Friday, July 08, 2005

Chickadees and Song Sparrows

A week or two ago, a report on the sophistication of black-capped chickadee alarm calls made headlines after an article on the subject was published in Science. The Seattle Times followed up this week with an interview with the graduate student behind the study, Chris Templeton. In addition to chickadees, his research includes song sparrows. As other birders well know, song sparrows are highly variable birds, both in plumage and in song. (I have had many song sparrows almost trick me into thinking they were another, less common, species.) Preliminary results suggest that song sparrows use different songs on different territories depending on what their neighboring sparrows sing.

Tropical Storms and Bird Life

Hurricane season seems to have gotten off to an early and active start this season. It is only the first week of July and already the fourth storm - Hurricane Dennis - is ripping through the Caribbean. The last storm, Cindy, disrupted breeding colonies of least terns and black skimmers along the Mississippi coast. Natural disasters are common in nature and bird species ought to be able to recover from them, but habitat loss and other human pressures will make it harder for these species of special concern to recoup the population hits. One also has to wonder about the effect humans have on the storms themselves. Granted, there are many factors that influence the frequency and intensity of hurricanes beyond human control. But everything that I have read indicates that as the earth warms, we can expect more frequent and stronger storms. This is not good news for anyone living on the Caribbean rim - bird or human.