Friday, June 29, 2007

Loose Feathers #105

Common Yellowthroat / Photo by Dave Menke (USFWS)

News and links about birds, birding, and the environment
  • A biologist in Canada is using museum specimens to study changes in the marbled murrelet's diet. By analyzing the carbon and nitrogen isotopes in birds' feathers, he determined that they are mostly fish around 1900, but now mostly eat marine invertebrates.
  • Kirtland's warbler has been found breeding in Wisconsin.
  • Wildlife officials in Florida are still investigating the deaths of hundreds of seabirds on its Atlantic coast. Starvation seems the most likely culprit at present.
  • The bald eagle has been removed from the Endangered Species List. Eagles have rebounded since reaching a low of 417 breeding pairs in 1963. Officials in Arizona have petitioned the federal government to maintain a local population of desert-breeding eagles on the list due to their special needs. The news was announced at a special ceremony on Thursday in front of the Jefferson Memorial.
  • Giant penguin fossils have been found in Peru.
  • While bald eagles have recovered, northern spotted owls are still in decline. The Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a new recovery plan for the species.
  • The photo to the right is not a photoshopped crow. It is a recurve-billed bushbird, a rare bird found in northeastern Colombia and Venezuela. (Click the photo at right for a larger image.)
  • The fairy pitta is threatened by the Hushan Dam Project in Taiwan, which threatens to destroy much of its habitat on that island.
  • Seabirds face a continuing threat from abandoned fishing gear, which ensnares the birds.
  • Osprey and trumpeter swans are both in decline in Yellowstone National Park. Osprey have suffered from a reduction in cutthroat trout.
  • The Nature Conservancy will transfer its 1,500-acre preserve on South Padre Island (Texas) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Piping plovers are making a slow recovery, but remain endangered because of their specialized habitat requirements.
  • A new set of postal stamps honoring natural pollinators features a calliope hummingbird. The stamps are for sale here.
  • Residents of Jamestown, Rhode Island, are paying farmers to mow hay later in the summer to protect nesting grassland birds. The project is testing the performance of ecological investment markets.
  • The EU Court of Justice ruled that Spain has not designated sufficient conservation areas to comply with the EU's Birds Directive.
  • The Gal├ípagos Islands have been added to the UN's list of World Heritage sites and faces threats from tourism and invasive species.
  • A company called "Planktos, Inc." wants to dump fine iron dust in the Pacific Ocean near the Gal├ípagos Islands to spur a carbon-dioxide-eating phytoplankton bloom. Conservationists are dubious about the value and consequences of this plan.
  • Alaska can expect a 20% increase in infrastructure costs due to climate change since roads and other systems will wear out more quickly.
  • Invasive plants have choked out native species in many areas, but education and eradication campaigns are starting to deal with the problems they cause.
  • Birders should be aware that cases of Lyme disease have doubled since 1991. Reports are concentrated in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and North Central regions.
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