Saturday, March 10, 2007

Loose Feathers #89

Blue-winged Teal / Photo by Dave Menke (USFWS)

News and links about birds, birding, and the environment
  • We already knew that cowbirds are nest parasites; that is, they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. Now there is evidence that they ransack the nests of birds that do not accept the cowbirds' eggs.
  • The evolution of flight may be connected to the development of a smaller genome among birds' dinosaur ancestors. Small genome size has been correlated with a high metabolic rate, which is important for flight.
  • Using computer models, a biologist tested ideas about how differently-sized lamellae allow dabbling ducks to coexist, rather than out-competing each other for resources. (Lamellae are serrations inside of a duck's bill that serve as a filter to catch small food particles in the water.)
  • Food availability rather than food type drives bird migration. (Of course, the latter has some influence on the former.)
  • 28 guillemots were released after they were cleaned and rehabilitated from damage suffered during the Devon incident. Unfortunately that oil slick claimed the lives of at least 995 guillemots.
  • It looks as though the Navy will go ahead with the proposed outlying landing field on the Outer Banks. One detail that surfaced this week is the planned use of Avitrol and DRC-1339, two toxins, to control birds around the field. The report is that these will be used only to control pests and invasive species, such as starlings and rock pigeons, but toxins have a way of affecting more than the intended targets. The plan also includes dogs and pyrotechnics. This proposed field is in an environmentally-sensitive area, as it lies close to Pocosin Lakes NWR, a major site for wintering waterfowl. The proximity of the landing field and the refuge could pose a threat to both birds and pilots. (Update: If you wish to comment on the proposed landing field site, please visit the Navy's project website and either attend one of the listed hearings or submit a comment in writing before April 24, 2007.)
  • A Sumatran ground cuckoo, an extremely rare bird, has had its call recorded for the first time.
  • There have previously been reports linked here about birds in Kentucky and Pennsylvania with projectiles sticking out of their bodies. Now we have Canada geese in Texas that have been shot with arrows or darts.
  • Proposed dredging of the Delaware River is generating some controversy, with Pennsylvania officials supporting it and New Jersey officials in opposition. The plan cannot go forward unless both states agree. The Delaware Riverkeeper has released a report that assesses the environmental impacts and criticizes the project.
  • In what should be a familiar pattern by now, the Bush administration has instructed federal biologists not to talk about threats to polar bears from global warming without having their statements cleared beforehand.
  • Surfbirds is providing banners and avatars to promote the American Bird Conservancy's Save the Cerulean Warbler campaign.
  • Delaware Audubon offers its opinion on wind farms vs. coal power for generating electricity.
Good Blogging Reads
Carnivalia and Link Posts
Sorry this week's edition is a bit late. I was tied up with other matters on Thursday and Friday and did not have time to complete the news round-up.