyten Duyvil Creek in 1891 before the Harlem River Ship Canal was built, with Hudson Division railroad tracks following the creek north around Marble Hill, across modern W. 231st St. (not shown), then back south to Spuyten Duyvil. Kingsbridge Meadows drains into Spuyten Duyvil Creek (top right), with undiked saltmarshes in horizontal hatching along the Harlem River, Spuyten Duyvil Creek, and Kingsbridge Meadows. From Bien and Vermeule 1891a. Courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection.
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Most of the precontact Northwest Bronx was covered by old-growth Eastern Deciduous Forest, and its composition was eloquently described for Manhattan Island by Sanderson (2009). There is no reason to believe that the Northwest Bronx differed materially. The king of kings was American Chestnut; it is estimated that more than half the wood of the forest was chestnut and that individual trees might have been as much as 4 feet wide and 120 feet tall. But the dukes, counts, and princes of the forest were many: Tuliptrees, oaks of several colors, hickories, maples, birches, Eastern White Pines, Eastern Hemlocks, Sweet Gums, and American Beeches. The hilltops were the domain of the oaks—Chestnut, American White, Eastern Black, and Scarlet. Where the soil was sandy and fire frequent, Pitch Pines grew instead, small outposts from the vast Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey and Long Island. The mid-slopes were dominated by chestnuts, attended by Red Maples, hickories, and birches, and retainers from upand downslope. The bases between the hills were the Red Oaks’ realm, with Tuliptrees, White Ashes, Tupelos, and American Hornbeams standing tall where the ground was not too wet. Majestic Eastern White Pines grew where the glaciers had left sandy lenses in flat places and on rocky slopes and in shadowy ravines. Nearby, hemlock’s associate, the magnificent American Beech, sometimes 8 feet in diameter, sought out the forest coves where it could protect its fragile skin from fire.
Local Lenni-Lenape Indians did not live in a prelapsarian world. They actively managed their landscape for horticulture, fields, trails, game habitat, hunting areas, and villages. Sanderson’s (2009) computer simulations indicated that 80–100% of Manhattan island had been purposely burned by the Lenape during the
1409–1609 period, and there are no reasons to believe the Northwest Bronx had not been also. Non-saltmarsh grasslands were probably less common in the Northwest Bronx than on Manhattan, and most of them may have been maintained by prescribed burns. Into the 19th century, those of consequence would have been at Jerome Meadows, along the upland edges of Kingsbridge Meadows, and on the Van Cortlandt Parade Ground. HISTORY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
When the first Bronx European explorer, Henry Hudson, dropped anchor in his eponymous river, he did so off Spuyten Duyvil in Riverdale. On 2–3 October 1609 the Bronx was occupied, sometimes only seasonally, by several different groups of Lenni-Lenape Indians in the Mohegan tribe of Algonquian speakers, present since at least 1000 CE. Some were remarkably placid, others more bellicose, but after an initial savage encounter with Hudson’s ship and crew at Spuyten Duyvil, any intrinsic ingenuousness vanished. Numerous seasonal and permanent Indian settlements were clustered along Spuyten Duyvil Creek, where hunting, shellfishing, and finfishing were productive, and a permanent settlement existed on the Van Cortlandt Park Parade Ground, which may have been intentionally created ages earlier by burning, because it was a major Lenape corn-growing site. Reginald Bolton (1922) discusses the Lenape village covering several acres on the eastern edge of the Parade Ground on the west bank of Mosholu (= Tibbett’s) Brook. The tribe it belonged to was known as the Weckquaesgeeks (English spellings vary widely), and the village was probably named Mosholu, after a Delaware Indian word meaning shining stones (referring to its characteristic large, smooth rocks in the cascade in front of the village) or clear, not turbid (for its bright waters). A historic Indian trail (the Westchester Path) also crossed the Parade
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Ground area, connecting the village site with areas elsewhere in the Bronx and Manhattan. The government of Holland founded the colony of New Netherland in southern Manhattan in 1614, and in 1646 Adriaen van der Donck purchased a parcel of land soon called Colen Donck (Donck’s Colony). This tract of land was the first New York Dutch settlement north of Manhattan and extended well into southern Westchester County. It was bounded on the west by the Hudson River, on the east by the Bronx River, and on the south by Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Van der Donck built a house below the future Van Cortlandt Mansion site and eventually erected a sawmill, laid out a farm, built a barn and stockade, and brought in colonists. In 1668, four years after the English took control of New Amsterdam and renamed it New York, that part of Donck’s Colony which included the Parade Ground was sold to William Betts and George Tippit (= Tibbett), with the latter then living in Van der Donck’s house. Jacobus van Cortlandt next bought the tract in 1694–99. He was a prominent New Yorker who twice served terms as the city’s mayor in the early 1700s. He established a large plantation on the Parade Ground, and in December 1699 he dammed Tibbett’s Brook (forming Van Cortlandt Lake) to create a millpond and gristmill. The sawmill stood until about 1900, when it burned down, and the gristmill lasted until about 1917, when the Parks Department removed it. The small millpond below the Van Cortlandt Lake spillway is still there, little changed. The Van Cortlandt farmhouse seems to have been located near the existing grove of locusts and the small cemetery just north of the millpond in the southeast corner of the Parade Ground. It may have been destroyed and buried during railroad building and the Parade Ground reconstruction. By 1732 Jacobus van Cortlandt had purchased much of the Bronx portion of the original Van der Donck’s lands in the Bronx and Westchester. After his death in 1739, his son
Frederick, who inherited the lands, built a large stone dwelling house on the plantation in 1748– 49. This is the Van Cortlandt Mansion that still stands in the park east of Broadway at about W. 244th St. and is the oldest extant Bronx house. On Frederick’s death in 1749, his brother Augustus inherited the property. The Bronx and Manhattan Van Cortlandts were revolutionaries, and during the war, Augustus (who was then City Clerk of New York) was ordered to hide all city records from the British. They were stored in his backyard in Manhattan until 1776 but then moved to the Van Cortlandt family burial plot on Vault Hill when the Continental army housed troops on the family grounds. In October 1776, George Washington used the mansion as headquarters prior to the Battle of White Plains. The Continental and British armies were so close to each other that at one point in 1781, it is said that Washington kept large fires blazing on Vault Hill for several nights to deceive the enemy and allow colonial troops to escape. When New York City fell to the British late that year, General Howe then moved his headquarters to the Van Cortlandt Mansion, and its immediate area remained near or behind British lines until the end of the war. The Van Cortlandt family continued to own the property throughout the nineteenth century. During that time they operated a working farm and mill. Robert Bolton (1848) describes it thus: “To the east of [Van Cortlandt’s] house, the Mosholu [Tibbett’s Brook], pent up by the mill dam, forms an extensive sheet of water, which is greatly enhanced by the vicinity of green meadows, orchards and neighboring hills. South of the pond is situated an old mill. Amid the grove of locusts on George’s Point, a little north of the old mill, stood the original residence of the Van Cortlandts. On the Van Cortlandt estate is situated an Indian bridge and field; the former crossed Tippet’s Brook, the latter forms a portion of the Cortlandt woods, an extensive range of woodland to the northeast of the mansion [and the Lake].”
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By the mid-1700s, much of the southern area of Donck’s land was owned by Jacobus van Cortlandt. His son Frederick built the Van Cortlandt Mansion in 1748, but he died the next year and the house went to his son James, then to James’s brother Augustus. After he died in 1823, the property was to pass to his grandson Augustus White, provided that thereafter all who inherited the Van Cortlandt estate would take the Van Cortlandt name. In 1839 upon the death of Augustus van Cortlandt White, it passed to his brother Henry, who died only six months later. The estate then went to his nephew Augustus van Cortlandt Bibby. Under Bibby’s ownership, the house was renovated, and much of the land in and around the area was intensively farmed. This was the Bibby of Bibby’s Pond, the name by which Bicknell knew Van Cortlandt Lake. In June 1912, the very last parcels of the land that had been in the Van Cortlandt family for 212 years—719 city lots covering 60 acres south of the park and extending east to Jerome Reservoir—were finally sold by a Manhattan auctioneer. THE LATE 19TH-CENTURY MILIEU
In the last 30 years of the 1800s, even though New York City was expanding rapidly, an enormous amount of natural area (much of it subject to various degrees of disturbance and degradation) still persisted, even in Manhattan. But in the four outer boroughs there were large swaths of such lands, most of them dotted with small farms. Consequently, there was little pressure to preserve and protect natural areas there. Only a few visionaries foresaw what would happen to the future New York City (Brooklyn and Queens were not even part of it until 1898, and until 1875 the West Bronx was still in Westchester County) and took the initiative. In 1884 the New York State legislature passed the New Parks Act, which, inter alia, authorized three major parks in the Bronx: Van
Cortlandt, Bronx, and Pelham Bay. These were the first new large-area parks within New York City since Central Park (1857) and Prospect Park (1867) but with an important difference. Central and Prospect were manufactured parks created by some of the very first American landscape architects from existing pieces of vestigial and often badly degraded natural areas, while the new Bronx parks set out to protect existing still-forested natural areas without the guidance of landscape architects, whose work in them was limited to a few very small public-use sections. In Van Cortlandt this probably happened only at the Dutch Gardens. By the start of our study period in the early 1870s, moving any distance beyond one’s immediate neighborhood was not easy. Local transport was still only by foot, horseback, or stagecoach and other horse-drawn vehicles. Most roads were unpaved and of dubious quality. For example, travel to downtown Manhattan was by railroad, occasional ferry-like vessels on the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, and private boats. Eugene Bicknell lived in Riverdale, but when commuting to Manhattan he walked from his house about a block west of Broadway at W. 253rd St. to the Putnam Division’s Van Cortlandt Park train station, which gave him some field time every day. Early Van Cortlandt Park (Fig. 1) was crossed by a few minor unpaved roads that were barely more than paths, and the Putnam Division ran on its current track bed with a spur for the Yonkers Rapid Transit line departing from Van Cortlandt Lake and then running northwest across the northeastern corner of the Parade Ground, the west side of Vault Hill, and through the Northwest Forest, with a station at Mosholu Ave. just east of Broadway. The New York Central and Hudson R iver Railroad, constructed between 1847 and 1849 and squeezed in along the river’s eastern shore, ran in the Bronx from Mt. St. Vincent station at the (now) Yonkers line, with stops at Riverdale (W. 254th St.) and Spuyten Duyvil. Heading into Manhattan from the Spuyten
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Duyvil station, in a wide ᴒ–shaped loop the tracks turned abruptly northward along the west bank of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, crossed Tibbett’s Brook near its junction with Spuyten Duyvil Creek and then the mainland of today’s Kingsbridge on W. 231st St., before finally turning back south again after joining the Putnam Division tracks at W. 230th St. (Figs. 1, 4, 11). The late 1800s Northwest Bronx was strikingly different from today’s, and Riverdale was a wilderness, with thick forested vegetation, scattered large houses/estates, no paved and few through roads. In Kingsbridge Heights, Kieran remembered well the street he grew up on, which into the 1890s was still unpaved; bereft of electricity, telephones and cars; lit by gas lamps; scattered with isolated frame houses, small farms, and numerous apple orchards; and populated by many horses, cows, and chickens. It was rus in urbe—the country in the city. Few New Yorkers today realize that malaria was an everyday problem facing residents of the study area into the early 20th century. Plasmodium vivax is the protozoan that causes benign tertian malaria—oxymoronically benign because it kills only a few, tertian because fevers recur every third day. This was New York’s endemic malaria and its major vector was Four-spotted Mosquito, a species regularly found in standing water around human habitation. Without doubt, vivax malaria was endemic in Van Cortlandt Park and elsewhere in the study area until its eradication in the early 1900s. Kieran was a victim as a child around the turn of the 20th century, when it was rampant at the Jerome Reservoir construction site, which was viewable from a window in his house. Fortunately, its symptoms are mild even though persisting throughout life, unlike those of frequently lethal but nonetheless one-off pantropical P. falciparum malaria. Intra-Bronx horse drawn trolleys known as horsecars did not begin until >1820s, and they gradually replaced the horse-drawn oversize stagecoaches called omnibuses (the origin of today’s word buses) that had provided intra- and
interborough connections. Horsecar routes were scattered across the Bronx, but little information is available about them in the West Bronx beyond their use on Broadway and Riverdale Ave. By the late 1800s they in turn were gradually replaced by electric streetcars (trolleys), especially after a massive outbreak of equine influenza in the early 1870s. By the early 1900s, streetcars ran to most outlying parts of the Bronx, including City Island and Clason Point, and on Broadway and Jerome/Central Aves. well into Yonkers. They were all eventually replaced by diesel-belching buses in 1948, with the last streetcars in the study area being those run by Yonkers Transit down Broadway to the subway at W. 242nd St.; they ceased operation in 1952. There were no subways in the Northwest Bronx until the Broadway Division of the IRT reached its terminus at W. 242nd St. and Broadway in 1907. To the east, the IRT’s Jerome Ave. line did not reach Woodlawn Cemetery until 1918. Electric automobiles were prominent but not numerous into the early 1900s, but it was not until Henry Ford’s Model T in 1910 that gasoline-powered cars began their race to ubiquity. Roads to accommodate them in and around New York City took some time to catch up, and it was not until Robert Moses began to build commercial traffic-free parkways in the 1920s that traffic light– and stop sign–free highways began to appear. THE STUDY AREA: CREATION AND LOSS
Even though residentially developed for small houses and quite recent high-rise apartments, the Northwest Bronx area is still one of the more natural parts of New York City. Large areas exceptionally favorable to birdlife included Riverdale, Van Cortlandt Park, Woodlawn Cemetery, Jerome Reservoir, Hillview Reservoir, the Hudson River, Spuyten Duyvil Creek, and the Harlem River.
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Our study area, almost entirely within the Northwest Bronx, lies to the east of Broadway and comprises seven subareas. These are Van
Cortlandt Park (Fig. 5); Woodlawn Cemetery (Fig. 5) immediately east of Van Cortlandt Park; Jerome Reservoir (Figs. 2, 10) to
Figure 5.Â Details of the extant study area in 2014â€“15. Labeled features, clockwise from the upper left: Riverdale (1), Broadway (2), Northwest Forest (3), the Ridge (Croton Forest) (4), Major Deegan Expressway (5), Northeast Forest (6), Sycamore Swamp (7), Hillview Reservoir (8), Woodlawn Cemetery (9), Woodlawn Cemetery ponds (10), Bronx River (11), Jerome Avenue (12), Shandler Area (13), Jerome Reservoir (14), Van Cortlandt Lake (15), Van Cortlandt Swamp (16), Parade Ground (17), and Vault Hill (18). Note greatly reduced Van Cortlandt Swamp, the two-toned aspect of the Parade Ground discussed in the Avifaunal Overview, and the distribution of major forested areas (forest contrast change line is an artifact). Image courtesy of Google Earth Pro.
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its south; Hillview Reservoir (Figs. 6, 7, 8) in immediately adjacent southwestern Yonkers; and three that were obliterated about 1930 by New York City’s expansion: Jerome Meadows (Figs. 3, 9), wet, grassy, and brushy areas occupying the site of Jerome Reservoir and Jerome Swamp prior to the construction of their predecessor, Jerome Park Racetrack; Jerome Swamp (Figs. 3, 10), another wet area east of Jerome Reservoir and west of Jerome Ave. created during the reservoir’s construction; and Kingsbridge Meadows (Frontispiece, Figs. 1, 3, 11)—the expansive and variably fresh, brackish, and salt marshes enveloping Tibbett’s Brook as it flowed first through the Dutch Gardens Marsh, then southwest for 1.2 smi (1.9 km) to its junction with Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Figures 1 and 2 depict and Table 1 gives vital statistics for each subarea. Table 2 offers distances from
Van Cortlandt Lake to places frequently mentioned in the text. Immediately west of the study area— thus east of the Hudson River and adjacent to Kingsbridge Meadows and Van Cortlandt Park—is the residential area of Riverdale (Figs. 1, 3, 5), extending from the Harlem River Ship Canal to the Yonkers city line. It is still one of the most rural parts of New York City, and its birdlife, geology, and vegetation are shared with our study area, so we make frequent reference to it. At 1146 ac (463 ha), Van Cortlandt Park (Figs. 2, 3, 5, 12, 16) is the third largest in New York City and boasts several important ecosystems and natural areas, whose dimensions are also given in Table 1. Tibbett’s Brook (Frontispiece, Figs. 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 12, 16) is the dominant freshwater stream in the Northwest Bronx, and even
Figure 6. The approximate site of future Hillview Reservoir in 1891 (outlined). Note the widespread drainage into Tibbett’s Brook (1) at the far left past Central Avenue (2), and the proximity of the New York City–Yonkers border (3). From Bien and Vermeule 1891b, courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection.
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Figure 7.Â Hillview Reservoir in December 1994, showing the extensive conifer groves (dark treed areas) on all sides but especially its steep southwesterly slopes and the large grassy areas; cf. Fig. 8. Image courtesy of Google Earth Pro.
Figure 8.Â Hillview Reservoir in October 2014, showing loss of conifer groves, so that nearly all remaining trees are deciduous; cf. Fig. 7. Image courtesy of Google Earth Pro.
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though it persists as only a shadow of its former glory, it has been and still is the essence of Van Cortlandt Swamp, Van Cortlandt Lake, and Kingsbridge Meadows and made each of them an avian treasure. Tibbett’s Brook is said by some to arise in Yonkers at Valentine’s Hill near the Yonkers Racetrack, by others from somewhere in Tibbett’s Brook Park or slightly farther north, and one has it coming from an unnamed stream arising farther north near Bryn Mawr. Much of its watershed has been built up, and a good deal of the stream north of Tibbett’s Brook Park is today in culverts, some apparently quite long which makes tracing its origins that much more difficult. It originally flowed through today’s Van Cortlandt Park, creating the large cattail Dutch Gardens Marsh (Figs. 2, 11, 14), and at W. 240th
St. Tibbett’s Brook crossed Broadway (in culverts after the 1870s) and expanded out into the main Kingsbridge Meadows until merging with Spuyten Duyvil Creek. The entire marshswamp complex along Tibbett’s Brook, which formerly ran from north of present-day Cross County Parkway south to Van Cortlandt Lake, comprised Van Cortlandt Swamp. Van Cortlandt Swamp (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, 16) and Van Cortlandt Lake were created simultaneously when Jacobus van Cortlandt dammed Tibbett’s Brook for his gristmill in December 1699. Water backed up for more than 2 smi (3.2 km) into modern Westchester County, and as open water near Van Cortlandt Lake gradually sedimented, a large and productive cattail marsh developed at the northwest corner of the lake east of the railroad tracks and in the swamp’s
Figure 9. Jerome Meadows (outlined)—the future site of Jerome Reservoir and Jerome Swamp—in 1891 (cf. Fig 10). The figure 8–like oval along Jerome Ave. is Jerome Park Racetrack, removed for construction of the reservoir, whose eastern half was never built but which developed into Jerome Swamp. Bordering streets are Sedgwick (1) and Jerome (2) Aves., with Broadway (4) and persisting Van der Donck Meadows (3) in the upper left. From Bien and Vermeule (1891a). Courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection.
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Figure 10. Jerome Reservoir and Jerome Swamp (right) in 1924. The swamp’s shape mirrored the reservoir’s and was intended to be its right half, but when abandoned after preliminary excavation it developed into Jerome Swamp. It existed from about 1900 to about 1930, during which time its marshbird habitat was almost as good as that of nearby Van Cortlandt Swamp. Bordering streets are Sedgwick (1) and Jerome (2) Aves. Image from New York City Digital Map Atlas.
southern third west of the tracks. The swamp’s northern two-thirds became a wooded swamp, and the entire area supported a complex suite of marsh birds, the largest anywhere in New York City. Even though we have no detailed descriptions, Van Cortlandt Swamp must have been a magnificent wetland during the years between
1700 and its first disruption for construction of the Putnam Division track bed in 1869. It was probably several hundred yards wide in places and sloped gradually up to the Ridge (Croton Forest) on the east and to Vault Hill/Northwest Forest on the west, with damp weedy fields on both sides of it.
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Figure 11. Kingsbridge Meadows (1) and Van der Donck Meadows (2) bracketing Kingsbridge Island (3) and Broadway (4) in 1891. Even though the southern half of Van der Donck Meadows began to be filled in the 1700s, its northern half was still largely natural in 1891, as was Kingsbridge Meadows, within which Tibbett’s Brook flowed unimpeded from Van Cortlandt Lake to Spuyten Duyvil Creek. It was crossed only by the Hudson Division track bed (5) and what would become modern W. 230th St. (Riverdale Ave.) at the lower left. The dashed line east of Broadway and south of Van Cortlandt Park is the future W. 240th St. (6). Also shown are Spuyten Duyvil Creek (7), Bailey Avenue (8), Dutch Gardens Marsh (9), and Van Cortlandt Lake (10). From Bien and Vermeule 1891a. Courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection.
This idyllic Van Cortlandt Swamp was not to last. Once the major part of its eastern side had been filled for the Putnam Division track bed, the next insult was building the Van Cort landt golf course in 1895, which removed all of the remaining swamp east of the railroad track bed, leaving only 2 vestigial ponds. The eastern fields connecting the Ridge (Croton Forest) to the swamp became manicured fairways. In 1913, mosquito control landfilling removed another 10 ac (4 ha) of swamp east of the railroad. By the 1930s, Kieran was incensed at WPA (Works Progress Administration) vandals
mindlessly cutting down dead trees in makework projects, and Cruickshank lamented landfilling for even more make-work mosquito control. Van Cortlandt Swamp’s northernmost portion, south to today’s Mosholu Parkway Extension, was known as Lincoln Marsh (Figs. 3, 12) and ran south from today’s Tibbett’s Brook (Westchester County) Park until construction of the Putnam Division track bed (1869–81) and the Henry Hudson Parkway (1934–37) eliminated most of it. In the process, Tibbett’s Brook itself was channelized south of the county park
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Figure 12.Â Van Cortlandt Park in 1924, from Broadway (1) on the west to Jerome Ave. (2) on the east, before the Henry Hudson Parkway made the first major inroads on Van Cortlandt Swamp (3) and its northernmost Lincoln Marsh section (4). Note the openness of the Northwest Forest (5) and Vault Hill (6); the Parade Ground (7) extending north to Mosholu Ave. (8); and the natural fields (9) sloping down to the west side of Van Cortlandt Swamp from the south end of Vault Hill to the Yonkers city line. Also shown are the Yonkers Rapid Transit (10) and Putnam Division (11) track beds, the Ridge (Croton Forest) (12), Northeast Forest (13), Old Croton Aqueduct (14), golf course segments (15), Woodlawn Cemetery (16), and Riverdale (17). Image from New York City Digital Map Atlas.
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and funneled through four new small, bare ponds around and between the parkway’s traffic lanes. Today these are heavily vegetated with little open water, but the middle two, surrounded by high-speed roads and nearly inaccessible, offer protected breeding sites, even if tiny, for study area birds. These ponds seem never to have had formal names on topographic maps, so the New York District of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE 2000: A-21), in a planning document addressing possible restoration schemes for various Bronx freshwater streams, has whimsically named them, north to south, Elm, Maple, Birch, and Sycamore Ponds— notwithstanding the absence of such trees near them. Van Cortlandt Swamp’s southern section today is the last vestige of the original Van Cortlandt Swamp and runs only from Mosholu Parkway Extension south to Van Cortlandt Lake. All traces of Tibbett’s Brook south of the lake were buried underground in 1918, and Tibbett’s Brook itself was diverted and dumped into the main Broadway combined storm sewer at W. 242nd St. From that year on, the remaining Tibbett’s Brook marshes south of the Van Cortlandt Mansion (Dutch Gardens Marsh and Kingsbridge Meadows) received water only by runoff, rainfall, and tidal exchange via Kingsbridge Meadows. Eventually Kingsbridge Meadows itself was platted and filled, paved and built. The most devastating ecological insult to an already amputated Van Cortlandt Swamp was construction of the Major Deegan Expressway (1949–55). The construction transformed quiet Jerome Ave. between Woodlawn Cemetery and the Yonkers city line (two lanes of traffic plus the Yonkers streetcar line that ended at the Woodlawn subway station) into a 10-lane limited access truck way and then cut southwest downslope across Van Cortlandt Park toward W. 240th St. alongside the Putnam Division track bed. In the process it destroyed large portions of the original Van
Cortlandt Golf Course, so to make up for his action there, Robert Moses obliterated the half of Van Cortlandt Swamp immediately west of the Putnam track bed and the large natural field west of the remaining swamp sloping down from Vault Hill. These two prime yearround bird habitats became his replacement golf course sections. Sedwitz, Norse, and Kieran had known Van Cortlandt Swamp intimately for decades and were so appalled and demoralized by the ecological destruction Moses had wrought that they never really got over it. Buckley arrived on the scene just as the last filling was ending, when the entire eastern half of the swamp was a sea of tree stumps and landfill. It has been his biggest regret that he had never known it in its glory, but perhaps it was just as well he hadn’t. From probably an initial size of 100 ac (40 ha) in the early 1800s (imagined from Figs. 3, 12), Van Cortlandt Swamp had been reduced to 19 ac (7 ha) by 1950, and at its southern end the cattail marsh was bisected by a new causeway allowing golfers to cross it dry-shod. From that time forward, the swamp was also fenced in from and by the surrounding golf course segments, but limited pedestrian access to the swamp was afforded at its southwest corner via a footbridge over the causeway. Eventually, that bridge was removed after falling into disrepair, and in the late 1990s a replacement was built. But by 2007 it too had been completely removed for no apparent reason, and since then there has been no easy access to the entire swamp north of the causeway, both a good and a bad situation. Adding insult to injury, in late February 2017 the causeway pedestrian bridge crossing Tibbett’s Brook itself was abruptly closed indefinitely to pedestrian traffic (but not golfers), yet another slap in the face of John Kieran Trail users and those seeking Van Cortlandt Swamp birds. Through all assaults, many breeding, wintering, and migrating marsh birds have persis ted in Van Cortlandt Swamp but in diminishing
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numbers of species and individuals, reaching a nadir in the 1960s from which they have never recovered. Much of the drop in birdlife followed first the replacement of native cattails by exotic Phragmites and then an inexorable shift from an open marsh to a mostly closed wooded swamp as even Phragmites was replaced by Buttonbushes, Red Maples, and willows. Van Cortlandt Lake (Figs. 1, 2, 5, 11, 13) begins at the south end of Van Cortlandt Swamp. It was attractive to all sorts of waterfowl from its creation, being the only large naturalistic freshwater body in the Northwest Bronx. Even today only Jerome Reservoir is larger. The Triangle or Lake Marsh (Fig. 13)—of cattails until they were overwhelmed by Phragmites—at its northwestern corner alongside the railroad was a guaranteed location for breeding and overwintering Virginia Rails until it was gouged out in 2001–3 when Van Cortlandt Lake was dredged following heavy sedimentation. The wooded area on the west side of Van Cortlandt Lake east of the railroad has always been a major spring migration site, known to many generations of observers as the Island (Fig. 13). The Dutch Gardens (Fig. 13), with canals and a pond south, and below the grade, of the Van Cortlandt Mansion were built in 1902–3 and lasted until 1969 when Robert Moses extirpated their last vestiges during construction of an Olympic-sized swimming pool near the Van Cortlandt subway station. But with wonderful ecological irony, shortly thereafter Tibbett’s Brook finally began to reassert itself after having been buried in the sewer line for 60+ years. First noticed as a seasonally slightly wet area just west of the former Putnam Division’s Van Cortlandt station, it gradually expanded and was colonized by exotic Phragmites, which spread quickly, and wetland birds soon appeared. To their credit, Parks Department naturalists realized what was occurring and set about protecting and expanding this nascent marsh. Native cattails soon colonized it, and as water depth increased and marsh vegetation
spread out, boardwalks and a viewing platform with a few interpretive signs were emplaced in 2005. The area is now called Tibbett’s Marsh (Figs. 5, 13), a useful name to distinguish it from the much larger and older Van Cortlandt Swamp to its north. Depressingly, the viewing platform (was ?) burned to the ground in December 2015, and after repeated vandalism to area benches, the Parks Department may not replace any of it. Without doubt the most profound landform changes in the Northwest Bronx and study area affected Kingsbridge Meadows (Frontispiece, Figs. 1, 3, 11) and occurred from 1890 to the late 1920s. These involved cutting the Harlem River Ship Canal (1892–95) south of Marble Hill and the shifting of all ship traffic away from Spuyten Duyvil Creek north around Marble Hill to directly west before Marble Hill (Figs. 3, 4, 14). This led to the piecemeal filling of Spuyten Duyvil Creek from 1903 to 1917, in part with material from the construction of Grand Central Station directly delivered by rail. In turn, the old King’s Bridge (Fig. 14) over Spuyten Duyvil Creek at modern W. 230th St. and Kingsbridge Ave.—the first and until 1900 the only direct connection from Marble Hill north into the Bronx—fell into disuse and was finally buried in situ in 1916, when at the old Indian ford (modern Broadway at W. 230th St.) the last small gap in Broadway was finally removed. The remainder of Spuyten Duyvil Creek was completely filled by 1917. Once Tibbett’s Brook’s direct tidal connection with Spuyten Duyvil Creek was severed, Kingsbridge Meadows was doomed, and filling began rapidly. The remaining marsh segments west of Broadway vanished in the late 1920s. The very last piece, the Dutch Gardens Marsh (Figs. 11, 14), was filled by a garbage dump from 1933 to 1937, then in 1937 by construction for the Van Cortlandt Stadium and sports facilities east of Broadway and north of W. 240th St., which opened in 1939. Farther southeast of Broadway, the loss of Van der Donck Meadows (Figs. 3, 11, 15),
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Figure 13. Southern Van Cortlandt Park in 1924 showing Parade Ground (1), Van Cortlandt Lake (2) with the Island (3) and the Triangle (4), the south end of Van Cortlandt Swamp (5), Putnam Division (6) and Yonkers Rapid Transit (7) track beds, Dutch Gardens (8), a corner of Dutch Gardens Marsh (9), Van Cortlandt Mansion (10), Broadway (11), and golf course (12). Image from New York City Digital Map Atlas.
Figure 14. The new Harlem River Ship Canal in 1895 south of Marble Hill (1), with Spuyten Duyvil Creek (2) still unfilled north of it, and Kingsbridge Meadows (3) connecting to its northwest corner. Compare with Fig. 4. Also shown are the Hudson (4) and Harlem (5) Rivers, Broadway (6), W. 230th St. (7), and the old King’s Bridge (8). Image from 1905 Harlem 15' topographic quadrangle.
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Figure 15.Â Van Der Donck Meadows in the 1700s, with an Indian trail crossing it at modern W. 231st St. Paparinemin was the Lenniâ€“Lenape name for Kingsbridge Island. Image from Bolton 1922.
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running from modern W. 230th St. to W. 238th St., where the Putnam Division track bed would eventually sit, and connecting with Tibbett’s Brook and Kingsbridge Meadows around modern W. 237th St., began early, probably in the late 1700s, but then proceeded slowly with the last isolated marsh pieces near W. 238th St. not being filled until the late 1920s. The geological/ecological origins of the 150 ac (60 ha) Parade Ground (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 5, 13) are unreported, but it seems to have been in use by Lenni-Lenape Indians since about 1000 CE. They may have kept it in grasses by prescribed burns and used it for agriculture and a village, but apparently it was already a naturally large flat area when they arrived on the scene. Dutch, English, and American colonists continued farming it. Well into the nineteenth century, the Van Cortlandt estate was a working farm with eight structures and supporting roads on the Parade Ground itself. In 1889–90, the Parade Ground was formally reconstructed as a camp and drill ground for the New York National Guard by plowing and leveling the cornfields to the northwest of the Van Cortlandt Mansion and the orchard east of the carriage house, then filling the roadway that extended north from the carriage house to Vault Hill. Little additional grading was required beyond the filling of some marshes and ponds. During this process, the Indian village of Mosholu was first uncovered. The National Guard used the Parade Ground for camping, drilling, and horse races, as well as polo and cricket. During World War I it was an army training camp, but the site was abandoned by the military thereafter. The Parade Ground then remained largely unmolested except for intermittent track and field events and was heavily used by breeding, migrating, and overwintering birds until its next insult. This was its decapitation by Henry Hudson Parkway construction in 1935–37, which isolated a small section along Broadway south of Mosholu Ave. This piece was left alone
until 1955, when it was all converted to horse stables and paddocks for public riding. The remaining Parade Ground, now reduced to about 60 ac (24 ha), stumbled along, gradually seeing increased human use but owing to its large percentage of native grasses and flowers also still attracting significant numbers of native birds seasonally for 100+ years: Killdeer, sandpipers, Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, sparrows, Meadowlarks and other ground-loving species. Then its ecological bottom was cut away when nearly all native grasses were removed and replaced by sterile hybrid turfgrasses in 2010–12. Only a corner in the southeast, ironically nearest the Van der Donck and Van Cortlandt homesteads, remained relatively undisturbed, and native birds still flock there year-round, but even that is slated for replacement by the turfgrass required in 4 (of 10) desperately needed cricket pitches. Most of Van Cortlandt Park is still in native forest, but the ages of the various stands apparently have never been examined systematically by coring unless outside arborists or forest ecologists have done so without publishing their findings (Künstler, pers. comm.). Large trees grow in profusion in the Northwest Forest, the Ridge (Croton Forest), and Northeast Forest (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 5, 16) in most places with a healthy and diverse herbaceous layer flora. The absence of grazing deer and very slight human use demonstrate well that urban forests can maintain their ecological health under the right conditions. Even fragile ground-nesting forest birds, always among the first to vanish, are still hanging on, but pressure from feral and domestic cats may be exacting a toll on their numbers. Within the Northeast Forest, an ephemeral vernal wooded swamp known as the Sycamore Swamp (Figs. 3, 5, 16) has proved to be a striking avian magnet for spring migrant and breeding insectivores as it has succeeded from an open cattail marsh to a vernally flooded wooded swamp.
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Figure 16.Â Aerial view of Van Cortlandt Park and environs looking ENE in March 1940. Note especially the new Henry Hudson Parkway (1); the Mosholu Parkway Extension (2) still under construction; the Ridge site of 1940sâ€“50s hawkwatches (3); the open fields (4) sloping down from Vault Hill (5) into the north end of recently truncated Van Cortlandt Swamp (6); and the very dark conifer groves (7) surrounding Hillview Reservoir. Also shown are Jerome (8) and Mosholu (9) Aves.; Yonkers Rapid Transit (10) and Putnam Division (11) track beds; the Old Croton Aqueduct (12); Ridge (Croton Forest) (13); Northeast Forest (14); Sycamore Swamp (15); the former Lincoln Marsh section of Van Cortlandt Swamp now converted into highway-side ponds (16); golf course segments (17); and Woodlawn Cemetery (18). Image from New York City Dept. of Records.
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The most pervasive ecological forest changes have involved the loss of native American Chestnuts to Chestnut Blight in the early 1900s and then loss of American Elms to Dutch Elm Fungi beginning in the 1920s and peaking in the 1960s. Corollary effects on study area birds are unknown. Exotic trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers are unfortunately widespread in Van Cortlandt Park, and Parks Department ecologists are considering their extirpation and replacement by native species (Pehek, pers. comm.). However, see Avifaunal Overview, “Van Cortlandt’s One Million Trees Involvement,” for an example of unbridled extirpation of exotic plants that has had untoward effects on native birds. It is believed by many that there are no trees in Van Cortlandt Park older than about 100 years. Yet photos taken around 1900 unambiguously show very large trees, and many of the park’s native trees are reasonably long-lived, so it is unlikely they all died and have been replaced by new growth. Very many mature trees throughout each of the major forest areas today are large and surely older than 116 years. Kieran measured two fallen oaks in Van Cortlandt after the 1938 hurricane and found them to have reached 109 and 115 ft (33 and 35 m) in length. He estimated they were 200–300 years old. In Pelham Bay Park his treering count of a freshly cut Chestnut Oak showed an age of 215 years, yet it was only 76 ft (23 m) tall. Tieck (1968) described numerous huge and still healthy trees in Riverdale in the mid-1960s that probably did predate the Revolution. However, it does appear that most of the forests on northern Manhattan and in the west Bronx were laid bare for firewood during the Revolutionary War. Two of those so devastated were labeled on contemporaneous maps Cortlandt’s Wood and Tippet’s Wood (Sanderson 2009). These were almost certainly forests that included Van Cortlandt Park, so it is probable that few if any stands (perhaps even only the occasional tree) will be found older than about 235 years.
Within Van Cortlandt forests, it was relatively quiet for the 137 years after Van Cortlandt Lake’s creation until the Old Croton Aqueduct’s construction cut a large swath through the Ridge (Croton Forest) south toward future Jerome Reservoir (1837–42), but that forest has long since regrown. In the late 1880s the New Croton Aqueduct was also built on the Ridge but closer to Jerome Ave. than the Old Aqueduct, with a more modest loss of forest that has also subsequently regenerated. In 1895, the first Van Cortlandt golf course was built and then expanded in 1899, followed in 1904–15 by the Mosholu golf course. All told, golf course construction destroyed about 200 ac (80 ha) of Van Cortlandt Swamp, upland, and Ridge forest, and while it does provide some useful pond, wood, and edge avian habitat, their combined 200 acres are inaccessible to anyone not golfing. In 1936 a bridle path for horseback riding was cut through Vault Hill and the Northwest Forest with minor loss of woods. Close examination and contrast of Figures 12 and 16 with Figure 5 indicate clearly how much forest growth and infilling has occurred in the last 100 years, particularly in the Northwest Forest, on Vault Hill, and on the Ridge. In this natural process, open-area bird communities and species have inevitably been replaced by forest counterparts, with an overall diminution in study area species richness. Vault Hill (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 5, 12, 16) contained much open area until the 1970s (maintained by the most frequent burning anywhere in the park) when succession replaced its native grasses and wildflowers with a rapidly expanding young forest, including one of the finest stands of Sassafras in the park. Earlier, chunks of mature woodlands on northern Vault Hill and in the Northwest Forest had been lost when the Yonkers Rapid Transit Line was cut through in 1888. In 1895, Vault Hill was enclosed by a wire fence to restrain 25 wild American Bison— among the very last—that had been captured on the Great Plains by William Hornaday for
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a captive breeding program of the New York Zoological Society, proprietors of the Bronx Zoo. The zoo was running out of room, so the extra animals were moved to Van Cortlandt Park, where they did not fare well; later that year they were shipped to prairie land in Oklahoma. The subsequently successful work of the Bronx Zoo in managing another stock of bison in 1899 profited from the mistakes of the Van Cortlandt affair. What might have been called a Southern Forest seems to have been largely treeless by the time the Van Cortlandt and Mosholu golf courses were constructed (Figs. 1, 2, 5). Its northeastern corner, today retaining a patch of reasonably mature woods, much second growth, and a few open areas, has been designated the Allen Shandler Recreation Area by the Parks Department, but it is severely disturbed and heavily used for mass recreation. To its credit, the Parks Department has created a series of formal trails that made the major forest areas much more accessible to observers (but also to joggers and dog walkers): the John Kieran, John Muir, Cass Gallagher, and Old Croton Aqueduct Trails. But the jewel is the Putnam Trail that runs the length of the old Putnam Division track bed from the south end of Van Cortlandt Lake past Van Cortlandt Swamp to the Yonkers city line. However, see Avifaunal Overview, “Van Cortlandt Putnam Trail,” for the brand-new threats it is now coming under from the Parks Department/ Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy themselves. Alone among study subareas, only Woodlawn Cemetery (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 5, 16) was never assaulted after its opening in 1865. But it did continue to reduce its naturally vegetated areas, especially wetlands, as burial sections expanded, and today only a single naturalistic work area (and so, maybe safe) remains, along with a small two-part pond. On the other hand, its trees have matured even if at the expense of little native herbaceous layer amid the manicured mausoleums.
Jerome Reservoir (Figs. 1, 2, 5, 9, 10) was built in the early 1900s and finally filled with water in 1905. Native grassland edges surrounding its east side along Goulden Ave. were slowly whittled away for landscaped parks and parking lots (1970s–2015) and are now all gone. Hillview Reservoir (Figs. 2, 6, 7, 8) was also built in the early 1900s and finally filled with water in 1915. Once constructed, both reservoirs were largely left alone. Extensive conifers were planted at Hillview in the 1920s–30s (Fig. 16), matured, and were then lost to insect damage and removed in the late 1990s. Contrast Figure 7 taken in December 1994, when nearly all trees were still conifers, with Figure 8 taken in October 2014, when the only trees left were deciduous and still in leaf. A large part of Jerome Meadows (Figs. 3, 9) was erased when replaced by Jerome Race Track (1866) and its vestiges, then by Jerome Reservoir construction (about 1895). Jerome Swamp (Fig. 10) was formed in 1900 when the contractor building Jerome Reservoir finished its western (modern) half but only dug the hole for its planned mirror-image eastern half before abandoning it. This 20-ft deep, irregular declivity quickly filled with water and wetland vegetation, and Jerome Swamp was born. Then its eastern half up to Jerome Ave. became the IRT subway Jerome Yards in 1922 and the IND subway Concourse Yards in 1933. The western half lasted intact until DeWitt Clinton High School was built in 1928–29 on Mosholu Parkway and the Bronx Campus of Hunter College was built farther south in 1930–31. The area in between those two persisted unbuilt until modern Goulden Ave. (1939–40) and Harris Park (1941–42) jointly extirpated the last traces of Jerome Swamp. In sum, the most severe study area landform changes occurred before 1955, so it has been 60 years without massive, irremediable disruption to area habitats, and those positive changes most important for birds happened more than 100 years ago: the creation
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of Jerome (1895–1905) and Hillview (1909– 15) Reservoirs. Thus, apart from natural successional changes to Van Cortlandt Park and Woodlawn Cemetery, the only adverse changes of any consequence since the 1950s have been dredging and marsh removal in Van Cortlandt Lake (2003), eradication of native plants from most of the Parade Ground (2008–12), and loss of the extensive conifer groves at Hillview Reservoir in the late 1990s. Still, all the major changes occurring before 1955 did profoundly and permanently alter the study area’s physiography, habitats, and birdlife. ANCILLARY CHANGES
Coincident with the above insults to area habitats, additional New York City infrastructure growth, park management practices, and other changes also occurred as the city continued its ineluctable expansion and growth. Most directly affected or changed study area birdlife and habitats in various ways. A few did not affect the study area directly but did increase population and development in the Northwest Bronx, which then affected the study area indirectly. A handful actually benefited study area birdlife. • Mosholu Parkway Greenbelt linking Bronx and Van Cortlandt Parks designed by Olmstead in the 1860s, built in 1888, and upgraded in 1935–37 • Van Cortlandt Park gazetted in 1888 and formally opened to public use in 1897 • Yonkers Rapid Transit service through Van Cortlandt Park ended in 1943, rails removed in 1944 • Putnam Division steam engines replaced by diesel locomotives in 1951 • Putnam Division passenger service ended in 1958
• Yonkers Hudson River sewage outfall at Mount St. Vincent closed in 1961 when adjacent treatment plant opened • Pelham Bay Park garbage dump, the Bronx’s last, opened in 1963 and closed in 1979 • Old Croton Aqueduct hiking trail (along the Ridge) established by Parks Department in 1974 • Rental rowboats removed from Van Cortlandt Lake because of heavy siltation in 1976 • Urban Park Ranger program established in Van Cortlandt Park in 1979 • Former Lincoln Marsh portion of Tibbett’s Brook, alongside the Henry Hudson Parkway just south of the Yonkers line, lost its last open water in the 1970s • Putnam Division freight service ended in 1982 • Putnam Division rails, ties, and telephone poles (including swallow wires) removed in the 1980s–90s • Hillview Reservoir drained, resurfaced in 1993 • Public access to Hillview Reservoir interdicted following 9/11/2001 • 50,000 yd3 (38,228 m3) of sediment dredged from Van Cortlandt Lake in 2001–3 to restore its depth uniformly to 9 ft (2.7 m) (from 2 ft [0.6 m]) with spoil deposited on the Parade Ground; in the process the Triangle (= Lake Marsh) marsh vegetation was gouged out • Native grass and wildflower surface of all but the southeast corner of the Parade Ground removed, replaced with a hybrid-turfgrass monoculture in 2008–12 • Jerome Reservoir drained, scraped clean, and reconfigured in 2008–14.
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Coves of Departure Field Notes from the Sea of Cortez
John Seibert Farnsworth
Comstock Publishing Associates an imprint of Cornell University Press Ithaca and London
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Copyright ÂŠ 2018 by John Seibert Farnsworth All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850. Visit our website at cornellpress.cornell.edu. First published 2018 by Cornell University Press Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data [CIP to come]
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Headwinds1 1. Vernal Equinox
2. Night Life
3. Transect in the Sierra de la Laguna
4. To the Island
First Interlude: August in Bahia de los Angeles
5. Same Beach, Different Expedition
6. Sea Sparkle
7. Red Sky at Morning
Second Interlude: June in the Sierra San Pedro Mรกrtir
Essay: The Cove of Departure
8. Death and Poetry in the Sand Dunes
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Natural history is a verb. Thomas Lowe Fleischner, “Our Deepest Affinity,” 2017
We struggled with headwinds today, kayaking into a northerly breeze, slogging windward one cove at a time. The group wasn’t staying together as well as I’d hoped. Headwinds are where physical aptitude counts, and a few of my duckies have yet to develop windward muscle. Those out front would have to stop and wait in the lee of every successive point, hiding from El Norte behind another outcropping of wind-sculpted basalt. The lead students noticed that every time they pulled into a lee, there would be a great blue heron foraging, tall and stately, inevitably fleeing as we encroached. Herons make an impression. These intense birds have never been happy about sharing a planet with humans, and they articulate a series of resonant hrawnks whenever they curse our species, swearing expertly with a Pleistocene accent. When we talked about the herons later, finally encamped on a friendly beach, the pattern of finding one in the lee of each point made sense, given this organism’s style of stalk-hunting. During windy days they would logically be more successful on the side of an outcropping, where the water was less disturbed, than on the windward side, where wind chop and spume would diminish visibility. These are the things you can’t learn from field guides.
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Each student has been assigned five organisms on which they must become experts. A fish, a bird, a variety of cactus, a lizard perhaps, maybe even a marine mammal. They are to study these organisms before the trip, teaching each other about them, and then they’re to find them once we get to Baja. When my budding naturalists observe their designated amigos for the first time in the field, they’re to watch for the sort of things that didn’t show up in field guides. One of the students, a junior anthropology major on the verge of becoming a type-A naturalist, had found four of her five assigned organisms prior to our current encampment, and it seemed that she wanted to be the first to befriend all five. In the part of my brain I keep to myself, I call this “Amigo Bingo.” There is always someone, or perhaps some two, who wants to win the undeclared competition. This student has been frustrated, however, in her pursuit of the blue-gray gnatcatcher. So, after paddling twelve kilometers into a moderate headwind, and then setting up camp, she prevailed on me and two classmates to accompany her back into the buttonwood mangroves to search for the missing bird. A small perching songbird that seems to move incessantly, the blue-gray gnatcatcher flits from branch to branch in thick underbrush, making it a tough bird for the uninitiated to identify. In the shadows of the foliage, it can be difficult to distinguish a blue so pale, at least for my color-blind eyes, if you’ve only seen this bird in field guides where the blue-gray plumage is so easy to see. Our mission becomes all the more complex when we discover, the moment we leave the coarse sand at the back of the beach, Crotalus enyo, the Baja California rattlesnake. Thicker than my thumb but slightly less stout than my big toe, it was not a particularly large snake, maybe seventy-five centimeters long. For this species, that’s a full-grown specimen. Perfectly coiled on a knee-high rock, perched there like the scitalis from a medieval bestiary, it blocked our path without paying us the courtesy of a warning rattle. When we shooed it away into the brush I counted eight rattles, neatly stacked one on top of the other, but my count may have been hasty. It would be difficult enough to pursue a blue-gray gnatcatcher were your eyes not constantly downcast, sweeping the trail for snakes—not that there’s much of a trail here in the first place, just a few narrow paths where you can squeeze between the thorns if you’re careful. I search for our quarry with ears only. The field guide claims that it makes a thin, wheezy zeewt. Our lead student had played a recording of this vocalization to the class a month ago, and I remind her now to hunt with her ears. We listen, duly, and nature plays with us. Instead of a gnatcatcher, we hear the evenly spaced toots of the northern pygmy-owl. It sounds like a toy,
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something you may have played with in the bathtub as a kid. We didn’t study this bird in class, so with a low voice I tell my companions that the pygmy-owl is the only diurnal strigiform commonly found in this neighborhood. It’s likely to fly off if we come close, so watch for false eyespots in its nape as it flies away. I want them to see this—a tiny daytime owl with eyes in the back of its head. We cannot find the owl even though we are close. The terrain is too steep, our path is too brambly, and memories of the rattlesnake are too fresh. When the call for vegetable choppers goes out, my companion, a member of tonight’s dinner crew, turns back to camp compliantly, accompanied by her classmates. I remain on station, summoning the patience required to attend to a landscape where things proceed at south-of-the-border gait. I’ve long understood that natural history is only one part patience, augmented by equal parts attentiveness and stubbornness. This is where the casual observer need not apply. A friend of mine, a colleague, insists that natural history is a verb. He may be right, but language somehow fails us in this endeavor. Where botanists can botanize, naturalists cannot . . . naturalize. Naturecate? Instead, we have to tune up the senses, consciously, one by one, in a process that parallels mindfulness. I smell the creosote, and the sand on the beach upwind of me. I taste low tide, even this far from the water. I watch how light distorts in the heat, especially near the canyon walls above me. I see how it reflects off the mantle of a perched raven. I hear how wind resonates differently through cactus spines as it does through the mouse-ear leaves of a green-barked palo verde. I feel the sun on my shoulders, feeling it through my shirt, knowing that the owl feels this same energy through its feathers. There’s a conscious decision to attend to this landscape in ways that force it to give up its secrets. Where is that owl? The owl has vanished, the desert replies. I continue to listen anyway. Finally, I hear the gnatcatcher’s wheezy zeewt. I do not look for the bird itself, searching instead for movement of any sort. This is what I should have done from the beginning. I pick up the movement almost instantly. Indeed, I know it to be a gnatcatcher just from this movement, and I realized that I’d found it even before I was able to discriminate the blue-gray coloration, or the bird’s erect tail, or such field marks as the black forehead that tells me it’s an adult male in breeding plumage. I call down to the camp that I’ve got one and then I use my binoculars to track it from tree to tree until the student returns. The gnatcatcher never stays on any one branch for more than a few seconds, a behavior typical of small insectivores.
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When my type-A naturalist finally arrives, I point out the appropriate tree, a tall, slender, white-trunked palo blanco up a steep side canyon, and instruct her to look for movement rather than for the bird itself. Using this technique, she finds it almost as quickly as I had, although with considerably more delight in the discovery. The adult world underappreciates delight. Lacking the celebratory religiosity of joy, it tends to be a more fleeting phenomenon, somehow less trustworthy. In defense of delight I argue that it goes hand-in-hand with discovery, and I observe it often folds appreciation and gratitude into the discovery process. I’ve searched my thesaurus for a better word for discovery-delight, something less sentimental, perhaps less twee, but I don’t think the word I want exists in English. Spanish lets me down almost equally, adding little more than a syllable: deleite. I came up short of delight when discovering the gnatcatcher. What appreciation I experienced almost entirely derived from being able to apply my knowledge of this organism’s voice and foraging behavior to the practical task of locating it. Actually observing the bird, however, was not as delightful as it should have been, it being a widespread bird I have identified numerous times in the past, both in its summer and winter ranges. For my part, I was less invested in observing the gnatcatcher, and more concerned about not losing it before the student returned on site. The student’s discovery of this bird rated much higher on the discovery-delight scale, not only because locating this particular organism completed an assigned task, but also because it was the first time she’d ever been introduced formally to Polioptila caerulea. I am enough of a romantic that I don’t want my world to be one where familiarity breeds contempt, mollifies delight, or for that matter curtails appreciation. A few days ago we identified our first black-headed grosbeak. To the best of my recollection, this was the first member of its tribe that I’ve seen in Baja. I cracked open a field guide to check its winter range, and the first word in the range section was “common.” Should we allow our discoveries to be spoiled by such words? If a bird is common, should we be any less appreciative of its bicolored bill, its orange rump and breast, or the white patches glowing on its wings? I observe the transitory nature of delight with my students. They are clearly elated when spotting their first magnificent frigatebird when adding Fregata magnificens to their species list, and they take appropriate pride in being able to differentiate between adult and juvenile plumage, as well as being able to describe the sexual dimorphism of adults. After a few days on the island, however, the magnificent frigatebird is no longer magnificent, it’s just another
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frigging bird that they can no longer add to their frigging field notes. Rapture takes a hit when the magnificent becomes mundane. This is not just about birds, of course. The first time my students witness a mobula ray leaping clear of the water they hurrah as with a single voice. For the next few days they sing out each time they observe the aerobatic spectacle. After the better part of a week, however, they just keep paddling, unwilling to interrupt the progress of the voyage for a single mobula. Unless a dozen are jumping at once, as they so often do, why bother attending to a single? This morning, while I was writing about a hermit crab one of the students had befriended, two large falcons, Falco mexicanus, came screeching over the ridge, the pursuer making its staccato chi-chi-chi-chi-chi threat, the pursued screaming bloody murder, wings beating furiously. Almost directly overhead they locked talons, each falcon shrieking at this point as they plummeted toward our beach, no longer flying, but falling instead. Spiraling clumsily around each other, feathers askew, the combatants fell from the harsh sunlight above the ridge into the canyon’s early-morning shade, losing about two-thirds of their altitude before releasing each other. The chichi-chi-chi-chi threat resumed immediately, each bird laboring to regain altitude and speed, the pursuer never more than a meter behind. When they disappeared over the ridge, it appeared the chase would continue for miles. Two paragraphs ago, I made the conscious decision to reference these falcons by the scientific name, Falco mexicanus, rather than by their common name, “prairie falcon.” Is it possible that enjoyment of this narrative has been augmented for some readers by supposing that these were exotic creatures? Would critical appreciation have been diminished by knowing that these were the common falcons that spend the summer months escaping the Baja heat by perching on the telephone lines that border Kansas wheat fields? How do we preserve our delight if we presume that the common is less appreciable than the exotic? That question seemed to answer itself a few hours after I penned it, when we went diving at the sea lion colony at Los Islotes, a site too famous for its own good. I’ve snorkeled here at least a dozen times, and was therefore not expecting the momentary bliss that accompanies a novel experience. This was fine, of course, since teachers experience bliss vicariously whenever their students make discoveries. This holds true even when anthropology majors are involved. Even though it was Tuesday, Los Islotes was crowded. Spring break in Baja. I led our group to an end of the rocky islets less frequented by the tour boats, but before we could get there I spotted a shiny-new snorkel that had been dropped in ten meters of water, a depth beyond the range of most novice
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snorkelers. Intent on the snorkel’s rescue, I took a breath, jackknifed, and had nearly reached it when a juvenile sea lion zoomed past, beating me to the snorkel and grasping it in its mouth the way a dog grasps a bone. The pup swam away a few meters, just beyond my reach, spat the snorkel out, and then regripped it by the end—in other words it now held the snorkel’s mouthpiece in its mouth. Mimicking me thus, it swam off. I suppose I will never know for certain whether the sea lion was consciously trying to mimic human practice or was just haphazardly playing “Snatch the Snorkel.” I prefer believing the first alternative, perhaps because it appeals to my sense of whimsy, a sense that would have been all the more delighted had I been resting at the surface the moment a sea lion popped its head out of the water with a snorkel held properly in its mouth. Regardless, the novelty of the experience added to my pleasure, this having been the first time I’d seen a sea lion snorkel. I trace my recent travels thus: perturbed herons >>> nonrattling rattlesnake >>> elusive gnatcatcher >>> fierce falcon fight >>> snorkeling sea lion. But for every organism/event to which I pay attention, there are many others I fail to note. One of my favorite writing exercises, back in the classroom, is to ask students to spend five minutes writing about the things they failed to observe on their way to class that morning. I probably get more detail from this question than had I asked them to take notes while they walked toward our seminar room. It is possible, I suppose, that my students and I would enjoy these trips immensely were we simply to paddle our way around this archipelago rather than attempting to study our way around it as well. What would suffer, I fear, is the quality of attention we pay to the various elements of natural history we encounter. Had the blue-gray gnatcatcher not been assigned, it would most likely not have been seen. We would still notice the charismatic megafauna, like the humpbacks that sometimes breach directly in front of our kayaks, and we would delight in that, but how deep would such appreciation run?
I don’t like the word “seaweed” because “weed” seems judgmental, and because college professors are allowed to be snippy about such things. A better term would be “macroalgae,” were it not so pretentious. The locals here in the Sea of Cortez call their free-floating macroalgae “sargasso,” as do I, my organismal vocabulary in Spanish far exceeding my mastery of Spanish verbs. My students prefer to use the genus name, Sargassum, intentionally mispronouncing it so that it rhymes with “orgasm.” The student who has been assigned to study
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sargassum can undoubtedly tell you that it’s holopelagic, which means that it can reproduce without ever needing to attach to the sea floor. In the past, I’ve had an entire class claim to be holopelagic. For some naturalists, understanding the physiology of vegetative holopelagic reproduction might be the cool thing. For me, however, the cool thing about sargasso is that patches of it, floating on the surface, often hide juvenile Pacific seahorses, Hippocampus ingens, with their horse-like heads, their monkey-like prehensile tails, and their kangaroo-like pouches. You’ll never find them, however, unless you’re actively looking for them. Masters of camouflage, they are able to match their color perfectly with the sargasso’s greenish brown. They blend in so well that thousands of sea kayakers have paddled through sargasso down here in Baja without ever spotting one. For most of these people, sargassum is just a seaweed, a weed floating in saltwater, something that wraps around your paddle when you’re not paying attention. This book is about paying attention in an ecosystem where heightened attention becomes its own reward.
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GRASSROOTS TO GLOBAL Broader Impacts of Civic Ecology Edited by Marianne E. Krasny Foreword by Keith G. Tidball
Comstock Publishing Associates An imprint of CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS
ITHACA AND LONDON
Copyright © 2018 by Cornell University All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850. First published 2018 by Cornell University Press Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Krasny, Marianne E., editor. Title: Grassroots to global : broader impacts of civic ecology / edited by Marianne E. Krasny. Description: Ithaca : Comstock Publishing Associates, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017056275 (print) | LCCN 2017057141 (ebook) | ISBN 9781501714986 (epub/mobi) | ISBN 9781501714993 (pdf) | ISBN 9781501714979 | ISBN 9781501714979 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781501721977 (pbk. : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Environmental protection—Citizen participation. | Human ecology. | Urban ecology (Sociology) | Community development. Classification: LCC TD171.7 (ebook) | LCC TD171.7 G725 2018 (print) | DDC 363.7—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017056275 Cornell University Press strives to use environmentally responsible suppliers and materials to the fullest extent possible in the publishing of its books. Such materials include vegetable-based, low-VOC inks and acid-free papers that are recycled, totally chlorine-free, or partly composed of nonwood fibers. For further information, visit our website at cornellpress.cornell.edu.
Foreword Keith G. Tidball Acknowledgments
Introduction Marianne E. Krasny Par t I
CULTURE BUILDING: CHANGING SOCIAL NORMS THROUGH CIVIC ECOLOGY PRACTICES 1.
Coming Home to Common Ground in Stressed Communities: Intentional Civic Engagement in the Collins Avenue Streamside Community of Southwest Baltimore Jill Wrigley, Mila Kellen Marshall, and Michael Sarbanes
The Bitter and the Sweet of Nature: Weaving a Tapestry of Migration Stories Veronica Kyle and Laurel Kearns
Grassroots Stewardship in Iran: The Rise and Significance of Nature Cleaners Karim-Aly Kassam, 65
Zahra Golshani, and Marianne E. Krasny 4.
Returning Orange Waters to Blue: Creating a Culture of Civic Engagement through Learning Experiences 85
Louise Chawla and Robert E. Hughes Par t II
KNOWLEDGE BUILDING: LEARNING IN CIVIC ECOLOGY PRACTICE 5.
The Nature of Transformative Learning for Social-Ecological Sustainability Martha Chaves and Arjen E. J. Wals
Making Knowledge in Civic Ecology Practices: A Community Garden Case Study Philip Silva and Rosalba Lopez Ramirez
Mapping the Route from Citizen Science to Environmental Stewardship: Integrating Adaptive Management and Civic Ecology Practice Rebecca Jordan
Par t III MOVEMENT BUILDING: CIVIC ECOLOGY AS STRATEGIC ACTION FIELD 8.
Adaptive Management, Adaptive Governance, and Civic Ecology Lance Gunderson, Elizabeth Whiting Pierce, and Marianne E. Krasny
The Healing Powers of Nature in Joplin’s Cunningham Park: Coupling Design-Build and Civic Ecology Keith E. Hedges, Traci Sooter, Nancy Chikaraishi, and Marianne E. Krasny
Countering Environmental Gentrification through Economic, Cultural, and Political Equity: The 11th Street Bridge Park Dennis Chestnut and Marianne E. Krasny
Civic Stewardship as a Catalyst for Social-Ecological Change in Detroit, Michigan Rebecca Salminen Witt, Erika S. Svendsen, and Marianne E. Krasny
From Practice to Fledgling Social Movement in India: Lessons from “The Ugly Indian” Aniruddha Abhyankar and Marianne E. Krasny
Afterword: Toward a Collaborative Engagement David Maddox
Notes on Contributors
INTRODUCTION Marianne E. Krasny
My motivation for this book was simple. I am inspired by community gardening, litter cleanups, tree planting, oyster gardening, mangrove restoration, and similar civic ecology practices. Together with my colleague Keith Tidball, I have explored where and why these practices occur and their local outcomes, including provisioning ecosystem services and fostering learning, health and well-being, social capital, and sense of community among participants. We have published papers and two previous books—Civic Ecology: Adaptation and Transformation from the Ground Up (Krasny and Tidball 2015) and Greening in the Red Zone (Tidball and Krasny 2014). I also practice civic ecology. I started a group called Friends of the Gorge to address stewardship needs in the Cornell campus gorges, and I help out at Friends of the Ithaca City Cemetery cleanups and jog in their Halloween Spook Run fund-raiser. Yet in exploring civic ecology practices, I was constantly nagged by the fact that these practices are small, perhaps even insignificant, while the problems facing the planet, its people, and other organisms loom large. In an age where humans are a planetary force, seemingly mostly of environmental degradation, do community gardening, tree pruning, litter cleanups, and restoring oysters or mangroves in cities like New York, Shenzhen, and Bangalore make any difference? So you might say shepherding this book was an attempt to justify my enthusiasm—my passion—for these small, community-based environmental stewardship actions in light of my concerns about the future of our planet.
In short, bridging small, self-organized environmental action with larger governance and management impacts is the reason I brought together a group of scholars and practitioners to write this book. The results of our collective efforts are the chapters you are about to read. But before you do, I will introduce you to our authors and to their definitions of civic ecology. And I will share three pathways through which civic ecology can have the kind of broader impacts that emerged through the chapters of this book.
What Is Civic Ecology? When asked to define civic ecology at the workshop that launched this book, Veronica Kyle had this to say: “When I think of civic ecology I think about engagement of people in their natural environment. That can be everything from engaging in their community park to a local beach to a forest preserve. I think about science and nature; people and nurturing of their environment coming together. Hands-on learning, multigenerational community stewardship. I think about no books, no scientific lectures, no homework. Just lifework in the environment where they live, work, and play” (Veronica Kyle, Outreach Director, Faith in Place, Chicago). Keith Tidball from Cornell University responded to the same question by stating his long-standing conviction that Aldo Leopold’s land ethic serves as the basis for civic ecology. He went on to describe the land ethic as “thinking about the community as more than just the people in the neighborhood or the people on the block. It includes the other life, from the soil to the birds to the bees and the wildlife, the trees, the atmosphere. All of that is the community that we live in.” And Zahra Golshani, a researcher and volunteer with Nature Cleaners in Iran, talked about civic ecology as “activity that connects people to nature and also helps people to build a sense of community and social capital together.” How can we make sense of these disparate perspectives on civic ecology? And how do we take these and other insights to answer the question posed in this book: In what ways do small-scale civic ecology practices—milkweed planting for monarch butterflies in Chicago, tree planting in Detroit, community gardening in the Bronx, or litter cleanups in Bangalore and Tehran—make a difference beyond the small spaces that they immediately transform? To answer this question, I invited a group of twenty-five civic ecology practitioners and scholars to a workshop at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, Maryland. During our three days together in February 2015, we explored the definition of civic ecology that Keith Tidball and I had proposed in earlier publications within the context of the practices and disciplinary lenses represented at the workshop (text box 1). The goal was to generate understandings of the broader impacts of civic ecology practices by exploring specific stewardship
and restoration actions through the lens of academic theories and disciplines. The understandings generated at the workshop and afterward are captured in the chapters in this book, which are coauthored by practitioners and scholars. Text Box 1
Civic Ecology Definitions
In our earlier writing Keith Tidball and I distinguished between civic ecology practices and civic ecology as a field of study. Civic ecology practices: local environmental stewardship actions to enhance green infrastructure and community well-being in cities and other human-dominated systems Civic ecology: study of individual, community, and environmental outcomes and interactions of such practices with communities, governance institutions, and ecosystems Sources: Krasny and Tidball 2012, 2015.
I paired one academic with one practitioner at the workshop to begin the process of coauthoring the book chapters. The scholar would apply his or her particular disciplinary or cross-disciplinary lens—environmental governance, environmental psychology, religious studies, among others—to understand and interpret the practice. I tried to create academic-practitioner pairs whose members shared common interests. So, for example, human ecologist Karim-Aly Kassam has worked widely in central Asia and is a scholar of the sociocultural history of Muslim societies. He was paired with Zahra Golshani, who shares his Muslim faith and who has volunteered to pick up litter with the NGO Nature Cleaners in public places in Tehran and other Iranian cities. Environmental psychologist Louise Chawla has written widely about childhood engagement in nature and lived for many years in rural Kentucky. She coauthored the chapter with Robert Hughes; together they interpret his work in rural, coal-mining communities in Pennsylvania through the lens of providing youth with significant life experiences that lead them to conservation work later on. And Veronica Kyle engages members of African American, Latino, and other faith congregations in Chicago in reflecting on their migration stories and in planting milkweed to host another type of migrant—monarch butterflies. She was paired with religious scholar Laurel Kearns, who has written about faith traditions that promote caring for God’s creation. For some coauthor pairs, the boundary between scholar and practitioner was blurred. For example, Jill Wrigley was the practitioner in the chapter with ecosystem ecologist Mila Kellen Marshall. Yet in addition to launching the Collins Avenue Streamside Community, Jill was a lawyer and taught food systems at the
University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Philip Silva acted in the role of academic for the chapter with Rosalba Lopez Ramirez on knowledge practices in a community garden in the Bronx. Yet both Philip and Rosalba are community gardeners and garden educators, and both have research experience. They questioned the binary categories of “practitioner” and “academic” and felt that their collaboration clouded the lines between these two ways of making sense of the world. In fact, such merging of different ways of making sense of the world is a means to understand the larger impact of civic ecology practices and thus contributes to the goal of this book. I also invited two scholars to provide perspectives that would cut across the practices described in the chapters. At the workshop, Emory University professor Lance Gunderson, who has contributed widely to scholarship in ecosystem science, adaptive management, and adaptive governance, referred to civic ecology as “skunkworks,” or small groups of people who operate outside the routine procedures of organizations to create innovations (Rogers 2003). In so doing, participants in skunkworks question existing mental models of how things work or how change occurs, and explore possible futures with “novel system configurations” (Gunderson and Light 2006, 332). In using the term “skunkworks,” Lance was describing civic ecology practices as small-scale innovations that at least initially emerge outside government bureaucracies. Lance went further to describe civic ecology as evidence that progress can be organic and nonlinear and that “ideas drive policy, and politicians follow ideas.” The Ugly Indian, a nonprofit in Bangalore, illustrates Lance’s claims in that its core members are a small group of volunteers who developed an innovative way to address the problem of trash dumping in urban public spaces; although they operate outside the confines of municipal government, their work has begun to drive policies about who takes responsibility for public spaces in Indian cities. Lance’s comments about how innovation emerges from nonlinear processes were reinforced by Arjen Wals, a UNESCO sustainability professor at Wageningen University. Arjen was asked to contribute his expertise on social learning and on crossing disciplinary, academic-practitioner, and other boundaries. He emphasized how learning processes that bring together people from different sectors and disciplines—that cross boundaries—often create transformative experiences, practices, and scholarship. Arjen’s and Lance’s perspectives on how ideas and innovations emerge when individuals work across sectors and disciplines freed from the constraints of mainstream organizational structures are foundational to understanding civic ecology and the chapters in this book. They suggest that civic ecology practices are social innovations generated from the bottom up by crossing traditional boundaries. Their perspectives also reflect the approach used in writing this book. By pairing scholars and practitioners representing multiple disciplines
and practices, most of whom had not met before the workshop, I hoped to generate insights about civic ecology practices and their broader impacts.
Civic Ecology Broader Impacts: Pathways Emerging from the Chapters During the workshop, social scientist Erika Svendsen described civic ecology as “people taking action for themselves and, in that action, thinking beyond themselves and thinking about all the different issues that are important to a community, to a place, and beyond.” Erika’s research has, in fact, captured the connections among small-scale organizations, communities, places, and broader governance networks. She and her colleagues have mapped the governance network of over seven hundred environmental stewardship organizations in New York City, including small groups engaged in civic ecology (Connolly et al. 2014). Erika’s chapter coauthor for this book, Rebecca Salminen Witt, was longtime director of the nonprofit the Greening of Detroit and describes her work with a network of greening organizations that collectively have contributed to civic and environmental revitalization in Detroit. As each coauthor pair like Erika and Rebecca grappled with the grassroots nature of their practice through a disciplinary lens, and attempted to address the question of how the practice could have broader social, environmental, and policy impacts beyond the small space and people involved, three broader-impacts pathways emerged. I refer to these pathways in shorthand as culture building, knowledge building, and movement building.
Farhang-sazi (Culture Building): Changing Social Norms through Civic Ecology Practices The motto of the Ugly Indian is “See the change you want to be” (riffing off a popular saying attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see”). As depicted in the chapter by Bangalore volunteer and designer Aniruddha Abhyankar and myself, volunteers in Indian cities conduct “spot fixes,” or short-term cleanups of small public spaces along streets and sidewalks. Volunteers describe how, by providing visual evidence of what urban public spaces can look like, they “nudge” fellow citizens to take responsibility for their littering behaviors and “provoke” municipal officials into taking action. The officials, who have allowed these spaces to become open trash dumps, are embarrassed when volunteers strategically conduct spot fixes near municipal buildings. As a result, they decide to lend their support to the next spot fix and even strategically leverage the Ugly Indian volunteers to transform additional public spaces.
The Ugly Indian also conducts spot fixes near the homes of prominent Bollywood actors and fields where rugby stars play, with the goal of gaining the support of Indian cultural icons for changing the way Indians treat public spaces. In addition to leveraging these modern aspects of Indian culture, the Ugly Indian invites housemaids to create traditional rice drawings in cleaned-up spaces, not only to demonstrate the beauty of the spaces but, just as important, to influence the maids (and their employers) who often dump their household’s trash in these same spaces. Using these strategies of allowing powerful actors and more ordinary citizens to see a change from trash dump to well-tended pocket park, the Ugly Indian hopes to transform the way Indians from all walks of life view their responsibility for the upkeep of urban spaces. The group’s approach reflects a large body of research that has shown that “witnessing the actions of other people has a powerful effect on behaviors” (Nolan et al. 2008, 913). In Iran, volunteers with the NGO Nature Cleaners similarly clean up trashed public spaces. They describe their efforts using the Farsi term “farhang-sazi,” which literally translates as “culture building,” or, more precisely, “a cultural process through which the authorities can reshape and mould values, norms, perceptions, attitudes and, ultimately shape people’s behaviour” (Banakar and Fard 2015). In Iran, farhang-sazi is associated with government-run campaigns, or top-down interventions to change citizen behaviors (Banakar and Saeidzadeh 2015). In some cases of farhang-sazi, for example attempting to build a citizenry disposed to environmental protection in Iran, the government has appealed to Islamic religious writings (Abe 2016), as do coauthors Karim-Aly Kassam and Zahra Golshani in invoking the Shi’ia Islam principle of cleanliness to describe the work of Nature Cleaners. In referring to their grassroots cleanups as farhang-sazi, volunteers for Nature Cleaners express their intent to have broad impacts on Iranian behavioral norms, similar to government-directed social engineering campaigns but outside of government. The Ugly Indian eschews government-directed campaigns in favor of citizen action in describing how it views “the problem of visible filth on our streets as a behaviour and attitude problem that can be solved in our lifetime (or rather, this month). This can be achieved without spending money or changing legislation or systems. It requires coming up with smart ideas to change people’s rooted cultural behaviour and attitudes” (Ugly Indian 2010). To build a new culture of people caring for public spaces, Nature Cleaners and the Ugly Indian attempt to change social norms—that is, societal expectations regarding littering and stewardship behaviors—and attitudes. Given the growing number of volunteer trash cleanups in countries throughout the world, and the rampant plastic pollution of our waterways, oceans, and public lands, attempts to change
behavioral norms and cultural attitudes toward trash assume an importance beyond the specific practices (cf. Hawkins 2006). Notions of “history in person” embodied in the efforts of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR) also can be viewed through the lens of culture building. Drawing from Holland and Lave (2001), coauthors Louise Chawla and Robert Hughes define history in person as the fact that people’s lives reflect the history of the places they are born into, yet people are not entirely captured by this fate but rather retain the possibility of recasting their inherited history and changing conditions through creative action. In the anthracite coal mining region of eastern Pennsylvania, EPCAMR embraces a history and culture of rural mining communities, including a past prosperity, tragic floods and mining accidents, and current-day contaminated streams and pervasive poverty. By transforming mining oxides into ceramic glazes, restoring land to provide food and butterfly habitat, monitoring water quality, and building monuments to the coal miners’ past, EPCAMR staff, volunteers, and children participating in their educational programs redirect their shared history while instilling a culture of caring for land and water. Not far away from rural Pennsylvania’s coal region is the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Similar to EPCAMR, which depends on the commitment of its longterm director Robert Hughes, Baltimore’s Collins Avenue Streamside Community reflects the vision and commitment of two individuals—Jill Wrigley and Michael Sarbanes. However, this attempt to change social norms uses an approach entirely different from that of EPCAMR, Nature Cleaners, or the Ugly Indian. Here a family headed by two professionals decided to move into a mixed-income neighborhood and form a multicultural intentional community of like-minded professional families. The case of the Collins Avenue Streamside Community is instructive because it entails a family opening access to a private resource—a wooded streamside property adjacent to their home—to the public in their neighborhood. Although not specifically referring to culture building, the families at the center of this effort have dedicated their lives to greening and social justice work, hoping to provide an example for other intentional communities in Baltimore and elsewhere. Like Nature Cleaners and the Ugly Indian, the Baltimore families are contributing to the transformation of social norms by allowing their neighbors, their church, and other actors to “see the change they want to be.” The Baltimore efforts, inspired by a Christian faith emphasizing humbleness coupled with justice, appear to be gently nudging others through example, rather than deliberate provocation as employed in the Ugly Indian’s strategic cleanups near the homes of powerful government, media, and sports figures.
Similar to how religious values are invoked in the Iranian and Baltimore cases, the work of Veronica Kyle at Faith in Place occurs within the African American and Latino Christian church and other faith-based institutions in Chicago. Veronica also hopes to change social norms, in this case by “nudging” people of color to see not only their deeply rooted connections with nature but also their responsibility to take care of it. She uses the story of monarch butterfly migration as a starting point for discussions about the migrations of black congregants from the southern states to northern cities and of the journeys undertaken by Latino and other immigrants to the United States. Veronica and her coauthor, religious scholar Laurel Kearns, write about how stories incorporate religious references to explain how environmental restoration can have “broader symbolic meanings related to sacred work and to public witness to the collective moral failure of industrial society. This moral failure results in a ‘call’ to do better.” In sum, drawing on modern secular, traditional, and religious values, civic ecology practices attempt to change social norms and to build a culture of caring for public and degraded spaces. This entails demonstrating through tangible—visible—actions what public spaces can become and the value they bring to their stewards, the community, and even a city or region. As noted by the Ugly Indian, civic ecology stewards attempt to change society by letting people “see the change they want to be.”
Knowledge Building: Learning in Civic Ecology Practice Originally, Keith Tidball and I had posited that one means by which a civic ecology practice might have greater influence is through becoming “evidence based”—that is, by incorporating feedback from measuring ecosystem services and other outcomes (Krasny and Tidball 2015, 2012). In particular, we posited that civic ecology stewards would engage in an adaptive management process (Walters 1986; Gunderson and Light 2006) whereby they collect data on the outcomes of their practice and adapt the practice based on what they find. However, the chapter applying an adaptive management framework to the Kelly Street Community Garden in the Bronx echoes what Gunderson and Light (2006) have found for national parks—resource managers experience multiple challenges when faced with the task of collecting data intended to change their practice, including pressure to perform and to not admit mistakes inherent to a management mind-set. In the Bronx garden, coauthors Philip Silva and Rosalba Lopez Ramirez find that even when provided with data-collection protocols designed using input from their peers, community gardeners make limited use of these protocols. That is not to say, however, that they don’t incorporate ongoing learning into their practice. The Bronx community gardeners adapted and applied
what they found useful at citywide workshops, and in so doing built practical knowledge specific to their garden practice. Perhaps Keith Tidball’s and my earlier focus on established civic ecology practices collecting data to improve their practices started at the wrong place in the adaptive management cycle. We posited that once established, a civic ecology “management” practice would start collecting data on its outcomes, which in turn would lead to adapting the original management practice. The chapter by Rutgers University ecologist Rebecca Jordan suggests an alternative pathway by which data collection can lead to enhancing civic ecology practices. Rebecca describes participants in her Collaborative Science project who collect formal and less formal observations about an environmental problem, and then develop a visual representation of elements impacting that problem. They use handdrawn diagrams, or “fuzzy cognitive maps,” to model outcomes of changing various inputs and processes related to the problem. In Rebecca’s chapter, local residents start by collecting data—on water quality in a suburban community or on trash accumulating in an urban neighborhood. They then use their data and Collaborative Science modeling to reflect on and prioritize stewardship actions like trash cleanups, and have gone further to advocate for changes in local and municipal policy. In Baltimore, the volunteers also offered to gather data after the cleanups to assess the results of their actions, and even planned a field experiment to test the effect of art around trash dumpsters in influencing community members’ littering behaviors. Rebecca’s work suggests that with support from scientists involved in Collaborative Science and similar public participation in scientific research projects (Shirk et al. 2012), volunteer data collectors can use their data to plan stewardship actions, and later may generate additional information about how well their actions work and adapt those actions accordingly. In short, the cycle may start with data collection, which leads to stewardship action, rather than with environmental stewardship per se. The chapter by Martha Chaves and Arjen Wals describes how multiple civic ecology practices in Bogota and other Colombian cities raise awareness of ecological and cultural memories, including those of indigenous Colombians. At the five-day annual intercultural gathering El Llamado de la Montaña (the Call of the Mountain), groups engaged in civic ecology practices from across Colombia come together to forge alliances, build leadership, share practices, and enact a collaborative project to reinforce skills and knowledge gained through a workshop. In addition to any new knowledge created by informal sharing across practices, participants create a toolbox of approaches for generating sustainability actions and strengthening relations among participants, organizations, and regions. The Colombian initiative also creates learning spaces to promote reflexive learning.
In sum, the community gardening, Collaborative Science, and Colombian cases suggest multiple pathways by which grassroots efforts may build new knowledge. Through creating such knowledge they may strengthen their own practices (Silva and Lopez Ramirez) as well as become empowered to talk with policy makers (Jordan). Further, Jordan’s work suggests a pairing of two distinct and increasingly popular participatory activities—citizen data collection and civic ecology stewardship. Sometimes citizen science data collection comes first, with the data providing the impetus to engage in stewardship and to try to influence the policy process. Finally, by bringing together diverse practitioners to share their knowledge and by capturing collective knowledge in a toolbox, the Colombian efforts reflect much of what we attempted at our workshop in Annapolis and in writing this book—through providing platforms for multiple actors with diverse perspectives to exchange ideas, experience, and knowledge, we generated new understandings of civic ecology practices.
Movement Building: Civic Ecology as Strategic Action Field Civic ecology practices can be considered not only within the context of changing behavioral norms and attitudes and of creating new knowledge, but also from the perspectives of organizations, governance networks, and social movements. Veronica and her colleagues at Faith in Place integrate civic ecology practices, such as church community gardens, with a policy agenda advocating for clean energy in the state of Illinois; in so doing they have formed partnerships with organizations like Interfaith Power and Light. Robert Hughes’s EPCAMR also participates in larger governance networks. Although Robert and his coauthor, environmental psychologist Louise Chawla, focus their chapter on educational efforts with young people, Robert is involved in statewide and national networks of nonprofit organizations that attempt to influence government policy regarding abandoned mine reclamation. In spanning hands-on stewardship practices with advocacy and environmental education, these and other organizations integrate aspects of—and blur the lines separating—ecosystem, education, and advocacyfocused environmental organizations (cf. Sirianni and Sofer 2012). They also form governance networks, which play a role in adaptive governance as described in the chapter by Lance Gunderson, Elizabeth Whiting Pierce, and myself. The chapter by the Greening of Detroit director Rebecca Salminen Witt, environmental sociologist Erika Svendsen, and myself demonstrates how an organization that emerged from an environmental crisis (the decimation of Detroit’s urban tree canopy by Dutch elm disease) formed networks with other organizations engaged in community development and stewardship. The Greening of Detroit chapter also offers a cautionary tale about powerful and less-powerful
actors in stewardship governance networks, and demonstrates how a reflexive organization can accommodate social justice issues and adapt to changing social, economic, and environmental conditions. Greening efforts after a devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, might also be viewed through the lens of local and more powerful actors. As described by practicing architects and university professors Keith Hedges, Traci Sooter, and Nancy Chikaraishi, the more powerful actors, including a national TV network and nearby university, provided much of the impetus for the greening actions, thus situating this chapter in marked contrast to most cases described in this book where the efforts emerge from local citizen efforts. The Joplin case, which entailed creating two gardens—the first to recognize volunteers who helped rebuild after the tornado and the second to provide a space to remember the storm’s victims—illustrates how well-resourced organizations can provide visibility for their own work while engaging local volunteers and helping disaster victims. The Joplin Butterfly Garden and Overlook is also part of a national network of “open spaces, sacred places,” which seeks to create and conduct research on spaces for healing in communities impacted by crime and disaster. A visit with Dennis Chestnut in Washington, DC, invariably entails a tour of an emerging network of green spaces connected by an existing network of green organizations along the eight-mile Anacostia River waterfront. The Living Classrooms Foundation, the Washington, DC, Department of Parks and Recreation, the Anacostia Watershed Society, Anacostia Riverkeeper, the Earth Conservation Corps, Groundwork Anacostia River DC, Soilful City, the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, the Marvin Gaye Park, the Civil War Defenses—these are but a few of the organizations and green spaces that Dennis, along with his Washington, DC, colleagues Akiima Price and Xavier Brown, have shown me. Partly as a result of their collective grassroots success in cleaning up the Anacostia River and revitalizing surrounding neighborhoods, longtime, low-income African American residents are now threatened by rising housing prices and related aspects of environmental gentrification. In Dennis’s and my chapter, we outline how the nonprofit 11th Street Bridge Park is attempting to avert the gentrification that can occur when civic ecology practices become part of expanding stewardship networks, whose success in greening neighborhoods threatens the very social justice principles embedded in the original grassroots civic ecology initiative. As civic ecology practices grow to become part of regional green space governance networks, they also help shape and are shaped by broader social movements. Congregations planting milkweed to provide habitat for monarch butterflies can be considered as part of a Christian ecological restoration movement (Van Wieren 2013); community gardening in the Bronx contributes to the urban agriculture and social justice movements (Reynolds and Cohen 2016);
and efforts to restore degraded vacant land in Detroit are part of the ecological restoration economy movement (BenDor et al. 2015). More broadly, civic ecology practices can be seen as contributing to a civic environmental movement emphasizing collaboration among nonprofits, government, and business as a means to address environmental and related social problems (Sirianni and Friedland 2005; John 2004). When civic ecology practices become part of governance networks and social movements, the boundaries between practices, organizations, and movements can become blurred. Such boundary crossing calls out for abandoning questions that focus narrowly on civic ecology practices, networks of stewardship organizations, or a civic environmental movement. The work of the Greening of Detroit is illustrative. Starting with a narrow focus on tree planting and evolving into broader efforts to transform Detroit’s myriad abandoned spaces into gardens, orchards, and urban forest, this greening organization has become not only part of a citywide green space governance network but also helps shape and is shaped by a national urban greening and revitalization movement. Further blurring the lines delineating different levels of organization are new forms of social media. As illustrated by the Ugly Indian’s and Nature Cleaners’ use of Facebook and Telegram to organize individual cleanups and to connect volunteers over time and place, social media can play a role in expanding the impact of single civic ecology practices and organizations. Social media also can connect actors in different cities and make them feel as if they are part of, and helping to build and shape, a larger social and environmental movement. In this way, civic ecology practices become actors in Internet-mediated or connective social movements, which do not simply use the web to engage more individuals, but become defined by the ways in which they use social and other digital media (Bennett and Segerberg 2013). In attempting to integrate the literature about organizations and social movements to describe how change occurs across different levels of social organization, Fligstein and McAdam (2011) proposed the term “strategic action field.” This term refers to social spaces where individual and collective actors holding common understandings about their purposes, rules, and relationships (including who has power and why) interact and engage in collective action. The notion of fields of strategic action integrates ideas about collective action at the level of individual practices, organizations, governance networks, and social movements. In this way, it helps to shed light on the possibilities for civic ecology practices to become actors whose impacts are felt beyond individual practices.
Summary of Civic Ecology Broader-Impacts Pathways To summarize, three themes emerge from the chapters in this book that help us address our question about pathways through which civic ecology practices have larger impacts. First, through nudging neighbors into more sustainable behaviors and even lifestyles, and through provoking more powerful government and media actors, civic ecology practices can build cultures of caring for the environment and community and social norms of collective responsibility for what our public spaces look like and what they provide to our communities. Second, civic ecology practices can become more effective in realizing their environmental and civic goals by creating new knowledge; such knowledge is not limited to formal outcomes monitoring but may include adapting what is learned through informal observations and through interactions with other civic ecology stewards at workshops. Finally, civic ecology practices are conducted by organizations, which become part of networks of environmental and civic renewal organizations, and even civic environmental, urban agriculture, Christian restoration, and ecological restoration movements. Here social media can play a role not just in generating engagement of more people in more practices, but in actually defining the shape of the environmental and social movement. Finally, notions of “connective action” and “strategic action fields” reflect how civic ecology practices cross traditional ways of thinking about social change and institutional boundaries, leading to new ways to envision the interaction of practices, organizations, governance networks, and social movements. Importantly, any one chapter in this book may illustrate multiple pathways to broader impact. Thus, the order of chapters in the remainder of this volume does not always reflect where they are examined in the discussion of the culture, knowledge, and movement-building themes above. For example, above I discuss the Ugly Indian primarily in terms of culture building because its meme, “See the change you want to be,” illustrates an attempt to build social norms and cultural attitudes that is useful for multiple chapters. I also mention this chapter in the social-movement-building section above. I decided to place the Ugly Indian chapter at the end of the section on movement building because it illustrates using social media to create a connective social movement and the notion of strategic action fields. It also integrates many of the ideas put forth in the book, as well as tensions faced by civic ecology practices as they scale up—in particular, how to balance framing a consistent message about one’s practice while expanding one’s activities and becoming part of networks of multiple volunteer and institutional actors.
Appreciative Inquiry When I apologized for the two and a half years it took to compile this book, Louise Chawla pointed out that bringing together practitioners and scholars as coauthors presents a daunting challenge. Coauthors struggled with how to integrate their “voices” into a coherent chapter, and several authors dropped out along the way. In a few cases, I jumped in to help beyond the usual editorial tasks and was invited to join as chapter coauthor. Part of the daunting challenge inherent to practitioners working with academics is the difference in our approaches. Practitioners need to talk about their work as successful in order to garner resources, including volunteers and funding. Academics are trained to question and critique, which to practitioners may feel more like inquisition than inquiry. Appreciative inquiry, defined as “a research method focusing on positive organizational attributes that may fuel change” (Grant and Humphries 2006, 402), has been used in collaborative studies involving health, education, and other practitioners working alongside researchers. Drawing on action research and social constructivism, appreciative inquiry attempts to draw out “what works” in an organization rather than focus on problems, and to share understandings of what works to improve practice. By focusing on the positive, appreciative inquiry offers potential for addressing practitioner concerns about unfair criticism, but becomes subject to academic concerns about distorting the truth and lacking self-reflection and critique. Encouraging reflection and deliberation during (Reed 2007) and after (Grant and Humphries 2006) the appreciative inquiry process has been used to draw in critical perspectives. According to the authors of one study, “through applications of critical theory we may begin to better understand not just how an appreciative inquiry develops, but to consider also the knowledge and power influences which might be negotiated as the process unfolds and on what basis such negotiation might be used to contribute to the emancipation and flourishing of humanity” (emphasis added, Grant and Humphries 2006, 410). This quote reflects what appreciative inquiry and critical theory hold in common—a focus on change, emancipation, and human flourishing. Our chapter coauthors explored what was “working” in organizations and practices, and in so doing sought to understand how civic ecology practices contribute to the flourishing of humans, our communities, and our environment. The authors avoid critiquing the practices per se, with the exception of the chapter about the Greening of Detroit, in which the critique was offered by the practitioner (Rebecca Salminen Witt) rather than by her academic coauthor (Erika Svendsen). Thus, the chapters in this book can be viewed in the tradition of appreciative inquiry.
This does not mean, however, that the chapters lack critical reflection. Our process differs from the approaches described elsewhere, in which an evaluation of power relations in a formal appreciative inquiry process was the source of critical refection. Instead the authors in this book apply disciplinary and theoretical perspectives as a means of critically reflecting on practice. In this way, the chapter authors and I hope our collective work will contribute not only to the flourishing of individual civic ecology practices. We also seek to understand how such practices contribute to flourishing of the humans engaged, the surrounding community, environmental governance systems, and the social-ecological systems in which these different levels of activity occur. This book has been a journey over several years. Along the way, my coauthors and I not only faced the challenges of working across barriers separating practice and scholarship. We also lost one of our authors prematurely. A lawyer, university professor, and community activist, Jill Wrigley committed her life to living in inner-city Baltimore. Alongside her husband Michael Sarbanes, her three adopted children, and the other members of their Collins Avenue Streamside Community, Jill continues to provide inspiration for those volunteering to clean up a public space, to start a community garden, and more deeply to commit their life to a community, its people, and its nature. Veronica Kyle spoke about civic ecology as “lifework in the environment.” Jill’s lifework recalls the words scientist Walter Munk shared in reflecting on Pope Francis’s call to combat climate change and to “care for our common home” (Revkin 2014). As embodied by Jill Wrigley’s lifework, “This requires a miracle of love and unselfishness.” We begin with Jill’s story.
Acknowledgments When asked to define civic ecology during the workshop that launched this book, I spoke about inspiration. “Civic ecology to me is the inspiration I derive from people in cities and in stressed communities all over the world who have learned how to care for nature and care for community at the same time.” Although compiling this book has been challenging at times, I remain inspired today. This is the real reason I study, write about, and participate in civic ecology practices. In the spirit of appreciative inquiry, I deeply appreciate civic ecology practices. I also deeply appreciate the authors in this book being willing to share their practices, to help us understand their theoretical context, and to help us envision their larger contributions. I hope that these practices make a difference not just to participants’ lives, but to Bangalore, India, the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, cities in Iran and the United States, and to our shared planet.
Birds of Nicaragua A FIELD GUIDE
L ILIANA CHAVA RRĂ?A- DU RIAU X DAV I D C. HIL L E Illustrated by RO BE RT D EAN
A Zona Tropical Publication FROM
Comstock Publishing Associates an imprint of
Cornell University Press Ithaca and London
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Text copyright © 2018 by Liliana Chavarría-Duriaux and David C. Hille Bird illustrations copyright © 2018 by John K. McCuen and Robert Dean Natural history illustrations copyright © 2018 by Blanca Martí and Peter Burke Range maps copyright © 2018 by David C. Hille Photographs copyright © 2018 by respective photographers Illustrations and Photo Credits Front cover: male and female Elegant Euphonia (Euphonia elegantissima), Robert Dean Back cover, top to bottom: female Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus), Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria), male Three-wattled Bellbird, Robert Dean p. ii: Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus geoffroyi), Robert Dean p. vi: King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Jorge Chinchilla p. 9: photos, Georges Duriaux p. 11: photos, David C. Hille p. 12: photo (left), David C. Hille; photo (right), Georges Duriaux p. 13: photo (left), David C. Hille; photo (right), Georges Duriaux p. 24: Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), Glenn Bartley All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publishers. For information within Costa Rica and Nicaragua, visit Zona Tropical at zonatropical.net. For information in the rest of the world, address Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State Street, Ithaca, New York 14850, or visit cornellpress.cornell.edu. First published 2018 by Cornell University Press Printed in China Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Chavarría-Duriaux, Liliana, author. | Hille, David C., 1981– author. | Dean, Robert, 1955– illustrator. Title: Birds of Nicaragua : a field guide / Liliana Chavarría-Duriaux, David C. Hille ; illustrated by Robert Dean. Description: Ithaca : Comstock Publishing Associates, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2018. | “A Zona Tropical publication.” | Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Identifiers: LCCN 2017045660 (print) | LCCN 2017046339 (ebook) ISBN 9781501709500 (pdf) | ISBN 9781501701580 | ISBN 9781501701580 (pbk. ; alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Birds—Nicaragua—Identification. Classification: LCC QL687.N5 (ebook) | LCC QL687.N5 C43 2018 (print) | DDC 598.097285—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017045660 Zona Tropical Press ISBN 978-0-9894408-8-2 Cornell University Press strives to use environmentally responsible suppliers and materials to the fullest extent possible in the publishing of its books. Such materials include vegetable-based, low-VOC inks and acid-free papers that are recycled, totally chlorine-free, or partly composed of nonwood fibers. For further information, visit our website at cornellpress.cornell.edu. Book design: Gabriela Wattson
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Contents Map of Nicaragua......................................................................................inside front cover Foreword by Tom Will..............................................................................................................ix Acknowledgments....................................................................................................................xi Introduction................................................................................................................................ 1 Anatomical Features..............................................................................................................14 Glossary......................................................................................................................................21 Species Accounts and Illustrations Tinamous.........................................................................................................................26 Ducks................................................................................................................................28 Chachalacas, Guans, and Curassows.....................................................................36 New World Quail...........................................................................................................40 Grebes..............................................................................................................................44 Finfoots............................................................................................................................44 Pigeons and Doves......................................................................................................46 Cuckoos............................................................................................................................58 Nightjars and Allies......................................................................................................64 Potoos...............................................................................................................................70 Swifts.................................................................................................................................72 Hummingbirds..............................................................................................................76 Limpkin............................................................................................................................94 Rails, Crakes, and Gallinules......................................................................................94 Thick-knees...................................................................................................................102 Stilts and Avocets.......................................................................................................102 Oystercatchers.............................................................................................................102 Plovers and Lapwings...............................................................................................104 Jacanas...........................................................................................................................108 Sandpipers and Allies...............................................................................................110 Jaegers...........................................................................................................................124 Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers......................................................................................126 Shearwaters and Petrels...........................................................................................138 Storm-Petrels...............................................................................................................142 Sunbittern.....................................................................................................................144 Storks..............................................................................................................................144 Tropicbirds....................................................................................................................146 Boobies..........................................................................................................................146 Cormorants...................................................................................................................150 Darters............................................................................................................................150 Frigatebirds...................................................................................................................152 Pelicans..........................................................................................................................152 Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns....................................................................................154 Ibises and Spoonbills................................................................................................164 New World Vultures...................................................................................................166 Osprey............................................................................................................................168 Hawks, Kites, and Eagles..........................................................................................168 Barn-Owls......................................................................................................................190 Owls.................................................................................................................................190 Trogons..........................................................................................................................200 Motmots........................................................................................................................206
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Kingfishers....................................................................................................................210 Jacamars........................................................................................................................212 Puffbirds and Nunbird..............................................................................................214 Toucans..........................................................................................................................216 Woodpeckers...............................................................................................................218 Falcons and Caracaras...............................................................................................226 Parrots.............................................................................................................................234 Antbirds.........................................................................................................................240 Antpittas........................................................................................................................248 Antthrushes..................................................................................................................248 Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers...............................................................................250 Tyrant Flycatchers.......................................................................................................260 Tityras, Becards, and Allies......................................................................................288 Cotingas.........................................................................................................................292 Manakins.......................................................................................................................296 Vireos..............................................................................................................................298 Jays..................................................................................................................................304 Swallows........................................................................................................................308 Treecreepers.................................................................................................................314 Wrens..............................................................................................................................314 Gnatwrens and Gnatcatchers.................................................................................324 Dippers...........................................................................................................................326 Thrushes and Allies....................................................................................................326 Mockingbirds...............................................................................................................334 Waxwings......................................................................................................................334 Munias............................................................................................................................336 Old World Sparrows...................................................................................................336 Finches, Euphonias, and Chlorophonias............................................................338 New World Sparrows.................................................................................................344 Blackbirds, Orioles, and Oropendolas.................................................................350 Yellow-breasted Chat................................................................................................360 Olive Warbler................................................................................................................360 New World Warblers..................................................................................................362 Grosbeaks, Buntings, and Allies............................................................................386 Mitrospingid Tanagers..............................................................................................394 Tanagers, Seedeaters, Saltators, and Allies........................................................394 Hypothetical Species...........................................................................................................413 Checklist of the Birds of Nicaragua.................................................................................421 Bibliography............................................................................................................................443 About the Authors and Illustrator...................................................................................445 Species Index..........................................................................................................................447 Index of Spanish Common Names..................................................................................455 Adult Vultures and Raptors in Flight..............................................................................466 Quick-Find Index....................................................................................... inside back cover
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Introduction Wherever the roads, rivers, and trails of Nicaragua might take you, we trust that this book will enhance your ability to make correct bird id’s. The number of birds in Nicaragua is impressively large—with 763 species confirmed to date. This wonderfully diverse group of birds resides in 77 avian families. This is the first field guide for Nicaragua that includes body measurements, country-specific range maps, key field marks for identification, comparisons with similar species, and vocalization descriptions. We hope that this book will contribute to an increase in birding activity in Nicaragua, which, in turn, would create more opportunities for ecotourism guides, increase the number of visitors to parks and reserves, and, ideally, spur conservation efforts. Nothing would delight us more than to see more people (of all ages and nationalities) begin to discover the avifauna of this country and, along the way, discover the country itself. Family descriptions. For each family, we provide information on global distribution, general characteristics and anatomical features (as represented within Nicaragua) to help you identify birds to the family level, and relevant ecological and behavioral notes. And, we often give tips about how to distinguish among birds or groups of birds within the family. Species name. Three names are given for each species, the English common name, Spanish common name, and scientific name. English common names and scientific names strictly follow the Checklist of North and Middle American Birds: 7th edition (updated through the 58th supplement), managed by the American Ornithological Society. Body measurements. Measurements are listed first by inches (rounded to the nearest half inch) and followed in parenthesis by centimeters (rounded to the nearest centimeter). Total body length—the measurement from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail—is listed for each species. When a bird has long, extended rectrices or tail coverts, the length of the extension is listed separately. If sexual dimorphism leads to noticeable differences in body size, male (M) and female (F) measurements are given separately. For birds that are most often seen soaring, the wingspan (WS) measurement is also listed. Body measurements can be very helpful when making identifications. This is particularly the case when trying to distinguish between similar birds that are seen at the same time, or when using the size of a well-known species as a standard by which to judge a new bird. However, consider that the body length measurement can be misleading when a bird has a relatively long bill or tail. And, the perceived size of a bird is also influenced by leg length, body form, and weight. Field marks. The opening sentences of each species account describe the most pertinent field marks needed to identify the bird; the most important characteristics are in bold font. These may include, but are not limited to, body size and form; bill size, form, and color; plumage patterns and color; eye color; and feet color. Definitions of anatomical terms used in these descriptions are found on page 14.
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When relevant, we also describe the differences between male and female, adult and immature, breeding and nonbreeding, subspecies, and color morphs. We also give tips on how to distinguish between similar species. Status. Each species is placed into one of 8 categories, each of which essentially refers to the time or times of year that the species is expected to occur in the country. Not all species are present year-round, of course, and some populations are very dynamic, migrating from North or South America. When a bird is not present year-round, we specify the normal range of months when it is found. Keep in mind that some birds may arrive earlier or leave later than the stated time. The largest status group is the breeding resident (540 species). These are species that breed in Nicaragua and are found year-round. Some species perform short, seasonal movements within the country during the nonbreeding season. In some cases, a breeding resident population is joined by winter residents of the same species for a portion of the year. Unless otherwise specified in the text, you can assume that a given species is a breeding resident. There are two status groups that migrate between the Neotropics and North America (NA). Winter residents (158 species) spend the entire boreal winter in Nicaragua, arriving in the boreal fall and departing in the boreal spring; they are generally present between August and May. Small numbers of some species will remain in Nicaragua during the boreal summer; these are typically immature individuals. In the boreal fall, North American passage migrants (36 species) pass through Nicaragua on their way to wintering grounds that are farther south; in the boreal spring, they leave their southern wintering grounds and once again pass through Nicaragua on their return trip to North America. Note that in some cases a population of a given species may include both winter residents and NA passage migrants; in such cases, we only mention the movements of passage migrants if they add significantly to the size of the population of the winter residents. There are two status groups that migrate between Nicaragua and South America (SA). Breeding migrants (10 species) arrive from the south to spend the breeding season in Nicaragua, February to August, before returning south during the austral summer. South American (SA) passage migrants only pass through Nicaragua, either traveling north from South America on their way to breeding grounds farther north or traveling south on the return trip. There is no species in Nicaragua whose population is composed solely of SA passage migrants; typically SA passage migrant birds simply add to the population that is already here. One status group relates specifically to pelagic birdsâ€”the pelagic migrant (19Â species). Some pelagic species breed on distant islands and disperse widely over pelagic waters after their breeding season, including the pelagic and coastal waters of Nicaragua. Their seasonality does not show a strong pattern. The vagrant status (14 species) is reserved for species known only from very few records. Nicaragua lies outside of their normal distribution and they are not expected with any frequency.
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Finally, in a few cases, when data is insufficient, we describe a bird’s status as unknown (3 species). Abundance. Abundance expresses the likelihood of encountering a species, by sight or sound, on any given day. For some birds, the expected abundance changes from location to location or from one time of the year to another. The abundance terms used are the following: - abundant: Observed almost every day in the field, sometimes in large numbers. - common: Observed on more than half of all days in the field; frequently encountered. - uncommon: Observed on fewer than half of all days in the field; infrequently encountered. - rare: Observed on fewer than 10% of all days in the field. - very rare: Few records exist. Experienced observers may not encounter the species over the course of years in the field. - accidental: Only a handful of records exist. - local: Appears only at specific locations, often being absent from where one might expect to find it based on habitat and other preferences. Note the use of the term in such phrases as locally common or uncommon and local. Distribution. We briefly describe the distributions within Nicaragua and also include range maps for each species. The country map on the inside front cover will help you locate most of the geographic features and place names that we mention in the text. Three main terrestrial ecoregions are used for reference—the Pacific, Northern Highlands, and Caribbean—along with two marine ecoregions— the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. We also reference specific geographic features (e.g., lakes, rivers, lagoons, mountain ranges, volcano peaks, islands), protected areas, and private wildlife reserves within the ecoregions to make our descriptions of the distribution more precise.
Northern Highlands Caribbean Pacific
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The elevation range within which a bird occurs is an important aspect of its distribution. Elevation in Nicaragua ranges from sea level to 6,900 feet (2,100 meters). Generally, we refer to three categories of elevation: - lowlands: sea level to 700 ft (200 m) - foothills: 700 to 3,000 ft (200 to 900 m) - highlands: above 3,000 ft (900 m) But when the information is availableâ€”and relevantâ€”we also offer more precise elevation ranges. We list the elevation information in feet first (rounded to the nearest 100 ft) and in meters in parenthesis (rounded to the nearest 50 m). When the elevation limits are different among the ecoregions, we list the limits separately. While these limits are very helpful, lack of data on some species means that they are not always perfect, and, on occasion, birds are found outside of their normal elevation range, either as accidentals or because of poorly understood seasonal movements. Central America serves as a land bridge between North and South America. It is home to lineages of birds that either originated in North America before spreading south or that originated in South America before spreading north. As a result, several species reach their southernmost distribution (47 species) in Nicaragua, or their northernmost distribution (31 species). We note these cases in the text. In many cases, we reference protected areas within the Nicaraguan governmentâ€™s protected area system managed by the Ministerio del Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Environmental and Natural Resource Ministry). MARENA oversees 76 protected areas that make up 17% of the national terrestrial territory. The protected areas we reference are categorized as follows: BR GRR NM NP NR WR
biological reserve genetic resource reserve national monument national park natural reserve wildlife refuge
In a few cases, we reference privately owned preserves that are members of the Reservas Silvestres Privadas (Private Wildlife Reserve) system, which are also legally recognized by MARENA as protected areas. We abbreviate these as RSP. Seventyone private reserves are members of this program, and some are well-known as birding hotspots, and as a source of valuable distribution records.
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Protected Areas of Nicaragua
2 Hato Nuevo
39 La Sombra43 37 40 33 41 42 46 44 45 47 48 49
5 6 78 9 10
24 25 11 12 13 14 15 18 16 19 17 20 21 23
63 66 67
Costa Rica PACIFIC 1 – Cosigüina Volcano NR 2 – Padre Ramos NR 3 – Estero Real NR 4 – Apacunca GRR 5 – San Cristóbal-Casita NR 6 – Rota Volcano NR 7 – Telica Volcano NR 8 – Pilas-El Hoyo NR 9 – Momotombo NR 10 – Isla Juan Venado WR 11 – Chiltepe NR 12 – Tisma NR 13 – Chocoyero-El Brujo WR 14 – Masaya Volcano NP 15 – Laguna Apoyo NR 16 – Mombacho Volcano NR 17 – Mecatepe NR 18 – Río Manares NR 19 – Zapatera NP 20 – Escalante-Chacocente WR 21 – Concepción Volcano NR 22 – Maderas Volcano NR 23 – La Flor WR
24 – Cumaica-Alegre NR 25 – Mombachito-La Vieja NR 26 – Masigue NR 27 – Amerrisque NR NORTHERN HIGHLANDS 28 – Dipilto-Jalapa NR 29 – Somoto Canon NM 30 – Tepesomoto-Pataste NR 31 – Quiabuc-Las Brisas NR 32 – Tisey-Estanzuela NR 33 – Tomabú NR 34 – Miraflor and Moropotente NR 35 – Yalí Volcano NR 36 – Kilambe NR 37 – Lake Apanás NR 38 – Peñas Blancas NR 39 – Dantanlí-El Diablo NR 40 – Frío-La Cumplida NR 41 – Arenal NR 42 – Salto Río Yasica NR 43 – Kuskawas NR 44 – Apante NR 45 – Yucul GRR
46 – Guabule NR 47 – Pancansán NR CARIBBEAN 48 – Quirragua NR 49 – Musún NR 50 – Bosawas NR 51 – Saslaya NR 52 – Cola Blanca NR 53 – Bana Cruz NR 54 – Cayos Miskitos BR 55 – Yulu NR 56 – Kligna NR 57 – Alimikamba NR 58 – Limbaika NR 59 – Makantaka NR 60 – Karawala NR 61 – Wawashan NR 62 – Cerro Silva NR 63 – Punta Gorda NR 64 – Indio Maíz BR 65 – Río San Juan WR 66 – Solentiname NM 67 – Guatuzos WR
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Range Maps. The range maps are intended to be used in conjunction with the distribution descriptions in the text. Given the scale of the maps, they are approximations only. And, it is important to keep in mind that birds will not occur within their depicted range in any regions that lack the appropriate habitat. Because of deforestation, birds reliant upon forest often are very local, in forest patches, or absent altogether unless large areas of forest remain. Needless to say, in the absence of data, in some cases we have been forced to make educated guesses about some distribution ranges. Colors on the range maps represent the eight statuses previously described (p.Â 2). In a few cases, a map will have more than one color; in such cases, the total population of the species is composed of two different status categories. The following colors represent the eight statuses: Purple = breeding resident. The species breeds in Nicaragua and remains present year-round. Some species perform short, seasonal movements within the country, and therefore parts of the shaded area may be occupied only on a seasonal basis. If the breeding resident population is joined by winter residents of the same species, it is not indicated on the range, but only in the text. Blue = winter resident. A migrant between the Neotropics and North America, with a portion of the population residing in Nicaragua during the nonbreeding season (boreal winter), but returning to North America for the breeding season (boreal summer).
Yellow = passage migrant (NA). A migrant between the Neotropics and North America that passes through Nicaragua for a short span of time on its way to and from wintering grounds farther south.
Red = breeding migrant. A migrant that arrives from the south to breed in Nicaragua; returns south during the austral summer.
Orange = passage migrant (SA). A migrant that passes through Nicaragua, either north toward breeding grounds or south on its return trip to nonbreeding grounds in South America.
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Teal = pelagic migrant. A pelagic species that breeds on distant islands and disperses widely over pelagic waters after its breeding season. Its seasonality does not show any strong pattern.
Green (dot) = vagrant. A species known only from very few records; Nicaragua lies outside of its normal distribution. Not expected with any frequency.
Gray = status unknown. Used when there is insufficient information to determine the species’ status within Nicaragua.
Distributions described with an accidental status are not colored in on the range maps. However, dots are often used to show where accidental records have occurred. Dots are also used to indicate a bird’s presence on the Corn Islands. Habitat and behavior. Often, a bird’s habitat and its behavior are critical clues to identification. Birds range from being habitat generalists to habitat specialists. And some behaviors are so distinctive that they can lead to a proper identification. For each species account, we describe the habitat that a species is expected to be found in, general or specific, along with behaviors that can be helpful in making an identification. Behavior descriptions often include a description of where a bird is likely to be found within its habitat; for birds in forest habitats, this is defined by the level at which they forage. This includes the ground, understory (from ground to 10 ft [3 m] above ground), mid-canopy (from 10 to 30 ft [3 to 9 m] above ground), canopy (from 30 ft [9 m] above ground to the top of the tree crown), and above the canopy. Other behaviors that can be important to observe include whether the species joins same-species or mixed-species flocks; if it attends army ant swarms; and foraging techniques (e.g., sit-and-wait, stalk-and-strike, plunge-diving, gleaning). Some bodily movements are relatively unique, such as tail pumping, pendulous tail swinging, and wing flicking. Vocalizations. Using vocalizations to identify birds is especially helpful in tropical forests, where some birds are often nearly impossible to see. In many species accounts, you will come upon the phrase “more often heard than seen.” In addition, vocalizations are the best way to detect nocturnal birds and, in some cases, they are the only way to distinguish between two very similar species. We typically
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describe the full song and at least the most common call. Descriptions include the quality or characteristics of the sounds—e.g., length of song, pitch quality and changes, modulation of sound, speed of delivery, and intensity (loudness). When vocalizations are not overly complicated, we transcribe them, signified by italic font. It is important to note that variations on a given song or call should be expected. Vocalizations may differ to an extent between regions, between individuals, and depending on the time of day. In describing the speed of delivery, dashes indicate a moderately paced delivery that allows for segments of the vocalization to sound distinct (e.g., chik-der-vee); absence of punctuation marks or spaces signifies a vocalization with a very fast delivery (e.g., bzzrrrt); and a comma indicates a pronounced pause between syllables (e.g., pip, pip, pip). In describing inflection and loudness, an accent mark denotes that a syllable is notably emphasized, but not louder than the rest of the vocalization (e.g., whyáh); an uppercase letter signals a stressed syllable that is noticeably louder than the rest of the vocalization (e.g., feu-wEE); and an exclamation point signals an abrupt and sharp end to a sound (e.g., wyeea!). When a vocalization is repeated at length, an ellipsis is used to denote the ongoing repetition (e.g., chi-chi-chi…). Endemic status. An endemic species is one that occurs within a specific region. Depending on how the term is used, the scale of endemism varies, but birders are often interested in country or regional endemics. Nicaragua does not contain any country endemics, but it has several regional endemics, 18 in total. To organize the regional endemics, we subscribe to the Endemic Bird Areas (EBA) proposed by BirdLife International. Four EBAs, with a total of 16 regional endemics, are found within Nicaragua: North Central American highlands, North Central American Pacific slope, Lake Nicaragua marshes, and Central American Caribbean slope. We recognize 2 additional endemic species—a newly named species not yet added to the Central American Caribbean slope EBA and one species that does not fit into the BirdLife EBA scheme. Of course, these categories do not consider subspecies, which are genetically unique. The Mosquitia alone is home to several subspecies that are endemic. North Central American highlands EBA Ocellated Quail
Central American Caribbean slope EBA Lattice-tailed Trogon
North Central American Pacific slope EBA White-bellied Chachalaca Blue-tailed Hummingbird Pacific Parakeet Lake Nicaragua marshes EBA
Black-throated Wren Canebrake Wren Nicaraguan Seed-Finch Southern Nicaragua to western Panama Purple-throated Mountain-Gem
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Conservation status. When a species is categorized as threatened with extinction, as determined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we indicate that in the species account. Threatened species are placed in one of four categories: NT – near threatened (22 species) VU – vulnerable (12 species) EN – endangered (3 species) CR – critically endangered (1 hypothetical species) Illustrations. We include more than one image for a species whenever there is a significant difference between male and female, adult and immature, or any other significant difference in plumages. Generally, all perched birds on a given page are to the same scale; when there is a change in scale, this is indicated by a horizontal line across the page. Birds in flight are often represented at a smaller scale than the corresponding perched bird or birds. The scale varies from page to page. Biogeography and avian distribution. If there is one thing that is certain about biogeography and avian distribution in Nicaragua, it is that it is often a complicated affair! Patterns do emerge, however, often correlated to elevation and climate, which, in turn, play a critical role in determining habitat. In very simple terms, the country is separated into three terrestrial ecoregions—Pacific, Northern Highlands, and Caribbean— and two marine ecoregions—the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The Pacific The Pacific ecoregion is characterized by picturesque volcanic peaks, dry habitats, two large lakes, and a pronounced dry season. Although it is the driest part of the country, it experiences both a wet season and a dry season. The seasonal extremes of precipitation are such that the vegetation annually cycles between wet, verdant vegetation and dry, brown terrain. Here, drier habitats such as dry forest, thorn forest, and scrub dominate the landscape. But even here, small areas with wetter habitats can be found, namely in the form of gallery forest and cloud forest. Of course, the Pacific coastline is abundant with beach habitat and mangrove forest. Despite the variety of habitats, dry forest is the dominant habitat in the Pacific. Although, the term dry forest can be strictly assigned to a very specific vegetation type based on environmental variables, for the sake of simplicity we use the term to describe a range of forest types, from deciduous to semi-deciduous forest, all
Dry forest as seen in the dry season.
Dry forest as seen in the wet season.
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of which endure the intense dry season and respond at some level by dropping leaves. An even more arid forest, stunted in appearance, is the thorn forest. Vegetation is sparse in the thorn forest and the small trees often use thorns as a defense against predators. On the most extreme spectrum of the arid habitats is scrub, consisting of short, woody vegetation. Gallery forest is a unique forest type, consisting of taller trees that line river corridors that are surrounded by dry habitat. Especially in the dry season, this forest stands out, as its higher levels of moisture allow it to maintain its greenery. It can be an oasis for forest dwelling birds during the driest months of the year. Although the Pacific has an elevation range from sea level to 5,700 ft (1,750 m), most of its terrain is low elevation. Volcanic peaks of the Sierra Maribios rise from the lowlands in the northern Pacific and several more prominent peaks lie in the southern Pacific. Their ascending elevations give way to foothills and small patches of highland terrain. At the northern section of the chain, San CristĂłbal and Casita Volcanos reach 5,725 ft (1,745 m) and 4,610 ft (1,405 m) respectively; on these grow highland pine forest. At higher elevations on these peaks, the pine trees host a small number of species that are typically associated with the Northern Highlands. On the outskirts of Granada, Mombacho Volcano reaches 4,413 ft (1,345 m); it is one of two locations in the Pacific with cloud forest, where species that thrive in this habitat can be found in an isolated pocket atop the peak. The other Pacific location with cloud forest is Maderas Volcano, on Ometepe Island, which reaches 4,573 ft (1,394 m). Gradually rising to the west of Managua are the Sierras Managua. They reach 3,000 ft (900 m) before sloping down to the Pacific coast. Receiving higher amounts of precipitation from the lake effect, these foothills house a slightly more humid forest preferred by some bird species. The peak of Sierras Managua, referred to as El Crucero, is a harsh, windblown environment. The lakes of Nicaragua, referred to as the lakes region in the text, are a prominent biogeographic feature. Not only do they provide an abundance of aquatic habitats, they also lie in a depression that forms a biogeographic barrier between northern Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This depression, along with other factors, creates disjunct populations leading to speciation, and causes some species to reach distributional limits either in Nicaragua or Costa Rica. Also, these lakes and their surrounding freshwater marshes are home to hundreds of species of aquatic birds (e.g., grebes, ducks, rails, shorebirds, waders, gulls, and terns). Marshes are defined as herbaceous vegetation in soil that is flooded with water at least some times of the year. Of special note is Ometepe Island, in Lake Nicaragua, with prominent volcano peaks, marshes, dry forest, and cloud forest. It is a microcosm of climatic gradation across landscapes, with drier habitats on the north island and wetter habitats on the south island. Habitats on the Pacific coastline also are a dominant feature. Beach types vary from sand to rocky outcroppings. Extensive mudflats are found where the waters of estuaries rise and fall with the tide. Pockets of mangroves dot the Pacific coastline, concentrated on the borders of estuaries. In the northeast, the Pacific foothills transition into Northern Highland foothills, at approximately 1,300 ft (400 m). To the south, where the Pacific ecoregion transitions into the Caribbean ecoregion, the boundary between the two is less clear. Here the species typical of the Caribbean can also be found in Pacific forests. This is particularly true in the northern region of Sierra ChontaleĂąa, Rivas Isthmus, and areas south of Lake Nicaragua.
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Northern Highlands This mountainous ecoregion is defined by the highest peaks in Nicaragua and is home to the southernmost stands of highland pine in Central America. The rapidly changing elevations, and the variation in climatic influences from the Pacific and the Caribbean, create a region with great variability in bird diversity and distributional patterns. The western slopes of the region that connect to Pacific foothills are drier, while the eastern slopes that connect to the Caribbean foothills are wetter. To the west, the intermontane valleys are dominated by arid scrub and thorn forest, while to the east forest more similar to humid lowland forest can be found. As would be expected, the western slopes have more Pacific birds than do the eastern slopes, where Caribbean birds are more prevalent. As the elevations climb higher, highland pine and pine-oak forest begin, and then, at the highest elevations, give way to cloud forest. Within these two fairly localized habitats, most of the highland specialty species are found. The highland pine and pine-oak forest of Central America extend no further south than the Northern Highlands of Nicaragua. This pattern is mirrored in the avifauna; 34 bird species occur here but no farther south. This forest is dominated by pines and, in some cases, is intermixed with oaks; it generally occurs between 2,600 and 5,900 ft (800 and 1,800 m). Also primarily found in the Northern Highlands, cloud forest is a wet, broadleaf evergreen forest type known for the almost daily presence of clouds recycling moisture into the forest and maintaining high levels of humidity. Within the Northern Highlands, it either occurs at elevations above the highland pine and pine-oak forest, or, where this forest is not present, it may be the dominant forest type at as low as 3,280 ft (1,000 m). The topography of the Northern Highlands is created by four primary mountain ranges, all of which have a west to east orientation. On the border with Honduras, and within the Segoviana Plateau, Sierra Dipilto-Jalapa boasts the two highest peaks in the country. Cerro Mogotón stretches 6,913 ft (2,107 m) above sea level; slightly to the west, Cerro El Volcán rises to 6,125 ft (1,867 m). This mountain range is home to the largest band of highland pine forest in the country and its highest peaks are covered with cloud forest. To the west of Sierra Dipilto-Jalapa are Sierra La Botija and Tepesomoto-La Pataste. The arid habitats in their foothills give way to patches of highland pine and pine-oak forest and cloud forest at the tallest peaks, which reach 5,675 ft (1,730 m). Combined, Sierra Isabelia and Sierra Dariense make up the large mountainous block of the southern half of the Northern Highlands. Both are notably influenced by Caribbean species on their eastern slopes, and bird diversity in the Northern
Highland pine forest.
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Highlands is at its highest at these locations. Between them is Lake Apanás, which adds to the diversity of avifauna in the region, offering unique aquatic habitat. Sierra Isabelia is demarcated by the Coco River to the north and the Tuma River to the south. The continuous expanse of peaks and valleys within the range is comprised of Cerro Tisey-Estanzuela and the highlands of Miraflor and Moropotente on the western fringe; moving east, Yalí Volcano, 5,059 ft (1,542 m), Cerro Kilambé, 5,741 ft (1,750 m), and the Peñas Blancas Massif, 5,725 ft (1,745 m), are the most dominating presences. Sierra Dariense is demarcated by Tuma River to the north and, to the south, Grande de Matagalpa River, which is the southern edge of the Northern Highlands. While most of the peaks in this range do not reach as high as peaks in other ranges, they are still high enough to support highland pine and pine-oak forest and cloud forest; these include Cerro Dantanlí, 5,085 ft (1,550 m), Cerro Chimborazo, 5,538 ft (1,688 m), and Cerro Apante, 4,731 ft (1,442 m).
Scrub in the foreground and thorn forest in the background.
Humid lowland forest.
Caribbean The Caribbean ecoregion is the largest of the three terrestrial regions and receives the highest volume of rain. It is mostly represented by lowland elevations with humid lowland forest and lowland pine savanna. The terrain rises to foothill elevations in the north-central region (mainly in Bosawas Biosphere Reserve), the eastern slopes of Sierra Chontaleña, and the southeastern region (mainly Indio Maíz Biological Reserve); even rarer, highland elevations with cloud forest are present in the north-central region. The Mosquitia is a distinct sub-region of the northeast Caribbean. It boasts some of the most intriguing bird species in the country. It is dominated by lowland pine savanna, which is natural grassland scattered with pine woodlands; it supports a number of species that only occur in this habitat. Amid the pine savanna are long rivers with lush gallery forest; and, where there are low-lying areas with poor drainage, rainforest islands persist, creating a patchwork of small, lush forests within the expansive savanna. Both the gallery forest and rainforest islands have vegetation similar to that of humid lowland forest. As a result, the Mosquitia has species unique to lowland pine savanna and also many species associated with humid lowland forest, although the latter are confined to the gallery forests and rainforest islands.
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Where forest has not been altered by the human hand, the prominent habitat within the ecoregion is humid lowland forest. This is wet, evergreen forest, with a tall canopy and high species diversity. At higher elevations, humid lowland forest transitions into cloud forest. To the west, on Quirragua (4,478 ft [1,365 m]) and Cerro MusĂşn (4,718 ft [1,438 m]), cloud forest begins at 3,900 ft (1,200). Further east, on Cerro El Toro (5,452 ft [1,662]) and Cerro Saslaya (5,449 ft [1,661 m]), cloud forest begins slightly lower, at 3,600 ft (1,100 m). The mountains tower above the lowlands, creating an exceptional elevational gradient from lowlands to highlands in a short distance. Interestingly, these highland peaks within the Caribbean support disjunct populations of many cloud forest species known primarily from the Northern Highlands. A prominent feature of the Caribbean is the many river systems that collect water from far inland and drain it into the Caribbean Sea. They attest to the copious amounts of water that fall within the region throughout the year. In low-lying areas closer to the coastlines, where drainage becomes backed up, typical humid lowland forest is replaced by swamp dominated by palm trees. Like the coastline of the Pacific, the Caribbean coastline has sporadic mangroves throughout, particularly in the calmer waters of the larger bays, including Pearl Lagoon and Bluefields Bay.
Lowland pine savanna.
Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea Nicaraguaâ€™s two oceans create pelagic and coastal habitat for a variety of birds. Similar though they are in some ways, each coast has unique geographic features that create distinct foraging and breeding habitats. On the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Fonseca, shared by El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, is an area of calm waters that some species prefer for foraging. The Farallones Islets are rocky islands that jut out of the gulf, creating roosting and breeding surfaces for a large number of birds. On the Caribbean Sea, several lagoons and bays offer calm foraging waters, and the Miskito and Booby Cays, not far off the coast, create roosting and breeding habitat. Finally, the Big and Little Corn Islands, 43 miles (70 km) offshore of Bluefields, are an important refuge for migratory birds.
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Anatomical Features See the Glossary, p. 21, for definitions of terms not related to bird anatomy.
crown Upperparts: The upperparts are composed of the crown, nape, back, rump, and uppertail coverts. Distinguishing between the rump and uppertail coverts is sometimes a tricky affair, but note that the uppertail coverts cover the base of the uppertail.
rump uppertail coverts
Underparts: The throat, breast, flanks, belly, vent, and undertail coverts make up the underparts. The small area immediately beneath the lower mandible is referred to as the chin. The vent and undertail coverts lie close to each other and are sometimes difficult to distinguish, but the vent is the area of feathers covering the cloacal opening and the undertail coverts cover the base of the undertail.
chin throat breast flanks belly
undertail coverts vent
tarsus: The unfeathered, lower leg; the color of the tarsus can be a valuable field mark. thighs: The feathered area on the legs between the body and the tarsus.
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Wings: The wing feathers consist of two categories— flight feathers and covert feathers—both of which can aid in identification. Flight feathers are primarily designed for flight, while covert feathers provide protection for the flight feathers.
mantle wing edgings
scapulars primary projection wing coverts wing bars
primaries secondaries tertials
Flight feathers consist of three sets. The primaries are the 9–10 outermost, longest, and narrowest flight feathers. The secondaries are located between the primaries and tertials; they are shorter and broader than the primaries. The tertials are the 3–4 innermost feathers; when the wing is folded, they act as protective cover for the other flight feathers. On the folded wing, the primary projection is the length that the primary tips extend beyond the longest secondaries or tertials.
The covert feathers on the upperwing often aid in identification. The rows of feathers that cover the base of the flight feathers are called wing coverts. When wing coverts have pale tips, they form wing bars. The scapulars, corresponding to the shoulder, cover the area where the wings connect to the body. The upper back is referred to as the mantle. Paler colors on the edges of either flight feathers or wing coverts are called wing edgings, and create a finely streaked appearance.
leading edge of wing
axillar: An area corresponding to the armpit; covers the base of the underwing. speculum: A patch of distinctly colored, sometimes glossy, secondaries; can be useful in identifying ducks. trailing edge of wing
wing linings: Also known as underwing coverts, these are the feathers that cover the base of the flight feathers on the underwing.
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Head: The head is sometimes the only thing you see on a bird, and typically provides important field marks for identification. They include the shape of the head; head plumage patterns; shape, size, and color of the bill; and the color of the eyes.
conical bill decurved bill
Bill Parts culmen: The ridge on the upper mandible is called the culmen. upper mandible
cere: The waxy, bare skin at the base of the upper mandible that covers the nostrils on some birds.
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midcrown forecrown hindcrown
Crown: The crown is composed of the forecrown, midcrown, and hindcrown. The forecrown extends from the bill to the front of the eyes. The midcrown is the center of the crown. The hindcrown extends from the back of the eyes to the nape. Descending from the crown is the nape, an area corresponding to the neck.
crown patch: Sometimes there is a set of erectile feathers concealed below the crown; they are very rarely raised for display.
crest: Some crown feathers have the ability to be raised into a crest or remain fixed in a raised position.
hood: The hood is generally formed by feathers of the same color that go from the top of the head to the bottom (usually including the crown, nape, and throat), and often contrasting with the forehead, eye area, and chin.
half-hood: The half-hood includes the crown and cheeks, but not the chin and throat.
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supraloral: The area above the lore. lore: The area between the base of the bill and the eye.
superciliary: The superciliary is a differently colored line that extends from the base of the bill to behind the eye, which it passes over (includes the supraloral).
eye line: A differently colored line that crosses from the lore to behind the eye and appears to pass â€œthrough the eye.â€?
postocular stripe: A differently colored line that begins behind the eye.
postocular spot: A differently colored small area behind the eye; can be round, square, or teardrop in shape. gorget: An iridescent patch of feathers on the throat and upper breast of some hummingbirds.
eye ring: When the feathered circle around the eye is conspicuously colored it is called an eye ring. An eye ring that is not continuous is called a broken eye ring. If there is only half of an eye ring, above or below the eye, it is referred to as an eye crescent. (A broken eye ring is formed by two eye crescents.)
orbital skin: Featherless area of skin around the eye. It is called an orbital ring when it forms a circle immediately around the eye.
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spectacles (formed with the lore) When the color of the eye ring is continuous with the color of either the lore (sometimes supraloral) or the postocular stripe, it forms spectacles. spectacles (formed with the postocular stripe)
malar stripe: A differently colored line descending from the base of the lower mandible along the lower edge of the ear coverts.
lateral throat stripe: A differently colored line bordering the throat; sits below the malar stripe.
moustachial stripe: A differently colored line that extends horizontally from the malar area to below the ear coverts.
mask: When a dark area surrounds the eye, usually extending from the base of the bill to ear the coverts, it is called a mask; a reduced mask may be little more than an area from the lore to the back of the eye.
ear patch (cheek): Ear coverts are small feathers covering the ear openings located behind the eye. When these feathers contrast in color with surrounding feathers, they form an ear patch (cheek).
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Tail: Individual feathers on the tail are referred to as rectrices; the difference between the color pattern of the outer rectrices and the central rectrices can be important. Rectrices with paler outer tips are sometimes a distinguishing field mark.
subterminal band: A band of contrasting color close to, but not reaching, the tip of the tail. terminal band: A band of different color at the end of the tail.
outer rectrices central rectrices
graduated (tail fanned)
graduated (tail folded)
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Glossary See Anatomical Features (p. 14) for additional definitions. army ant swarm. Massive groups formed by foraging army ants. Many bird species attend army ant swarms, feeding on arthropods as they attempt to flee the swarm. austral. Pertaining to the southern hemisphere. barred. The plumage pattern formed by horizontal bars. disjunct. A biogeographic term used to describe a species with two or more populations that are not connected to one another. boreal. Pertaining to the temperate region of the northern hemisphere; its climate is characterized by long winters and short summers. brood parasite. A bird species that lays its eggs in the nest of another species, where they are incubated and raised, by the unwitting host. breeding plumage. A plumage worn by birds during their breeding season; typically more colorful and distinctly patterned than the plumage of birds that are not breeding. Most often in reference to North American migrants, which may arrive to Nicaragua in this plumage or molt into this plumage prior to returning north. buffy. A pale yellowish color (e.g., as seen on the rump of the Buff-rumped Warbler). carpal patch. A patch of differently colored feathers on the underwing at the spot corresponding to the wrist. chevroned. The zigzag plumage pattern formed by adjacent V-marks. covey. A group, or flock, of quail. cosmopolitan. Describes a species, genus, or family with a worldwide distribution. cracid. A bird that belongs to the Cracidae family (guans, chachalacas, and curasows). cryptic. Describes a plumage pattern or behavior that allows a bird to go unnoticed. dabbling. In reference to ducks, the behavior of foraging for aquatic food by immersing the front half of the body while tipping the rear up. dihedral. Describes the angle formed when the wings are held in a V-shape. EBA. Abbreviation for Endemic Birds Areas, as described by BirdLife International. endemic. Describes a species that is confined to a limited geographic region. epiphyte. Plants that grow entirely on the substrates available within the canopies and trunks of trees, without rooting into the ground. extirpated. Describes birds that no longer occur in a specific area; sometimes referred to as locally extinct. facial disc. The concave, feathered area surrounding the eyes that acts as a parabolic device to direct sound waves, primarily in reference to owls. frontal shield. A hard or fleshy plate extending from the base of the upper mandible to the forehead. Typically found on gallinules, moorhens, and jacanas. frugivorous. Describes birds that feed on fruit. gape (or flange). The point where the upper and lower mandible join. genus (plural: genera). The taxonomic group below the level of family, usually containing multiple species. glean. To catch invertebrates by plucking them from foliage or the ground. gregarious. Describes the behavioral propensity to form groups, either to feed or during colonial roosting or nesting. gular pouch (or sac). A bulge of fleshy skin on the throat. hawking. Snatching food, usually insects, in flight, with only the bill, and subsequently consuming the prey without landing to perch. immature. Term used to describe all ages prior to adult plumage. insectivorous. Describes the feeding preference for insects.
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irruptive. Refers to a speciesâ€™ irregular movement, temporarily and in large numbers, into an area that is outside its normal distribution. kettle. Large groups of soaring birds, circling as a group. A kettle may be composed of several different species, and most often refers to migrating raptors. kleptoparasitism. The feeding behavior of stealing food from another bird, not necessarily of the same species. Most often in reference to some pelagic species. leaf litter. The accumulation of decomposing leaves and twigs on the forest floor. lek. A congregation of males that perform breeding displays in order to attract females and compete for mating opportunities. mixed-species flock. Flocks composed of multiple species; such flocks increase foraging efficiency and are better able to spot predators. monotypic. Describes a genus or family that only consists of one species. morph. Species sometimes occur in different colors, and these are referred to as morphs. A species with several morphs is polymorphic. mottled. The plumage pattern formed by small, erratically spaced spots. Neotropics. The biogeographic region extending from southern Mexico through South America. nonbreeding plumage. A plumage worn by nonbreeding birds; typically less colorful and less distinctly patterned than birds in breeding plumage. Most often in reference to North American migrants, which retain this plumage for most of their time in Nicaragua. nuchal collar. A contrasting band located on the nape, at the base of the hindcrown. pantropical. Describes a distribution range that includes the tropics of both western and eastern hemispheres. pelagic. Refers either to the open ocean, far from the coast, or to a species that primarily lives in this habitat. polyandrous. The reproductive behavior in which one female pairs with several males. polymorphic. When a species includes birds with two or more different plumage colors or forms. primary forest. A relatively undisturbed forest. raptor. Collectively describes birds equipped to hunt larger prey; includes osprey, vultures, hawks, kites, eagles, falcons, caracaras, and owls. A bird of prey. rictal bristles. Stiff hairlike feathers at the base of the bill. Typically found on nightjars, flycatchers, and swallows. roost. Where a bird sleeps. rufous. A brownish-red color (e.g., the color on the head of Rufous-capped Warbler). sally. To perform small flights to catch insects; after making a sally, the bird typically returns to the same branch or general area to perch. scaled. The plumage pattern formed by what appear to be scales; caused by many small feathers overlapping one another. second growth. Describes a forest with young successional growth after a heavy disturbance; typically with dense, shrubby vegetation that is under 10 ft (3 m) tall. secondary forest. Describes a forest that is regenerating after significant disturbances. The resulting forest structure is less mature and less stable than that of primary forest. sexual dimorphism. A characteristic of some species in which the male and female show different physical characteristics, often size, coloration, or adornment. shorebird. Collectively describes birds that rely on aquatic shorelines to forage for food. Includes plovers, sandpipers, oystercatchers, jacanas, and stilts and avocets. speckled. The plumage pattern formed by very small, scattered spots or specks. spotted. The plumage pattern formed by large spots; the spots are less densely spaced than on mottled birds. stitching. A shorebird foraging strategy of making rapid probes with the bill in mud or sand; such birds typically move in a line.
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striped. The plumage pattern formed by vertical lines; less densely spaced than on a streaked pattern. streaked. The plumage pattern formed by vertical lines; more densely spaced than on a striped pattern. subspecies. A taxonomical level describing genetically distinct populations within a species; most often results from geographic isolation of breeding populations. May or may not show plumage, body size, or vocalization differences. sympatric. Refers to two species that share, at least partially, the same distribution. tawny. An orangish-brown to yellowish-brown color (e.g., the color seen on the crown of the Tawny-crowned Greenlet). territorial. Describes birds that defend a resource from competing individuals or groups. trapline. The hummingbird foraging strategy in which the birds move between nectar sources separated by considerable distances instead of defending a territory; primarily done by hermit hummingbirds. IUCN. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is a global non-governmental organization responsible for assessing a speciesâ€™ conservation status. vermiculated. The plumage pattern formed by thin, wavy lines. wader. Collectively describes birds that primarily rely on the shallow waters of aquatic habitat to forage for food. Includes storks, bitterns, herons, egrets, and ibises. wattle. Fleshy, ornamental skin hanging from different parts of the head; typically found on males.
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A selection of excerpts from forthcoming books published by Comstock Publishing Associates, an imprint of Cornell University Press
Published on Jul 18, 2018
A selection of excerpts from forthcoming books published by Comstock Publishing Associates, an imprint of Cornell University Press