Birding News #88: BirdWatch Canada Fall 2014 edition

:: Male Bustards make a point of eating poisonous blister beetles to demonstrate their health to prospective mates.

:: The Banded Stilt, a nomadic shorebird found at Australia’s inland salt lakes, can somehow sense and move toward rainfall hundreds of miles away.

:: British government figures show that farmland bird populations — such as Grey Partridges, Turtle Doves, and Starlings — are at their lowest levels since records began in the 1970s, down more than 85 percent since then.

:: The antidepressant Prozac, found in sewage, is having a depressing effect on the libido and appetite of birds.

:: Birds roosting in large groups seem less likely to contract West Nile virus.

:: The second volume (Passerines) of the Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, fourth edition, edited by EC Dickinson and L. Christidis (Aves Press Ltd) has just been completed. The new edition has been updated with new DNA/evolutionary information, and also revisions to species and subspecies, and ranges.

:: More than 1.2 million migrating hawks, eagles, and vultures were counted at 100 sites throughout Canada, the US, and Mexico, during the Hawk Migration Association of North America’s first annual International Hawk Migration Week (September 20-28).

:: Canaport LNG in Saint John, New Brunswick, is facing three charges after an estimated 7,500 songbirds flew in to a gas flare at the plant in September. The charges include two alleged violations of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and one from the Species at Risk Act, each carrying a maximum fine of $1,000,000 for an indictable offence.

:: Bird Studies Canada’s Nova Scotia Piping Plover Conservation Program reports better breeding success in 2014 compared to the previous three years; however, the province’s total 2014 population of 46 pairs was down from 2013 by six pairs, returning to the 2012 population level.

:: Bird Studies Canada is looking for people in Ontario interested in hosting artificial nesting structures for Barn Swallows. Anyone interested can contact BSC Stewardship Biologist Kristyn Richardson at krichardson (at) birdscanada (dot) org. While Barn Swallows are common in the province, their population has declined in Ontario over the past 40 years by more than 65 percent. Eight structures nesting structures were installed and monitored over the last two springs, with mixed results.

Birding News #87

:: In a new study, scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources found that corn and perennial grassland fields in the southern part of the state could provide not just biomass for bioenergy production, but also bountiful bird habitat. In fact, fields with plentiful grasses and wildflowers supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields, including 10 “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” found only in the grasslands.
:: NPR profiles Michelle Raffin, author of the new book The Birds of Pandemonium: Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered”, her memoir which “does for rare birds what Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief did for rare orchids, Joy Adamson’s Born Free did for lions, and Jane Goodall did for chimpanzees and apes”.

:: And Julie Zickefoose reviews “The Birds of Pandemonium” for The Wall Street Journal

:: A Red-tailed Hawk in Massachusetts took on a drone

:: Cyclone Hudhud, which is headed for India, was named for Oman’s translation of Israel’s state bird, the Hoopoe

:: A recent study by the US Geological Survey names Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) as the cause of death for multiple Kittlitz’s Murrelet chicks found dead on Alaska’s Kodiak Island. The Kittlitz Murrelet is a federal species of concern, and according to the report, “The impact of PSP in marine bird populations may be more severe than previously recognized”.

:: Audubon Magazine profiles UK ornithologist David Lindo and his campaign for a British national bird.

Birding News #86

:: A Kansas university student discovered a rare prehistoric bird skeleton — the remains of a toothed flying bird, IIchthyornis, from the Mesozoic Era (252 million to 66 million years ago).

:: Researchers at the University of St Andrews have produced the first experimental evidence that birds (in this instance, Zebra Finches) select nest-building materials by colour in order camouflage their nests.

:: A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit that sought to stop the killing of Snowy Owls and migratory birds near New York City airports was within legal limits, but said he hopes that Port Authority officials could “find the tools to diminish the danger to planes without killing so many birds”.

:: The western population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo has been listed as a Threatened Species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, after a 15-year wait.

:: Hollywood TV actors Adrian Grenier and Keegan Allen spent an afternoon volunteering at the International Bird Rescue Center in San Pedro, California, as part of World Animal Day.

:: More evidence that artificial light disrupts birds’ sex hormones

:: A glowing review of the recent book, Ghosts of Gone Birds: Resurrecting Lost Species through Art by Chris Aldhous (Bloomsbury); Sharon Wootton writes, “Ghosts could have been a 265-page funeral. Instead it is a book of spirit of birds that are gone.”

Birding News #85

:: The latest on the very slow evolution of birds, from research at the University of Edinburgh

:: A large number of dead seabirds are being found at Pismo Beach in California, and so far no-one knows whether it’s the drought, ship collisions, or another cause.

:: A controversial appointment: a long-time member of Malta’s Labour government, which has been accused of direct involvement in the widespread slaughter of birdlife, including many endangered species, has been named the next European commissioner for the environment.::

:: The Minneapolis chapter of the Audubon Society organized a protest yesterday at the new Vikings Stadium, calling on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Minnesota Vikings team to upgrade the design to include bird-safe glass.

:: The US this week created the largest marine reserve in the world by expanding Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean, increasing the monument to cover 490,000 square miles, six times its current size; among the marine life protected are seabirds such as boobies, frigatebirds and Sooty Terns.

:: This year’s Winter Finch Forecast is out! Many thanks to Ron Pittaway of Ron Pittaway of the Ontario Field Ornithologists.

Birding News #84

:: Birds have better judgment of their body width than do humans, according to a research project to design autonomous aircraft navigation systems, at the Queensland Brain Institute’s Neuroscience of Vision and Aerial Robotics laboratory.

:: One of Britain’s rarest birds of prey, a female Montagu’s Harrier, has disappeared from the Queen’s estate at Sandringham, and its satellite tracking device has stopped transmitting; the bird is one of only seven breeding pairs remaining in England.

:: Managers at the celebrated Sydney Opera House are considering using a giant mechanical bird of prey to keep hungry but nationally protected Silver Gulls away from diners at the outdoor venues.

:: Minnesota’s Pigeon Lake Islands have been closed to visitors because of Newcastle Disease, a contagious virus which has killed several dozen cormorants and pelicans.

:: Researchers have discovered that the relationship between the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania and the Greater Honeyguide Bird, in the search for wild honey, is not mutually beneficial as previously thought, with the Hazda not rewarding the birds with honey in order to keep them hungry enough to continue guiding.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Matty at The EyrieVelociraptors and Moving Rocks: Notes from Camp Colorado

:: From Tony at Birds CalgaryWaxwings, From Egg to Fledgling

:: From Kathie at Kathie’s BirdsLabor Day on Bailey Island

:: From eBirdIdentifying Bay-breasted and Blackpoll Warblers

:: From Greg at 10,000 Birds: How Many Birds Are Killed By Windmills and Other Green Energy Projects

:: From Sharon at BirdchickBirdchick Podcast #176 Birds Have It Hard

Birding News #83

The big news this week was, of course, the National Audubon Society’s report on climate change, which is likely to so change North America’s bird population that nearly half the approximately 650 species will be forced to either smaller spaces or new places to inhabit, feed, and breed over the next 65 years, with extinction a likely prospect for many species

With severe drought covering 95 percent of California, The Nature Conservancy has leased 14,000 acres from rice farmers, then flooding them to create “pop-up wetlands” for migrating birds.

After a public outcry and despite permission on public health grounds, the Tesco supermarket in Great Yarmouth, England, has postponed plans to shoot a Pied Wagtail which has taken up residence in the store.

A study on how the earliest birds, 150 million years ago, learned to fly has revealed that from the first day after hatching, birds have an innate ability to maneuver in midair.

A paper published this week shows that birds living in the Costa Rican rainforests represent around 4.1 billion years of evolutionary history, compared to those that occupy nearby farmland which represent as little as 3.3 billion years, suggesting that agriculture, especially intensive monoculture farming, “diminishes phylogenetic diversity”.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Tim at Bird CanadaBirding the Alberta Grasslands – a photo essay

:: From Shyloh at beakingoffThere’s Meditation – and then there’s Birding

:: From Mike at 10,000 Birds: Extinction Week Recap

:: From Jennie at the ABA Blog: 2014 State of the Birds Report