Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Birds in the News 159

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Black-throated Sparrow, Amphispiza bilineata, in Chaco Canyon.

Image: Dave Rintoul, June 2008 [larger view].


Birds in Science

This is a link to a fascinating slide show that documents 9 links in the dinosaur-to-bird transition — plenty of strong evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs! GrrlScientist comment: “link” number four is very dubious, though, and I am surprised they even used it in their story.

People Hurting Birds

Both engines of the US Airways flight that crash-landed in the Hudson River last month contained bird remains, the federal agency investigating that crash said recently. The Airbus A320′s left engine, which was recovered from the Hudson’s floor on Jan. 23, and the right engine, which remained attached to the fuselage, were both confirmed to have bird remains, the National Transportation Safety Board said in an update of its investigation into the Jan. 15 ditching of the jet off Manhattan’s West Side. Tissue found inside the CFM56-5B engines, made by CFM International, which is owned by GE-Aviation, will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution for DNA testing to determine the type of bird. The jet is believed to have encountered a flock of Canada geese.

People Helping Birds

For the past two years, a mating pair of peregrine falcons, the fastest animals in the world, have spied prey from on the span that carries Route 7 over the Hudson River between Troy and Maplewood in New York. Recently the precarious perch on the busy bridge was turned into a pair of luxury condos through the cooperative efforts of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the NY state Department Transportation. A DOT crew deployed a “snooper” arm from a truck to install the custom-built nesting boxes atop bridge piers with footings on Center Island in Green Island.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge welcomed the birth of two Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures earlier this month. They are the first hatchings of this threatened species at Walt Disney World Resort. Each chick weighed less than six ounces and was about eight inches long when hatched. This article is very interesting and includes a picture of one of the chicks — very cute!

The crew of the Albatross Task Force last week took a brief break from their work on the high seas to attend the Task Force’s first ever workshop. Delegates from the Task Force countries (South Africa, Namibia, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile) visited the Chilean fishing port of Coquimbo. “We are very proud that in a very short time, the Albatross Task Force has become globally recognized by conservationists and fisheries as a highly effective body finding ways to stop the needless deaths of albatrosses and petrels,” said Dr Ben Sullivan, BirdLife Global Seabird Program Coordinator who developed the Task Force.

Qatar is busy working on an ambitious project to protect endangered bird species in the country. The initiative, proposed to be launched with the support of potential donors, will be titled “A bird for each habitat”. The newly-launched Qatar Bird Project (QBP), functioning under the Friends of Environment Centre (FEC), is behind the new initiative. A panel of experts is giving final touches to the proposal, said Dr Elsadig Bashir, Director, QBP. Dr Bashir said at least 25 different local birds have been identified in Qatar. This is in addition to an estimated 114 migratory birds that cross the country every year. “Each season, we will select one bird and it would be celebrated during the whole year. The program will also cover the migratory birds,” he said.

Endangered Bird News

A team of veterinarians and animal care experts from Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently performed health assessments on two flocks of juvenile whooping cranes that migrated from Wisconsin to Central Florida. The health assessments were performed after the 14 cranes completed a three-month, 1200-mile guided journey to their winter homes at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Homosassa Springs and St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee.

A miraculous find by kakapo ranger Chris Birmingham boosts the critically endangered endemic parrot population to 91 and potentially adds important genetic diversity. The flightless nocturnal bird was one of four male kakapo released on the 1400ha conservation sanctuary, near Stewart Island, New Zealand, in 1987 without a transmitter. He had not been seen since. Birmingham said he was surprised to hear a male booming, its unique resonant mating call, near South Bay, where no kakapo had been detected before.

A captive breeding program in Tasmania, Australia, is trying to increase the number of orange-bellied parrots released into the wild as the population falls to just 100. The bird is verging on extinction and re-release survival rates are low. In the Tasmanian aviaries there are 55 birds and 25 chicks. For the project officer of the breeding program, Mark Holdsworth, it is worth the work to help the species. “We know that we can breed these birds successfully in captivity and maintain a captive population indefinitely, we’re pretty sure of that,” he said. Senior keeper Jocelyn Hockley is hand-rearing the chicks before release. “In six months’ time we’re going to be releasing them back into the wild and that’s a really great feeling,” she said. GrrlScientist comment: I would like to know what they are doing to help improve these young birds’ chances of surviving in the wild .. or are they simply in the business of producing expensive hawk food?

2 February was the 300 year anniversary of Alexander Selkirk’s rescue from the island of Más a Tierra (also known as Robinson Crusoe island) in the Juan Fernández archipelago. Situated 700 kilometers off the coast of Chile, Selkirk spent four years and four months marooned on the island, surviving by killing and eating goats that had been introduced by earlier passing sailors. The same goat population that sustained Selkirk during his time as a castaway (and other introduced species) has wreaked untold damage to the fragile ecosystems of these islands. The archipelago is home to three endemic bird species, making the Juan Fernández islands one of only 221 endemic bird areas in the world. Two of these species, the Juan Fernández Firecrown, Sephanoides fernandensis, a flaming red hummingbird, and the Masafuera Rayadito, Aphrastura masafuerae, are classified as Critically Endangered, the highest threat category. This puts them on the brink of extinction and unless conservation measures are implemented quickly, their fate may be rather different to that of Alexander Selkirk.

Avian Influenza News

The strain of avian influenza found on a British Columbia turkey farm last week is a low pathogenic type that does not cross easily from birds to humans, according to new test results released by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on Tuesday. The tests, conducted by the National Center for Foreign Animal Diseases in Winnipeg, found the H5 avian influenza virus detected on the E & H farm in Abbotsford was the H5N2 strain. There was no evidence to date that this strain poses any significant risk to human health, the agency said.

H5N1 Avian Influenza has been identified in domestic poultry in Hong Kong and Vietnam and in humans in Egypt.

Streaming Birds

On BirdNote, for the week of 8 February 2009. BirdNotes can be heard seven mornings per week at 8:58-9:00am throughout Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia, Canada, on KPLU radio in Seattle, KOHO radio in Wenatchee, WA, WNPR radio in Connecticut, KWMR radio in West Marin, California, KTOO radio in Juneau, Alaska, and KMBH radio in Harlingen, Texas. 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. [Podcast and rss]. If you would like to $upport BirdNote, I encourage you to purchase one of their wonderful “birdy” items from their online BirdNote Store. They sent a calendar to me and it’s beautiful (especially the January bird, which is a gorgeous cedar waxwing).

Bird Publications News

Would you like an avian anatomy book — free? If so, you can download one, two or all three books as PDFs. Note that each book must be uploaded to someone’s computer at least once every 90 days, or the file will be automatically deleted by RapidShare, so please share this link with your friends. [NOTE: There might be a waiting period between downloads]

The Anatomical Atlas of Gallus by Mikio Yasuda is the English edition of the Japanese book published by the University of Tokyo in 2002. This download was scanned from a library book and has been reduced to 80% of its full size so two scanned pages will appear per standard computer screen [228 scanned pages (446 pages total), 46 MB; PDF link through RapidShare].

A Colour Atlas of Avian Anatomy by J. McLelland with a forward by Julian Baumel and published in English by Wolfe Publishing (Aylesbury, England) in 1990 [127 pages, 28 MB; PDF link through RapidShare]. This download consists of PDF sections that can be read in their entirety only if you page through the book page-by-page using the toolbar.

Julian Baumel’s celebrated Handbook of Avian Anatomy: Nomina Anatomica Avium, 2nd Edition, published in 1993 by the Nuttal Ornithological Club. This book is the definitive avian anatomy book that scientific papers cite, compare and contrast their findings to, so even if you don’t use this as your primary anatomy book, you will need this to publish your findings, and to properly understand other scientists’ papers. [409 scanned pages (779 pages total), 49 MB; PDF link through RapidShare].

While you are at RapidShare, you can also pick up a free book about the Endemic Birds of Sri Lanka [PDF link through RapidShare].

Here’s the latest edition of Ian Paulsen’s Birdbooker Report for you to enjoy. While this report does list books for sale from a variety of genres, it got it’s start by listing newly published bird books, as its name implies.

Bird Identification Quizzes

If you are interested to participate in a daily online discussion of bird identification, please go to the Mystery Birds archive. It is updated daily, and you are given 48 hours to identify each bird before its identification and an analysis is published. You are also invited to check out the previous Mystery Birds to improve your birding skills, many of which have an accompanying analysis, written by Rick Wright, for identifying that particular species.

Miscellaneous Bird News

I am so sad to inform you that the famous British ornithologist, David Snow, died Wednesday, 4 February 2009, at the age of 84. The link provides more information.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society are looking for birdwatchers to join in the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. This event, from February 13-16, asks people across the United States to step into their backyards and write down what types of birds they see. No experience necessary. “Birds are everywhere, but scientists are not,” said Pat Leonard with the GBBC. “There is no other way to collect this much observational data in a short period of time over such a large area. We need the eyes of bird watchers everywhere.” Would you like to be a “media ambassador” for the Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count? Here is more information and a list of other media ambassadors for communities all around the United States and here is a online media ambassador form to fill out if you are interested.

An Australian traveller was caught with two live pigeons stuffed down his trousers following a trip to the Middle East, customs officers said recently. The 23-year-old man was searched after authorities discovered two eggs in a vitamin container in his luggage, said Richard Janeczko, national investigations manager for the Customs Service. GrrlScientist comment: The story includes a picture, and let me tell ya, that man really needs to shave his legs if he’s going to stuff two poor, innocent little birds down there, in pair of tights no less! And what was with the “undeclared eggplant”??

The leader of the hunting party carried a 12-gauge Winchester 101 repeating shotgun with a wooden stock. Standing thigh-deep in the stagnant bottoms of Willow Hole, where a Labrador retriever named Congo whimpered from a twilit hardwood’s bend, she waited for first shooting light, the moment a half-hour before sunrise when hunters can legally fire on the wood ducks gliding overhead. Waitaminnit .. SHE? Yes, she. This story is about a group of a half-dozen women hunters who call themselves the Swamp Witches. They are pledged to return twice a year to the Ward Lake Hunting Club to shoot ducks, a privately owned 6,500-acre conservation parcel here in the floodplain of the Mississippi Delta.

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The Fine Print: Thanks to Linda, TravelGirl, Ellen, Jeremy and Ron for sending story links. Thanks in advance to Ian Paulsen 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!

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    February 10, 2009

    Aaagh, there’s an unclosed em tag on the loose! Run for it!!!!!!

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