Saturday, October 10, 2015

This week in birds - #177

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


This immature male Vermilion Flycatcher is just getting some of the iconic color on his head. Photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
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More evidence, if any is needed, that members of the corvid family are some very smart birds. Ravens have been found to be able to work with each other to solve problems that require cooperation and coordination, but they are able to distinguish birds that have proved to be unreliable in the past and do not choose them as partners.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week proposed to give Endangered Species Act protection to seven rare species of bees and forty-two other disappearing plant and animal species, all natives of the Hawaiian Islands.

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Year-round populations of Canada Geese are becoming the norm in many areas of the country. Large numbers of the birds are losing their migratory instinct and staying in places that may be far south of their traditional range.

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A tiny ancient fossil found in Spain proves that birds were already flying in the time of the dinosaurs. The 125-million-year-old fossil had wing structure that was similar to living birds.

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Those researchers can just never let well-enough alone! Now, they've created a new family tree of birds. The new tree has just five branches. All birds are divided into five major groups.

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President Obama has announced plans for two new marine sanctuaries, the first that have been designated in fifteen years. One will be off the coast of Maryland and the other in Lake Michigan.

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Scientists have extracted ancient DNA from the skull of a man buried in the highlands of Ethiopia 4,500 years ago that supports the theory that Eurasian farmers migrated into Africa some 3,000 years ago. This Stone Age resettlement had previously been theorized, but the rare find helps to confirm it.

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The Bahamas are getting a new national park. The Joulter Cays National Park is the wintering ground of several species of shorebirds of the Atlantic Coast, including endangered ones like the Piping Plover, and designating the area as a park will give protection to those species.

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BugBlog has information about some very interesting spiders that create funnel webs.

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Frogs, as a group, are in a downward population spiral. Some 3.1 percent have become extinct since the 1970s and another 6.9 percent are projected to be extirpated within the next century. 

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Wintering bird populations can be difficult to tally because not all species will necessarily stay in the same spot all winter. Many move about in their search for food. Scientists must resort to different methods of calculating their numbers to ensure a degree of accuracy.

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A study of elephants finds that they are much less prone to cancer than many other mammals, including humans. Now the search is on to find out why and if the answer can be applied to aiding treatment of cancer in humans.

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The Rusty Blackbird has experienced the most precipitous population decline of all North American birds in the last fifty years. The bird has lost some 95% of its population. One of the answers as to why this has happened appears to be a very healthy red squirrel population. These squirrels have been found to be the main predators of Rusty Blackbirds' nests.

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Microbeads look like tiny dots suspended in cleansers and other toiletries, but when consumers rinse these products off, the microbeads flow from sinks and showers into the water. Billions of microbeads have the same effect as grinding up plastic water bottles and dumping them into the ocean, environmentalists say. California has just become the seventh state, after Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, and New Jersey, to ban them in products sold in their state.

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A study of sub-Arctic seabirds shows that their communities remain pretty much intact and without fluctuation regardless of predator populations.

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Around the backyard:

I welcomed my first winter resident this week - other than the Rufous Hummingbird that may or may not stay - and it is... Ta Da! The Ruby-crowned Kinglet

This may not be really worthy of a headline because most years this little bird is the first arrival. But it is always noteworthy to me and it's always a thrill to see them here once again.




6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Yes, they are. I was lucky to be able to photograph them.

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  2. What a cute little bird! And it's such good news about the elephants not getting cancer, which may turn out to be good news for us humans.

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    Replies
    1. It is indeed good news and it is to be hoped that even more good news may come from those findings in the future.

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  3. I was unaware that ravens are so intelligent. Wow!

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    Replies
    1. The corvid family, in general, are some of the smartest of birds.

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