Friday, July 11, 2008

Loose Feathers #157

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

Bird news
  • Birds that migrate at night tend to do so in loose flocks. This was the conclusion of a radar study that tracked pairs of migrating birds simultaneously and compared their flight paths and speed. Some pairs of birds were as much as 200 meters apart. (Apparently biologists can track migrating birds with a sousaphone.)
  • In Washington state, the timber industry and conservationists have formed a working group to preserve spotted owl habitat on private lands.
  • The mid-continent breeding duck population has declined 9% from 2007 to 2008. The steepest decline was among canvasback. Possible reasons include loss of habitat and drought. On a positive note, both redheads and green-winged teal have increased their numbers from last year and are above their long-term average.
  • Unfortunately, it seems that the USDA will lift penalties for taking land out of the Conservation Reserve Program.
  • Biologists at Plum Island are conducting a breeding study of saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrows to track the effect of mercury contamination on the wetlands there. Typically the mercury levels in the sparrows' bloodstream rises during the summers at Plum Island and falls while the birds winter elsewhere. (via Plover Warden Diaries)
  • Neurons that control singing in songbirds are programmed to die back at the end of each breeding season.
  • A conservation worker in New Zealand accidentally killed a rare takahe while shooting at a flock of the more common pukeko. The latter species was being culled to protect other endangered birds.
  • The Everglades snail kite is rapidly disappearing from the Everglades; the current population is one-third what it was in 200. Their decline stems from a crash in the apple snail population.
  • Ornithologists in Britain have recorded some very long-lived birds, some living and some recently deceased, due to the recovery of banded birds. They include a 41-year-old razorbill, a 13-year-old barn owl, a 31-year-old curlew, a 20-year-old turnstone, a 27-year-old black-headed gull, a 27-year-old Canada goose, and a 27-year-old knot.
Birds in the blogosphere
Environmental news
Carnivals and newsletters