This week in birds - #344

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



Some of our winter visitors are still with us, like this Pine Warbler feeding on a suet cake. Many of them have already begun to head farther north.

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Hummingbird season is upon us and many people will be hanging out their nectar feeders for the little guys. Here's a reminder that it is necessary to clean the feeder regularly and often. Most of the microbes that will live in the feeders are harmless to the birds but there are a few that can cause them problems and they must be controlled by cleaning.

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Isle Royal National Park in Michigan got some new residents recently: four gray wolves from Canada. The island's population of wolves had dwindled to numbers that were unable to control the moose population and that would have devastating effects on the environment. Reinforcements were called for. Canada to the rescue! The four wolves were airdropped in to take up their new residence and jobs.

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In less happy wolf news, the Interior Department of the current administration is once again taking steps to remove the protection of the Endangered Species Act from the animals that reside in the lower 48 states. Conservation groups are going to court to fight the move.

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Are you bored with a long winter and needing a project to help you beat the blues? Does Bug Eric have a citizen science project for you! He suggests you do a census of all the species that share your living space with you, a la Robb Dunn's book, Never Home Alone. You might be surprised at how many there are.

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Wildlife in Australia has been hit hard by the unrelenting record-breaking heat down under this summer. Last week more than a hundred ringtail possums were found dead, scattered along a beach in Victoria, having succumbed to the heat. 

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The push by the current administration to expand oil and gas drilling offshore and on public lands is putting many species at risk. Moreover, protection of new species under the Endangered Species Act has slowed during the last two years. Only 15 new species have been given protection during this time, the lowest number of any comparable period since the Reagan administration.

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Efforts to reduce the appalling numbers of birds that die each year after a collision with the glass in high-rise buildings continues. Architects are now more aware of the problem and many are designing buildings with the needs of the birds in mind. That doesn't solve the problem of the death traps that have already been built, but it's a start. 

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The Kakapo is one of the most severely endangered birds of New Zealand. The bird is a ground-dwelling nocturnal parrot with few defenses, which makes it extremely vulnerable to predators. But on a predator-free group of islands off the coast of the big island that is New Zealand under the protection of its friends, the bird is making an impressive comeback. As of March 1, 217 eggs had been laid this season and 48 chicks hatched, one more than the record set in 2016. 

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Here's an interview with ecologist Jodi Hilty explaining why wildlife corridors are so important.

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We know that light pollution is a bad thing for the environment but new research reveals just how unexpectedly disruptive it can be to the lives of ecologically important aquatic insects.

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Scientists are reporting that heatwaves affecting the planet's oceans have increased dramatically and are killing swathes of sea life "like wildfires that take out huge areas of forest." 

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Toxic chemicals from the ponds and landfills holding coal waste at 250 power plants across the nation have leaked into nearby groundwater and threaten the drinking water supplies of the areas. This is according to an analysis of public monitoring data released this week by environmental groups. 

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A new study explores the reasons why the Northern Spotted Owl is losing footholds in its habitat. The reasons range from habitat destruction to invasion of the area by the Barred Owl expanding its range. The Barred Owl is a more aggressive species and Spotted Owls tend to lose in competition with them. 

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Swainson's Hawks in migration do love a good snack and they find one in the Anzo-Borrego desert of the California badlands. They feast on the neon-colored larvae of the white-lined sphinx moth, also known as the hawk moth. Actually, it's more than a snack; they gorge themselves on the fat caterpillars. 

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The various species of swifts eat and, incredibly, can sleep while airborne. Research has shown that some birds stay in the air for two to three months at a time without coming in for a landing. 

Comments

  1. Thanks as always for the round-up. The hummingbirds have arrived in my yard!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations on the hummers. I haven't actually seen one recently, although they do appear sporadically throughout the winter.

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  2. The last tidbit is amazing! :-) Good news amongst the bad, as it's becoming customary.

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    Replies
    1. They are amazing little birds. Well, birds in general are amazing, but this borders on the unbelievable. The thing is, their feet are not made for perching, so sleeping on the wing is an adaptation.

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