Saturday, July 12, 2014

This week in birds - #116

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


Juvenile birds, like this young male Northern Cardinal, are all over the backyard these days. Often they look very similar to adults and it may be difficult to distinguish that they are juveniles, but the cardinals make it easy. The young ones have dark bills. Only when they mature will they develop the distinctive red beaks of their species.


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Environmental groups have been attempting to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to change the status of the Lesser Prairie Chicken from threatened to endangered so that it can receive more vigorous protection. Persuasion has not worked so now three environmental organizations have filed suit against the agency to try to force the change.

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Pesticides that get into the environment can have unintended and detrimental consequences. This is the case in the use of rat poisons in urban settings. Raptors and other predators that feed on the rats can have the poison passed on to them in the flesh of their prey and can be made sick or even killed. 

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Since the early 1990s, frogs around the world have been struck by a doomsday fungus which has looked as though it had the capacity to wipe that species off the face of the planet. Scientists have now found that some frogs have been able to develop immunity to the fungus, which offers at least a sliver of hope that our favorite amphibians might be saved.

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Vampires are alive and well on Wolf Island in the Galapagos. Vampire finches that is. The well-named Sharp-beaked Ground Finch that lives there has learned to survive in its harsh environment by drawing blood from other birds and feasting on it. The bird pecks away at the tail feathers of its victim until it draws blood that it then slurps up. Interestingly, the victims which are generally much larger do not really resist this invasion of their bodily fluids.

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Sociable Weavers from the savannahs of southern Africa are known for being cooperative nesters. A new study throws some light on just how and why the birds, as well as other cooperative species, may be willing to work together to achieve a goal.

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Long-billed Curlews that nest and summer in places like Idaho and Montana will be tracked by The Nature Conservancy. Many of these curlews, which are our largest shorebird, spend their winters along the Gulf Coast, offering a treat for those of us who enjoy birding those coasts.  
Long-billed Curlew photographed on a Rockport, Texas beach.


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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has caved to the objections of states where the last 300 wolverines in the country live and have decided not to list the animal as "threatened." In doing so, they have disregarded the conclusions of two independent panels which recommended the listing. 
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Scientists in Europe are analyzing the diet of the threatened Bonelli's Eagle to try to find ways to increase the Mediterranean area bird's chances for survival.

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Scientists studying the Japanese Quail have identified a key photoreceptor cell deep inside the brain that helps to tell the bird when it is time to nest.

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A discussion in "The Nature of Cities" addresses the problem of exotic species in urban areas and ways of managing or eradicating them.

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Jochen of the "10,000 Birds" blog writes about the "Best. Crossbill. Encounter. Ever!" It was with Red Crossbills in the Black Forest area of Germany and he managed to get some fantastic pictures of the birds.


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