Saturday, February 14, 2015

This week in birds - #145

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


The Common Gallinule was not so common at Brazos Bend State Park today. In fact, this is the only one that I saw. 

On the other hand, his cousin, the American Coot was very common - as always. Birds, in general, were scarce at the park today and I did not see a single duck!
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The Great Backyard Bird Count is under way. The count takes place over the four days of the Presidents' Day Weekend and it is no longer a count done only in North America. Birders around the world can participate. Last year, India reported more species of birds - more than 800 - than any other country. So far this year, my count has been meager and disappointing. 

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Native bees pollinate much more effectively than honeybees, so it is ironic that so much attention is paid to the plight of the honeybee and so little to native bees, who are also affected by many of the same things as the honeybees. In particular, the overuse and misuse of pesticides is a serious problem for them.

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Many countries are jumping on the clean energy bandwagon. Europe has made amazing gains in the use of wind power during the past year, with Germany leading the way.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on blueberry blossoms in my backyard two springs ago.
The genome of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly has been sequenced with particular attention paid to the defense mechanisms of its caterpillars. They can look very scary to someone who doesn't know what they are.

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Six species of Northern Cardinals? Really, American Ornithologists' Union? Well, that's what they are proposing anyway - splitting the bird up six ways.

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Some of the various bill shapes of the finches of the Galapagos that Charles Darwin studied.
A new study of Darwin's finches reveals a very messy family tree with a lot of "gene flow" between its various branches. The study also provides more information about how those diverse shapes of beaks came to be.

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Although there have been some gains in the sea ice around Antarctica, worldwide, the global sea ice is continuing to shrink at an alarming rate.

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The Yellowstone elk population went into a decline after wolves were reintroduced there in the 1990s, but now it is at its highest number in years.

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Efforts have been made by many countries to reduce the amount of plastic that winds up in the oceans of the world, but still more than 8 metric tons of the stuff go into the waters every year with devastating effect on the ocean's wildlife. 

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Migrating birds generally fly at night, but studies have shown that if they go off course, they will make morning flights to correct their navigation. 

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One of the most endangered species of birds in the world, the Araripe Manakin, has now received its own specially designated preserve in Brazil. One hundred and forty acres of land have been protected for the bird.

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Advocates for the Delaware River are seeking to have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put in charge of coordinating activities of the advocates, the state agencies, and nonprofits that have a stake in the conservation of the river.

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Those ornithologists can just never leave well enough alone! They also want to divide the Bahama Woodstar, a tiny hummingbird native to the Bahamas, into two separate species. More species for the life lists, I guess.

2 comments:

  1. That is frustrating when the nomenclature people start splitting and renaming species. Asters come to mind. I've seen lots of Coots but I don't think I've seen the Gallinules, I like their colorful beaks.

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    1. Their beaks get to be extremely bright red as they get close to their breeding season. I think this one that I saw must have already been in the mood! Very appropriate for Valentine's Day.

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