May
31
2016

One Small Bird Faces Off With the Lone Star State to Keep Its Protection

The Endangered Species Act is all that stands between the Golden-cheeked Warbler and extinction.

In the four decades since the Endangered Species Act (ESA) became law, it hasn’t just protected the hundreds of species that have found themselves on the Endangered Species List; it has also inspired proactive collaboration to protect species before a listing becomes necessary. Last year, when the Greater Sage-Grouse was able to remain off the list thanks to a groundbreaking joint effort by different interest groups to develop a plan to protect its habitat, it was a major victory for birds, landowners, and conservationists alike.

But the Greater Sage-Grouse success doesn’t mean the ESA is obsolete—not by a long shot.

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May
27
2016

Individual Quality Trumps Reproductive Tradeoffs in Ducks

Not all ducks are created equal. In female Wood Ducks, variation in individual quality is what matters for breeding success and survival, according to the results of a new long-term study being published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

Drawing on 11 years of data on almost 500 ducks, Robert Kennamer of the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and Gary Hepp and Bradley Alexander of Auburn University found a positive relationship between annual survival and nesting success — females that were better at raising their offspring were also better at surviving. This contradicts an established theory predicting the existence of a tradeoff between current reproductive effort and future success.

“Theory predicts that current reproductive effort will negatively affect survival and future reproduction,” says Hepp.

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May
12
2016

Antarctic Birds Recognize Individual Humans

You may have heard of crows, magpies, and mockingbirds recognizing individual people. These birds live among people, so it may be natural that they learn to differentiate people. But what about the animals that live in remote areas?

Scientists in South Korea studied brown skuas living in Antarctica and reported that these birds too recognize people who had previously accessed the nests to measure their eggs and nestlings. “I had to defend myself against the skuas’ attack,” says Yeong-Deok Han, a PhD student at Inha University. “When I was with other researchers, the birds flew over me and tried to hit me. Even when I changed my field clothes, they followed me. The birds seemed to know me no matter what I wear.”

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May
9
2016

Botulism in Waterbirds

Outbreaks of botulism killed large percentages of waterbirds inhabiting a wetland in Spain. During one season, more than 80 percent of gadwalls and black-winged stilts died. The botulinum toxin’s spread may have been abetted by an invasive species of water snail which frequently carries the toxin-producing bacterium, Clostridium botulinum, and which is well adapted to wetlands polluted by sewage. Global warming will likely increase outbreaks, said corresponding author Rafael Mateo, PhD. The research was published March 25th inApplied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Botulism is a major killer of waterbirds, including some endangered species. In earlier studies, some also published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, these investigators had found that eutrophication of some of these wetlands, due to effluent from waste water treatment plants, was encouraging growth of C. botulinum and other bacterial pathogens of birds.

In the current study, the investigators surveyed mortality among the resident waterbirds, and investigated how the bacterium is spread.

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May
3
2016

Strong Effects of Climate Change on Common Bird Populations

Scientists have shown for the first time that common bird populations are responding to climate change in a similar pronounced way in both Europe and the USA.

An international team of researchers led by Durham University, UK, found that populations of bird species expected to do well due to climate change had substantially outperformed those expected to do badly over a 30 year period from 1980 to 2010.

The research, conducted in collaboration with the RSPB and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is published in the journal Science.

It is the first real demonstration that climate is having a similar, large-scale influence on the abundance of common birds in widely separated parts of the world, the researchers said.

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April
29
2016

Researchers Document How Broadbills Make Loud Wing Song

Broadbills — birds found in some parts of Africa — produce a startlingly loud sound that they make with their wings to mark off territory. Males fly abruptly in a tight circle, landing where they began, and produce a klaxon-like sound – brreeeeet! – that they could also be using to attract females. Researchers have hypothesized that it is the outermost wing feathers that make the sound, but no studies have been conducted to verify this hypothesis.

A team of researchers led by a biologist at the University of California, Riverside has now conducted a study that shows that it is not the outermost wing feathers but the ones just inside of these feathers that make the klaxon-like sound.

Click here to see the video…

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April
27
2016

Diet Affects the Evolution of Birds

How diet has affected the evolution of the 10,000 bird species in the world is still a mystery to evolutionary biology. A study by Daniel Kissling of the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (UvA) and colleagues from the University of São Paulo and the University of Utah shows how diet preferences have influenced bird diversification over millions of years. The findings were published in Nature Communications.

Since the seminal work by Charles Darwin, it is know that dietary habits of birds can affect the evolution of species, such as the beak sizes of Galapagos finches. However, birds show an astonishing diversity of species and dietary adaptations, ranging from very small nectar-feeding hummingbirds to large carnivorous eagles. How such diverse dietary preferences ultimately lead to differences in diversification dynamics (i.e. the balance between speciation and extinction) of different birds has not yet been examined.

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April
26
2016

Marine Preserve to Help Penguins in a ‘Predictably Unpredictable’ Place

Boersma, a conservationist and professor of biology at the University of Washington, is applauding new regulations by the government of Ecuador to protect the waters around the Galapagos Islands as a marine preserve.

“It is very exciting,” said Boersma, who is a finalist for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize for her decades of penguin research and conservation efforts. “We’ve been working for years in the Galapagos, advising officials in Ecuador to protect the fish-rich waters that penguins and other species rely upon for food.”

The decree, signed March 21 by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, prohibits fishing, drilling or mining in key sections of the waters surrounding this precious archipelago — a hotspot for biodiversity made famous by Charles Darwin when he proposed natural selection as a mechanism for evolution.

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