This week in birds - #338

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:



A first-year Vermilion Flycatcher just beginning to get his adult color. I photographed him in January a few years ago at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast.


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In the interests of greater biodiversity, many cities make an effort to attract and welcome more wildlife into their concrete jungles. Relatively small changes can aid in this effort. It starts with the base of the natural world: the insects. Planting rooftop gardens or other green spaces to welcome them is the first step. When the insects come, their predators will follow.

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The southern Australia island of Tasmania had 56 active wildfires going as of Friday, as the country suffers through another scorching summer. Power plants are struggling to keep up with demand in what will be one of Australia's hottest summers on record.

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The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has updated its Red List of Threatened Species. There are 222 bird species that are now considered to be critically endangered and 13 percent of the world's bird species are now threatened.

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In New York, a state legislator who represents part of New York City is writing a bill that will require every building in that city to have "bird collision deterrent safety measures" and to "use bird-safe building materials and design features." Such legislation has the potential to make a big difference in cities where thousands - actually millions - of birds die every year from crashing into glass walls and windows. Let's hope it is the start of a new trend. 

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This is an El Niño year and that means that, among other things, that there is likely to be a big rise in atmospheric CO2 during the year. 

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Apollo 14 astronauts brought home a load of rocks from the moon on their mission there nearly fifty years ago. Now, analysis of one of those rocks has shown that its origin was Earth. The rock, which is made up of quartz, feldspar, and zircon, is thought to have been crystallized deep beneath Earth’s surface some 4 billion years ago. It is theorized that it was catapulted towards the moon in a collision with an asteroid or comet soon afterward. 

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Remember the Great Black Hawk that showed up in Maine, far out of its normal range of Mexico and Central America, a few weeks ago? Well, it ran into trouble in the cold Maine winter. It was found on the ground and was suffering from frostbite. It was taken to a wildlife rehab center, where it is being treated but there is still uncertainty about the bird's injuries and its possibility for complete recovery. 

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A transmissible cancer has devastated the wild population of Tasmanian devils in recent years. Up to 80% of the animals have died from the disease, but a new study offers hope that the disease is unlikely to cause extinction. Of course, now the devils also have to deal with those 56 wildfires on their island.

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A new study just published in the journal Nature indicates that a warming climate will cause plants and soil to absorb less of the greenhouse gases that are produced thus speeding the rate of change.

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An opinion writer in the Times writes of the activities of citizen scientists who monitor and count the western population of Monarch butterflies and wonders if we are watching the slow extinction of the species.

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Scientists have mapped the genomes of three species of Caribbean parrots in an effort to assist in saving them from extinction. The three species, the Puerto Rican Parrot, the Cuban Parrot, and the Hispaniolan Parrot are all threatened by habitat loss and illegal trading.

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Birds are a vector for creating greater biodiversity in Nature. We know that they transmit seeds of plants in their feces and water birds sometimes transport eggs of fish or amphibians on their legs or feathers. It turns out they also help to spread the fungi that live on the plants that they transmit. Isn't it wonderful how Nature works? I am constantly amazed.

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The Pantanal in South America is a critical area for fighting climate change and protecting endangered species. It is mostly located in Brazil but also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. The race is on to protect it. It's a race we dare not lose.

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The current administration in Washington has cut the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half in order to open it up to coal mining. It must be a great disappointment to those who initiated the change to find that the coal companies don't seem to be interested

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This is Romeo. He has lived in captivity for ten years as the last known member of his species, the Sehuencas water frog. During that time scientists continued to search for more of the frogs in the wild. The search has finally paid off; a Juliet has been found for Romeo! And not just a Juliet but five of the frogs - three males and two females - have been located. Now scientists hope they will breed in captivity so that more of the animals can be returned to their natural habitat.


Comments

  1. Good news on the Tasmanian devil, especially after my recent encounter with them. Luckily I only witnessed the cute side of their nature. The impact of the disease though has been devastating. The wildfires just as much. Tasmania is a beautiful state in a beautiful country.
    We all need to brace for what is to come.

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    1. I thought about your posts from there when I was reading this story. The summer that Australia is experiencing may well be the future of us all unless we come to our senses and get serious about fighting climate change.

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  2. Good to remember that there are humans who are working on these climate change problems, that the moon is the earth's baby, that Romeo will have his Juliet.

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    1. Good to remember that it isn't ALL doom and gloom!

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  3. Cute flycatcher pic! Some good news amidst the bad, and there is a lot of bad... I liked the tidbit about Earth rock making its way to the moon. Cool! Good news for the Tasmanian Devil, but as always, there is a catch. ;-) Good news for Romeo too: he seems to have found a family.

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    Replies
    1. Let's hope Romeo and Juliet can produce lots of little Romeos and Juliets to ensure the future of the species.

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