Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Birds in the News 175

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Boreal or Tengmalm’s Owl, Aegolius funereus.

Boreal Owls are circumpolar, occupying subalpine and northern, or boreal,
forests around the globe. These seasonally monogamous birds nest in small
cavities; woodpecker holes, other natural tree cavities, or man-made nest boxes.
These small owls occasionally irrupt from their northerly homes in search of food.

Image: orphaned [larger view].

This edition of Birds in the News is dedicated to Snowflake and Biosparite, and to Miriam, whose $upport was inspired by Birds in the News. I deeply appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness, everyone.

Birds and Aircraft

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will made its entire bird strike database available last week. Portions of the database have been publicly available since the information was first collected in 1990, but the public will now be able to access all of the database’s fields.

Rare and Endangered Birds News

Bald eagles, bouncing back after years of decline, are swaggering forth with an appetite for great cormorant chicks that threatens to wipe out that bird population in the United States. The eagles, perhaps finding less fish to eat, are flying to Maine’s remote rocky islands where they’ve been raiding the only known nesting colonies of great cormorants in the U.S. Snatching waddling chicks from the ground and driving adults from their nests, the eagles are causing the numbers of the glossy black birds to decline from more than 250 pairs to 80 pairs since 1992.

When the National Zoo tried to set up a pair of rare white-naped cranes, the date went sour and the lovebirds fought. However, science came to the rescue where romance failed. Staff at the zoo’s Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal artificially inseminated the female crane. A female chick was born last month in what the zoo calls an important step for the threatened species.

The Center for Biological Diversity wants to add a rare Salton Sea bird to the endangered species list. Only about 300 to 500 of the Western gull-billed terns exist in the United States, and they nest in only two places — the Salton Sea and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The center is filing a scientific petition with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking the endangered status.

Avian Influenza and Other Zoonotics News

Poultry carcasses infected with the bird flu virus can remain infectious in municipal landfills for as long as two years, say Nebraska researchers. Hundreds of millions of chickens and ducks infected with bird flu have died or been killed worldwide in an effort to control the spread of the disease, they noted. The remains are disposed of in different ways, including burial in landfills. For example, the carcasses of more than 4 million poultry that were culled or died during a 2002 outbreak in Virginia were placed in municipal landfills, according to a news release from the American Chemical Society.

There are avian influenza viruses that can persist for up to 150 days in water, a research team at the University of Georgia has shown, advancing understanding of how outbreaks of bird flu begin in wild bird populations. This discovery has allowed scientists to create the first model that takes into account both direct and indirect transmission of the flu viruses among birds. “The environmental transmission of avian influenza among birds is quite rare, but our model shows that it can play an important role in outbreaks,” said lead author Pejman Rohani, professor in the University of Georgia-Athens Odum School of Ecology.

Influenza viruses that normally infect birds are adapted to proliferate most efficiently at temperatures higher than those encountered in the upper airways of humans, according to a new report. “I think this study helps explain two things,” Dr. Raymond J. Pickles told Reuters Health. It could be the reason why people need to be exposed to large amounts of bird virus to get infected “and, second, why these infected individuals do not show the classic cough, sneezing, and transmissibility of seasonal flu’s.” Pickles, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues developed a model of the human airway to investigate the influence of temperature on human and bird influenza virus replication and spread.

Alberta farmer Arnold Van Ginkel, whose swine farm was Ground Zero for the Influenza A (H1N1) in Canada voluntarily culled all his 2,000 plus herd which was earlier quarantined by federal health authorities. Ginkel made the decision after he realized his hogs could no longer be sold despite assurances from health authorities that the swine flu could not be transmitted to humans by eating tainted pork.

The first bird testing positive for West Nile virus in Illinois was found in LaSalle County. According to Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, the crow was found June 1st in Lostant. Arnold also says that some mosquito batches found in Cook County have also tested positive for West Nile.

It was a classic medical scare story: Parrots died. A few people got sick. Newspapers went wild. Then, well after the outbreak of “parrot fever” was declared dormant, researchers who dealt with the birds began to mysteriously die themselves. Historian Jill Lepore talks to host Jacki Lyden about the great parrot fever outbreak of 1929. Lepore chronicles the episode in the June 1 issue of The New Yorker magazine. [streaming report 8:15]

Streaming Birds

On BirdNote, for the week of 7 June 2009. BirdNotes can be heard live seven mornings per week at 8:58-9:00am on NPR affiliated radio stations throughout Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia, Canada. 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.

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 its 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 master birder Rick Wright, for identifying that particular species.

Miscellaneous Bird News

The naturalists at Hilton Pond received almost 50 entries in response to their “Mayflower Quiz 2009″ — an on-line quiz for identifying flowering plants that they photographed during the first three weeks of May. They are providing IDs for the mystery plants in the current installment of This Week at Hilton Pond along with some additional natural history info about the plants in question.

Two “gay” male Humboldt penguins have hatched a chick and are now rearing it as its adoptive parents, says a German zoo. The zoo, in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, says the adult males — Z and Vielpunkt — were given an egg which was rejected by its biological parents. It says the couple are now happily rearing the chick, said to have reached four weeks old. “Z and Vielpunkt, both males, gladly accepted their ‘Easter gift’ and got straight down to raising it,” said a zoo statement.

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The Fine Print: Thanks to Carrie, Ian, Bob, 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!