Saturday, January 24, 2015

This week in birds - #142

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

As songbirds have returned to my feeders, the birds that prey on them have returned also. Like this Cooper's Hawk.

Actually, the Cooper's is a permanent resident so he's around all the year, but he hasn't been much in evidence recently until the past couple of weeks.

This fellow, photographed in my backyard today, kept lifting his right foot up which led me to think it might be injured, but I couldn't see any clear evidence of it.

While I was watching the bird, he made a couple of strikes, including this one when he tried to grab a House Sparrow. As far as I could see, neither of his strikes were successful. 

He continued watching from his perch in the tree for some time but finally gave up and moved on. I hope he had better luck in someone else's yard.

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In other news of raptors, Peregrine Falcons, once on the road to extinction, have made a strong comeback since DDT was outlawed in this country. For example, in 2014, the 27 known breeding pairs of the birds in Virginia produced 44 chicks. Moreover, research on Peregrines' breeding success reveals that age is a determining factor in predicting that success.

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The first comprehensive assessment of native vs. non-native plant distribution in the continental U.S., finds non-native plant species are much more widespread than natives, a finding the authors call very surprising. Even species with only a handful of occurrences were distributed widely.


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New research presented this week investigates just how flies are able to perform their amazing acrobatics. In other words, it helps to explain how flies fly.

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Bald Eagles are another raptor that continues to make a remarkable recovery from near extinction. Their range is expanding throughout the continent and last year, 200 chicks hatched in the state of New Jersey alone. 

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There have been three big pipeline breaks and spills of oil into the Yellowstone River recently. Drinking water has had to be trucked in to some areas as their source of water has been polluted by dangerous chemicals.

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It turns out that evolution is not necessarily a one-way street. Sometimes features that are lost in the process of evolution can reappear if they become useful once again. Such is the case in the wrists of birds that evolved from meat-eating dinosaurs.

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The oceans are warming so fast that scientists' temperature charts are becoming obsolete and are having to be rescaled, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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The Pyrenees are home to continental Europe's only wild population of Bearded Vultures, a species classified as endangered in Spain. A study compiled by Spanish researchers reveals -- in a level of detail until now unseen -- the size of the home range of this bird species using satellite tracking technologies.

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Count the stingless bees of Australia among the species that wage war to take over the hard-earned homes of others. They evict the resident bees and redecorate the hives to meet their own specifications.

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The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland is welcoming the conviction and imprisonment of a gamekeeper for the persecution of raptors. It is the first instance there of imprisonment on such a charge.

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Which is more important - tackling climate change or protecting the environment? Can we do both? How do we choose, when and if they conflict?

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The mystery continues surrounding the substance that has been coating the feathers of seabirds along the California coast. Many birds have been rescued and cleaned, although not all have survived. Many others that were unable to be rescued have died. 

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Venus flytraps are so popular as houseplants that they risk becoming extinct in the wild because of poachers removing them from their habitats.

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Around the backyard:

The number of birds at the feeders continued to increase this week. The flocks of American Goldfinches increased exponentially. Also, the first Brown-headed Cowbirds and White-winged Doves started showing up - so not all good news.

6 comments:

  1. Love the pictures of the hawk, Dorothy, as well as the news, as usual. I always get excited when I see a hawk; if driving I even become distracted by it. :-)
    Regards.

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    1. Hawks and raptors in general are amazing members of the avian family and very thrilling to watch in action. I am fortunate to have three species as regular residents here - the Cooper's, Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered. Plus, we get Sharp-shinned, Swainson's, and often unexpected species in winter. They are a good reason to keep looking up.

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  2. Cool photos of the hawk, I have one living around but only get distant views of it, or hear it screech. I also hear an owl hoot sometimes, but have not been fortunate to see either up close. I wouldn't mind something that ate house sparrows or starlings, as with the plants that I fight as weeds that came from other parts of the world, people have made lots of mistakes and ruined a lot of ecology bringing in foreign species. But avid plant collectors continue to pursue the exotic.

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    1. This particular hawk seems somewhat accustomed to my presence and will usually let me get fairly close without spooking - at least close enough for pictures.

      I think that many people who take wild plants from wild places just don't realize the harm they do to the habitat. And then there are those who are motivated by desire for profits who just don't seem to care. It behooves all of us to be very careful about what we do to the wild places that we still have.

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  3. Great photos of your hawk, Dorothy! Red-tailed hawks are a common sight in our area, and my husband noticed one near the end of our yard this past week eating something. When I ventured closer to take a photo, he flew off, carrying a squirrel! I was expecting to see a mouse or small rabbit, so that was quite a surprise. Glad to hear that some nearly extinct species are making a comeback, especially the eagles.

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    1. We have lots of squirrels in our area and the hawks do hunt them pretty regularly. I occasionally see the Red-tailed or Red-shouldered Hawks with one in their talons.

      It is good news about the recovery of the raptors. So much of our environmental news seems to be doom and gloom these days. It's good to have something with which to leaven it.

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