Friday, May 27, 2011

Loose Feathers #292

Dunlin / Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Birds and birding news
  • Government agencies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have put together a bird identification tool called Dendroica that provides images and sound files for each of the species in North America. The taxonomy is a little behind (no split of Winter Wren?), and some species are sparsely represented. Otherwise it looks like a good learning tool. The site is soliciting contributions of image and sound files to fill in the gaps in coverage. (Note: registration is required to contribute.)
  • The Great Snipe makes the fastest recorded long-distance, nonstop migration flights of any bird. Some birds cover over 4,000 miles in 96 consecutive hours, with an average speed of 50 mph. The longest known nonstop migration flight is a Bar-tailed Godwit that flew 7,145 miles in nine days, with an average speed of 35 mph.
  • A study found that the closely-related Gray Vireo and Plumbeous Vireo alter their songs in different ways when they breed in noisy areas (like gas wells). Plumbeous Vireos shortened their songs and raised the pitch of the lowest parts, while Gray Vireos raised the pitch of the highest parts and sang longer songs.
  • A British birder reports on his trip to see a Little Bustard.
  • Even though the population of Philippine Eagles is reduced to a few hundred birds, people continue to trap them illegally. (For more on the Philippines, see also this unrelated post on an expedition to research biodiversity on Luzon.)
  • A rare white Kiwi chick was born at New Zealand's national wildlife center.
  • Seabirds on the coast of Scotland, particularly oystercatchers and eiders, have been recorded laying their eggs in other birds' nests. Unfortunately for the oystercatcher and eider chicks, their parents lay the eggs in the nests of gulls, which are more likely to eat the chick than raise it successfully.
  • Gynandromorphs – birds appearing like males on one side of the body and females on the other – can arise due to a chromosome aberration.
  • British researchers say that introduced Ring-necked Parakeets intimate other birds – such as Blue Tits and Great Tits – around bird feeders.
Birds in the blogosphere
Environment and biodiversity