Saturday, April 11, 2015

This week in birds - #152

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

It's breeding season and birds put on their best finery for the event. The long ornamental feathers and heightened colors of this Great Blue Heron are all a part of his strategy to attract the opposite sex. They indicate to potential mates that he is healthy and strong and would bring good genes to the match.

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In very good news for pollinators this week, Lowe's has announced that it will stop selling neonicotinoid pesticides that are deadly for them. The neonicontinoids have been implicated in the drastic decline of honeybees around the planet but they are equally destructive to native bees as well as butterflies, moths, and other insects that provide pollination services to plants. Lowe's says that it will phase out the selling of these pesticides over the next four years, so in the meantime, we will still have to be vigilant about the contents of the pesticides that we buy there and we'll have to continue to encourage others to boycott their purchase. Let us hope that Lowe's has started a trend. Can Home Depot be far behind? 

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On the island of Kauai in Hawaii, feral chickens are everywhere. They are seen in parking lots, hanging out at the beaches, and foraging in the forests. They are truly free-range chickens that live a diversity of lifestyles, including mooching off of tourists with whom they are popular. Scientists are studying the DNA of the chickens, studying their relationship to the wild Red Junglefowl and modern domesticated chickens. 

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Many of the U.S. protected lands are located in the western part of the country.  But a new study indicates that those lands do not necessarily protect the vast diversity of wildlife within the borders of the country. There is a need for more protected areas in the eastern half of the country.

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Another new study gives some clues about how it may be possible to reduce collisions between birds and aircraft. It involves adjusting the lights on aircraft and on runways to be better attuned to birds' visual systems.

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A report published in the journal Urban Ecosystems attempts to quantify the economic value that urban birds bring to the cities where they live. It turns out that value is considerable.

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Even as California institutes mandatory controls on water usage as their long drought continues, the farmers in the state are largely unaffected by those controls. They continue to pump water for irrigation from underground aquifers, depleting a resource that was already critically endangered before the drought. Some scientists fear that the aquifers may never be able to recover. 

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Though some have blamed the almond farmers of California for much of the state's water problems, an alternative view is that the real problem is the state's system of allocating water

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The finches of Galapagos that were studied by Charles Darwin are still being studied by scientists today and the study of their genomics gives evidence of the unity of life and power of natural selection to transform a species.

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The very rare Bryan's Shearwater had, in fact, been thought to be extinct, but it has recently been found breeding on a small uninhabited Japanese island, Higashijima, giving hope that it may yet survive.

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For fans of amphibians, spring is the best time to listen to their love songs. Walking into my backyard at night, I can now hear a whole chorus of different voices as the males try to get the attention of the females.  

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"Bug Eric' gives us an appreciation of tiger beetles in springtime.

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Shorebirds in many parts of the world are declining in population. Those that winter in South Africa are a part of that trend; however, a recently published paper indicates that the problem is most likely not a matter of their winter location.

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Bighorn sheep have been absent from Yosemite National Park for over a century. But now they are back. They are being reintroduced to the park. Twelve of the animals were recently released there.

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By what name do you know this long-necked dinosaur? When I was growing up, we called it a brontosaurus, but at some point those meddling scientists who assign names to things decreed that it should be called apatosaurus. The name never really took hold with the public, however. Brontosaurus just seems to fit the critter so much better. Well, now there is a move afoot to restore his original name and I say more power to those who are pushing it! Or as the late and greatly missed Steven Jay Gould would say, "Bully for Brontosaurus!"

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Around the backyard:

The Yellow-breasted Chats arrived in my yard on Tuesday. These secretive birds hide among the dense shrubbery and vines as they forage for insects and they are more frequently heard than seen. All day long on Tuesday I heard their weird series of calls coming from the back of my yard. I never actually saw a bird, but they certainly made their presence known.

The Carolina Wrens nesting in the basket on my back porch are now feeding their new family.  The Carolina Chickadees and Eastern Bluebirds as well as most of the other backyard birds are still brooding. Soon the yard will be full of the sounds of new life. 

4 comments:

  1. Good news indeed about Lowe's phasing out the selling of neonicontinoids! It's about time someone got a clue about the harm they cause.

    Eric and I spent our honeymoon on Kauai and it's true, there are chickens everywhere. I was fascinated with them and they certainly mooched off us wherever we went.

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    1. Yes, I often shop at Lowe's, so I am very happy they've made this decision. It certainly makes me feel better about being a patron.

      What a wonderful place to spend a honeymoon! I'm sure the chickens only enhanced your visit!

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  2. Good news for the most part.
    I'm glad the brontosaurus is getting its rightful name back (fingers crossed). :-)

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    1. Yes, I never thought it was an "apatosaurus"!

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