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.”