Friday, August 17, 2007

Loose Feathers #111

Royal Terns / Photo by Donna Dewhurst (USFWS)

News and links about birds, birding, and the environment
  • Many apex bird species like osprey and brown pelican have returned to thrive in New Jersey's Barnegat Bay in recent decades. Yet the bay is one of the most threatened estuaries in the U.S., thanks mainly to runoff from traffic and suburban lawns.
  • The Highlands Bridge, which crosses the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers, is one of the worst in New Jersey and is due for replacement. A local coaliton wants the state DOT to do a full Environmental Impact Statement to assess the effects of demolition and reconstruction on the important estuary and Sandy Hook.
  • Australia's superb fairy-wren is one of the 10 percent of bird species that engage in cooperative breeding. Nestlings in pairs with helpers get more food than in pairs without help, but the biggest beneficiary is the mother, for whom reproduction becomes less costly.
  • The government's draft recovery plan for the northern spotted owl failed peer-review by the Society for Conservation Biology and American Ornithologists' Union. The plan would name barred owls as a greater threat than logging and reduce designated critical habitat.
  • Peru has a new flycatcher species, Cnipodectes superrufus. The species dwells in dense thorny bamboo thickets in southeastern Peru and southwestern Brazil. A specimen was taken in 1990 but not identified as a new species until the present.
  • The Bengal Florican will be the first bird to benefit from BirdLife International's Species Champions program, which matches threatened species with conservation plans funded through private donors.
  • Fewer birds from Siberia and Greenland are visiting the U.K. during winter because climate change has reduced their need to migrate.
  • A national bird survey in New Zealand established that the ranges of many birds are shrinking, to the point that some are no longer found where they used to be common. (That said, morepork has to be one of the funniest bird names.)
  • New Caledonian crows have used multiple tools in experiments; this suggests the use of analogical reasoning, usually found only in higher primates.
  • The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is not the wildlife haven that some have claimed. Areas of higher radiation have lower population density and biodiversity.
  • Birds may learn to fly more easily through latent memories inherited from previous generations. (Full paper at PLoS Computational Biology)
  • Shorebirds are now moving through the Blue Ridge region (and inland spots).
  • New research warns that extensive use of biofuels may lead to greater warming than fossil fuels, when the full production cycle is taken into consideration.
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