A Letter from the Editor
field ornithologists and by regular
birders like us and fed into eBird,
Christmas Bird Counts, and other
citizen science programs.
Because our knowledge
and understanding of birds
is constantly changing, along
with their ranges, taxonomic
classification, and sometimes even
their names, I suggest that all field
guides in the future be produced
in pencil, with pages held in three-ring binders, so we can move them
around if necessary.
OK. Just kidding about that.
It’s a wonderful thing that we
share this planet with the amazing
diversity of bird life that we do.
Let’s keep learning more about
birds—and about how to protect
them and their habitats—so that
future generations will still have
somewhere between 10,000 and
18,000 birds to see and enjoy.
Bill Thompson, III
editor and co-publisher
Depending upon whom you
believe, there are between 10,000
and 18,000 distinct bird species on
planet Earth. That’s a lot of birds.
And we’re still learning new things
about them—and even discovering
new species—all the time. For
example, the nest of the marbled
murrelet, the July/August issue’s
cover species, was discovered in
1978, though the species itself was
first described by ornithologists in
1789! In the May/June 2017 issue
of Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alvaro
Jaramillo’s Identify Yourself
column about swifts admitted
that the nesting habits and natural
history of the black swift are still
largely a mystery.
DNA research has led to numerous splits of a single bird species
into two or more, and has resulted
in some other species being lumped
together into a single species. Bird
distribution maps are constantly
changing as we better understand
range and seasonal occurrence,
thanks to data collected by both