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Welcome! Bienvenidos!  You found us! Want to meet your birds here in Tucson?

Here are 6 great ways to get started …

1. COME MEET YOUR BIRDS WITH US!

A free expert-guided field trip is held every Wednesday morning at Sweetwater Wetlands. Pre-registration required.

2. VISIT ONE OF OUR NATURE SHOPS and PICK UP A FREE COPY OF OUR MAGAZINE

The Vermilion Flycatcher magazine is available for free at our Nature Shops where you will also find tons of great merchandise to connect you and your family with our local birds.

3. CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR LOCAL BIRDS

Learn about some of the common local birds you can see in your own backyard.

4. Explore southeast Arizona on one of our free or fee-based field trips

 

5. Join and become a friend of Tucson Audubon

6. Sign up for a class and learn more about birds

Meet Your Common Urban Birds

From the rarest migrant to the most common backyard finch, for most of us birds are the most colorful, charismatic and accessible part of nature. Tucson Audubon encourages anyone who has an interest in wild birds, we stand as the unique southeast Arizona outlet for information and expertise about wild birds. Whatever your bird interests, make us your “go to” organization. Our Nature Shop staff can answer all your questions about birds, binoculars and many other things. Start below by learning some of the most common species you can find in town or your own backyard! Then move on to our region’s “specialty birds” and riparian species.

Meet Your:

Tucson’s bird diversity comes about because of our range of elevations, mild seasons, Sky Island mountains that link the Rockies to Mexico’s Sierra Madre, influences from Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts, migratory flyways, and tropical areas south of the border. It doesn’t matter if you are buying some bird seed, a pricey spotting scope, or staying in a bed and breakfast on a trip—you are part of the action.

1. COME MEET YOUR BIRDS WITH US!

A free expert-guided field trip is held every Wednesday morning at Sweetwater Wetlands. Registration is required, see open field trips here.

2. VISIT ONE OF OUR NATURE SHOPS and PICK UP A FREE COPY OF OUR MAGAZINE

The Vermilion Flycatcher magazine is available for free at our Nature Shops where you will also find tons of great merchandise to connect you and your family with our local birds.

3. CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR LOCAL BIRDS

On this page, learn about some of the common local birds you can see in your own backyard.

4. Explore southeast Arizona on one of our free or fee-based field trips

 

5. Join and become a friend of Tucson Audubon

6. Sign up for a class and learn more about birds
Featured Species

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Vermilion Flycatcher – Tucson Audubon, Meet Your Mascot

In 1949, when twelve friends met to organize what was to become the Tucson Audubon Society, choosing a bird to represent the organization might have been on the agenda. We don’t know for certain, since little information about those early days is readily available. If not that night, though, it wasn’t long before a mascot/logo, iconic bird, was chosen to symbolize the group, its newsletter and mission; the strikingly beautiful Vermilion Flycatcher.

Read the full story
 
 
 
cacw-devansCactus Wren – Arizona’s Audacious State Bird

It should come as no surprise that Arizona is one of just twenty states that chose a unique state bird. After all, this is the state with an official tie (the bolo), an official rattlesnake (the Ridge-nosed) and an official gun, the Colt revolver. In 1931, nineteen years after becoming the 48th state, Arizona’s legislature chose the Cactus Wren.

Read the full story

 

Anna’s Hummingbird

ANHU_AngelaPritchardAny hummingbird feeder in urban Tucson probably has a resident Anna’s Hummingbird defending it from all intruders. This beautiful and large hummer is a common sight in backyards across the city and the male’s striking rosy-pink flashing head plumage makes it a compelling reason to keep your feeders full of nectar. In the first half of the last century this bird’s breeding range was limited to southwestern California. As the century progressed parks were created and gardens were planted and the birds steadily expanded their range north into Oregon and east into southern Arizona. Some Anna’s Hummingbirds live in Tucson year-round but from December to May their numbers increase as birds come to urban Tucson to nest and take advantage of the abundant flowers and feeders our yards provide. This time of year you may also witness the spectacular courtship display of the male Anna’s Hummingbird right in your yard. The male flies to a high point above an available female and then dives straight down and suddenly pulls up right over her with an explosive popping sound (caused by air passing at just the right velocity over special feathers in the tail). It is an amazing thing to witness and happens all over Tucson all winter and early spring.
– Jennie MacFarland, IBA Conservation Biologist

Cooper’s Hawk

COHA_LoisManowitzThe Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is a common year-round resident in Tucson. This medium-sized hawk has a long tail and gray back, and adults have a salmon-colored breast (hawks in their first year of life have a white breast with brown streaks). Although common in Tucson, the Cooper’s Hawk is not especially conspicuous in January, unless you are lucky and have one visiting your yard to hunt for doves and other small birds. Cooper’s Hawks clearly know the yards where people feed birds, and take advantage of the concentration of prey. In February, the nesting cycle begins anew, and Cooper’s Hawks become easy to see, especially early in the morning, when both males and females participate in courtship flights and nest building activities. They also vocalize (kek-kek-kek-kek) regularly during this time of year. Cooper’s Hawks typically build their nests in relatively large trees (Eucalyptus or pine) and occupy many of the parks, golf courses, cemeteries, and apartment complexes throughout Tucson. Next time you are out birding, don’t forget to listen for their calls, and look on the ground under groves of large trees for piles of bird feathers, and streaks of “white-wash”—tell tale signs of their presence.
-Bill Mannan, Professor of Wildlife Ecology, University of Arizona, and specialist in urban raptors

Gambel’s Quail

GAQU_DEvansI brake for quail. I just can’t resist stopping to watch the cartoonish meanderings of a troupe of Gambel’s Quail, scurrying across the road or poking around in the desert scrub. There is safety in numbers, and these gregarious birds will often travel in a large group called a covey. Sprinting away from threats (at speeds around 20 feet per second) is the preferred method of escape, though they can fly short distances.

Gambel’s Quail eat mostly seeds, and must drink water daily or get liquid from other foods like insects or succulent cactus fruits. Studies show that availability of fresh green foliage is the major limiting factor in quail reproductive success. The nest is a shallow bowl-shaped ground scrape bordered by small twigs, sparsely lined with leaves and feathers. The female usually lays ten to twelve eggs, which will hatch all on the same day after about three weeks. Prior to hatching, the chicks peep to each other from inside their eggs to synchronize!

While Gambel’s Quail is one of many “boom-and-bust” species, with populations fluctuating from year to year based on rainfall, the main factor in attracting these birds is habitat quality. Dense shrubs or trees provide shade and cover, native plants provide food, and maintaining a simple water feature can provide entertainment for you, too!
-Erin Olmstead

Gila Woodpecker

GIWO_JimPrudenteGila Woodpecker is the woodpecker commonly seen in Tucson suburbs and parks. They are a rich, creamy brown with fine horizontal black and white bars on the back, wings and tail. Males have a small red patch on their heads. In the U.S. Gila Woodpecker is mostly seen in the southern half of Arizona, but its range extends down much of Baja California and the coastal plain of western Mexico.

Yes, this is the bird that drums annoyingly on your eaves and your evaporative cooler! Fortunately, it only lasts a short time in the spring when males are establishing and defending a nesting territory.

They are aggressive not only toward rival woodpeckers, but toward other birds as well. I once saw one mercilessly pecking a House Finch to death. It may have been preparing to eat the finch because Gilas have a diverse diet, including mostly insects but also fruit, eggs and sometimes other birds (mostly small nestlings).

Gila Woodpeckers are one of two species that make nest holes in saguaros (along with Gilded Flickers). Its old saguaro holes provide nests for many other bird species as well, from Ash-throated Flycatchers to Purple Martins.
-Kendall Kroesen

House Finch

HOFI_JohnHoffmanCompared to more brightly colored birds, House Finches may seem plain, but this streaky brown finch has an exciting history that began right here in the arid American West. Their natural range included all the Southwest and they favored undisturbed desert, especially areas with stands of cholla cactus. In 1939 a few captive individuals were sold in a pet store in New York City and escaped. These House Finches flourished and spread rapidly. Originally a bird of hot deserts and dry open habitats of the southwest, it now occurs in nearly all types of landscapes and climates in North America, from edges of northern taiga to ocean coasts to metropolitan areas. What a success story! The extent and intensity of the male’s red plumage is related to the bird’s health, vigor and ability to forage, as they acquire these red pigments from foods they eat that contain carotenoids, such as berries.

In the deserts near Tucson you can see “wild” groups of House Finches far from any house singing their cheery, bubbling song. It is also fun to see their city-dwelling cousins around town, and they are one of the few birds that sing all through winter. A cold morning can be made bright by a group of bright red male House Finches sitting in a pine tree singing and looking just like feathered Christmas ornaments.
-Jennie MacFarland, IBA Conservation Biologist

Lesser Goldfinch

LEGO_JimPrudenteThere is nothing lesser about the sweet tune or striking and colorful wing patterns of a Lesser Goldfinch. These small finches, of the family Fringillidae, are a charm to find flocking in your backyard or local park.

Stephen H. Long’s expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1819–20 collected the first known specimen of this species on the banks of the Arkansas River between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Colorado. The Lesser Goldfinch name became official on the 5th edition of the AOU Check-List.

Did you know that the Lesser Goldfinch is an accomplished mimic? It is surpassed in North America in the number of species it can mimic in one song only by Lawrence’s Goldfinch. While this bird is the smallest of the American goldfinches, to sit and watch a treasury of Lesser Goldfinch congregate, communicate, and consume from feeders or flowers, is a much greater experience for any lover of birds than the name implies.

To enjoy Lesser Goldfinch in your urban yard, try planting seed bearing flowers or bushes (such as sunflowers, Desert Marigold or Clevlandii sage). Or, put up a nyjer feeder and water feature, and then enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful bird.
-Sara Pike

Phainopepla

PHAI_JimBurnsThis bird’s questioning “wurp?” call is a common sound in desert habitat in and around Tucson. With the male’s handsome glossy black plumage, flashing white wing patches and ragged crest this bird is often described as a ‘black cardinal with a red eye.’ The matte slate gray female is quite beautiful in a more understated way. In winter these birds aggregate in areas of high mistletoe concentration, fiercely defending clumps of native mistletoes in Palo Verde and Mesquite trees against other Phainopeplas, males and females holding their own feeding territories. The slim silhouette of this bird may seem a common sight in regions of Tucson with desert vegetation, but this bird has a complicated seasonal migration pattern that is still not fully understood by scientists. Phainopeplas may actually be one of the only birds in North America to nest first in one habitat and then again in another all in the same year. In the spring these birds nest in Sonoran Desert habitat, often in a tree that is hosting native mistletoe so a steady food supply is always within wing’s reach. When temperatures begin to rise in early summer, these birds gather in nearby riparian woodlands or higher elevation oak woodlands (such as Madera Canyon) and then raise another brood.
-Jennie MacFarland, IBA Conservation Biologist

Verdin

VERD_JoanGellatlyVerdins are the prettiest birds most Tucsonans have never seen. They are small and gray, with cute yellow faces. Verdins are non-migratory, year-’round residents throughout their distribution. They prefer thorny desert scrub, especially mesquite, palo verde and acacias. Providing thorny native vegetation in Tucson landscapes will assure their little yellow faces will adorn your yard.

Highly desert-adapted, Verdins can derive all the water they need from what they eat. They eat mostly insects and spiders, sometimes holding leaves with their feet while searching them for prey. One study calculated they ate up to 540 insects, spiders or larvae per day during winter. When available, they also eat fruits, pulp from seed pods, flower nectar, or sugar water from hummingbird feeders.

Believe it or not, Verdin was once a nemesis for me. Living in central Mexico in the early ’90s—at the very south end of their range—I searched in vain. I found my first one in a mesquite thicket and almost immediately learned what they sound like, since they vocalize so frequently. From then on I saw (or at least heard) them quite often, and they have become one of my favorite avian friends.
-Kendall Kroesen

White-crowned Sparrow

WCSP_MurielNeddermeyerAfter a long scorching Tucson summer, a welcome sign of the cooler weather to come is hearing the first White-crowned Sparrow sing in mid-September. Chances are good that this first sparrow is of the Rocky Mountain sub-species (oriantha) which are more likely to be seen in early fall on their way to Mexico for the winter. In Tucson, the more common gambelii sub-species arrives from the forests and tundra of Alaska and northwestern Canada a bit later to spend the winter here.

These birds are fairly common in Tucson, frequenting even small natural patches in the city. You can easily have White-crowned Sparrows in your own yard if there’s adequate vegetative protection and a good seed source for food. They are also easy to identify because you can stumble into a small flock and spend countless minutes studying the black-and-white striped crown of these large sparrows.

Songs of White-crowned Sparrows are among the most studied of any bird. Sub-species and sometimes breeding populations can be distinguished by their dialects. Some males along breeding borders are “bilingual,” singing the songs from both breeding populations. Soak up these songs now—before you know it, White-crowns will leave and the heat will return!
-Matt Griffiths, Communications and Restoration Specialist

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Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120 Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447

color_square_face_right

Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447

color_square_face_right

Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447

Michael T. Bogan (he/him)

Michael is an Assistant Professor of Aquatic biology at the University of Arizona. Originally from California, he earned his PhD at Oregon State University, where his research focused on stream ecosystems of the Madrean Sky Islands and Sonoran Desert. He is well-known for his work on Santa Cruz River Heritage Project, and his beautiful photos of dragonflies. His research topics include Arid Lands, Conservation Biology, Invasive Species and Population and Community Ecology.

Michael serves as the faculty advisor for the UA chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, a national Diversity in STEM organization. Michael is a partner on our Santa Cruz River Heritage Project work and has contributed to the Vermilion Flycatcher in the past year.

Michael has a hard time choosing a single favorite bird, but says that Curve-billed Thrashers are pretty hard to beat. “I could watch them goofing around through the leaf litter and be entertained for days!”

 

Alberto Búrquez

I currently work at the Instituto de Ecología, Department of Ecology of Biodiversity, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). I got my bachelor and master’s degree at UNAM, and my PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK. I do research in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Ethnoecology. Drylands ecology and societal use of resources in water-limited systems have been an ever-present passion through my life. It might be because I am a Sonoran Desert born person. However, my personal theory is that once someone experiences the desert landscapes they are smitten for life. I am passionate about bird and honorary bird species like bats and hawkmoths, particularly in their mutualist interactions with plants. My current projects include: 1) Columnar cacti: ecology, evolution, societal services. 2) Effects of extreme events on vegetation, 3) Species Distribution and Biogeography, 4) Indigenous lands and ecosystem processes, and 5) drought and freezing resistance in plants at the edges of distribution.

 

Jeanne Calhoun

Fascinated by wilderness and everything wild since growing up backpacking with her family in the Sierras, Jeanne pursued a diverse environmental career over the past 30+ years.  With a Bachelor’s in Biology (Carleton College) and a Master’s in Geology (Oregon State University), she pursued multiple aspects of environmental protection, with the last 23 years focused on ecological conservation in Arizona, working for The Nature Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US National Park Service.  During her ten years at TNC, Jeanne was responsible for on-the-ground conservation in four ecoregions in Arizona, management of TNC’s preserve system, land management and restoration, government relations, and water policy.

Jeanne spent seven years with the USFWS where she oversaw threatened and endangered species issues in southern Arizona. She enjoyed the challenges of dealing with controversial issues such as the international border, proposed mining projects, energy infrastructure, wilderness management and climate change.

Most recently, she worked for Grand Canyon National Park as Chief of the Science and Resource Management Division, where she oversaw all science research as well as natural and cultural resource management activities in the park.  During her years at the Grand Canyon, Jeanne initiated the first Paleontological Resources Inventory for the park, led a Climate Change Analysis for the park’s watershed, reinitiated the effort to designate 94% of the park as Wilderness, and led publication of the Natural and Cultural Resource Condition Assessment for the park.

Recently retired, Jeanne has a passion for water sports, hiking and exploring Arizona’s spectacular landscapes, and is learning how to play the saxophone.

 

Colleen Cacy

Colleen is a partner with the firm Gadarian and Cacy, PLLC, a Tucson law firm specializing in professional Tax Strategy, Estate Planning and Asset Protection law.

  • J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law (1986)
  • President of the Board of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council
  • Elected member, American College of Trust and Estate Council
  • Memberships: Executive Committee of the Probate and Trust Section of the State Bar, the State Bar of Arizona, the Probate and Trust and Tax Sections of the State Bar, the American Bar Association, and the Pima County Bar Association.
  • Past President of the Board of ZUZI Dance Company

 

Richard Carlson

Richard started birding as a child in Minnesota 70 years ago. After a brief interlude at Harvard, where he majored in caving, mountain climbing, winter mountaineering and economics, he began birding again in Washington DC with the Maryland Ornithological Society. He was one of Chan Robbin’s volunteers in establishing the first Breeding Bird Surveys. Bribed by the Nixon administration to leave town with a fellowship to Stanford, he moved West in 1969. He worked at Stanford Research Institute, where he co-authored “Solar Energy in America’s Future” and led field trips for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. He became President of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory and expanded his birding to Latin America. He has birded throughout the Neotropics and in Africa, Australia, Antarctica, India, China and Europe. He hopes to ultimately see at least half the birds of the world. He and his wife Pat now migrate between homes in Tucson and Lake Tahoe depending on where the birds are.

 

Tricia Gerrodette

Tricia never wound up with a career but instead had a variety of jobs and life experiences. She's been a bookkeeper, a typist, a proofreader and then a test analyst for a defense contracting company. She was a tour guide for trips into Mexico's Copper Canyon for Elderhostel (now Road Scholar). The trips focused on Mexican and railroad history as well as the history and culture of the Rarámuri (Tarahumara) natives.

Secretary of the board for Tucson Audubon, member of the board for Friends of the San Pedro River, president of the now-defunct Huachuca Audubon Society, treasurer for Sky Island Unitarian Universalist Church, Water Sentinel with Sierra Club Water Sentinels, Steering Committee for Sustainable Water Workgroup.

When Huachuca Audubon Society disbanded in May 2016, Cochise County became part of the "assigned" territory for Tucson Audubon Society. That was a huge amount of land, although not too many people, to absorb. I was invited to be on the Tucson Audubon board to help with that effort, and to help protect the San Pedro River. That work still continues! Photo by Mark Levy.

Kathy Jacobs

Kathy Jacobs is a professor of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona and Director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions (CCASS). CCASS is a component of the Arizona Institutes for Resilience, and builds capacity to accelerate adaptation and on-the-ground solutions to climate issues.  She is currently a member of a team that is building the Indigenous Resilience Center at the UA.  From 2010 – 2013, Jacobs worked in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House. She was director of the Third National Climate Assessment, and the lead advisor on water science, policy, and adaptation. From 2006-2009 Jacobs was Executive Director of th

e Arizona Water Institute, a consortium of Arizona’s three universities focused on water sustainability. She worked 23 years for the Arizona

Department of Water Resources, including 15 as the director of the Tucson Active Management Area.  She was engaged in multiple aspects of implementing Arizona’s Groundwater Management Act, including development of water conservation programs and the Assured Water Supply Rules.  Jacobs has served on nine National Academy panels; she earned her M.L.A. in environmental planning from Berkeley.

 

Elisabeth (Lissie) Jaquette

Elisabeth (Lissie) Jaquette had been an occasional birder prior to moving to Arizona in 2018. Since connecting with Tucson Audubon, she has become increasingly passionate about birding, and is excited to give back by serving on the board. Lissie first became involved with Tucson Audubon by participating in the Habitat at Home program, then by joining as a member, and more recently by volunteering with the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival, the Birdathon, and several bird surveys.

Lissie’s education includes a BA from Swarthmore College and an MA from Columbia University. Since 2017 she has served as Executive Director for the American Literary Translators Association, a non-profit membership organization.

When Lissie is not birding, she enjoys hiking and trail running in the Sonoran Desert, and translating literature from Arabic to English (her latest book was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Awards). She lives in Tucson with her 1-year-old son, Cassin (named for the kingbird); dog, Cooper (named for the hawk); and husband, Dan (sadly not named for any birds).

 

Riana Johnson

Riana Johnson is a skilled researcher with experience in quantitative, qualitative, and data visualization within the energy efficiency and utility industry. She brings creativity along with strong data analysis skills to her work. She uses her background in fine art and econometrics to deftly craft data visualizations and tell data-driven stories. Riana is a new birder and loves living in Tucson where the Vermillion Flycatchers are plenty. She recently started a chapter of the Feminist Bird Club in Tucson where she can mix her passion for activism, art, and birds. Riana has degrees in Political Science and Studio Art from New York University and a Masters of Public Policy from the University of Arizona.

 

Linda McNulty

Linda McNultyLinda’s education includes a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Rochester, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arizona, where she graduated Summa cum Laude and was elected to the Order of the Coif. A recently retired partner at the law firm of Lewis and Roca, LLP, Linda was a member of the firm’s Real Estate and Finance practice group. Her law practice focused primarily on commercial real estate, business and natural resources law. Linda has served a number of board roles, including: President of the Tucson chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) and member to the board of directors of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, and the Wilderness Land Trust. Early in her career, Linda worked for the Arizona Department of Water Resources and she’s maintained a connection to water policy issues in Arizona. Linda has been a member of Tucson Audubon Society since 1976 and lives with her husband Michael in Tucson.

 

R. Cynthia Pruett

Cynthia-Pruitt-with-raffle-tickets-by-Kendall-KroesenFor a long period I was what you might call a "lapsed birder". I started birding in college with a boyfriend who became my husband and we traveled all over the United States while he was in the service; leading to a pretty comprehensive bird list. Then suddenly, other life activity got in the way and for about 25 years birding was shelved. In the late 80's I was introduced to an avid woman birder at an environmental conference and the passion came back. My work career involved many executive jobs, some of them key environmental positions, which only reinforced my understanding of the need to protect important habitat around the world. It's (the birding) led to many trips to many countries, a joy of seeing both new and revisited birds and of course, to becoming active in Audubon chapters, both here and in Virginia.

 

Cynthia M. VerDuin, CPA

Cynthia began birding when she was 10 by participating with her girl scout troop create a bird-watching badge. In the 90’s she began birding with family, friends and with bird walks in various Ohio regions. Since 2010, she has enjoyed Tucson Audubon bird walks and short trips. Beginning in 2016, she has participated in the Birding Festival, serving as a volunteer in 2017-2019 and at Meet your Birds events. She served on the Gala and Finance committees in 2016-2017, and joined the board in 2018. She now serves as Treasurer and Search Committee co-chair.

Cynthia founded her accounting firm in 2007, focusing on not-for-profits, small companies and individuals, providing accounting, tax planning and reporting services, calling upon her Kent State University (BA degree in accounting with honors) and her experience at one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms (Arthur Andersen). Cynthia is also a Physical Therapist and commercial hot air balloon pilot, and enjoys hiking, birding, biking and swimming.

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