Saturday, May 21, 2016

This week in birds - #207

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

King Rail photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

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The North American Bird Conservation Initiative, a joint project of the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, has released its first-ever conservation vulnerability assessment for all 1,154 native bird species that occur on the continent. Of that number, 432 qualified for the Watch List, indicating species of highest conservation concern based on high vulnerability scores across multiple factors.

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And here is the list of all 432 North American bird species that were found to be at risk of extinction. You'll find some familiar names there, such as the Golden-cheeked Warbler, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, and Bachman's Warbler

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People are stupid as my husband often reminds me. It's sort of his string theory of humanity - the theory that explains everything. But surely none are stupider than people who go to national parks and insist on "rescuing" wild animals. The most recently publicized case was that of the tourists at Yellowstone who "rescued" a bison calf which they thought looked "cold." They put it in their car, separated it from its mother and when park rangers tried to reintroduce the calf, the mother rejected it. Ultimately, the rangers had the choice of letting the calf starve or euthanizing it. The calf was euthanized. 

Please! When you go to a national park or wildlife refuge, enjoy the animals from a distance; do not interact with them. If you see something about an animal that distresses you, report it to a ranger and let the trained staff handle it. If, indeed, it needs handling. The baby bison didn't.

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India is experiencing a terrible heat wave which is exacerbated by drought. On Thursday, temperatures in Phalodi, in the deserts of Rajasthan, reached 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest recorded temperature in India.

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Citizen Science projects have become an integral part of the study of birds as well as other wildlife. One of the unexpected benefits of such research has been to reveal the diversity of wildlife in urban areas. It is truly amazing how many species have learned to coexist in environments planned and built for humans.

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Eastern tent caterpillars are a pest to farmers trying to grow fruit trees and they seem particularly plentiful this year. But the farmers have an important ally in the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The bird considers those caterpillars a particularly tasty treat and is not put off by their sticky webs. I have also seen Great Crested Flycatchers returning to such a web throughout the day to catch caterpillars to take to their nestlings, until they have actually completely depleted and destroyed the web. Those webs are like a fast food stop for them. 

Photo by Johann Schumacher, courtesy of The New York Times.

The very elegant Yellow-billed Cuckoo, scourge of web caterpillars.

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The huge bills of Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills of the Kalahari Desert serve more purposes than securing food or building nests. They also act as heat radiators, releasing heat from the body to help keep the bird from getting too hot.

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The blogger at "Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds" explains the "one bird theory," as in, "Is the bird seen in Arkansas today the same one that was seen in Texas yesterday? Is it just one bird, or more?"

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The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is one of America's most endangered birds. A captive-breeding program hopes to reverse its road to extinction, and conservation history was made on May 9 when the first chicks from the program hatched.

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The bison has been named as our national mammal, joining the Bald Eagle as our "national bird" and the oak as our "national tree." The move was celebrated by some conservation groups, but others claim that this merely glosses over what is serious mismanagement of the last of truly wild bison herds and they argue for a different approach.

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The Conservation Law Foundation is suing Exxon with a novel complaint regarding its terminal in Everett, Massachusetts. The New England advocacy group claims that the company is knowingly putting local people at risk in the face of imminent climate risks due to rising sea levels and storms that could someday wash the Everett terminal away—storage tanks, impoundments, oil stockpiles, rickety docks, contaminated soils and all.

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The changing climate is giving signs that the usefulness of the great dams in the West may have run its course. Here's an argument for unplugging the Colorado River, removing the Glen Canyon Dam.

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Ecologists have discovered previously unknown cedar trees that are hundreds of years old living on the high cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. 

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The drying up of the Salton Sea as a result of prolonged drought is a tragedy for the fish and other water creatures that live there, but it also has dire implications for the migratory birds that normally stop over in their flight and feed on those creatures while they rest.

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Pictures and information about the insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are featured at a new website run by Montana State University. I just browsed through the photos. Wonderful! 






2 comments:

  1. I think my husband and yours would get along! We have a saying, overheard and borrowed from our former neighbor's son in law:"What on earth is wrong with people?"

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    Replies
    1. Indeed. It is a question that I often ask and for which I have no answer.

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