North American Birds

VOLUME 69 No1 2016

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

Issue link: http://nab.aba.org/i/629070

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N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S 4 The Mendocino Shrike: Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) x Turkestan Shrike (L. phoenicuroides) hybrid The Mendocino Shrike: Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) x Turkestan Shrike (L. phoenicuroides) hybrid PETER PYLE • THE INSTITUTE FOR BIRD POPULATIONS • P. O. BOX 1346 • POINT REYES STATION, CALIFORNIA 94956 • (PPYLE@BIRDPOP.ORG) ROBERT J. KEIFFER • P. O. BOX 354 • HOPLAND, CALIFORNIA 95449-0354 • (RJKEIFFER@ATT.NET) JON L. DUNN • 24 IDAHO STREET • BISHOP, CALIFORNIA 93514 • (CERWA@EARTHLINK.NET) NIAL MOORES • BIRDS KOREA • 1108 SAMIK TOWER 3-DONG • NAMCHEON DONG • BUSAN, REPUBLIC OF KOREA • (NIAL.MOORES@BIRDSKOREA.ORG) I magine a group of birds, similar in size and structure, posing subtle identifca- tion challenges. Each species has eight or more identifable plumages, but ap- pearances overlap between subgroups. Molts are confounding and protracted, varying as much within as between taxa, and give rise to shifting transitional plum - ages and complex interactions between molt timing and plumage expression. Solar exposure affects feathers to varying degrees, further altering appearance, especially in the most migratory taxa. Hybridism occurs between these taxa, in certain cases extensively, and taxonomic disputes add further turmoil. You are on the northern California coast, in March. Only one group of birds pro - vides such a set of compelling conundra: large Larus gulls, correct? Alder Creek meets the Pacifc Ocean where the great San Andreas Fault forsakes the California coast for the Mendocino Triple Junction, one of the least stable places on Earth. Redwood tree trunks, the size of buses, have infltrated the creek mouth, deposited by titanic winter surges of ages past. Unforgiving spring northwesterlies have sculpted surrounding vegetation, resulting in windswept coastal prairies dotted with occasional prostrate shrubs. Impenetrable coastal scrub, lining the precipitous Alder Creek gulch, conceals the wary and anagogic Point Arena Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia rufa nigra), almost never detected by humans. Most of all, this lonely coastal stretch is frequently enshrouded in a fog so thick as to obscure one's vision and, when combined with relentless winds, one's mental composure. It was here that a lonely itinerant tarried, after its 9000-kilometer journey from one desolate place to another, over tundra and endless, foreboding, coniferous for - ests, reaching a dramatic backdrop decidedly beftting its tortuous identifcation.

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