Birds in the News 107

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Swainson's Hawk, Buteo swainsoni, in flight.

Image: Justawriter [wallpaper size].

People Hurting Birds

An extremely rare lesser spotted eagle, shot earlier this year by dumbass human hunters on the island of Malta, has been saved from death but may never be able to return to the wild. The bird, nicknamed Sigmar after Germany's environmental minister, underwent three operations to repair damage it suffered after being shot, but it may not be enough for the bird to live in the wild again. The bird can feed itself and, with the help of splints, stands on its own two legs. Its left talon, however, cannot clutch.

The recovery effort continues after a cargo tanker collided with California's Bay Bridge and released approximately 58,000 gallons of hazardous bunker fuel into the waters of the bay. Now in the second week since the disaster (on 7 November), conservationists from Audubon (BirdLife in the US), are among those monitoring the impact, in many cases transporting birds to local recovery centers. California's Governor Schwarzenegger is reportedly "sad and angry". This story includes a map of Important Bird Areas and areas where oiled birds has been found.

The number of birds killed by the oil spill in Russia's Kerch Strait will increase dramatically due to the toxic effects of the accident, an activist said. A World Wide Fund for Nature member said that in addition to the thousands of birds already killed by the November 11 disaster, scores more will likely die from the nearly 2,000 metric tons of fuel dumped into the regional waters. "Birds stained with fuel oil have virtually no chance of survival if no one helps them," said Valentin Kozlitin, the Moscow Zoo's chief veterinarian. The doctor said that no action was being taken to ensure the safety of those animals or any birds that may come across the spill during their seasonal migration through the area. "The authorities are taking no steps to rescue the birds and, on the contrary, are restricting and hampering the work of a few volunteers," he told the Russian press agency."

People Helping Birds

More than 100 Eurasian oystercatchers from the Burry Inlet in Wales have been dyed yellow, as part of a joint tracking project between the Countryside Council for Wales and the British Trust for Ornithology. A team of ornithologists spent a day at Whiteford Burrows National Nature Reserve on the Gower last week catching, ringing, and marking the birds, by dyeing their white breasts yellow. "The aim of the project is to learn more about the movements of the birds between the Burry Inlet and nearby intertidal areas, such as Carmarthen Bay," said CCW ornithologist Matt Murphy.

Scotland's breeding population of white-tailed (sea) eagles has soared to its highest number in more than 30 years, wildlife experts have found. Data from a 2007 survey show there are now 42 territorial breeding pairs of the UK's biggest raptors -- the highest number since the species was reintroduced to Scotland in 1975. The survey by RSPB Scotland found an increase of six breeding pairs since 2006. Experts said there had also been a record number of chicks produced in 2007. Since the beginning of the year, 24 successful broods have produced a total of 34 young birds.

Nature Canada (BirdLife's Canadian co-Partner) has congratulated the Canadian government on the temporary withdrawal of more than 10 million hectares of Canada's Northwest Territories from future industrial development. The breakthrough decision places 1% of Canada's total land mass under interim protection, a move described as "one of the largest designations of its kind in this hemisphere" by BirdLife's Americas Division. "This land is more than twice the size of Switzerland", said Julie Gelfand, Nature Canada President, who attended the announcement ceremony in Ottawa yesterday.

Avian Zoonotic News

More than 20 people in South Africa have been treated with antibiotics as a precautionary measure after they came into contact with a parrot that died of an infectious disease. The disease, avian chlamydiosis -- also known as ornithosis or parrot fever -- can be transmitted to humans and can even be fatal. Dr Rick Last, of Vetdiagnostix laboratories, said the parrot had died of avian chlamydiosis, caused by the bacterium, Chlamydophila psittaci. "The post mortem showed he had severe lung lesions, which had spread into his spinal cord." He said the bacteria could spread to humans, causing psittacosis, which could -- if untreated -- prove fatal. "It causes severe lesions in the lungs and other organs."

Health officials have failed to reach agreement on a new system to ensure developing countries benefit more from sharing avian influenza viruses used to develop vaccines, the World Health Organization said. The WHO agreed last May to revamp its 50-year-old system for sharing influenza virus samples and is seeking accord on new rules for sharing them with researchers and drug companies. But Indonesia, the country hardest hit by bird flu, has said poor nations risked not getting the benefits of any vaccines developed from their virus samples. It argues that countries who share bird flu virus samples should have full control of their use and access to vaccines developed from them.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) experts are recommending new label warnings about possible dangerous psychiatric side effects of influenza drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, documents show. The FDA documents, posted Friday on the agency's Web site, were prepared for a meeting Tuesday of the FDA's Pediatric Advisory Committee. Studies revealed 596 cases in which patients who took Tamiflu experienced "neuropsychiatric events" such as delirium, delusions or hallucinations. The episodes sometimes led to impulsive behavior and self-injury. Tamiflu is made by Roche Holdings. The problems tended to occur within 24 hours of first taking the drug, and the majority were in patients younger than 21, mostly in Japan, according to the documents. In five cases involving pediatric patients, the reported delirium resulted in death, and there were three reports of suicide in adults.

H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in domestic poultry in the United Kingdom, Burma and in Saudi Arabia and in one wild egret in Hong Kong and in one wild saker falcon in Saudi Arabia.

Christmas Bird Count News

The 2007 Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) in the United States occur between 14 December 2007 and 5 January 2008. Already, some state CBC schedules are online; already the schedules for Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, New York State, both North and South Carolina (also see here) and Washington State CBC schedules are in the process of being updated for 2007. Be sure to check back on those links because they are still being updated. Of course, I am eager to link to all online CBC schedules so be sure to email your links to me.

Streaming Birds

On BirdNote, for the week of 26 November 2007: Monday, the Japanese fairy tale of the crane wife; Tuesday, return of the snowbird, the Dark-eyed Junco; Wednesday, American Wigeon, feathered lawnmower; Thursday, the music of Black Scoters; Jay and Martin - a bit of fun for Friday! BirdNotes 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, so you can listen to them anytime, anywhere. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [rss].

Miscellaneous Bird News

That a hummingbird can navigate thousands of miles well enough to return to the same site year after year is one of the true wonders of nature. That a Rufous Hummingbird from western North American can find its way to the same feeder for five winters in a row is even more amazing -- especially when we realize this species normally spends the cold months in Mexico -- not the Carolina Piedmont. To read about Perdita, the wandering rufous, and her fifth consecutive winter appearance in Rock Hill SC, please visit the 8-14 November 2007 installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond". As always, the Piedmont naturalists include a tally of all birds banded and recaptured -- a slew of both -- plus miscellaneous notes about Red-breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins that showed up during the week at Hilton Pond.

Holiday Gift Ideas For Bird Lovers

This is a listing of a variety of bird-oriented items that might appeal to the bird lover on your holiday shopping list.


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The Fine Print: Thanks to Annie, Bill, Ellen, Jeremy and Ron for sending story links and to Chazz, Brenda, Chuck, Michael, Kent and Urs for updating and maintaining the online state CBC schedules. 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!


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The Russian authorities hindering those trying to help wildlife makes me wonder what they are trying to cover up. Doing nothing to help is par for the course but actually hindering is very strange behaviour.

Nice to hear about the Sea Eagles doing well.

By Chris' Wills (not verified) on 26 Nov 2007 #permalink

That's so sad about the eagle shot on Malta, but encouraging about the sea eagles' breeding program in Scotland. National Geographic has a feature this month on the magnificent albatross, with news about how a biologist and Blue Ocean Institute figured out an easy way for Hawaiian long-lines fishermen to prevent albatrosses and other seabirds from being caught in their nets and drowned. The result: "Over the past ten years the Hawaiian fleet's kill of all seabirds dropped 97 percent."…