LB6C. Stay Current—Field Trip: Predatory Bird Research Group
Staying current for Chapter 6
2022-11-28. Top-flight recovery: the inspiring comeback of the California condor. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/28/top-flight-recovery-california-condor-comeback-aoe] By Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian. Excerpt: Nearly extinct in the 1980s, an intensive programme to reverse the bird’s decline has made it a conservation success story. Despite being the largest flying bird in North America, with a wingspan of up to three metres, you would have been hard pushed to see a California condor in the wild in the 1980s. In a last-ditch effort to save the birds, after decades of persecution and population collapse, the few remaining were captured in 1987 for a multimillion-dollar intensive conservation programme. Today, there are more than 200 in the wild, and local people are already starting to notice….
2022-09-28. Half of world’s bird species in decline as destruction of avian life intensifies. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/28/nearly-half-worlds-bird-species-in-decline-as-destruction-of-avian-life-intensifies-aoe] By Phoebe Weston, The Guardian. Excerpt: Nearly half of the planet’s bird species are in decline, according to a definitive report that paints the grimmest picture yet of the destruction of avian life. The State of the World’s Birds report, which is released every four years by BirdLife International, shows that the expansion and intensification of agriculture is putting pressure on 73% of species. Logging, invasive species, exploitation of natural resources and climate breakdown are the other main threats. Globally, 49% of bird species are declining, one in eight are threatened with extinction and at least 187 species are confirmed or suspected to have gone extinct since 1500. Most of these have been endemic species living on islands, although there is an increase in birds now going extinct on larger land masses, particularly in tropical regions. In Ethiopia, for example, the conversion of grassland to farmland has caused an 80% decrease in endemic Liben larks since 2007. Just 6% of bird species globally are increasing. …The previous State of the World’s Birds report, released in 2018, found 40% of bird species worldwide in decline. Wildfires feature more prominently in this report than previous editions, having increased and ravaged previously unaffected habitats. The succession of heatwaves, droughts and floods in recent years will lead to widespread species extinctions if they continue, researchers warn, highlighting the importance of addressing the nature and climate crises at the same time.…
2022-07-21. The most distinctive birds are the ones most at risk of extinction. [https://www.science.org/content/article/most-distinctive-birds-are-ones-most-risk-extinction] By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. Excerpt: …two independent studies of birds have concluded the ones most likely to disappear are those that serve unique—and possibly irreplaceable—functions in their ecosystems. Consider the toucan: Its iconic beak lets it eat and disperse seeds and fruit too large for other birds in South American rainforests. Yet these striking creatures, as well as vultures, ibises, and others with distinctive physical traits, are likely to be the first to go extinct, homogenizing the avian world, according to one study. A second paper predicts communities will grow more alike as species flock to cooler regions in the face of climate change. “That’s alarming because we know that diversity of sizes and shapes and behaviors is a signature of a healthy community,” says Scott Edwards, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who was not involved with the work. “ …Every ecosystem depends on diverse organisms to fill a variety of roles. Among birds, for example, some eat and disperse seeds whereas others eat carrion, helping recycle remains. Special traits aid these tasks: Long, pointed beaks help vultures tear into flesh whereas long legs keep wading birds’ bodies dry. “When communities are homogenized, they lose a lot of those ecological functions,” Brodie says. …The most threatened species also turned out to be the most distinctive in body shape and ecosystem function, the group reports today in Current Biology.…
2022-04-21. How radar-powered forecasts save birds from deadly city lights. By Joshua Sokol, Science Magazine. Excerpt: The skies above North America host some 3 billion fewer birds today than in 1970, according to one 2019 analysis. The flocks have faced death by a thousand cuts, including not just light pollution, but climate change, vanishing habitat, and pesticides. Ornithologists fear each added insult could be enough to bend once-abundant bird populations toward extinction. The radar studies at the Tribute in Light helped lay the groundwork for a tool that could ease the toll: a program Farnsworth’s team calls BirdCast, which incorporates continent-scale weather radar and machine learning to forecast the exact nights when hundreds of millions of migratory birds will torrent over U.S. cities. The team then feeds those findings to conservationists and policymakers desperate to help the birds survive the journey by dimming lights along the way.… [https://www.science.org/content/article/radar-powered-forecasts-save-birds-deadly-city-lights]
2022-02-17. Nearly half of bald eagles have lead poisoning. By Tess Joosse, Science Magazine. Excerpt: …The study…surveyed eagles in 38 states, whereas previous work focused on a single region or just a handful of states. …Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were close to extinction by the 1960s thanks in part to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). The pesticide washed into waterways, contaminated the fish the eagles ate, and poisoned the birds, weakening their eggshells and killing hatchlings. After DDT was banned in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 protected bald eagle habitat, population numbers started to tick up. There are more than 300,000 bald eagles alive in the wild today. …When an eagle eats lead—usually in the form of ammunition left behind in deer and other carcasses—it shows up in the bloodstream, filters through the liver, and can build up in the bones if the bird eats enough lead throughout its lifetime. …Models comparing natural and lead-caused deaths revealed lead levels would stunt annual population growth by 3.8% in bald eagles and 0.8% in golden eagles each year, the team reports today at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes Science) and online today in Science. Watts isn’t so sure a 3.8% dip in population growth will put a meaningful dent in bald eagle recovery, because many local populations include a “buffer” group of nonbreeding adults that could swoop in and reproduce if others are lost. He says the losses are of more concern for golden eagles. …“Their populations are much more on the edge,” …. Counts from 2016 estimate about 40,000 golden eagles in the United States.… [https://www.science.org/content/article/nearly-half-bald-eagles-have-lead-poisoning]
2021-11-05. As Grinnell heals, ‘soap opera’ in the skies continues at UC Berkeley. By Gretchen Kell, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: What will become of Grinnell and Annie, UC Berkeley’s longtime peregrine falcon couple, when Grinnell — injured on Oct. 29 by rival falcons — is released from Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital? Will Annie, who remains at their nest atop the Campanile, recognize and welcome Grinnell back? Or will a new male, one of the falcons that likely attacked Grinnell and now is lurking about the tower, become her new mate? Will Grinnell ever return home? And if he does, will he battle the interloper? Will Annie team up with Grinnell for the fight?.… [https://news.berkeley.edu/2021/11/05/as-grinnell-heals-soap-opera-in-the-skies-continues-above-uc-berkeley/] See also LA Times article.
2021-09-29. Ivory-billed woodpecker officially declared extinct, along with 22 other species. Source: By Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s move underscores what scientists say is an accelerating rate of extinction worldwide, given climate change and habitat loss… …The Fish and Wildlife Service proposal Wednesday to take 23 animals and plants off the endangered species list — because none can be found in the wild— exposes what scientists say is an accelerating rate of extinction worldwide. A million plants and animals are in danger of disappearing, many within decades. The newly extinct species are the casualties of climate change and habitat destruction, dying out sooner than any new protections can save them. [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/09/29/endangered-species-ivory-billed-woodpecker/] See also The New York Times article Protected Too Late: U.S. Officials Report More Than 20 Extinctions.
2021-06-01. [https://news.berkeley.edu/2021/06/01/three-in-a-row-falcon-brothers-are-learning-to-fly/] – Three in a row: Falcon brothers are learning to fly. Source: By Gretchen Kell, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: Fauci flew first, last Thursday, fledging off UC Berkeley’s Campanile to a tree south of the bell tower, then to Stephens Hall, and on to Evans Hall. There, he was chased by crows until his mother, Annie, flew to his defense. His brother Kaknu went next, on Sunday, making a big circle out and back from the Campanile, later flying to Stephens Hall, then Evans. On Monday, Wek’-wek took his first flight, also doing a loop from the tower and eventually flying to Evans. For the next few months, all three of the campus’s newest peregrine falcons — male triplets born in April — will be in flight school, practicing takeoffs and landings, perching and, most importantly, hunting. …“Hunting training occurs when parents will first attempt mid-air prey handoffs with the chicks, which eventually graduate into dropping dead prey for the chicks to catch, simulating a hunting dive,” said Lynn Schofield, an ornithologist who co-runs the Cal Falcons program with her husband, Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Sean Peterson. “They will often fly together and will often play with and chase each other, which hones their flight skills. “Learning to hunt takes a lot of work, but is incredibly important. Many young raptors starve to death or get injured in hunts in their first year of life, so the more practice they get with their parents, the better.”…
2021-03-26. Mass Bird Die-Off Linked to Wildfires and Toxic Gases. By Joshua Rapp Learn, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: After an abnormally large number of migratory birds turned up dead in people’s backyards in Colorado and other parts of western and central U.S. states, locals began to document their observations on a crowdsourced science platform called iNaturalist. Within the app, a special project was set up specifically for this die-off, which occurred in August and September 2020, so that records of the dead birds could be compiled together. Around the same period as the birds’ deaths, more than 3 million hectares (7.8 million acres) of land burned, which resulted in habitat loss and the emission of toxic compounds that threaten the health of both avian species and humans. In addition, snowstorms struck parts of the Northwest in early September while these birds were in the midst of their annual migration. Some areas experienced temperature drops of as much as 40°C (72°F) in just a few hours. Researchers heard of this die-off event and wanted to see whether there was a link between the birds’ deaths and the other major events (wildfires and snowstorms) occurring in the United States at the time. In a new study published in GeoHealth, Yang et al. used the iNaturalist data, which included recordings of a number of migratory species such as warblers, geese, hummingbirds, swallows, flycatchers, and sparrows. …Their findings were starkly clear. “The wildfire and also the toxic air were the two factors that influenced the birds’ mortality,” said Anni Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in spatial ecology at Colorado State University and one of the study’s authors. There was a strong correlation between the observations of dead birds and wildfires and the toxic gases they produced, but not with the early winter storms…. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/mass-bird-die-off-linked-to-wildfires-and-toxic-gases]
2020-04-15. Watch Cal’s peregrine falcons live. By Berkeleyside staff. Excerpt: As we previously reported, the peregrine falcons are back atop the UC Berkeley Campanile. Last month, we had to take down this post with the streaming webcam footage as the Cal Falcon project was experiencing technical difficulties with its streaming capabilities. But, as of April 15, we’re back. …Follow the action in and near the nest, including the interactions between Annie and her mate, Grinnell, on the webcam above, one of three set up by the Cal Falcons social project…. [https://www.berkeleyside.com/2020/04/15/watch-cals-peregrine-falcons-live and https://www.berkeleyside.com/2020/04/17/uc-berkeley-peregrine-falcon-chicks-expected-to-hatch-imminently] See also https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/04/20/triplets-on-the-tower-for-berkekleys-falcons/
2019-10-08. After 50-year conservation effort, songbird flies off U.S. endangered species list. By Michael Doyle, E&E News. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/after-50-year-conservation-effort-songbird-flies-us-endangered-species-list] Excerpt: The Kirtland’s warbler has required protections for as long as there has been an Endangered Species Act (ESA), but that’s about to change. In what the Trump administration and some environmentalists are calling a regulatory and collaborative success story, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today announced it is removing the notably loudmouthed songbird from the endangered species list. “The Kirtland’s warbler has responded well to active management over the past 50 years,” FWS said. “The primary threats identified at listing and during … development of the recovery plan have been managed, and commitments are in place to continue managing the threats.” FWS cited, in particular, the work done by Michigan state and federal agencies to boost breeding habitat and combat brood parasitism by an unscrupulous competitor species….
2019-09-19. Three billion North American birds have vanished since 1970, surveys show. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/09/three-billion-north-american-birds-have-vanished-1970-surveys-show] Excerpt: North America’s birds are disappearing from the skies at a rate that’s shocking even to ornithologists. Since the 1970s, the continent has lost 3 billion birds, nearly 30% of the total, and even common birds such as sparrows and blackbirds are in decline, U.S. and Canadian researchers report this week online in Science. “It’s staggering,” says first author Ken Rosenberg, a conservation scientist at the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. The findings raise fears that some familiar species could go the way of the passenger pigeon, a species once so abundant that its extinction in the early 1900s seemed unthinkable. The results, from the most comprehensive inventory ever done of North American birds, point to ecosystems in disarray because of habitat loss and other factors that have yet to be pinned down, researchers say…. See also New York Times article, Birds Are Vanishing From North America [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/science/bird-populations-america-canada.html]
2019-06-03. The Shorebirds of Delaware Bay Are Going Hungry.By Jon Hurdle, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/science/bird-migration-horseshoe-crabs.html] Excerpt: …challenges like severe Arctic weather during breeding, or coastal development along the migration route, could lead to the bird’s extinction. Populations of other migratory shorebirds, like semipalmated sandpipers and ruddy turnstones, have also declined. The problem, conservationists say, is the overfishing of horseshoe crabs for commercial fishery bait and the harvesting of the animals for their blood, which contains an extract called L.A.L., used by the biomedical industry to detect certain bacteria. …Now, conservationists are renewing calls to halt the harvest for bait altogether, and to persuade the biomedical industry to switch to recombinant Factor C (rFC), a synthetic alternative to LAL, to ease pressure on the horseshoe crab population. …Recognizing the threat to the birds, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, an interstate regulator, banned the harvest of female horseshoe crabs for bait starting in 2013, in the hope that a recovering population of females would lay more eggs and allow the birds to rebound….
2019-04-09. How Dangerous Is It to Be a Bird in Your City? Buildings Kill Hundreds of Millions a Year. By Niraj Chokshi, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/science/birds-killed-by-buildings.html 0] Excerpt: Every year, millions of birds migrating at night, often distracted by bright city lights, die by flying into American buildings. Now a study [http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2019/04/chicago-tops-list-most-dangerous-cities-migrating-birds] shows where they may be most at risk — and how efforts to save them might be honed. Chicago, Houston and Dallas are the most dangerous cities for birds traveling at night based on their prime location along one of North America’s busiest migratory routes and the light pollution that they produce, according to the new research. “The lights will pull those birds in, they’ll circle and they’ll become disoriented,” said Kyle Horton, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the lead author of the study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Over all, scientists estimate that anywhere from 365 million to nearly a billion birds are killed in such collisions each year in the United States. And while researchers are still investigating the causes, experts believe that many can be attributed to the disorienting allure of artificial light….
2019-04-09. The Comeback of Trumpeter Swans. By Karen Weintraub, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/science/trumpeter-swans-ontario-canada.html] Excerpt: Bev Kingdon…has been part of a small coterie of volunteers who have helped restore trumpeter swans to Ontario, Canada. North America’s largest waterfowl, the trumpeter was nearly extinct in Canada and the lower 48 states for the better part of a century — brought down by the shotguns of Europeans. Now, these majestic birds are a success story. There are more than 1,000 trumpeters in Ontario that headed north last month, many to raise their next brood. Restoration projects have also been successful in the United States, in the upper Midwest states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Michigan, returning swans to at least some of the areas they inhabited before Europeans arrived in North America. The natural population in Alaska, which became a key source for the restoration efforts, also remains strong, with more than 22,000 adults counted in the last aerial survey conducted in 2015. …By 2002, Ontario’s population was self-sustaining and it has grown every year since. …Trumpeter swans are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but birds are still occasionally killed by accident or on purpose. Power line strikes and illegal shootings commonly cause premature death….
2019-02-25. 2 peregrine falcon webcams installed on UC Berkeley campus. By Anne Brice/UC Berkeley. [https://www.berkeleyside.com/2019/02/25/2-peregrine-falcon-webcams-installed-on-uc-berkeley-campus] Excerpt: Can’t get enough of the Campanile peregrine falcons? The pair that has raised its young atop Berkeley’s bell tower for the past two years — and made headlines — can now be observed 24/7 by anyone in the world. After a successful crowdfunding effort that brought in more than $14,500, UC Berkeley, working closely with state and federal agencies, has installed two cameras on the second balcony of the Campanile so people can watch the peregrines — and their chicks in the spring — all day, every day. …In spring 2017, the peregrine couple hatched its first clutch of chicks, which were named Fiat and Lux in a campus community contest. This past spring, three more were born, attracting national media attention and suggestions for names for the trio from enthusiasts all around the world. (They were named Californium, Berkelium and Lawrencium — after three elements discovered at Berkeley). During those two nesting cycles, volunteers came together to sit at the bottom of the 307-foot tower around the clock for a week, waiting for the chicks to fledge, or take their first flights. Being able to monitor the birds by camera instead of with binoculars will make their jobs a lot easier, says Malec….
2019-02-14. It can take a decade for species endangered by wildlife trade to get protection. By Alex Fox, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/02/it-can-take-decade-species-endangered-wildlife-trade-get-protection] Excerpt: In just a decade, the number of black-winged myna birds found in the species’ home range in Indonesia has declined by more than 80%. A big reason is the wild bird trade: The ravishing black and white plumage and bright, complex trills of the myna (Acridotheres melanopterus) have made it a coveted prize among collectors. Now, less than 50 remain in the wild. …Though elephants, rhinos, and tigers headline the trade in endangered wildlife, thousands of other lesser-known species are also hunted, captured, or maimed to turn a profit. To see whether species scientists consider imperiled are also getting attention from global policymakers, the researchers compared two lists. The first is an authoritative tally of 958 threatened species affected by the international wildlife trade compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland. The second is of species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the primary international agreement aimed at curbing the wildlife trade….
2018-01-31. Campanile peregrine falcons coupling up again, with a new nest box. By Anne Brice, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: or the second year in a row, two peregrine falcons are pairing up again atop the Campanile, but this year they’ll be nesting in style. Experts have installed a permanent nest box with sides, back and a roof that will protect the couple and their soon-to-be growing family from sun, wind and rain. …“In the pair-bonding period, starting near the end of December, the male does all the hunting and brings food to the female,” says Malec. “They call to each other a lot and bow to each other, touching beaks. They will perch close together and fly together.” If all goes well, the female will lay eggs between mid-February and mid-March. Once on the brink of extinction, peregrine falcons have made a remarkable comeback in the past few decades, and have begun moving from their natural cliff faces into urban areas, laying their eggs on skyscrapers and other tall buildings. The Campanile is prime real estate for peregrines, says Malec, with its great views and ample supply of pigeons to eat. Peregrines mate for life (although when one dies the other will readily take a new mate) and most pairs in the area stick around during the winter, defending their territory from other birds looking to move in on their turf…. http://news.berkeley.edu/2018/01/31/campanile-peregrine-falcons-new-nest-box/
2017-10-18. Noted falcon preservationist killed in Tubbs Fire. By Sam Whiting, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Monte Neil Kirven, a wildlife biologist credited with helping ban DDT in order to save the Peregrine Falcon, was among those killed in the Tubbs Fire. He was 81 and lived in the Mark West Springs Road area of Santa Rosa, where he died in bed, according to multiple postings on Facebook. …Along with other biologists, he collected data that revealed the role of DDT and other toxic chemicals in the problem of eggshell thinning in the falcons that was leading to their decline. This led to the banning of DDT for agricultural use in 1972. He continued his research when he went to work for the Bureau of Land Management, trekking deep into the forested areas of Northern California, where the peregrine’s had once thrived, but had dropped to 60 nesting pairs. In 1988, Chronicle staff writer Dale Champion accompanied Mr. Kirven…to a remote Mendocino cliff. “What we know is that this is one of about a dozen peregrine nesting sites in Northern California where reproduction failure is occurring apparently due to DDT,” Mr. Kirven told Champion. “The birds are laying eggs that will break before hatching.” As a remedy, they removed eggs from nests and substituted them with dummy eggs so the adult falcons wouldn’t think something was amiss. Once the chicks had hatched, they were fed by a puppet device that resembled an adult falcon. When they were strong enough, the scientists returned the chicks to their nests and removed the dummy eggs. It was tricky work getting in and out of those nests ahead of the adult falcons, being that the peregrine was known to be the fastest bird alive. But the switch worked…. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Noted-falcon-preservationist-killed-in-Tubbs-Fire-12289243.php
2017-04-13. Rare peregrine falcons claim UC Berkeley’s Campanile as temporary home. By Andrea Platten, The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley. See also: Peregrine falcons nest on UC Berkeley’s Campanile by Anne Brice, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: …At UC Berkeley, there are two new subjects for a quick game of “I spy” — a pair of rare peregrine falcons perched atop the Campanile. …Peregrine falcons are the fastest known animal on Earth — they can reach 242 mph in a dive — and exclusively eat other birds, according to Glenn Stewart, director of the UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group and an expert on peregrine falcons. …The species can be found on every continent except Antarctica. In California’s large cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, they have adapted to the built urban environment, trading cliffs for clock towers and other tall man-made structures. There are only 50 to 60 pairs in the Bay Area, Stewart estimated. It’s unclear whether the pair perched on the Campanile have laid eggs there, but peregrines have a poor track record of nesting on the tower during mating season. …PG&E has set up a livestream to monitor peregrine falcons that visit its 77 Beale St. headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Last year, three eggs hatched atop the skyscraper — Talon, Grace and Flash, whose names were suggested by a Los Gatos kindergarten class — with a little help from Stewart. But nesting on towers poses a whole new risk to the falcons. In young peregrines’ natural habitats, cliffs provide multiple opportunities for the fledglings to land — on trees, bushes or built-in shelves. Skyscrapers are more sleek and angular, so chicks often plunge hundreds of feet to their deaths when they attempt to fly, Bell said. “Their first flight is often their last flight,” he said. “You need human intervention at that point to pick it up and put it back in the nest.” …Currently, there are an estimated 300 pairs of peregrine falcons statewide — a historic high in California. But almost 50 years ago, they were nearly extinct. The usage of the pesticide DDT after World War II poisoned the falcons and thinned their eggshells…. A statewide survey found only two pairs in 1970, and the Eastern peregrine falcon temporarily went extinct east of the Mississippi River. …The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later removed the peregrine falcon from its endangered species list in 1999…. http://www.dailycal.org/2017/04/13/rare-peregrine-falcons-claim-campanile-temporary-home/
2015-10-29. Vultures nearing extinction in Africa. By Reuters. Excerpt: Carnivorous birds, which help stem spread of disease by eating carcasses that would otherwise rot, targeted by poachers. …Africa’s vultures are vanishing, according to a new report, posing a potential health risk to humans and livestock, since populations of other scavengers such as rats and jackals could rise as a result…. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/29/vultures-nearing-extinction-in-africa
2015-10-06. Bird Men—Thanks for falconers, endangered peregrines are flourishing in Midwestern cities. By Susan Cosier, OnEarth, NRDC. Excerpt: In inner-city Chicago, a motley crew has been working tirelessly to put killers back on the streets—or rather, above the streets. I speak of peregrine falcons, a bird virtually wiped out of the Midwest a half-century ago by pesticide poisoning. The crew’s efforts are paying off big time. Today, the fierce, speedy predators dive in the canyons formed by the city’s skyscrapers, their screeches reverberating off the building’s walls…. http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/peregrine-falcon-recovery-urban-illinois
2015-06-19. Researchers push to prevent a last dance for the lesser prairie chicken. By Marianne Lavelle, Science. Excerpt: …as many as 2 million lesser prairie chickens once lent crimson to the often beige landscape of the midwestern and southwestern United States. But just some 22,000 birds remain today, occupying about 16% of the species’ historic range. The birds are found in five states: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas—which holds an estimated 60% to 70% of the remaining population. The birds “are facing a tremendous number of threats,” says retired biologist Randy Rodgers, an expert on “lessers” who spent 37 years with the Kansas wildlife department. Lessers can tolerate some human disturbance, he says… “But as with many things,” Rodgers says, “a little is good. A lot is not.” Beginning in the 1950s, modern center-pivot irrigation farming became a major threat, carving crop circles into some of the lesser’s favored vegetation: sand sagebrush and shrublike sand shinnery oak. Oil and natural gas wells further fragmented the bird’s range, as have roads, power lines, wind farms, and housing developments. …It took a climate shift, however, to push the lesser prairie chicken to the brink of disaster. In 2012 and 2013, a punishing drought hit the heart of its territory. Biologists estimate the population plummeted by half, to about 18,000 birds, before rebounding by about 20% in 2014. The crash was a major reason the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided in March 2014 to formally list the bird as threatened. …a much bigger looming battle over the fate of another rangeland bird: the greater sage grouse (see “Feature: Sage grouse war tests limits of partnership in West“)…. http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2015/06/feature-researchers-push-prevent-last-dance-lesser-prairie-chicken
2015-06-19. Vulture populations plummet across Africa. By Erik Stokstad, Science. Excerpt: One of nature’s best scavengers is under serious threat in Africa, largely from poison. According to the first analysis of African vultures, populations of seven species have fallen by 80% or more over three generations. …Despite their gloomy reputation, vultures provide valuable services. Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) have been found to remove up to 22% of the waste produced in towns along the Horn of Africa. And by picking clean the carcasses of dead animals, vultures indirectly keep the numbers of feral dogs in check; that, in turn, reduces transmission rates for diseases like rabies. …The main threat appears to be poison. In most reported cases, vultures are the incidental victims of attempts by farmers to kill lions or hyenas by lacing carcasses with pesticides and other toxic compounds. But more and more frequently, vultures are being directly targeted by poachers who presumably don’t want park rangers to notice the birds circling over killed elephants or rhinos. …Vultures are also killed for use in traditional medicine. Various parts are thought to bring good luck or ward off evil spirits, whereas eyes and brains are prized for clairvoyance. Vultures are eaten in some African countries, and smoked vulture meat is trafficked internationally…. http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2015/06/vulture-populations-plummet-across-africa
2014-09-08. Climate Change Will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says. Excerpt: The Baltimore oriole will probably no longer live in Maryland, the common loon might leave Minnesota, and the trumpeter swan could be entirely gone. Those are some of the grim prospects outlined in a report released on Monday by the National Audubon Society, which found that climate change is likely to so alter the bird population of North America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed over the next 65 years. If they do not — and for several dozen it will be very difficult — they could become extinct. The four Audubon Society scientists who wrote the report projected in it that 21.4 percent of existing bird species studied will lose “more than half of the current climactic range by 2050 without the potential to make up losses by moving to other areas.” An additional 32 percent will be in the same predicament by 2080, they said. Among the most threatened species are the three-toed woodpecker, the northern hawk owl, the northern gannet, Baird’s sparrow, the rufous hummingbird and the trumpeter swan, the report said. They are among the 30 species that, by 2050, will no longer be able to live and breed in more than 90 percent of their current territory. …“Common sense will tell you that with these kinds of findings, it’s hard to believe we won’t lose some species to extinction,” said David Yarnold, the president of the National Audubon Society. “How many? We honestly don’t know. We don’t know which ones are going to prove heroically resilient.” …Drought in Southern California is blamed for a sharp drop in breeding among California raptors, perhaps because a lack of water is killing the insects and small rodents they feed on…. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/09/us/climate-change-will-disrupt-half-of-north-americas-bird-species-study-says.html. By Felicity Barringer, The New York Times.2014-04-29. Friends in high places: Peregrine falcons soar above us. Excerpt: Not long ago, Berkeleyside reader Patrick Hickey kindly sent in a photo of a beautiful bird of prey, perched on a tall building near his home in downtown Berkeley. …Rusty Scalf, teacher and trip leader for the Golden Gate Audubon Society, confirmed it: the bird was a peregrine falcon — the fastest animal on Earth. In California, not long ago, it was also one of the most endangered. …“Many of us were looking at the extinction of the peregrine in the 1970s,” said Glenn R. Stewart, director of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG) . “It really looked like they were going to be gone forever.” At that time, Stewart and other scientists could find only two pairs of peregrine falcons in California. In the eastern part of our country, peregrines were totally gone. …The pesticide DDT — widely used in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s— accumulated in the fatty tissues of peregrine falcons (and also, bald eagles), causing these birds to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke in the nest during incubation. With the banning of DDT in 1972, and decades of impassioned work by Stewart and the SCPBRG, peregrine falcons have undergone a near-miraculous recovery. Today, an estimated 250 to 300 peregrine pairs are living and nesting in California, a number that Stewart believes approximates original pre-DDT populations. “The interesting part of the peregrine’s tale is their adaptability to the urban environment,” says Shirley Doell…a peregrine volunteer — a “citizen scientist”— who ventures out at dawn nearly every morning in spring, plus some evenings, to monitor pairs of peregrines on skyscrapers, high-towered bridges, and tall industrial cranes in the East Bay. …“Most endangered species can only live in a particular niche in a particular kind of habitat,” Doell says. “But the peregrines don’t seem to mind the bustle and noise of the city, if there are tall structures and birds around for them to catch.” …In cities like Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, peregrines hunt pigeons for about 90% of their diet. …“And living in a place like downtown San Francisco, where there’s an abundance of pigeons… it’s like living on a remote island in British Colombia with an abundance of sea birds nesting. Only here, the cliffs happen to be buildings, or bridges. The food happens to be nonnative pigeons.”…. See also San Francisco nestcam and San Jose nestcam. By Elaine Miller Bond. Berkeleyside. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/04/29/friends-in-high-places-peregrine-falcons-soar-above-us/
2013-05-14. Wind farms get pass on eagle deaths. Excerpt: CONVERSE COUNTY, Wyo. (AP) – It happens about once a month here, on the barren foothills of one of America’s green-energy boomtowns: A soaring golden eagle slams into a wind farm’s spinning turbine and falls, mangled and lifeless, to the ground. Killing these iconic birds is not just an irreplaceable loss for a vulnerable species. It’s also a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines. But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret. …More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country’s wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin. …Nearly all the birds being killed are protected under federal environmental laws, which prosecutors have used to generate tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years. …By not enforcing the law [for windfarms], the administration provides little incentive for companies to build wind farms where there are fewer birds. And while companies already operating turbines are supposed to avoid killing birds, in reality there’s little they can do once the windmills are spinning. …Flying eagles behave like drivers texting on their cellphones; they don’t look up. As they scan for food, they don’t notice the industrial turbine blades until it’s too late. …The golden eagle population in the West, prior to the wind energy boom, was declining so much that the government’s conservation goal in 2009 was not to allow the eagle population to decrease by a single bird. …In its defense, the wind-energy industry points out that more eagles are killed each year by cars, electrocutions and poisoning than by turbines. …The Interior Department recently approved construction of the nation’s largest wind farm in Wyoming, with what would be 1,000 turbines. The federal government predicts that project, which was analyzed because it was on federal land, would kill 46 to 64 eagles each year. At a different facility, Duke Energy’s Top of the World wind farm, a 17,000-acre site with 110 turbines located about 35 miles east of Casper, 10 eagles have been killed in the first two years of operation. It is the deadliest of Duke’s 15 wind power plants for eagles…. http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=WhxcFpkn. Dina Cappiello, AP.
2011 May 24. Getting Wise to the Owl, a Charismatic Sentry in Climate Change. By Jim Robbins, The NY Times.Excerpt: …As [owl researcher Denver Holt] prepares for his 20th field season in the Arctic, he says that the snowy owl has a role to play in understanding ecological changes in one of the fastest changing places in the world. “When lemmings are doing well, everything is doing well — eider ducks, sandhill cranes, arctic fox and weasels,” Mr. Holt said. “If climate change results in habitat changes and it affects the lemmings, it will show up in the snowy owls because 90 percent of their diet is lemmings. The owls are the key to everything else.”…
…Long-term studies are rare, Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick said, but valuable. “Long-term studies allow us to understand how organisms deal with variations in nature through time,” he said. “One extreme year in 10 can drive the system, and so long-term data gives us context. But it takes a lot of patience and endurance to keep a study going that long.”
2010 Nov 16. New Hurdle for California Condors May Be DDT From Years Ago. By John Moir, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Could DDT — the deadly pesticide that has been banned in the United States since 1972 — produce condor reproductive problems nearly four decades later?
…Mr. Burnett says that preliminary results from [Ventana Wildlife Society’s] study suggest that the Big Sur eggs are “substantially thinner” than those from the inland birds, and that early indicators point to DDT as the principal cause of the thinning…
…Concerns about condors and DDT have prompted the Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate a new one-year project to study how marine mammals might be carrying Montrose DDT up the California coast…
2010 October 25. Serving Up Feathered Bait to Attract Ecosystem Data. By Sandra J. Blakeslee, The New York Times. Excerpt:…Hawks today face many threats… which makes the need to count and band them more important than ever.
…As more giant wind farms are erected, an increasing number of hawks are slashed and killed by turbine blades. Oil and gas exploration is fragmenting many hawk habitats. Urban-suburban growth, pesticides, herbicides, electricity lines and climate change are other stressors…
The only way to understand what is happening to hawks is to collect data over many decades, banding as many birds as can be captured… [and] the only way to catch hawks is to use live birds as lures…
2010 June 4. Pelicans, Back from Brink of Extinction, Face Oil Threat. By John Collins Rudolf and Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt:
…But on Thursday, 29 of the birds, their feathers so coated in thick brown sludge that their natural white and gray markings were totally obscured, were airlifted to a bird rehabilitation center in Fort Jackson, the latest victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Another dozen were taken to other rescue centers.
….“The pelicans are in dire trouble,” said Doug Inkely, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, who worried that the oil spill could put an end to the bird’s recovery in Louisiana.
…Last year, the birds were officially taken off the endangered species list. But the oil spill, experts said, could change that. Like all birds, pelicans are very sensitive to oil, said Melanie Driscoll, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society’s Louisiana Coastal Initiative. It prevents them from regulating their body temperature when it gets on their feathers, she said, and in Louisiana the pelicans are subject to overheating. The oil can also poison the fish the pelicans feed on and seep through the shells of pelican eggs, killing the embryos.
…Most of the birds were so thoroughly coated in crude that they could not stand up. Some were stuck to the floor of their cages. Workers wiped off thick globs of oil with towels, then gave them fluids and fed them a fish slurry.
2008 June 4. 7 Condors Poisoned by Lead; One Dies. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Excerpt: LOS ANGELES (AP) – Seven endangered California condors, about 20 percent of the population in Southern California, have been found to have lead poisoning.
The birds started turning up sick about a month ago during random trappings at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley.
One of the birds died during treatment at the Los Angeles Zoo, and six others are still being treated there.
Officials do not yet know the source of the contamination, but a United States Fish and Wildlife Service official said the birds had probably been poisoned by eating the carcasses of animals shot by hunters.
…The California condor nearly became extinct in the 1980s, but a trapping and breeding program has helped restore the species. There are about… 200 in the wild over all.
Experts believe that lead poisoning is a major factor in preventing the species’ recovery.
Under a ban that takes effect July 1, it will be illegal for California hunters to possess or fire lead ammunition when they are in the birds’ habitat.
12 November 2007. Md. Scientists Monitor Saw – Whet Owls. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: BOONSBORO, Md. (AP) — The high-pitched, staccato mating call of a northern saw-whet owl pierces the night and lures birds into a gossamer net that researchers have strung along the Appalachian Trail.
The owls — fluffy, brown-and-white raptors about the size of a human fist — are weighed, measured, banded and released to help scientists learn more about their migration patterns.
By Thanksgiving, the Department of Natural Resources hopes to have banded and released more than 1,000 saw-whet owls captured while flying from the northern United States and Canada to southern destinations including western Maryland and West Virginia.
…”Three a.m. to dawn, we can get slammed,” said David F. Brinker a DNR ecologist and founder of Project Owlnet….
”This is a species that for many years people thought was rare, but it was rarely seen,” Brinker said.
In the fall, many northern saw-whet owls migrate hundreds of miles south while others stay within their breeding ranges — patterns that are well documented in some areas but still poorly understood, according to Project Owlnet.
Every four years, an ”irruption,” or sudden population increase, provides opportunities for studying the owls at dozens of banding stations. Brinker said the numbered leg bands include instructions on how to report an owl found dead or alive.
The saw-whet owl is named for its distinctive alarm call, which sounds like the whetting of a saw blade….
8 October 2007. Conservationists Work to Save Sea Bird. By ANNIE HUANG, The Associated Press
Excerpt: TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwanese and mainland Chinese conservationists are joining hands to save an endangered sea bird from extinction by urging fishermen to stop collecting and eating the birds’ eggs, a Taiwanese birdwatcher said Monday.
The Chinese crested tern — white with a black-and-white crest — migrates to eastern Chinese coasts between May and September, Taiwanese conservationists say. It’s thought the birds fly there to escape the heat in South Asia, although they have not been seen outside of China or Taiwan.
…Taiwanese have stopped eating sea birds’ eggs in recent years, but Chinese fishermen often sneak onto Matsu to collect the eggs, which are prized as a delicacy in parts of China, said Chang Shou-hua, head of the Matsu Birdwatching Society.
…A Chinese survey conducted over recent successive breeding seasons found that the number of crested terns had fallen to 50 birds, about half the population found three years ago, according to Birdlife International, a conservation group based in Cambridge, England. The group warns that the crested tern could become extinct in five years if protection efforts are not stepped up.
21 August 2007. Birds Band Together to Raise Offspring in Dire Times. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt: While the verdict may be out on the human race in this regard, African starlings are a different matter. Some starling species exhibit remarkable cooperative behavior, and a new study shows one factor that has influenced its evolution: climate uncertainty.
The behavior is cooperative breeding, in which some individuals delay their own breeding to help raise the offspring of others, who may or may not be relatives. Among the 45 African starling species, some breed cooperatively and some do not.
Dustin R. Rubenstein, now at the University of California, Berkeley, and Irby J. Lovette of Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology undertook a genetic analysis of all 45 species and used it to build a family tree showing evolutionary patterns. Then they used rainfall data, in some cases going back more than 140 years, from across Africa to determine how predictable the weather is in various starling habitats. …Cooperation would be expected to confer an evolutionary advantage, because in very dry years, when food and other resources are scarce, it helps ensure that more offspring survive.
28 June 2007. Bald Eagles, Thriving, Settle into Suburban Life. The New York Times. By Felicity Barringer. Excerpt: OCALA, Fla.— Bald eagles, whose numbers dwindled to historic lows in the early 1960s, are again flourishing and no longer need the protections of the Endangered Species Act, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced Thursday.
Here in Florida, bald eagles have thrived for a decade, multiplying to a statewide population of 1,150 breeding pairs and giving this state, with Minnesota, bragging rights as the top eagle haven in the country. … They can be found nesting in cellphone towers and raising chicks near landfills and airport runways, along highways and high up in the pine trees of the state’s upscale developments. … The only thing required of residents — in return for feeling that they are living in a National Geographic special — is a willingness to tolerate the odd fish skeleton on the lawn, or the occasional white pile on the drive. …
In Florida, home to about 12 percent of all eagles in the lower 48 states, the question is no longer whether these birds can cope with development and commotion, but how much is too much? … Biologists, after recovering from the initial shock of finding eagles in the suburbs, have documented in a six-year study that suburban birds breed as well as their rural counterparts. But the young birds have slightly higher mortality, thanks to ill-timed meals of roadkill or too-comfortable seats on power lines. …
Property-rights advocates have argued in court that restrictions on the use of eagle-occupied land should be loosened; conservationists have countered that eagles still need buffers against the hubbub of humanity. …
This month, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intention to continue to prohibit activities — like running a bulldozer — that are likely to make eagles abandon their nests or interrupt their normal activities. …
29 May 2007. Bald Eagle Nest in Philadelphia Fails. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A bald eagle nest at the old Philadelphia Navy Yard has failed, but birdwatchers are holding out hope that the first pair of bald eagles spotted in the city in more than 200 years will nest again next year. After the nest was spotted in February, state officials began keeping a close eye on the eagles in hopes that they would breed. But birdwatchers and state officials say the eagles haven’t been spotted since April. ”We believe it is failed and that the birds are gone,” said Debbie Beer, a birder who spotted the eagles in February and has been helping the state to monitor them. ”I’m hoping that they come back next year and nest again.” …Dan Brauning, wildlife diversity supervisor for the state Game Commission, said the birds could still be nearby. ”I would not expect them to abandon that area,” he said. State officials estimate that 20 percent to 30 percent of bald eagle nests fail each year in Pennsylvania. Last year, state officials said they had confirmed more than 100 bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania for the first time in more than a century….The birds are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, meaning nearby development plans could be altered, delayed or even halted. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to delist the eagle next month because of how well it has rebounded. Such a move could ease the restrictions on development near bald eagle nests.
29 May 2007. U.S. to Study Protection for Alaska Loon. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for a rare loon that breeds in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve has been accepted for review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservationists hope an eventual listing of the yellow-billed loon will curb petroleum development in the 23-million acre reserve that covers much of Alaska’s western North Slope. The petition was filed three years ago by the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Resource Defense Council, Pacific Environment and other U.S. and Russian scientific and conservation organizations. …The yellow-billed loon breeds in tundra wetlands in Alaska, Canada and Russia, and winters along the west coasts of Canada and the United States. Petroleum development through leasing ordered by President Bush could reduce its numbers, said Brendan Cummings, ocean program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. ”The yellow-billed loon is one of the rarest and most vulnerable birds in the United States, yet the Bush administration’s plan to ‘protect’ it is to approve oil drilling in its habitat,” Cummings said. The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are 16,500 yellow-billed loons in the world, including 3,700 to 4,900 that breed in Alaska. More than 75 percent of the Alaska breeders nest in the petroleum reserve. …According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, yellow-billed loons nest exclusively in coastal and low-lying Arctic tundra, always near permanent, fish-bearing lakes. The large-bodied birds have low reproductive success and depend on high annual adult survival to maintain population levels. Individual birds must live many years before they can reliably replace themselves with offspring that survive long enough to breed, according to the agency. …Yellow-billed loons do not recover easily from population declines, are susceptible to disturbance and may be vulnerable to habitat loss, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
12 March 2007. Groups: Development Threatens Waterbird. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Worldwide efforts to protect endangered waterbirds are falling short as industrial and urban development eat away at their habitats, and hunting and pollution take their toll, according to a book released Monday. ”Despite global conservation efforts, waterbirds are being sidelined by economic development,” according to three groups that edited ”Waterbirds Around the World,” which includes data covering 162 countries and 614 species. In January, a global survey called the Waterbird Population Estimate found that 44 percent of the world’s 900 waterbird species numbers have fallen in the past five years, while 34 percent were stable, and 17 percent were rising. In the last such survey in 2002, 41 percent of waterbird populations worldwide were found to be decreasing. …a ”shocking example” in South Korea where a land claim project on the shores of the Yellow Sea completed in April 2006 destroyed 155 square miles of intertidal mudflats that were a key wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds in Asia, including the endangered spoonbilled sandpiper and Nordmanns greenshank….
3 February 2007. Alabama’s Bald Eagle Population Booming. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — After 15 years of checking bald eagle nests from small planes, there are now an estimated 100 nesting pairs, up from 77 the previous year and 10 times the state’s recovery goal under the Endangered Species Act. With the nest-to-nest status check by plane ending last year, the state now will start watching over a few dozen nests to monitor the eagles’ health. ”It’s getting to be a little costly for airplane time,” said Keith Hudson, the state biologist chiefly responsible for tracking the eagle’s progress in Alabama. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to remove the bird from the Endangered Species List in June, saying the eagle only needs monitoring now that it has successfully repopulated the lower 48 states. The population increased from 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to more than 8,500…..
14 November 2006. Climate Change Pushing Bird Species to Oblivion. Excerpt: NAIROBI, Kenya, Environment News Service (ENS) – Birds are suffering the escalating effects of climate change in every part of the planet, finds a new report released today by the global conservation group [World Wildlife Fund] WWF at the United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi. The report reveals a trend towards a major bird extinction due to global warming. The researchers found declines of up to 90 percent in some bird populations, as well as total and unprecedented reproductive failure in others. They estimate that bird extinction rates could be as high as 38 percent in Europe, and 72 percent in northeastern Australia, if global warming exceeds two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – currently it is 0.8¼C above those levels. “Robust scientific evidence shows that climate change is now affecting birds’ behavior,” said Dr. Karl Mallon, scientific director at Climate Risk Pty. Ltd of Sydney, Australia, authors of the report. …”We are seeing migratory birds failing to migrate, and climate change pushing increasing numbers of birds out of synchrony with key elements of their ecosystems,” Mallon said. The report, “Bird Species and Climate Change: The Global Status Report,” reviews more than 200 scientific articles on birds in every continent to build up a global picture of climate change impacts. “Birds have long been used as indicators of environmental change, and with this report we see they are the quintessential ‘canaries in the coal mine’ when it comes to climate change,” said Hans Verolme, director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Program. The report identifies groups of birds at high risk from climate change – migratory, mountain, island, and wetland birds, Arctic and Antarctic birds, and seabirds. …Download the full report, “Bird Species and Climate Change: The Global Status Report” [75 pages], or a summary at: http://www.panda.org/climate/birds
29 August 2006. Trying to Export the Success of a Maine Seabird Program. The New York Times. EASTERN EGG ROCK, Me. – On a summer day, this treeless seven-acre island at the seaward edge of Muscongus Bay attracts visitors from around the world. The arctic terns screeching overhead wintered in Antarctica, the puffins flying in out of the fog with herring stacked crosswise in their colorful bills came here to nest from waters well offshore, and the seabird biologist Lei Cao traveled more than 6,000 miles from China to work and learn here. In the last few years, biologists from developing countries have joined the seabirds that summer on Maine’s islands to learn the techniques that Project Puffin of the National Audubon Society has used to bring seabirds back to Maine. …The colony that is the focus of her research here has an estimated 35,500 breeding pairs of these tree-nesting, diving seabirds. In 2005, Dr. Cao also helped organize a survey of water birds along the lower Yangtze River floodplain, from Three Gorges Dam to Shanghai, important wintering grounds for more than a half-million swans, ducks and geese. …Stephen W. Kress began an experiment that has brought back puffins and terns to this and other Maine islands. He said his work was based on restoring the nesting habitat and controlling predators, especially the large gulls that had taken over since other seabirds were hunted out 100 years earlier. His team relocated puffin chicks from thriving colonies in Newfoundland to specially constructed burrows here and fed them by hand. They used decoys and recorded calls to lure puffins and terns to the nesting grounds. And they staffed the island each breeding season to ensure that the large gulls, which do not like to nest around people, would not return.
Eastern Egg Rock now has 70 pairs of breeding puffins. …Imperiled seabirds worldwide have benefited from the restoration techniques pioneered in Maine, Dr. Kress said. Biologists have used decoys to establish new breeding grounds for the critically endangered short-tailed albatross on the Japanese island of Torishima (the primary colony there is threatened by eruptions from an active volcano) and have used recorded calls to encourage cahows (Bermuda petrels) to nest on higher ground as their nesting islands disintegrate. …Jo Hiscock, who spent the summers of 2004 and 2005 with Project Puffin, is working for the New Zealand Department of Conservation protecting Chatham Island taiko petrels from predators; once thought to be extinct, fewer than 150 of the birds remain….
3 May 2005. Found in Arkansas: Hope on Wings. By JAMES GORMAN. NY Times. …On Thursday, the day that scientists announced the first confirmed sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker in 60 years, I went for a short paddle in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, where the bird was seen. I was with four other people, two from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which had made a major effort to confirm the sighting, and two from the Nature Conservancy, which has been buying land in the area. …The common wisdom had been that the ivory bill was gone for good, not a bird anymore but a symbol, a reminder of loss. It once lived in southern swamps and bottom land and depended on large areas of old forest, since it needed dead trees for nesting and for feeding on grubs and beetles beneath the bark. Logging squeezed out the ivory bill, turning it into an accusatory ghost. …It was the biggest of its kind, something Americans always love. It had a 30-inch wingspan and a jackhammer beak. Audubon called it the “great chieftain of the woodpecker tribe” and others called it the Lord God bird because when people saw it, they said, “Lord God!” But it was gone, one of the natural treasures that a growing country stepped on and broke. …Tim Gallagher, who wrote “The Grail Bird” about the search and the sighting of the ivory bill, said that Bobby Harrison, his partner on the search, wept when he saw the bird fly in front of his canoe. I know of at least one person with no connection to the search who wept on reading the news, and I’m sure he was not alone. Why was the discovery so powerful? I think it is the reason for the bird’s survival. It wasn’t a miracle. It wasn’t luck. And it wasn’t simply the resilience of nature, although that helped. The reason for the astonishing re-emergence of a mysterious bird is as mundane as can be. It is habitat preservation, achieved by hard, tedious work, like lobbying, legislating and fund-raising. …Think about where the bird was found, in a national wildlife refuge, and in an area, the Big Woods of Arkansas, that conservation organizations and government agencies had targeted as crucial for preservation. Just south of the Cache River refuge is the White River National Wildlife Refuge. State refuges are nearby. And the Nature Conservancy has been buying up land in that area. …I think the reason the discovery is so moving is that so many people worked so hard to save and protect land, telling themselves there may be an ivory bill out there, and that protecting the bottomland had to be important. I’m not sure they all believed it, but they acted as if they did. …It is possible that this is the last ivory bill, that it won’t appear again. See also information at the Nature Conservancy.
For Falcons as for People, Life in the Big City Has Its Risks as Well as Its Rewards – By Melissa Sanford. As falcons teach their fledglings to fly in Temple Square, the most popular tourist site in Salt Lake City, a cadre of human volunteers act as a safety net.
May 2004. Altamont Pass is the most lethal wind farm in N. America for raptors. Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) kill more birds of prey than any other wind facility in North America.