Saturday, July 18, 2015

This week in birds - #165

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

The Red-tailed Hawk may be the most ubiquitous raptor in North America. It lives virtually everywhere on the continent in many different types of habitats and feeds on diverse types of prey. It is almost equally at home in urban, suburban, or rural areas. It is the raptor that you most often see sitting on utility posts as you are traveling along highways and byways throughout the country, and it is perhaps the most easily identifiable raptor. Although it comes in many different color phases, from almost black to almost white, each one of them will always have that eponymous red tail.

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Moth lovers, rejoice! This is your week. It is National Moth Week, July 18-26, a week set aside to celebrate these often overlooked critters. There are citizen science projects going on in which you can participate. And just in time for their week, a new family of moths has been discovered and described.

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The drought along the Pacific flyway, one of the major routes for migrating birds on the continent, is having a devastating effect. Many birds are sickening and dying as they search fruitlessly for fresh water.

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The endangered Tibetan antelope bears fur that is more valuable than gold. That makes it a prime target of poachers. Thus, it seemed to be well on its way to extinction, but China, which controls the Tibetan plateau that is its habitat, has exerted extraordinary efforts to protect the animal and preserve it from extinction. It now seems firmly on the path to recovery.

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That invaluable website for birders, All About Birds, is launching a new and (they hope) improved version of their website in early August. They are inviting the public to try it out and leave comments about their experience. 

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Ed Yong of "Not Exactly Rocket Science" writes about a beetle and bacteria that, in combination, are a threat to our favorite breakfast - and, for some people, throughout the day - drink. 

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House Sparrows are one of those birds that are so common that we tend to take them for granted. If we think about them at all, it is often to curse them because of the problems they cause for some of our beloved native birds, like bluebirds. But House Sparrows are gritty survivors and they have very interesting life histories that contribute to their ability to survive.

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Spiders of all kinds are some of the most valuable critters in Nature and in our backyard habitats. Thin-legged wolf spiders are among the most common of these and Bug Eric profiles them in his blog this week.

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Good for forward-thinking Minnesota! The state has instituted a conservation program to try to help one of our most endangered warblers, the Golden-winged Warbler. Selective logging is designed to help preserve appropriate habitat for the bird. Loss of habitat is its greatest threat.

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'Tis the season for cicadas and Cicada Mania is loving it!

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A new study finds that birds that have been introduced into Hawaii do not disperse native seeds as efficiently as do the native birds that evolved with the plants.

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Urban wildlife actually bring many benefits to the towns and cities where they roam, a recent scientific study argues. Most urban wildlife, especially predators and scavengers, are undervalued by society for the benefits that they provide.

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The Oriental Honey Buzzard is a bird of prey and some birds of prey and scavengers are known to have at least a rudimentary sense of smell. The Honey Buzzard seems to be able to sniff out pollen balls that are traditionally put out for Asian apiaries. They home in on these pollen balls and devour them.

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Scarlet Macaws have been reintroduced to Palenque, Mexico, an area of their former habitat from which they had disappeared. The reintroduced birds are adapting well and would seem to be able to survive and thrive there.

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In recent years, Colombia has made strenuous efforts to preserve and protect its native wildlife. In their latest move, they have expanded the El Dorado Nature Reserve to try to conserve a population of the endangered Santa Marta Parakeet.

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President Obama this week used his executive power to preserve three more areas for public landsMr. Obama designated as national monuments the Berryessa Snow Mountain in California; a paleontological site in Texas known as Waco Mammoth; and the Basin and Range in Nevada, which includes rock art dating back 4,000 years. This brings to 19 the number of monuments which he has designated or expanded during his presidency.

4 comments:

  1. I smiled when I read the red-tailed hawk usually sits atop utility posts in the highway because that's usually how I see them; though I worked for a while near a state park where they used to hang out and you would see them through the glass windows gliding around the parking lot and the trees in the park.

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    1. They are magnificent birds and are always a pleasure to see.

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  2. Great photo of the hawk, we don’t see them often here in London but from time to time you can spot them. I enjoy watching the sparrows, I have lots of them here in my new garden.
    Have a good week!

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    1. The sparrows can be fascinating to watch. They really do have complicated family and flock relationships.

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