Artist and pigeon trainer Duke Riley recasts a reviled bird in a transformative light.
The audience for the aerial pigeon show at the Brooklyn Navy Yard shuffled around the edge of the East River, balancing fish sandwiches and local beer, navigating stadium seating while facing a ship docked in Wallabout Bay. Two thousand Rock Pigeons mirrored the human movement, rearranging themselves in short bursts of flight, settling in to temporary perches on top of their retrofit navy vessel, the Baylander, now crowned with nine freshly constructed coops and a baby pigeon nursery. The pigeons were staring at the humans staring at the pigeons.
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Now here’s a cause for celebration that’s both tiny in size, but huge in importance: The world’s first captive-raised Florida Grasshopper Sparrow chicks just arrived at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) in Loxahatchee, Florida.
The four baby birds are big news, mainly because there are only 150 Florida Grasshopper Sparrows remaining in the wild. In fact, the floridanus subspecies is considered one of the most endangered birds in the continental United States.
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But the Greater Sage-Grouse success doesn’t mean the ESA is obsolete—not by a long shot.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.