Friday, May 18, 2012

Loose Feathers #343

Virginia Rail / Photo by Steve Arena (USFWS)
News about birds and birding
  • San Juan Capistrano is trying to lure Cliff Swallows back to the mission by playing recordings of Cliff Swallow calls; the swallows stopped breeding there during a restoration project and have not returned since then.
  • Crows can learn to recognize familiar voices from other species, such as humans and jackdaws. This ability is most likely useful for distinguishing threats; some humans may harm crows while others might be beneficial.
  • Birds carry chewing lice that live on their wings and chewing lice that live on their bodies. According to a new study, it is easier for the body lice than the wing lice to spread between birds, most likely from adults to young during nesting or between partners mating. Another finding was that body lice on sandpipers worldwide were genetically almost identical; the only exceptions were body lice on Dunlin and Ruff.
  • Male Robins feed their chicks more often if they hatched from eggs that were brighter shades of blue. This suggests that males use the color of the eggs as a signal of their mate's quality.
  • Dovekie (called Little Auks at the link) have adapted their foraging patterns to changes in food distribution caused by climate change. However, it is still unclear whether climate change will affect their future breeding success.
  • David Sibley continued his series on bird song this week. The latest installment is Describing Quality.
  • BirdWatching opened its archives for this weekend, so you can read many of the feature articles that are usually available only to subscribers. All columns and articles will be accessible through Sunday night.
  • Hen Harriers are close to being extirpated from England as a breeding bird, mainly due to persecution. This year, only one pair is breeding.
Nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity