Saturday, December 6, 2014

This week in birds - #136

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

Northern Cardinals have been mostly absent from my yard recently, but, slowly, they are returning. 

The males are the flashy ones, of course, but I find the female cardinal to be one of the most beautiful of the backyard birds.

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The increase in urban development in the late 20th century was detrimental to many species of birds, but for those that were flexible enough to adapt, in some cases, urban development has not been necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a new study shows that Northern Cardinals and Gray Catbirds actually live longer in urban settings.

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Last winter saw one of the most spectacular irruptions of Snowy Owls to the lower 48 states. Some birders are reporting seeing the birds again this autumn - probably not in last year's numbers but perhaps a mini-invasion.

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Did some dinosaurs have red feathers? There seems to be some evidence that at least some of the critters were very colorful and may indeed have had red feathers.

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Many of the native birds of Hawaii are seriously endangered. Now, a new predator-proof fence on Kauai at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge will offer the birds some protection. 

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Caledonian Crows are generally acknowledged to be the Einsteins of the bird world. They are known for their extensive tool-use. Now researchers have determined that they show a preference for holding tools either in the right side or left side of the beak, much as humans are right-handed or left-handed.  

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To fully understand the effects of climate change, one needs to think in terms of species and their future. In order to see how things have changed, we have to remember how things used to be. Without that historical knowledge, we may not notice birds disappearing from the skies. It is necessary to look past the individual bird and see the whole system that allows - or allowed - the birds to flourish.

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The threatened Tricolored Blackbird has been given temporary emergency protection under California's Endangered Species Act. The temporary protection will allow time for further study of the issue of whether the bird should be permanently protected as conservation groups have been petitioning to have done.

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A Great Horned Owl was forced into the cold waters of Lake Michigan last week by a Peregrine Falcon. The owl was photographed swimming to shore. After reaching the beach, the bird rested there for some time until he was able to fly.

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Under rules proposed this week by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Arctic ringed seals would get 900,000 kilometers of protected waters within the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. The seals were declared threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act two years ago because of loss of habitat due to melting sea ice.

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The interestingly named Bahian Mouse-colored Tapaculo is a new bird species that has been discovered in a heavily logged forest in southeast Brazil. The bird is believed to be threatened with extinction.

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Killing wolves that prey on livestock does not seem to be the answer to protecting the livestock based on the findings in a new study. It may actually lead to more livestock killings. A better answer appears to be the use of non-lethal methods to control wolves.

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Research indicates that inbreeding may be a problem with isolated populations of the endangered Spotted Kiwi.

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The American Ornithologists' Union is considering splitting the Painted Bunting into two separate species, because there are actually two separate populations of the bird, one in the east and one in the west. The question is, what would the names of the "new" birds be

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Think about all the food that gets dropped or thrown away in a city. What happens to it? Well, one answer is that Nature's clean-up crew is on the job and the smallest members of that crew are the ants. They actually do a fantastic job of utilizing and clearing away all those unwanted comestibles.

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Around the backyard:

Things are still quiet at the feeders, but they are beginning to look up a bit. This week, I saw the very first American Goldfinch at the feeders. Only one but it is a start.

And, lo and behold, the Orange-crowned Warblers have arrived! 

The Orange-crowned is one of our three "winter warblers." The Yellow-rumped Warblers are around as well, although I haven't seen any at my feeders, but so far I have not seen or heard a Pine Warbler, usually one of my most ubiquitous fall and winter visitors.

Other than those two welcome new visitors, there have also been Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees (of course!), a Northern Mockingbird, and even a few cardinals. As I said, things are looking up.  

4 comments:

  1. Ha, I saw a male cardinal one or two weeks ago in my backyard. I was ecstatic! :-)

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    1. They never fail to make me smile when I see one in my yard.

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  2. Our feeders have never stayed full so long. We had so many cardinals all summer and usually all year. Heard one this morning which reminded me that I wanted to check to see if you had mentioned their abscence. We surely are missing them.

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    1. It's a bit of a mystery. They always disappear for a while in the fall, but they've never stayed away for so long, in my memory. I'm just seeing one or two now and then but nothing like the numbers that we've had in the past.

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