Friday, July 13, 2007

Loose Feathers #106

Long-billed Curlew / Photo by Gary Kramer (USFWS)

News and links about birds, birding, and the environment
  • Brightly colored birds whose plumage depends on the consumption of carotenoids suffer more from the radiation around Chernobyl than drab species. Birds that lay large eggs or migrate long distances were also disproportionately affected. The authors of the study suggest that the results are due to the high levels of antioxidants required for those activities.
  • A recent study found that bird species can learn from each other. Collared and pied flycatchers will adjust their nesting preferences to match those of tits.
  • Migratory birds use the earth's magnetic field to orient themselves during migration. A new study found that the same ability to sense magnetic direction exists in domestic chickens, a nonmigratory species.
  • Raising water levels along the Missouri River to allow for tugboat operations is killing piping plover chicks on the river's sandbars.
  • Birds in the Shenandoah Valley have high levels of methylated mercury in their bodies; researchers are trying to determine the extent to which it affects the local population.
  • Many house sparrows (and other birds) have found new nesting habitats within the walls of big box stores with garden centers. The stores offer shelter, food supplies (from bird seed packages), and relative safety from predators. (A prominent bird blogger is quoted in the article.)
  • Mason's Neck in Virginia is a great spot for watching bald eagles.
  • A planned washing soda factory may threaten the African population of lesser flamingos.
  • Lisa de Moraes previews an upcoming installment of PBS's Nature on animal reproductive strategies. It includes a segment on duck genitals and forced copulation, discussed here previously.
  • Newsday reviews a new book of Thomas Bewick's woodcuts, many of which are birds.
  • Here is some advice for new birders on purchasing good birding binoculars.
  • The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club has started a new Rare Bird Alert for the Delaware Valley, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Currently the RBA is published only on the web, but eventually will be available in other forms.
  • The Cape May Bird Observatory has a new website called The website includes a newsletter called Tigrina Times.
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