Birding News #95 (Holiday Edition)

Not a lot this week!

An art installation of fanciful bird sculptures in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, is the idea of a 17-year-old high school student.

A new study on Zebra Finches shows that successful egg fertilization depends more on sperm length than sperm speed.

Here in Alberta, Christmas Bird Counts have turned up a number of uncommon species, including a Northern Mockingbird in Grand Prairie, and an American Tree Sparrow and 15 Eurasian Collared- Doves in Beaverlodge.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Shyloh at Beakingoff: 6th Annual Tagish Christmas Bird Count

:: From Eileen at Viewing Nature with Eileen: Snow Geese

:: From Kathie at Kathie’s BirdsRiverwalk: a Photo Essay

:: From Sharon at BirdchickBirdchick Podcast #182 Women vs Men birders…

:: From David at 10,000 Birds: Purple Swamphen Supertramp or Superspecies

:: From Kathleen at BirdworthyLost Animals of Yesterday and Tomorrow

Birding News #94

:: The Calgary Zoo says that it will continue with its captive breeding program for the endangered Greater Sage Grouse, despite a difficult start which has seen only two of 13 hatchlings survive to the age of seven months.

:: GrrlScientist writing for The Guardian has her first-ever list of best bird books of the year; and her list of best nature books of 2014 is here.

:: Scientists figure out just when birds lost their teeth

:: PacifiCorp Energy pleaded guilty in federal court in Wyoming to two counts of violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, after the discovery of more than 370 dead protected birds at two of the company’s wind farms, under a plea deal with prosecutors, and will pay US $2.5 million in fines.

:: The journal Science has published a series of papers on the evolutionary origin of birds, the genes and brain mechanisms that drive their behaviour, their relationships to each other. The papers are the result of an unprecedented consortium focused on the sequencing and analyses of at least one genome per avian order; the analyses have resulted in eight papers published in Science, as well as 20 papers in other journals, with the flagship study announcing that 48 birds — at least one from every major bird lineage — now have had their entire genetic code uncovered.

:: A recent study suggests a never-before documented ability in Golden-winged Warblers, to sense severe storms in advance of their arrival

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Bob at Birds CalgarySnowy Owls of the Calgary Area

:: From Maureen at Hipster Birders2014 Year in Review

:: From Clare at 10,000 Birds: Gifts to Impress a Female Friend

:: From Julie at Birding Is FunSeafood Feast at Low Tide

:: From Josiah at Birds in Your BackyardMy Field Guides Update

:: From Rob at City BirderChristmas Bird Count at Floyd Bennett Field

Birding News #93

Bird news (from a fairly slow week):

:: GrrlScientist writes about the annual Christmas Bird Count — the “granddaddy” of all citizen science projects — for The Guardian.

:: There’s a possibility of training birds to bring down drones.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Josiah at Birds in Your Backyard: My Field Guides

:: From Terry at Birding FrontiersAn Exotic Robin in China

:: From Don and Lillian Stokes at Birding Is FunPhotographing Birds in Flight Tips

:: From Clare at 10,000 Birds: Pied Oystercatcher Family Starts To Disperse

:: From Nathan at Nemesis BirdNew York Townsend’s Solitaire Plus More

:: From Josh at Ontario Birds and HerpsNiagara to Oakville – December 5, 2014

Birding News #92

:: Afghan police shoot down a “bird bomb”

:: A researcher in Indonesia discovered a new bird species- the Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher.

:: Another new bird species discovered, this one in Brazil

:: An amendment to the San Jose, California, General Plan that would require surveying migratory birds during the nesting season has been tabled for fear of hindering development in the city.

:: Great Antshrikes have been observed using stone “anvils” to break open the shells of land snails, behaviour which is apparently recent since the snail was only introduced to the habitat in the 1980s.

:: A highly pathogenic bird flu strain in Europe is representing a major threat to the poultry industry in countries crossed by migrating wild birds.

:: Urban Northern Cardinals and Gray Catbirds live longer than their country cousins, one Smithsonian study found.

:: Researchers have found that hummingbirds fly more like insects than like other birds.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Sharon at Bird CanadaKinder Morgan & The Birds of Burnaby Mountain

:: From Michael at Knob and KettleHeated bird bath from Wild Birds Unlimited

:: Larry at The Brownstone Birding BlogRating My Interest In Random Birding Topics

:: From Bruce at The Bruce Mactavish Newfoundland Birding BlogSnowy Owl Echo Invasion – Here We Go Again

:: From David at the Sibley Guides Blog: A hawk in pigeon’s clothing

Birding News #82

:: A remarkable photo, taken last December, of a Mascarene Petrel — not only is it one of the first photos taken at sea of the rare species, but it’s the first picture of any bird flying while obviously bearing an egg, and is also the first evidence of the species’ return from its pre-laying exodus.

:: One day last week, three different airplanes landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York in four hours experienced bird strikes; it’s not known yet what species were involved.

:: A company in the Netherlands is testing remote control operated robotic eagles and falcons, called “Robirds”, to scare away real birds from airports and farms.

:: Some researchers are tricking Steller’s Jays with tainted eggs to help save the threatened Marbled Murrelet

:: An influx of Cattle Egrets has closed a playground in Houston, Texas.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Pat at Bird Canada: What Hawk Is This? Or Is This A Hawk?

:: From Shyloh at beakingoff: TLBO… My Autumn Home Away From Home

:: From David at 10,000 Birds: The Complete Guide To Dodo Relatives Living and Dead

:: From Kathie at Kathie’s Birds: Birding Viles Arboretum

:: From Nicholas at Hipster Birders: Mountain Birding, Part 1

:: From Josiah at Birds in Your Backyard: Churchill Day 2

Birding News #81

For this week’s installment of Birding News, I have something a bit different — a few news stories but for the most part a round-up of articles remembering the Passenger Pigeon and the largest-scale human-caused extinction in history:

Mercury contamination in the environment affects birds‘ songs and feather colour

From now until the end of October, British nature and bird lovers have the chance to vote on a national bird

The state of Mississippi’s Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks accidentally banned backyard bird feeders last week.

The Madagascan Pochard, already the world’s rarest bird, is in danger of dying out because of human threats to the one wetland the duck calls home.

The University of Kansas Libraries has digitized 6,000 bird illustrations by 19th century ornithologist John Gould, considered by
some as “the greatest figure in bird illustration after Audubon”

A “poor innocent pelican is off the hook” after court officials found that a sports car aficionado who drove a Bugatti into a saltwater marsh and totalled the vehicle was not distracted by the bird but behind an insurance scam.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Remembering Martha and the legacy of hunting a species into extinction:

“Saving Our Birds” by John W. Fitzpatrick, executive director of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times

“A Century of Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert, in The New Yorker

“Century After Extinction, Passenger Pigeons Remain Iconic—And Scientists Hope to Bring Them Back” by science writer and blogger Carl Zimmer for National Geographic

“Post-pigeon: 100 years since most common bird’s extinction” by Mark Avery, author of A Message from Martha (Bloomsbury, July 2014), in The Guardian

“How America’s most plentiful bird disappeared”, an interview by Shannon Heffernan for WBEZ with naturalist Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across The Sky, The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction (Bloomsbury, January 2014)

“One Hundred Years after Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon” by Jon McCracken, director of national programs for Bird Studies Canada (BSC), in the Summer 2014 issue of BSC’s magazine, BirdWatch Canada

“13 Memories of Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon” by Chelsea Harvey and Elizabeth Newbern for Audubon Magazine

“100 Years After Her Death, Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon, Still Resonates: The famed bird now finds itself at the center of a flap over de-extinction” by William Souder for Smithsonian Magazine

“A Centenary for the Last Passenger Pigeon”, an op-ed by Steve Zack, co-ordinator of Bird Conservation for the Wildlife Conservation Society

GrrlScientist’s new books party/”mini” review in The Guardian — as she writes, “A more detailed review of this book is forthcoming, so I won’t tell you any more here, except to say that this book is worth buying and reading” — of Errol Fuller’s The Passenger Pigeon, to be published next week, September 7th, by Princeton University Press

“Ancient DNA Could Return Passenger Pigeons to the Sky” by David Biello for Scientific American

“A silver lining in the passenger pigeon’s demise” by Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, for The Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Birding News #79

Scientists report that the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster caused genetic damage, a decline in the population, and other changes to the birds, insects, and plants in the area.

DDT continues to kill birds in a Michigan town.

The misunderstood and maligned Magpie

Archaeologists have discovered that toward the end of his life, King Richard III apparently ate more water birds — such as swans, cranes, herons, and egrets — and drank more wine.

A New Jersey airport has found that letting the weeds grow deters birds from gathering, and so lowers the risk of bird strikes, and an Ohio airport is doing something similar, planting tall prairie grasses.

US Fish & Wildlife Service officials are searching for the person who shot at least one Osprey and one Barred Owl, both species of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. An adult male Osprey was shot in the wing and had to be euthanized; he was the father of two hungry chicks discovered several days later one of jumped 60 to 80 feet from its nest, into traffic, and died. The mother osprey’s body was later found nearby, and officials also believe it was shot.

A pair of pigeons interrupted the recent Detroit Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service is proposing to designate 546,335 acres in nine western states as critical habitat for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, now under consideration as a Threatened Species.

Nudists are scaring off the birds at a small Florida island wildlife refuge.

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Noah at The ABA Blog: Cell Phone Bird Photography

:: From Alex at Flight of the Scrub-Jay: Late July on Cape Cod

:: From Julie at Birding is Fun: The Midwest Woodpecker Drill Team

:: From Alex at Nemesis Bird: Alcids of the Olympic Peninsula

:: From Sharon at Birdchick: BirdFair Bound & A Collins App

:: From Nicholas at Hipster Birders: Of Hawks and Hummers

:: From Josh at Ontario Birds and Herps: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in Toronto