This week in birds - #349

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



This Carolina Chickadee seems to be enjoying a refreshing shower in this brief spring rain.

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A new study by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (apparently there are still some who haven't been purged) attempts to put a dollar cost to the effects of climate change. Their conclusion is that unchecked climate change will be costing the United States hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of this century.

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Some fascinating news from the world of archaeology this week: Archaeologists on Luzon in the Philippines have turned up the bones of a distant relative of ours. They've named it Homo luzonensis. These cousins stood less than three feet tall and lived at least 50,000 years ago.

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In a recently released report, conservationists have ranked the American cities with the most dangerous skyscrapers that present death traps for migrating birds. Topping the list was Chicago with its many glass-windowed buildings. Estimates are that at least 100 million birds and possibly as many as a billion die on this continent in collision with buildings each year.

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Some people are trying to do something about the problem of birds and glass buildings. At Georgia Southern University, for example, a professor and graduate student are doing research to determine which buildings on their campus present collision problems for birds and attempting to determine practical solutions and their costs. And around the country, many other such projects are in progress. It's a start. 

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A new National Park System study showed that 20% of urban coyotes' diet was composed of cats. The danger to small pets in these areas is extreme, which is one more reason to (PLEASE!) keep them safe inside when you are not able to directly supervise them. The study also showed that in 2016 there were 16 coyote attacks on humans in Los Angeles, up from two in 2011.

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The eBird website for recording and keeping track of one's sightings of birds has revolutionized birding, especially for North American birders. Outside of this continent, the birders who most enthusiastically use the citizen science site are in India and the data from their entries are providing much-needed information about the distribution of birds on the subcontinent.

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North America's largest waterbird is the Trumpeter Swan, but size did not protect it. In the last century, it was headed for extinction, brought down by over-hunting. But now the swans are protected and efforts at restoration are showing success. Several states have reported sightings and a few have nesting birds.

 Trumpeter Swan cygnets at Cleveland's Metroparks Zoo. (Image by AP.)

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Black bears were wiped out in Texas several decades ago, but with protections in place, they are slowly returning to south Texas. Experts fear that a wall on the border would end the recovery. A tall wall envisioned by those who are pushing for it would also interfere with the passage of several low-flying species of birds. 

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Something for the nightmares of those who get queasy around snakes. This is a 17-foot-long python that was captured in the swamps of the Florida Everglades this week. The female snake weighed 140 pounds and was carrying 73 eggs. Environmentalists continue to struggle to eradicate the invasive species which first got introduced to the wilds by people who released some as overgrown pets. The already thriving population got a further boost when Hurricane Andrew in 1992 wrecked a breeding facility and released more breeding snakes. 

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How high do Golden Eagles fly? Well, research indicates it depends on the topography and that may provide useful information for those who plan and design wind farms. Eagles are among the birds that most frequently tangle with and lose encounters with the blades of the turbines.  

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Scientists have mapped out an enormous network of potential marine protected areas that cover more than one-third of the world’s oceans and represent all marine ecosystem categories. Protecting these areas, they say, would help to ensure continued marine diversity.

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But in the real world in which we live now, Donald Trump and his minions continue to sabotage conservation work in every way they can. Most recently, they have withdrawn funding from a large, successful conservation program in direct contradiction to instructions from Congress. The 22 research centers of the program tackled big-picture issues like climate change, flooding, species extinction, and tried to plan counteractions.  Sixteen of the centers have now been put on indefinite hiatus or closed.

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A fungus called Candida auris which preys on people with weakened immune systems is causing concern in health care professionals around the world. It is tenacious and resistant to anti-fungal medications and represents one of the world's most intractable health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections. This particular fungus has already spread a web of death through hospitals around the world.

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A team of scientists argues in their recently published paper that the size of protected areas is less important than the actual biodiversity that exists in the area. A small area may potentially represent more biodiversity than a larger one and that is the key.

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Critics of the "Green New Deal" point and cry "Socialism!" Historians point out that we've seen this show before. The plan for establishing national forests in the 1930s elicited the same criticism. 

Comments

  1. Hmmm...Mostly bad news from the environment this week. Of course, the cygnets and the chickadee on top are welcomed sights. :-) One of the most surprising finds of the cave where the Homo Luzonensis bones were found, was a staggering amount of giant rats bones, which triggered the hypothesis that the cave became a close ecosystem in which the rats displaced larger mammals that move out following the hominids, likely to other parts of the island, and not necessarily due to extinction of those species, per se.

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    1. That is indeed interesting. There have been a few finds of Hobbit- sized hominins at various locations around Southeast Asia in recent years, all of which is quite thought-provoking.

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  2. I have lost 3 cats to coyotes. Building homes higher up the mountains where they live drove them down into the towns around here. I just don't have a cat anymore. In other news, we have a peacock nesting in a planter in front of our house. She is currently brooding over 10 eggs! Cats, dogs, and wild cats prey on peacocks. It's a jungle out there! We have all those things in our neighborhood.

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    Replies
    1. It is a jungle out there - you are correct. We may not acknowledge it, may even be oblivious, but Nature is "red in tooth and claw" and is all about survival of the fittest.

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