Discover more from Bird News Items
Bird News Items
1. Today is Global Big Day – Last year Global Big Day saw more than 51,000 people from 201 countries submitting 132,000 checklists with eBird, setting new world records for a single day of birding. Grab your binoculars and go birding – even if it is in your back yard or out your apartment 12th floor window! (And don’t forget to put what you see/saw in eBird.) (via eBird)
2. Migration and BirdCast: It is no coincidence that GBD is scheduled during peak migration periods. And just to give you a sense of what “peak” means in the United States this week, yesterday, May 12th at 12:30 am (ET), BirdCast estimated more than 640,000,000 birds were in flight over the U.S. BirdCast is a remarkable technological tool and indispensable for active birders during Spring and Fall migration periods. If you are not familiar with it, click here. (via All About Birds)
3. A Paean to birds – opening up to “a bit more daily wonder”: For a string of mornings earlier this year, I would turn from my writing desk to catch a pair of mourning doves sitting on the ledge outside my apartment window. Their muted brown-grey wings and pale rosy breasts were like watercolours against the washed-out late winter sky. I quickly grew fond of these little visitors and found myself delighted whenever they swooped in. I’d inch slowly from my chair, because it seemed they could perceive my movement, darting their small heads to look directly at me. And when I was a little closer, I’d greet them in a cooing voice I guess I thought was bird appropriate.
I kept looking out for them weeks after they stopped coming. It wasn’t that I’d never seen mourning doves before — they’re one of the most common birds in America — but it’s not very often that I feel I’ve had a relationship with a bird, imaginary or not. It got me thinking about how many of us have lost that sense of reverence and appreciation for birds that humans had in earlier historical periods. Even if we don’t have the time or the inclination to become avid birdwatchers, paying more attention to the presence of these creatures might open us up to a bit more daily wonder. (via Financial Times)
4. More on the study of migration: Migratory songbirds typically fly under the cover of darkness, but the reason for their takeoff timing has long eluded researchers. Now, a pair of studies suggests the birds rely on the onset of dusk and the suggestion of fair skies ahead as signs for taking flight. Published in the journal Movement Ecology, the studies used radio tracking devices and analyzed data from nearly 400 songbirds belonging to nine migratory species, including the yellow-rumped warbler, American redstart and Bicknell’s thrush. (via The Washington Post)
5. Gannets and H5N1 – an interesting study: The vivid blue irises of northern gannets turn black if they survive avian flu, according to a study which provides evidence that some wild birds are shaking off the deadly virus. Avian flu has killed wild and domestic birds for decades but the current strain (H5N1) severely affected seabird populations across the North Atlantic last year, with particularly high death rates among gannets. Scientists from several organisations investigated the timings of avian flu outbreaks at colonies across their North Atlantic range, with a detailed study of the impact of the virus on the Bass Rock, Scotland, home of the largest gannet colony in the world. Black irises – instead of the usual pale blue – were first seen in gannets breeding on the Bass in June last year, with colour varying from completely black to mottled. (via The Guardian)
6. All politics is local – and in this case, the “local” area is one of the hottest of hotspots this time of year (Magee Marsh Wildlife Area): U.S. Reps. Bob Latta and Marcy Kaptur introduced a bipartisan resolution proclaiming May 5 through May 14 as "National American Birding Week," according to a news release. Birding is a pastime that generates billions in economic benefits annually, but migratory bird populations face many threats to their survival, the release said. Annual birding events such as the "Biggest Week in American Birding," sponsored by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor, leverage government, nonprofit and private resources to promote conservation of migratory bird populations and economic development through a multifaceted approach that combines research, education and outreach, the release said. (via Yahoo! Life)
7. Point Pelee National Park is a famously great spot for huge fallouts during Spring migration. But that doesn’t explain this sighting, since this bird lives in the subarctic and doesn’t migrate: Wildlife photographer and "bird nerd" Donny Moore was among those who caught a glimpse of a bird that's a long way from home. The willow ptarmigan is usually found in the north, but somehow, it made its way to Point Pelee National Park — the southernmost tip of mainland Canada — just in time for peak birdwatching season. (via CBC)
8. Speaking of fallouts and BirdCast, hello Wisconsin!: Over 30 million birds are expected to land somewhere in Wisconsin on Friday morning after unpredictable weather conditions during this migration season have created an unprecedented peak this year. With the weather expected to become turbulent again this weekend, Wisconsin could become a birdwatcher's dream as millions of birds could be calling the Badger State home until the weather clears. When are the birds expected to land? Bird expert and University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Stanley Temple said most of the birds that would make Wisconsin home on Friday were in Missouri or Arkansas on Thursday afternoon. Temple said these birds were expected to take flight Thursday night and land somewhere in Wisconsin by Friday morning. (via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
9. For the life listers among us – this is truly a “next level”, life-long effort and then some: On eBird, Kaestner is ranked number one, and he wants to be the first person in the world to see 10,000 bird species. The 69-year-old’s life list is currently at 9,796. The couple hundred birds he still needs are some of the rarest and most difficult in the world to spot. They’re often found in places that are basically inaccessible, off-limits due to political unrest, or threatened by deforestation and climate change. But Kaestner’s quest to hit 10,000 is his personal Dawn Wall, an obsession he’s sustained over decades, and he will not stop until he reaches his goal—if even then. (via Outside magazine)
10. A nice podcast on Spring migration from Maine Public Radio: It’s busy season for birdwatchers, with new arrivals appearing all around the state, from songbirds to sea birds. We’ll talk with experts about birding events, rare sightings, equipment and new technology—and what to look for this time of year. (via Maine Public Radio)
11. The picture of this cool bird (a greater racket-tailed drongo) is the story: In the dense forests of south India’s Western Ghats, you may be lucky enough to spot a greater racket-tailed drongo crooning to birds of other species nearby. But the drongo is not singing. It is mimicking the other birds, according to ethno-ornithologist Samira Agnihotri. With recording equipment in hand, trekking up to six miles (10km) a day through the forests, Agnihotri has been taping native birdsong for the past 18 years. Her favourite is this drongo, a bluish-black bird with an Elvis-like quiff and two very elongated tail feathers. During her doctoral research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, Agnihotri tried to find out why this species is such a mimic. Most species that imitate other birds only do so in the breeding season, but the racket-tailed drongo seems to do so year round. (via The Guardian)
12. “Lights Out” NYC – everything helps (hopefully): Members of Councilmember Francisco Moya’s office announced a lights-out bill proposal to address migratory bird deaths at a rally outside City Hall on Thursday. The proposal would require many privately owned commercial buildings to reduce lighting at night. New York City’s shining glass buildings represent both a beacon and a death sentence for migratory birds. Each fall and spring, millions of them flock through the city that never sleeps on their way between their summer breeding grounds and winter habitats. Nearly a quarter million birds don’t make it out, NYC Audubon estimates. Instead, these birds meet an untimely end smashing into brightly lit facades and clear glass windows. (via Gothamist)
More “Lights Out”, this from St. Charles, IL: This weekend in St. Charles, the Natural Resource Commission is encouraging residents to dim the lights in recognition of the importance of protecting nocturnal migrating birds. Saturday is World Migratory Bird Day, so city officials will be turning off the light that sits on top of the Municipal Building tower at 2 E. Main St. from 7 to 10 p.m. In a press release from the city, members of the Natural Resource Commission ask St. Charles residents “to reduce the amount of light outside their homes, use warm lighting, and direct lights down towards the ground instead of up into the sky.” The release adds that “light pollution attracts and disorients nocturnally migrating birds, making them vulnerable to collisions and other dangers. Artificial light also impacts birds in the breeding and winter seasons, disrupting feeding and other vital behaviors.” (via Chicago Tribune)
13. Well, it’s California afterall: Feeding wild birds on all public and private property in Half Moon Bay would be almost entirely banned under a proposed ordinance that officials say is needed to rein in chronic, unchecked overfeeding of wildlife by a small number of people. But critics call the proposal — which would prohibit even backyard bird feeders if they are less than 5 feet off the ground — a major and unnecessary overreach. (via San Francisco Chronicle)
14. Surprising travel tip if you just happen to be in the area: In December last year I visited Qatar as the Honorary President of the Japan Football Association while the World Cup was being held. For this article I will share bird photographs I took during the trip while my memories are still fresh. When I tell people about birdwatching in Qatar, most of them respond doubtfully: “Are there birds in Qatar?” In the course of researching and scheduling birdwatching for my trip to the country, I discovered that there are actually far more birds recorded in Qatar than I had previously thought. More than 360 species are observed every year, of which more than 200 are migratory birds. (via BirdLife)
15. Gadget review: A few years ago, a hardware designer named Kyle Buzzard watched a viral video of a seagull that had stolen a GoPro and taken photos of itself looking into the camera. "That started wonder and the questions, how can we do that and automate it?" recalls Buzzard, who incidentally has the perfect name for his avian interests. Buzzard and his associates, Franci Zidar and Ziga Vrtacic, envisioned an AI-powered smart bird feeder that could identify and snap photos of 1000 bird species that might visit your backyard. But there were two immediate hurdles they had to overcome. "First, to try and get up close and personal high-quality images of birds without disturbing them," explains Buzzard. "Second, to be able to recognize the species easily. Both are very challenging to do and have the bird remain in place long enough. How many times have you reached for your camera or bird book only for the feathered friend to have flown off?" Buzzard's design pedigree helped them accomplish their goals. (via Entrepreneur)
16. A let’s close with a funny piece from The New Yorker: You learn the alphabet from an eight-foot-tall yellow anthropomorphic bird that irrevocably imprints on you. Big Bird may as well be your dad. You move on to bigger birds (i.e., dinosaurs) and take an intense interest in pterodactyls. This will become the basis for your atheism. Your mom reads you the story of “The Ugly Duckling.” Your dad reads you the story of “The Ugly Duckling.” Your first-grade teacher reads you—not the entire class, just you—the story of “The Ugly Duckling.” You begin to read between the lines. You beg your parents for a dog. Instead, they get you a parakeet for Christmas and blame the mixup on Santa. You name her Jessica, and she is your best friend—until you get a dog, at which point you give the bird to your grandma to keep her company. You’re subsequently forced to visit your grandma once a week to clean Jessica’s cage until one of them dies (twenty-four years later). (via The New Yorker)
Bird Photo of the Week
Photo by Hap Ellis, Black-throated Green Warbler – Kennebunkport, ME.
Bird Videos of the Week
By BBC, “Gift Giving Crows”.
Cornell Live Bird Cam - Red-tailed Hawk hatching!
Cornell Live Bird Cam - Panama Fruit Feeder.
Bird News Items is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber today!