The first Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher chicks, Terpsiphone corvina,
to fledge successfully outside La Digue Island, Seychelles for over 60 years
are flying on Denis Island.
Image: David Hosking [larger view].
Birds in Science
One of the fifteen Frisian ‘transmitter godwits‘, which was still in Friesland on one week ago on Saturday, arrived in Senegal in West Africa on Tuesday morning. The bird, nicknamed Heidenskip, appears to have flown from Friesland via Spain and over the Sahara in one go. The distance, over four thousand kilometres, was covered by the bird in two days of nonstop flying. Her average speed was nearly eighty kilometres per hour. ‘If you subtract the tailwind from that, you still are left with a speed of nearly fifty kilometres per hour. That’s an impressive performance’, says research leader Prof. Theunis Piersma of the University of Groningen.
Using a “neurologger” specially designed to record the brain activity of pigeons in flight, researchers reporting online have gained new insight into what goes through the birds’ minds as they fly over familiar terrain. The study is the first to simultaneously record electrical brain activity integrated with large-scale navigational movements of free-flying birds, according to the researchers. “We’ve successfully applied electrophysiological methods, previously used for the investigation of brain functions in the lab, to a freely flying bird in nature,” said Alexei Vyssotski of the University of Zurich. “The approach revealed places of interest for the pigeons and the pattern of their brain activation at such locations.”
Scientists are coming ever closer to understanding the cellular navigation tools that guide birds in their unerring, globe-spanning migrations. The latest piece of the puzzle is superoxide, an oxygen molecule that may combine with light-sensitive proteins to form an in-eye compass, allowing birds to see Earth’s magnetic field. “It connects from the subatomic world to a whole bird flying,” said Michael Edidin, an editor of Biophysical Journal, which published the study last week. “That’s exciting!”
The dinosaur hunter has done it again, introducing this time a creature that for all its ferocious-looking skull was only interested in nuts. That — and/or seeds — apparently was the diet of Psittacosaurus gobiensis, a three-foot-long dinosaur that lived 110 million years ago, and whose beaked skull bears an amazing resemblance to a parrot. The discovery of the Psittacosaurus was made in 2001, in the Gobi Desert of Inner Mongolia. But famed University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno and two colleagues from the People’s Republic of China who made the find, then spent years preparing and studying the specimen.
People Hurting Birds
A family of common loons has disappeared from Yocum Lake in Pend Oreille County, Washington, prompting an investigation and a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone involved. Loons, known for their yodeling call, are a rare species in Washington, with nesting pairs known to be on only seven lakes, said Dana Base, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Colville, Stevens County. Base said department staffers photographed the breeding pair on May 20 and other officers reported seeing one chick earlier this month. “But now they’re gone,” Base said Saturday. “We’re investigating a tip that someone was bragging about killing the loons. We’re all but certain at this time that foul play was involved.” GrrlScientist comment: I hope they catch this jackass, and when they do, I hope they string him up by his balls from the highest tree on the lake.
Police in Colorado have confiscated 53 baby birds from a 15-year-old boy who apparently took them from neighborhood nests and stored them in his bedroom. Police believe the boy had the birds for at least 24 hours. Authorities confiscated them on June 16 after his mother realized he had them and called animal control. “He and some other children in the neighborhood had been trying to feed them with little success,” Longmont police Sgt. Dave Orr said. The birds included barn swallows, sparrows and a bluebird. Forty died, but the other 13 are recuperating at the Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in nearby Boulder and are expected to survive.
Thousands of Canada geese who call New York home have fouled their last pond and nibbled their last lawn. Their status has been elevated from dirty to dangerous, and the feds are coming for them with a death warrant. Under orders from the city, as many as 2,000 geese living in public parks and other open spaces near New York’s two airports are being rounded up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. The removals come after Canada geese hit US Airways Flight 1549 in January, shutting down the jet’s engines and forcing the pilot to ditch in the freezing Hudson River. All 155 people aboard survived.
Three falcon chicks and a buzzard chick have been stolen from a bird rescue center in Aberdeenshire. The BBC Scotland news website has learned the 10-day-old saker falcons and six-day-old buzzard vanished from 2 Wit 2 Woo at Kinnoir near Huntly. Owner Jeff Downie said: “The parents are clearly very distressed as they are still looking to feed the chicks but they are not there.”
Demolition works and repairs to properties throughout the UK are affecting the swift population, conservationists say. The RSPB said numbers of the bird, which visits from Africa and nests almost exclusively in buildings, have declined by 47% in the past decade. The charity wants the public to report sightings so it can build up a picture of where the birds are found and target conservation work in those areas. The RSPB said swifts were “perfect, quiet neighbours”.
People Helping Birds
Matt Forrest of Boy Scout Troop 912 organized his troop to build two chimney swift towers — 8-foot tall birdhouses — that will be erected at the Wallkill Wildlife Refuge in Vernon and the Avian Wildlife Center in Wantage as part of his Boy Scout Eagle project. These small birds can eat one-third of their body weight in flying insects each day. They are just five inches long and are often thought to be bats, as they fly about erratically at dusk snatching their dinner of insects during flight — much like bats. Their diet includes mosquitoes and other pest insects, which until recently were also kept in check by bats.
Rare Birds News
The drought is over for a geriatric but persistent trumpeter swan who has sired the first cygnets to be born at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge since 1987. Four grayish-white puffballs hatched in a trumpeter swan nest near the refuge’s headquarters south of Cheney, apparently over Father’s Day weekend. The father, an elegant male trumpeter swan nicknamed Solo, may be the refuge’s oldest seasonal wildlife resident — and one of the oldest trumpeters documented anywhere among his rare species. While trumpeters are known to live 20 to 30 years in the wild, wildlife officials believe Solo is between 33 and 46 years old.
Federal officials are again delaying a decision on whether to list sage grouse in 11 Western states as threatened or endangered, leaving in limbo until at least 2010 a spate of industries that face sweeping restrictions if the bird is protected. The chicken-sized grouse ranges from Montana to Arizona and California to Colorado, living alongside livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling and an increasing number of wind power turbines. Its population has been in decline for decades, but how many remain is unknown.
Three peregrine falcon chicks that hatched in a nest box high atop the Smiley water tower along South Washington Street in Grand Forks, ND, had their coming out party, of sorts, last Thursday afternoon when experts from the Minnesota Audubon Society and the Minnesota Zoo banded the birds. The chicks, two females and a male, are about three weeks old and can’t yet fly. They were christened Alice, Ethel and Smiley.
The Lear’s Macaw, a striking blue parrot found in northeastern Brazil, has been downlisted from Critically Endangered (the highest threat category) to Endangered as a direct result of conservation action, revealed the 2009 update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The current population of Lear’s Macaw is estimated to be 960 birds, up from fewer than 100 birds in 1989. American Bird Conservancy and its Brazilian partner Fundação Biodiversitas have worked to save the macaw’s primary nesting and roosting cliffs, and together have purchased and protected nearly 4,000 acres of habitat to help assure the species’ survival.
Australian conservationists are searching for an endangered bird species that’s been seen on the New South Wales far south coast. There are only 1500 Swift Parrots left in the world and they are currently on their winter migration from Tasmania. A flock of about 50 have been seen in flowering eucalypt forest near Bermagui and more have been seen in a residential area at Tura Beach, north of Merimbula.
The first Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher, Terpsiphone corvina, chicks to fledge successfully outside La Digue Island, Seychelles for over 60 years is flying on Denis Island, a coral island in the inner Seychelles group [see featured image, top]. The newly-fledged birds are flying well, very noisy, and being fed by their parents — “typical normal and healthy flycatcher chicks”, according to Nirmal Shah, Director of BirdLife Partner Nature Seychelles, the Species Guardian for the paradise-flycatcher. The paradise-flycatcher is the only Seychelles species still listed as Critically Endangered.
Avian Zoonotics News
(Lansing, Michigan) Potter Park Zoo’s newest attraction has temporarily closed after a disease was discovered among the bird population. The Wings from Down Under Interactive Australian Aviary will be closed for the next few weeks after a disease called psittacosis, better known as parrot fever, killed one of the exhibit’s birds. None of the other birds are showing symptoms of the disease, but the zoo is taking precautionary measures, officials said.
On BirdNote, for the week of 28 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 and others, for identifying that particular species.
Miscellaneous Bird News
Recently, a blogger decided to have jerk chicken and mac-n-cheese for lunch at a restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village. He went inside, grabbed a seat, and seconds after his food was served, a hawk swooped in and landed on his plate. The poor blogger, “D.Billy,” didn’t even get to crack the top on his can of Pepsi One when the feathered beast flew in through the open door and dipped its razor-sharp talons into his lunch. Includes a photograph of the bird — can you identify the species?
Speaking of eating, it appears that the gulls that live just off the coast of Argentina have learned a new feeding behavior: attacking whales and feeding on their skin and blubber when they surface to breathe. This link takes you to a series of images documenting this behavior. I wonder where the gulls learned this behavior?
One day Judith Haller was watching television and saw that Martha Stewart had chickens. “I was very envious that she had her own chicken manure,” she recalls. So last year, she got a couple of chickens on behalf of her vegetable garden. They proved to be industrious providers and pleasant companions. Now there are 13 hens pecking around the yard. And Ms Haller has become an advocate for a hot movement: backyard chickens. In April, as part of Austin’s first Funky Chicken Coop Tour, she hosted 637 visitors.
The results are in and Corpus Christi, Texas once again celebrates the title of ‘America’s Birdiest City‘. Corpus Christi has held the title consecutively each year since 2003. The annual nationwide contest determines the best city for birding after hundreds of avid birders from around the country count the number of species seen between April 1 and May 31. Within the two-month span of the contest, participating cities and counties selected a 72-hour window to count birds, making it a fast-pace competition somewhat like a scavenger hunt. Local birders united again this year and counted a total of 217 species of birds in Corpus Christi.
The Fine Print: Thanks to Ian, Megan, 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!