Saturday, May 24, 2014

This week in birds - #110

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

The Purple Gallinule is a wonderful bird that frequently can be found in wetland areas in the late spring and summer here. It's a bird that I'm always on the lookout for at this time of year whenever I visit a park or wildlife refuge that has water features.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is out with its prediction for the upcoming hurricane season. That season starts in just over a week, on June 1. NOAA believes this will be an average year for hurricanes, which means three to six storms, with perhaps one or two being major storms. Storms should be somewhat suppressed this year by the development of El Nino in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This regular weather phenomenon warms the Pacific which helps to stabilize things in the Atlantic. All things are connected. 

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It's always exciting to learn of new species of birds which we previously didn't know existed, and there is such news out of Colombia this week. Two new species of hummingbird and a new species of flycatcher have been discovered there. You can see pictures of all three birds if you click on the link.

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Glaciers around the world are melting at an alarming rate and ice sheets at both poles probably have reached the point of no return in their melt cycle. This has potentially disastrous implications for human life on this planet, and still we fail to act to reverse our contribution to the catastrophe.

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The Elephant Bird, now extinct, was the largest bird known to have ever existed on Earth. If you were guessing what would be its closest living relative, you might say the Ostrich. I would. But in fact we would both be wrong. New DNA tests confirm that its closest living relative is actually the Kiwi, the New Zealand native.

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There's actually more to this story about the Elephant Bird and the Kiwi. Both are/were flightless, as are other big birds like the Ostrich and Emu. The question is how did they become so widely dispersed in the world? Scientists now believe that they may have once been able to fly and they only evolved flightlessness when they settled in the areas where we now find them.

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A butterfly once thought to be extinct is being reintroduced into the Willamette Valley of Oregon in the hope that it will be able to expand its habitat in the area. The butterfly is the Fender's Blue, and both adult butterflies and caterpillars will be released.

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California Brown Pelicans have been found nesting along the Columbia River, on the border between Oregon and Washington. This is a dramatic expansion of their breeding range. 

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Lake Powell, which sits behind a massive dam on the Colorado River and provides water and electricity to several western states, is half empty due to ongoing drought.

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The owner and workers of a painting company in Philadelphia are facing federal charges because they disturbed the nest of a pair of Peregrine Falcons, resulting in the death of one of their chicks. It is illegal to disturb or  harm in any way birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and that includes Peregrines.

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The Kakapo is a weird and endangered bird native to New Zealand. Its survival depends on certain native plants, again proving how important it is that the chain of life remain unbroken.

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You might think that a fruit fly is an example of a fairly brainless bit of ectoplasm, but, once again it seems, you would be wrong! According to new research, the flies take time to gather information and to consider before making a decision. Imagine...a brainy fruit fly! 

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Around the backyard:

Even more baby birds joined the parade of new life in my backyard this week. Juvenile Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and Tufted Titmice are now coming to the feeders. The baby Downy is particularly amusing. He hasn't quite got the concept yet - he just sort of flutters around, sometimes managing to land on a feeder and sometimes not and constantly calling to Dad to help him out.

With all the babies and the continuing onslaught by White-winged Doves, the birdseed in my feeders disappears very quickly. I find myself refilling at least one of the feeders just about daily now. I'm ready for those doves to move along.


2 comments:

  1. Your baby Downy sounds cute. I am hoping for woodpecker chicks too.. the parents are certainly spending enough time at the feeders!
    You have drought, we have too much rain. From what I read climate change is now on an unstoppable and accelerating path. I hope I have been reading the wrong articles!

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    1. I think if we had the will to do it, we could affect the course of climate change. Unfortunately, in this country which is the biggest user of petroleum-based energy, we have too many politicians in power who are bought by the petroleum companies and so they continue to deny that humans have anything to do with the earth heating up. Until we can manage to get them out of office and replace them with reasonable and responsible people, it seems that our government does not have the power to do very much in this area.

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