Saturday, April 9, 2016

This week in birds - #201

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

Blue Jays are one of those birds that are always with us and that we tend to overlook, in spite of their raucous behavior, simply because they are so common. But they are beautiful birds and a representative member of the very intelligent corvid family.

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And speaking of those intelligent corvids, research has established that even though their brains are structured differently than those of primates, they are capable of the same cognitive performance as apes. Scientists theorize that their very different brain mechanisms for complex cognitive processes have developed independently in birds and in mammals in the 300 million years of their existence.

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Last week I reported about the study that shows that Antarctica's ice sheets are melting and disintegrating much faster than had previously been predicted. Greenland's ice sheets are more stable but they, too, could melt faster than had been expected. 

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Native bees such as bumblebees are essential to a healthy environment. The National Wildlife Federation has some suggestions about how we can help them.

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Bird species, many of them fairly obscure, are being extirpated at an alarming rate in the tropical Americas. These extinctions are another warning bell in the worldwide biodiversity crisis. 

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Collisions with glass windows are a major cause of death for birds attempting to negotiate their way around cities. Millions die in such collisions every year. Recently in Ottawa, 30 Bohemian Waxwings were killed when a flock of the birds collided with a glass-enclosed city walkway.

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So, why do small birds opt for city living? The "Not Exactly Rocket Science" blog explores the question.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service has announced new rules that are designed to protect Pacific forage fish and benefit the ocean food web.

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Ecuador has recently designated waters around the Galapagos Islands as a protected marine preserve. Such protections are intended to ensure a functional and prosperous marine system that will aid the continuing survival of such species as the Galapagos Penguins

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Unfortunately, it is not just the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland that are in trouble, after a particularly warm winter, Arctic sea ice has dwindled to its lowest point seen in 37 years of record-keeping.  

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Beautiful Red-crowned Parrots, native to Mexico, are expanding their range northward and there may now be more of them living along the southern border of the United States from Texas to California than are living in Mexico. I first saw them several years ago in Brownsville, Texas, when they were still an unusual sight there. Now, they are fairly common. 

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The "AFK: Herping" blog has instructions on how you can find an amphibian road crossing. Turns out that what you have to do is look for a spot where a road passes directly between woods and water.

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The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome which has devastated bat populations in the East has now shown up west of the Rockies, in Washington State, for the first time. Not good news for bats.

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Another devastating fungus called Nosema bombi, a killer of bees, may have been spread to wild populations of bees by the commercial bumblebee industry.

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It seems that fishermen don't like cormorants because they eat too many fish - from the fishermen's perspective - and, when they can, they kill the birds. But in South Carolina, a federal judge has given the birds a reprieve and stopped a program that killed 25,000 Double-crested Cormorants in 2014 and 2015. The judge agreed with wildlife conservationists that federal authorities had failed to consider a reasonable range of alternatives to killing the birds.

Photo by Robert F. Bukaty

Double-Crested Cormorant doing what cormorants do.


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Honduras has proved to be the deadliest country for environmental activists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 of them were killed there. Untold numbers have been threatened, beaten, and intimidated.


6 comments:

  1. Great pic of the Blue Jay! I was reading that corvids memorize the face of a person who helps them and bring other members of the family and friends to socialize with that person. Isn't that smart?!

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  2. The Steller's Jays here have knocked on our glass doors when we are late getting out the seeds for the deck. I saw the first bumblebee of the season last week. Then I heard a loud buzzing in husband's shop and one was trying to get out through the glass window, far from the door. I went to try to get a container and card to trap it so I could let it go, but when I came back it was sitting exhausted on the windowframe. I persuaded it to climb on a piece of metal and I carried it to the door and put it on a plant, but it seemed too low on energy to fly away, which I have heard could happen, so I moved it again onto some dandelions and was relieved to see it sipping nectar later. I don't understand why people don't do more about the neonicotinoid pesticides. It's distressing.

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    1. Thank you for being a friend to bumblebees. Never believe that our actions don't make a difference. People are becoming more educated about neonicotinoid pesticides, I think, but change happens slowly. Let's hope it isn't too slowly and that irreparable harm is done to the environment.

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