Greater Prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus [Bigger image]
The photographer writes; I was lucky enough to be out this morning on Konza Prairie (see the latest National Geographic for some details) photographing the testosterone-fueled antics of Greater Prairie-chickens. We had 13 males and up to 5 females on the lek, and the sky was clear and blue. A bit chilly in the blind, but it was worth it. So here is an image of one of the males, with a soggy bison wallow in the background.
Image: Dave Rintoul, KSU.
Birds in Science
A fast-flying barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis, has made it from south west Scotland to Norway in just eight hours. Godzilla the barnacle goose was part of a project to tag and track 10 birds on the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Caerlaverock Reserve. He left his Dumfries and Galloway base at 2000 BST on Wednesday and made it to Norway by 0400 BST the next day.
New genera of living birds are rare discoveries -- fewer than one per year is announced globally. David Steadman and Andrew Kratter, ornithologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History, turned up the surprising new discovery on a collecting expedition in the Solomon Islands. Theirs is the first frogmouth from these islands to be caught by scientists in more than 100 years. They immediately recognized it was something different. Kratter and Steadman are co-authors to a study analyzing the frogmouth's morphology, or physical form, and DNA in comparison to two other living genera of frogmouths. The findings are published in the April issue of Ibis, in a paper that describes the bird as a new genus and species, now named Rigidipenna inexpectata.
Birds Hurting People
A Red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus, is nesting behind the Mahoney/Pearson cafeteria on the University of Miami campus. The birds have already attacked three people, resulting in lacerations. Because the bird is a protected species, they cannot be immediately removed. A security officer has been posted outside the area, and UM is working with the Miami Museum of Science to safely relocate the hawks.
People Hurting Birds
Just off Gornto Lake Road near Tampa, Florida, where developers rapidly have transformed cow pastures into a virtual city of apartments and condominiums, a pair of southern bald eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, still nest and raise young. Recently, one went missing. A passer-by found her in a heap alongside Gornto Lake Road, blocks from one of eastern Hillsborough County's busiest intersections -- U.S. 301 and Bloomingdale Avenue. "She couldn't stand up or anything," said Steve Davis, a Dover wildlife rehabilitator who initially cared for the bird. "And two weeks after I got her, I picked up a dead one in Brooksville that had been hit by a car. Last year, it was one on County Road 39 near Plant City that had also been hit by a car. Another one was hit by a motorcycle on Interstate 75 in Brandon."
Birds Helping People
Dylan Hargreaves, four, is autistic and suffers severe learning difficulties. Until recently, he never uttered a single word. But several few months ago, his parents added a three-year-old blue-and-gold macaw, Ara ararauna, to the family. They named him Barney, and suddenly, Dylan began to speak, repeating words that the parrot said. After being tutored by Barney the parrot, Dylan says "Night, night", "Dad", "Mum", "Ta", "Hello" and "Bye". "Barney has changed our lives. Before he arrived, Dylan would try to speak, but the sound came out as a noise," said Dylan's mother, Michelle.
People Helping Birds
Starting this month, the Hawai'ian Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is sending crews of biologists into the forest areas of Kaua'i to conduct population surveys of rare native forest birds to determine whether a suspected decline is taking place, and if so, to identify which areas are affected. "The results of a 2005 survey deep in the Alaka'i Wilderness Area, as well as recent reports from other biologists and citizens, suggest that populations of the remaining native forest birds may now be in rapid decline due to a collection of threats that may include loss and degradation of habitat, predation by introduced mammals, and disease," said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.
I wrote about this last year, but apparently, it is a recurring problem: Hordes of giant mice are devouring endangered seabird chicks on a remote South Atlantic island and may be pushing some of the birds into extinction, scientists report. The carnage has harmed the breeding success of endangered Tristan albatrosses, Diomedea dabbenena, and threatened Atlantic petrels, Pterodroma incerta, on Gough Island, a British territory a thousand miles (1,600 kilometers) off the coast of South Africa. The birds' sole breeding ground is home to 22 bird species -- 10 million birds in total -- and is considered the world's most important seabird colony. The common house mouse was introduced to the island more than a century ago. Now three times larger than normal mice, the invasive rodents likely number more than a million.
A Fish and Wildlife Service official in North Dakota said on Wednesday, April 18, 2007, that a whooping crane, Grus americana, found dead in a farmer's field was a "senior citizen" with a colorful past that helped with studies of the rare birds. An identification band showed the bird hatched in 1983. Biologists say most whooping cranes do not live much longer than 20 years. "It was still a very productive male, having brought six chicks to Aransas out of the last 10 years," Tom Stehn, the whooping crane coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, said in a statement.
Avian Influenza News
The publication by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of the final epidemiology report into the H5N1 Avian Influenza outbreak in Suffolk confirmed that the probable cause of infection was through imported meat products from Hungary. "There was no evidence to support the hypothesis that wild birds were the source of the outbreak. This was based on the fact that there had been no isolations of H5N1 from wild birds in Europe during the 2006/7 wild bird migration period and subsequent residency." the report states.
On BirdNote, for the week of April 9, 2007: Monday, William Shakespeare's birthday -- how many birds appeared in his works?; Tuesday, unlikely places to go birding -- dumps, sewage treatment plants, cemeteries ... what's your favorite?; Wednesday, Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival 2007 -- ]the festival is the weekend of April 27-29; Thursday, John James Audubon's birthday; Friday, what do birds smell? BirdNotes transport the listener out of the daily grind with two-minute vignettes that incorporate the rich sounds of birds provided by Cornell University and by other sound recordists, with photographs and written stories that illustrate the interesting -- and in some cases, truly amazing -- abilities of birds. Some of the shows are Pacific Northwest-oriented, but many are of general interest. BirdNote 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. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [rss].
Birds have long been used as indicators of the state of the world's ecosystems, providing insights into habitat loss, deterioration, and pollution. Now a new project, starting this month, will add climate change to the list. "Climate change is arguably the most significant threat that many of Africa's protected areas may be facing," said Julius Arinaitwe, BirdLife Africa's Important Bird Area Programme Manager. "By using birds to measure and predict the implications of changing climate and landscapes, we will be much better placed to counteract these threats."
The Red-crowned crane, Grus japonensis, has been listed as China's national bird after years of expert analysis and public internet polls. Conducted by the State Forestry Administration and China Wildlife Protection Association, the selection was launched in 2003. Heilongjiang Daily reports the State Forestry Administration has now submitted the results to the State Council for final approval. The Red-crowned Crane, a bird that Chinese associate with longevity, won an overwhelming 64.92% of the vote held on more than twenty websites across China from May to June 2004 attracting around 5 million netizens.
Local Internet maven Craig Newmark could change the way we look at things -- again -- when his backyard goes live on Monday for the rollout of an Internet bird-watching game developed by computer engineers at two universities. Created by engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Texas A&M University, the game aims to bring together diverging flocks: video game users and bird watchers. In a telephone interview on Thursday, Newmark said the online game would allow players to watch birds in his San Francisco backyard in real time. Players earn points by taking bird photos using a remote control video camera, and by correctly classifying the birds. "My backyard is a small forest. I got lucky and I love nature if it makes itself convenient for me," said Newmark, who said he often watches for birds from his deck overlooking Sutro Forest.
A kitten carried away from her owner by a sea eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster, in Sydney, Australia, survived a drop of several hundred yards with only minor injuries, a report said. Keira-Jane Keegan's cat, Lacy, was carried away from the yard of her Sydney home by the sea eagle -- Australia's second largest bird of prey, the Daily Mail reported Monday. "I just watched in horror and amazement as Lacy disappeared into the distance, hanging by her head from the eagle's claws," Keegan said. "I didn't think I'd ever see her again."
The Fine Print: Thanks to Diane, Ian, 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! Images are resized and are either linked from the news story that they accompany or they are credited and linked back to the photographer.
What is the point of Birds in the News? I publish BITN each week because I want to increase people's awareness of the importance of birds in our everyday lives. Birds represent many things to us; beauty, freedom, music, wildness. But everywhere, birds are coming under increasing pressure for their very survival, and by linking to news stories about birds, I hope to make the smallest impression upon the public and the mainstream media, as well as our decision-makers, that birds are an important feature of our everyday lives, that there are so many reasons that we could not do without them.
Yon prairie chicken has Pretty feathers, but ye gods, that's a weird face. Looks like a he had a teleporter accident with a navel orange and a rabbit! ;-) Now off to chase links....