Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Loose Feathers #43

News and links about birds, birding, and the environment.

  • Montana researchers have answered the old question posed to Darwin: "What use is half a wing?" Flightless chukar chicks use their developing wings to assist in running up inclines when escaping danger.
  • European starlings are known to be excellent mimics. A recent paper in Nature claims that they can understand rudimentary grammar as well. Linguists remain skeptical of the study's conclusions.
  • Invasive garlic mustard is wreaking havoc on North American forests. It secretes a chemical that kills fungi that other plants, especially hardwood trees, need to draw nutrients from the soil. This is affecting birds; many bird species use the understory, composed of young trees and shrubs, for foraging and nesting. The understory is precisely where the effect is felt most strongly. In many places with over-browsing by deer, garlic mustard will be the only plant growing. The same link has a note about genetically-modified crops possibly being detrimental for open-country birds.
  • Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, two greenhouse gases, continued to increase in the atmosphere last year.
  • Eleanor Clift thinks that Al Gore could run a successful presidential campaign in 2008 on a single issue - global warming. Gore, of course, insists that he is not running.
  • The trip leader's report from Sunday's trip to Cockpit Point Road is now online. (For my comments, see here.) The best time for birding at that location is apparently Sunday mornings, because the truck traffic is at a minimum at that time.