Image: orphaned image [larger size].
People Hurting Birds
A new study, based on the use of “climate envelope modelling”, predicts that without vigorous and immediate action against climate change, the potential future distribution of the average European bird species will shift by nearly 550 km to the northeast by the end of this century, will reduce their range size by a fifth and overlap their current range by only 40 per cent. Alarmingly, the atlas shows that three quarters of all Europe’s nesting bird species are likely to suffer declines in range. Arctic and subArctic birds and some Iberian species are projected to suffer the greatest potential range loss. Projected changes for some species found only in Europe, or with only small populations elsewhere, suggest that climate change could set some species on a path to extinction.
People Helping Birds
Several parrots who had been released into the rural area near Yacolt, Washington now have their very own custom-built, 30-foot-high nesting platform. Joy Tindall spearheaded the project to get the parrots off a utility pole transformer platform that was dangerous for them to live on. “They have been really happy — watching us all day,” Tindall said, pointing to the platform next to her back yard.
Nepal will open its first vulture breeding center to try to save the birds from extinction, according to a leading conservation group. Of the eight species of vultures found in Nepal, the white-rumped and slender-billed vultures are categorized as critically endangered. The numbers of both species have plunged in Nepal and India and scientists say the decline is largely due to farmers dosing their cattle with diclofenac, a drug used to treat inflammation, which also poisons the scavenging birds. Conservationists estimate the number of vultures in Nepal to have dropped to about 500 nesting pairs from 50,000 in 1990, primarily from eating dead cattle treated with diclofenac.
Firefighters in the Australia’s Fitzgerald River National Park will continue back-burning this morning in an effort to contain a blaze before a forecast change in wind direction around midday. Emergency services say the wind will test containment lines they have set up since the fire was sparked by lightning. Crews have faced major problems with parts of the park being inaccessible and trying to protect two species of rare native animals, the Ground Parrot and Dibblers.
Rare Bird News
The Critically Endangered Laysan Duck, Anas laysanensis, had a very successful 2007 breeding season according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. The year’s total of adults and fledglings on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) has now risen to about 200 individuals. This is only the third year since this species was translocated. In 2004 and 2005, 42 individuals made a 750-mile voyage across the Pacific and were released at Midway Atoll NWR, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to increase the species’s geographic distribution and reduce its risk of extinction. With the translocated population more than quadrupling in only three years, researchers are now optimistic that the project will help promote the conservation of this Critically Endangered species.
Avian Diseases and Zoonotics News
PetSmart has suspended bird sales in more than 700 stores after some tested positive for a bacterial infection, Chlamydia psittaci, that could spread to humans. Random tests have shown some cockatiels tested positive for parrot fever, which can be passed to humans. The condition is treatable, and most birds recover.
Botulism has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of wild birds along Lake Michigan. The sugar-white sand, long buried in the crushed gray shells of invasive mussels and mats of rotting algae was suddenly littered with dead birds. “It was almost like a war zone of birds,” said Rentrop, a Michigan lawyer who recalled his November stroll along a Michigan beach. Rentrop counted 80 carcasses on a remote mile of beach near Cross Village, just a fraction of the estimated thousands of dead mergansers, gulls, loons and other birds whose migration last autumn ended in deadly poisoning from Type E botulism on Lake Michigan.
Avian cholera, a deadly disease to waterfowl that occurs during the winter months, is causing dieoffs at Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley national wildlife refuges. Avian cholera is lethal to waterfowl and other birds, but does not affect humans. “We’ve got boats out today, and so far there have been about 3,000 dead birds collected,” said biologist Mike Wolder at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex near Willows. “The disease strikes every year during cold spells and fog. ”
An avian reovirus was detected two weeks ago when an alarming wintertime infection worked its way through crows’ roosts in NY state, but the pathogen appears to have done more damage than initially suspected. State wildlife pathologist Ward Stone, who has been leading a scientific investigation of the die-off, said the number of dead crows has reached into the “low thousands.” At the beginning of his probe, he estimated that several hundred crows had succumbed to the infection. When warmer temperatures melted snow in many upstate communities last week, even more dead birds were found. “There were more dead birds out there and more are being sent in,” he said, referring to citizens who are finding dead crows in their yards and sending them to Stone’s laboratory for study.
A research report published last week says that the factors governing whether H5N1 avian influenza viruses can invade human cells are more complex than previously thought and have to do with the particular shape of the cell-surface sugar molecules to which viruses attach. The new study suggests that the virus has an affinity for a particular topology, or shape, of receptor in the human upper respiratory tract.
Thailand will host an international conference from Jan. 23-25 on avian influenza aimed at finding the best solution to dealing with and preventing outbreaks of the bird flu virus. About 400 scientists and health experts from 40 countries will attend the conference, at which more than 140 research programs and studies will be addressed.
The Indonesian island of Bali will host the Sixth International Bird Flu (Avian Influenza/AI) Summit from March 27 to 28, 2008. Top leaders and key decision-makers of major companies representing a broad range of industries will meet with noted scientists, public health officials, law enforcers, and other experts to discuss pandemic prevention, preparedness, responses and recovery of bird flu at the summit, according to a press statement issued by the Summit’s organizing committee, the US-based New Fields Exhibitions, Inc.
On BirdNote, for the week of 21 January 2008: Monday, does the early bird really fare the best?; Tuesday, how feathers insulate; Wednesday, John Burroughs, naturalist and writer; Thursday, more about John Burroughs; Friday, how the robin got its name. BirdNotes can be heard live, Monday through Friday, 8:58-9:00am in Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia, Canada, on KPLU radio and now also in North Central Washington state on KOHO radio. All episodes are available in the BirdNote archives, both in written transcript and mp3 formats, along with photographs, so you can listen to them anytime, anywhere. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [rss].
A New York City Council resolution on whether and how to feed the city’s pigeons has engendered debate, recrimination, protest — and now, possibly, pre-approved feeding areas for the birds, whom defenders laud as noble, and detractors deride as “rats with wings.” [NPR; streaming 3:58]
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Miscellaneous Bird News
At first glance the winter woods may seem brown and lifeless, but a closer examination will reveal a surprising number of still-green broadleafed plants from trees to vines to forbs. This Week at Hilton Pond the naturalists offer a photo essay about these overlooked native evergreens. As always they include a list of birds banded and recaptured during the week, as well as miscellaneous nature notes, a photo of Rufous Hummingbird they just banded in Columbus NC, and a few words of wisdom from Kermit the Frog.
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The Fine Print: Thanks to Caren, Bill, Ellen, Jeremy and Ron for sending story links. Thanks in advance to Ian for catching my typos; as you probably know by now, I put a few typographical errors in these documents just so Ian can find them!