Birds in the News 86 (v3n13)

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Yellow-eyed Junco, Junco phaeonotus: Resident in the mountains of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Preferred habitats include coniferous forests and pine-oak woods.

Image: Dave Rintoul, KSU [larger]

Birds in Science

Wild ducks have been fitted with global positioning system (GPS) devices in an effort to track migratory patterns in China. The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) under the Council of Agriculture (COA), in collaboration with the wild bird societies of Taipei City and Tainan City, implanted GPS sun-powered transmitters into three wild ducks in April. Two of the ducks are from Taipei City's Huajiang Wild Duck Nature Park, and one from Tainan City's wetlands in Sihcao. They were chosen because of their good health, and for their medium build which is ideal for fitting the devices, explained Huang Kwo-ching, BAPHIQ director of Animal Health Inspection. "With the use of GPS, we are thus implementing a scientific approach to gain conclusive evidence," he said.

People Hurting Birds

BirdLife South Africa and WWF South Africa have released a report that estimates that as many as 34,000 seabirds, 4,200 sea turtles, and over 7 million demersal and pelagic sharks, rays and skates are killed annually as the result of longline fishing in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem that stretches up the west coast of South Africa and the entire of the Namibian and Angolan coasts. The five migrant pelagic seabird species occurring in the Benguela Current that are most susceptible to the impacts of fishing operations are Black-browed Albatross, Thallasarche melanophris, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, T. chlororhynchus, and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, T. carteri, (all Endangered), Shy Albatross, T. cauta (Near Threatened) and White-chinned Petrel, Procellaria aequinoctialis (Vulnerable). "This report provides a platform from which informed decisions can be made that will reduce the impact on these threatened species in the region," says Samantha Petersen, manager of BirdLife South Africa's Seabird Program and the WWF Responsible Fisheries Program.

For years, the golf course at Raintree Golf Resort in Florida has been home to multiple nests of burrowing owls, but a housing development planned for the land is disrupting the endangered species' habitat. Burrowing owls are endangered in Florida and protected by law, which is why one resident said she was outraged when she saw what she thought were workers hitting the owls with shovels. When she confronted them about it, one of them threatened her, she said. "He's yelling and screaming at me that they're digging up sprinkler heads with no bucket, no bag, no truck," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "Where are they putting the sprinkler heads? In their pockets?"

Rare Birds News

A wild golden eagle has been hatched in Ireland for the first time in nearly a century. Two chicks were hatched in a remote area of the Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal but one of the young birds died after five days. Golden eagles last bred in Glenveagh back in 1910. "We think it is a girl but we are not quite sure. It is still relatively small," explained project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust, Lorcan O'Toole.

Parrot News

What is the nutrition for parrots in this modern age? This has been haunting the agricultural department for the past few years. It is generally believed that parrots depend on fruits alone for their nourishment. Of late, researchers in agricultural department have found that these species have changed their eating habits and became a menace to the farmers' produce.

Avian Influenza News

Antibodies that could protect against bird flu in humans have been isolated by an international team of scientists. The discovery could lead to treatments that complement flu vaccines in the event of a human epidemic of the virus. Scientists working in Switzerland, Vietnam and the United States say they have isolated antibodies that they hope could offer protection against several different strains of the virus simultaneously. "We in a way exploit the immune response of an individual who has been infected and has survived the infection and of course has made antibodies that neutralise these viruses," said Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia, at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Switzerland.

Veterinarians who work with birds are at increased risk for infection with avian influenza virus and should be among those with priority access to pandemic influenza vaccines and antivirals, according to a study conducted by researchers in the University of Iowa College of Public Health. The study showed that, compared with the control group, the veterinarians who worked with birds had significantly higher levels of antibodies in their blood against the H5, H6 and H7 avian virus strains, indicating previous infections with these viruses. The infections were likely due to the mild forms of avian influenza virus that have occasionally circulated among wild and domestic birds in the United States, according to the researchers. The greatest risk factor for infection reported by veterinarians was examining birds known to be sick with influenza.

The CSIRO team in Australia is working on a genetic change that could be bred into chickens, making them immune to avian influenza. The super chickens would have to be labelled genetically modified but would still taste like regular chicken. Dr John Lowenthal, senior research scientist at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, said an avian influenza pandemic was a major threat. "We have an obligation to come up with a solution to it," he said. "At the end of the process we are expressing what we would call transgenes into the chicken so that this becomes permanently incorporated into the chicken, into all of its cells.

H5N1 Avian Influenza has been reported in humans in Viet Nam and Indonesia and in birds in Hong Kong and Viet Nam.

Streaming Bird News

On BirdNote, for the week of June 4, 2007: Monday, on Tree Swallows and feathers; Tuesday, the Brewer's Sparrow; Wednesday, "Chickadee Codes," about Chris Templeton's research into chickadee warning calls -- and the nuthatches that heed them!; Thursday, Red-wings and Yellow-heads; Friday, the mimicry of the Steller's Jay. 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].

Miscellaneous Birds

This Week At Hilton Pond has a new publication. Included is a list of a few birds they banded or recaptured when they returned home to Hilton Pond. On top of their travel and illness difficulties, the server that hosts their Web sites recently went off-line, making Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and "Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project" inaccessible for several days. They've been scrambling to work around the problem and apologize for any inconvenience. Please bear with them if the server is still a little slow to respond; they promise it will be better next week.

While millions of women are snapping up age-defying skin creams, the latest miracle cure for a sagging face has just arrived -- nightingale poo. Bird droppings, applied in a 90-minute facial, are packed with an enzyme called guanine -- an amino acid that heals the skin, experts claim. 'We have been trying the nightingale facial out and it has been an unbelievable success for treating tortured, dull and sun-damaged skin," said Hari Salem, owner of Hari's in Knightsbridge, West London. "'The treatment was pioneered by the Geisha girls of Kyoto. It is an ancient tradition that goes back centuries and is totally organic."

British commuters are noticing strange behaviors among rooks recently. It seems that these birds, which are relatives of American crows, are using discarded burning cigarettes to remove parasites from their feathers, a behavior known as "anting" because the birds originally relied on ants to do this.


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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.


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It is not surprising that parrots would change their dietay preferences in light of access to novel trophic resources. I just checked a website purporting to report observations of monk parakeets foraging around the New York area. They consumed acorns, dandelions and grass, i.e., whatever they could use at a particular location. Several years ago I read that a determined effort to eradicate exotic plants from around Southern California could harm many species of butterflies that had begun exploiting some of the introductions as host plants. The living world can churn quickly in response to change.

By biosparite (not verified) on 04 Jun 2007 #permalink