Posted by: aboutbirds | October 9, 2009

Albatrosses Feeding with a Killer Whale

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Albatrosses in the South Atlantic with cameras on their backs apparently used killer whales to find food. The cameras were attached to four black-browed albatrosses from Bird Island and their treks for food were monitored. The cameras were set to take pictures every 30 seconds. From these cameras the researchers noticed that the birds used large marine mammals that were feeding to find their own food. The researchers conducting the study were from the British Atlantic Survey or BAS, the National Institute of Polar Research, and Japan’s Hokkaido University. The researchers had to endure thousands of “nothing” pictures from the small cameras on the albatrosses’ backs until they came across a piece of gold. A picture documenting a few birds in front of the one with the camera and a clear picture of a killer whale.

Dr. Richard Phillips, a seabird ecologist from BAS, says the pictures “show us that albatrosses associate with marine mammals in the same way as tropical seabirds often do with tuna or dolphins. In both cases the prey – usually fish – are directed to the surface by the marine mammals and then it’s easy hunting for the birds.”

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The purpose of the research was not conservation driven, but to learn more about albatrosses every day life and foraging habits. Sadly, due to long-line fishing techniques about 100,000 albatrosses die yearly. Albatrosses feed on fish like the Patagonian toothfish, which is a deeper-water fish. The researchers suspect that whales drive the fish to the surface and the birds take advantage of this because they can only dive up to a few meters.

A report on this research in the Public Library of Science states that “scavenging on such prey fragments may be more energetically advantageous than the pursuit and capture of live prey, as such activities can require frequent take-off, landing, and prey handling which may all be energetically costly.”

Having enough energy to feed is very important for mostly seagoing birds. Therefore, energy efficient feeding techniques are very advantageous. The foraging trips lasted between a half day and five and a half days.

Even though this research is not directed towards avian conservation, it shows that many animals act together in the wild. Even more than we may realize. It is all interconnected.

Click here for the full article.

Top picture credit to British Antarctic Survey/PA.

Kingfisher2 ‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 8, 2009

Migratory Bird Legislation

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The Issue

Currently, many migratory birds that go from the United States to other countries are facing a major decline. The loss of habitat, high predation from domestic animals (cats), poisoning from fertilizer/pesticides, and over development are the major components affecting birds. To reverse this shocking decline something needs to be done and this usually comes in the form of federal legislation.

What’s Being Done

Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act is being reauthorized by the House to levels that will better protect migratory songbirds. The already in place NMBCA supports partnerships in US, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. It is vital that these partnerships last because about 500 species migrate to those locations annually.

Projects by the NMBCA (these projects have conserved about 3 billion acres of land for birds):

  • Habitat restoration
  • Research and monitoring
  • Law enforcement
  • Outreach
  • Education

The reauthorization of the NMBCA will increase the amount of money the program receives. Currently, the fiscal year of 2010 will only receive about $6.5 million. However, by 2015 the program will receive about $20 million. If the program already is making major headway, then more money would mean better protection. This new reauthorization should not have any problem passing.

My Thoughts

I have never trusted people in D.C. It’s all about money there and they don’t really care about anything nature. However, the NMBCA does seem to be making a small difference and any difference is good. If this can change bird populations for the better, than I’m all for it.

Click here for the report from the American Bird Conservancy.

Kingfisher2‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 6, 2009

Do Wind Farms Pose a Threat to Birds?

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A study conducted in England says no. Originally a study done by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, RSPB, states that birds of conservation concern will decline due to wind farms. However, the British Wind Energy Association, BWEA, responds with their own research saying that, no, bird populations will not decline.

A total of twelve species were studied in the upland wind farms. The study looked at the species nesting near and farther away from the turbines. The research indicated that there was a lower frequency of birds near the turbines, but the birds were not necessarily displaced by the turbines. The BWEA noted that birds are not in danger if wind farms are placed according to procedures.

The study also shows that certain birds, such as the hen harrier and golden plover, will not nest within 500 m of the turbines. This could possibly lead to a decline in populations, but more information will be needed later on because the populations were only studied during breeding season.

This study points out the fact that we need cleaner energy, but we can’t do it at the sacrifice of species population.

For the full article, click here.

‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 6, 2009

Photography Ethics for in the Wild

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Ethics is not usually the word that comes to mind when thinking of photography, but it should be when thinking of live subjects, especially wary subjects like birds. In an article about wildlife photography the author details how some photographers will go to the extremes to get a shot. Not because it’s a great shot, but for the money that it will make them. This includes putting birds in cages with some foliage to simulate a natural habitat. Extremes like this are most prevalent in other countries, where photographers may lose all inhibitions just to get that money shot. This is sad because it can affect species that may be endangered, but the photographer didn’t know or didn’t care.

When using a hide to watch nesting birds, it is important to respect them and their space. Removing foliage from around the nest can cause predators to catch the babies and that’s not good. Also, don’t crowd the nesters, for they may leave because they may feel threatened. Its very important to respect these species even if the photographer is trying to get a great shot. Its better to lose a shot than it is to push a species more towards extinction.

The birds’ welfare should come first, above all else. How else will we be able to save them?

Image by Slim Sreedharan

‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 5, 2009

A Few of India’s Birds on Decline

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To me, India has always seemed a far off country with an interesting culture that I do not know much about. Not knowing much about the country also means not knowing much about its wildlife. A recent article in the Times of India accounts for some of the birds that future people of India may never see. Sparrows and mynahs may seem common in cities, but their numbers are declining. Only last week a rare sighting of a bearded vulture brings thoughts of the other endangered species in India.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are two of the endangered birds in India:

 

Great Indian Bustard

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  • About 400 – 500 left in the wild
  • Once common, but rare today
  • Habitat loss is one of the main reasons for the decline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarus Crane

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  • About 8,000 left in the wild
  • This is the world’s tallest flying bird
  • Habitat loss is also one of the main reasons for the decline

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird species are happening all over the world and its difficult to look beyond our own borders. We need to because birds and other animals do not see borders. We need to conserve on a global basis, not just regional. That will be the best thing for birds and their other non-feathered friends. I hope to one day travel to India and see birds like these, but the clock ticks closer and closer to the end.

‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 4, 2009

Migrants Want Cooler Temperatures?

Birds are the visible harbingers of change. When their patterns change, everything is changing, such as their migration patterns. We all know that birds migrate in the winter and spring, but recent studies have shown that birds are migrating differently in recent times due to the changing climate. A recent article from the Chipley Bugle in Florida discusses a study that has noticed these changes from the past few decades.

Lately, new information has come in that birds are changing their migration patterns to overcome the warmer climates, both in fall and in spring.

Elena Sachs from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Bird Conservation Initiative states that "we see trends in birds first because it is so easy to see."

Studies done during the past 40 years demonstrate that certain species are affected by warmer climates and their migration patterns are now different. According to NOAA, the average temperatures for January rose by about 5oF in the four decades. Also, thanks to Christmas Bird Counts, nearly 305 species have moved north to cooler temperatures. Changes in precipitation have also affected birds. Another problem with warming temperatures is that birds will go back to breeding grounds too early in the year. They might find colder temperatures than they are used to and they may not survive.

Overall, the warming climate is not conducive for many animals, including birds, because they do not have the time to adapt fast enough. Climate affects all parts of the globe, not just North America, and we can’t change animal behavior, but we can try to limit the effects of climate change. So participate in conservation efforts when you can and do anything you can to help save our beautiful birds.

‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 3, 2009

The Imperiled Birds of Hawaii

Everybody knows of Hawaii. They know its lush, tropical forests with the exotic flora and fauna, but what people don’t know is that Hawaii has the most imperiled species of all the states. 330 species of plants and animals are in peril in Hawaii. That is a huge number for such a small state out in the middle of the Pacific. It’s also extremely bad because much of the plants and animals of Hawaii are very specialized, once we lose them – they are gone, forever. A recent article published in the San Francisco Chronicle discusses a few of the endangered species in Hawaii and what you can do to help them. Visit the article to see more. I’m going to take it one step further and show many of the endangered endemic bird species of Hawaii.

It’s extremely saddening to see that some beautiful creatures are dying out and that we, as humans, are causing it. Hawaii is losing its flora and fauna due to invasive species and habitat loss. These animals have no where to go when their environment is gone. They live on an island, they can’t go anywhere.

Hawaii’s Most Imperiled Species

– Newell’s Shearwater, Puffinus auricularis newelli

    • Hawaiian Name: ‘A’o
    • IUCN Status: Threatened
    • Why this bird is threatened: Animals, such as the mongoose, cats, and rats, that were introduced to the island ate this bird because it is a ground-nesting seabird. Habitat loss and chick migration confusion due to lights are causing this bird’s populations to degrade even more.

– Hawaiian Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis

    • Hawaiian Name: ‘Alae ‘ula
    • IUCN Status: Endangered
    • Why this bird is threatened: Loss of habitat, invasive species, pollution, hunting and disease are decimating this bird’s populations. This bird’s total population was down to 57 in the 1960s, however through good conservation, the population is up to about 500.

 

11 of Hawaii’s Critically Endangered Birds

 

1. Laysan Duck, Anas laysanensis

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2. Nihoa Finch, Telespiza ultima

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3. ʻŌʻū, Psittirostra psittacea

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4. Palila, Loxioides bailleui

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5. Maui Parrotbill, Pseudonestor xanthophrys

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6. Nukupu’u, Hemignathus lucidus

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7. ‘Akikiki, Oreomystis bairdi

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Source: Surfbirds.com

8. O’ahu ‘Alauahio, Paroreomyza maculata

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9. ‘Akeke’e, Loxops caeruleirostris

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10. ‘Akohekohe, Palmeria dolei

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11. Po’ouli, Melamprosops phaeosoma

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Birds are so beautiful, why are we letting them die?

‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 3, 2009

Good News About Birds in the Sierra Nevada

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Everything we see these days is usually about bad news. It’s about someone being murdered, a car bomb going off in a distant country killing our troops, or about a food we like that we can’t eat anymore due to it increasing our chances of cancer. I try not to watch the news on TV because its depressing and over sensationalized. It’s awful. Not that online newspapers are much better, though, you just don’t have to listen to them talk with their false pity. Another thing that annoys me, is how they talk about climate change. They don’t understand the science and its forcing us to not know what to believe. That’s the true sad part. Anyway, I found an article in the Sacramento Bee (Californian Newspaper) that has some great news about climate change and birds.

A new study, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that many bird species, specifically the ones living in the Sierra Nevada, are highly adaptable. Nearly a century of climate change data in the area demonstrates that birds will move to a new and better habitat if the one they’re living in changes too much. This is true for 48 out of the 52 birds, including western bluebirds. Some of the birds chose warmer habitats and some chose cooler habitats, whatever fit their need best. Over the course of the study, the 82 sites that were studied there was an increase of about 1.4oF and about a quarter inch of rainfall. That’s quite a high increase and its amazing that the bird populations chose to move due to this increase rather than suffer.

The study was initially brought on by Joseph Grinnell, U.C. Berkeley zoologist, who extensively studied the area between 1911 and 1929. Some birds were more sensitive to climate change than others. Most notably, the dusky flycatcher and green-tailed towhee are affected more by temperature changes. The yellow-rumped warbler and the lazuli bunting are more affected by rainfall changes. Most of the other species are affected by both.

This study is great news and it proves that animals can adapt to a changing habitat. The only question is how fast can they adapt.

Pictured – the green-tailed towhee.

 

‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | October 2, 2009

Great Place to Get Bird Sighting Information – Highly Usable

10.01 - snowy-egret If you were ever looking for a place to get bird sighting records or bird density records, then I have the place for you. The place I’m talking about is EBird’s Bird Observations. The link I chose is for Texas because that’s where I live, but if you just click on “Change Location” you can view every state. Texas has a huge number of sightings and it appears that people post all the time.

The type of information they post for each species is:

– Frequency

– Abundance

– Birds Per Hour

– Average Count

– High Count

– Totals

– Map of the State

So if you’re interested in what types of birds are around you, check this great tool out. It is extremely helpful for recreational birders to ones that bird a lot more than the average person. Go out and have fun birding with this great tool!

‘Till next time – enjoy!

Posted by: aboutbirds | September 30, 2009

California’s Endangered Birds

Whether you have no idea what climate change is or don’t care to believe it, here’s a sobering article about the future of bird species in California. In a September 2, 2009 article by the San Francisco Chronicle, a study was released stating the future of birds in California is uncertain due to climate change. Click here for the full article. The study is only a prediction, but that doesn’t mean what they predict can’t happen. This research, conducted by the PRBO (Point Reyes Bird Observatory) Conservation Science, basically states that bird species will either have to adapt or die. They concluded that birds communities will change. This doesn’t mean less birds in a certain community, but the composition of those birds in that community will not be like what we see today. This loss of biodiversity is really what plagues the world today in terms of climate change. We are going through another great extinction.

These are a few points the research concluded upon:

  • Birds will have to move to different habitats, they could negatively impact birds that were already in those habitats
  • As Point Reyes Peninsula gets drier and less foggy, birds such as the California thrasher, rufous-crowned sparrow, and the ash-throated flycatcher will move there. These birds will meet with new birds already on the Peninsula, such as the purple finch and the black-throated grey warbler
  • The white-crowned sparrow will decline by about 76%
  • The varied thrush will decline by about 87%
  • The yellow-billed magpie will decline by about 32%
  • Many forest dwelling birds will decline, however birds like the acorn woodpecker may increase

John Wiens makes a good argument by saying, “Birds are nature’s barometers. If birds occur in different combinations in the future, it’s likely that other organisms such as insects and plants will as well. The reshuffling of bird assemblages that we project may just be the tip of the iceberg.”

That thought is rather saddening, but it makes sense. It’s difficult to gauge many species because they aren’t visible, but you know they’re there. Birds are very conspicuous. When they disappear, warning bells should go off.

This study was only done on a small part of California, but it hopes to expand to about 300 birds that are seen in California. Hopefully, that news won’t be as depressing.

If you would like to learn more, go to the PRBO site and their Avian Data Center site.

‘Till next time – please help conserve our bird diversity!

-Pictured – the varied thrush

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