Bird News Items
1. Fascinatingly alien: In a rectangular room draped in camouflage netting, four Harris’ hawks took turns flying back and forth between grass-covered perches while scientists recorded their every biomechanical flutter. The researchers were partaking of the time-honored pursuit of watching birds fly — although in this experiment, their real interest was in watching them land. In more than 1,500 flights between the perches, the four hawks nearly always took the same path — not the fastest or the most energy-efficient, but the one that allowed them to perch most safely and with the most control. As Graham Taylor, a professor of mathematical biology at the University of Oxford, and his colleagues described recently in Nature, the hawks flew in a U-shaped arc, rapidly flapping their wings to accelerate into a dive, then sharply swooping upward in a glide, stretching out their wings to slow their progress before grabbing onto the perch. (via Quanta Magazine)
2. The corncrake’s call: The call of the corncrake — a small, shy bird related to the coot — is harsh and monotonous, yet for older generations it was a beloved sound of summer in Ireland, evoking wistful memories of warm weather, hay making and romantic nights. These days, though, its call is seldom heard outside a few scattered enclaves along the western coast, like Belmullet, a remote peninsula of County Mayo. “Older people still talk about coming home from dances in summer nights and hearing the corncrakes calling from the fields all around them,” said Anita Donaghy, assistant head of conservation at Birdwatch Ireland. (via The New York Times)
3. “Grim: you’ll see it everywhere”: Birds from every continent except Antarctica have been photographed nesting or tangled in our rubbish. Photos were submitted by people from all over the world to an online project called Birds and Debris. The scientists running the project say they see birds ensnared - or nesting - in everything from rope and fishing line to balloon ribbon and a flip-flop. Nearly a quarter of the photographs show birds nesting or entangled in disposable face masks. The focus of the project is on capturing the impact of waste - particularly plastic pollution - on the avian world. (via BBC)
4. Tibbles’ legacy – or not (spoiler alert: a cat)?: You’ve seen them out there — well-fed cats, sometimes with collars on, stalking the streets like they own them or collapsing on a warm sidewalk to loll in the sun. Cat lovers find them charming. Wildlife conservationists and bird lovers see furry killers and blame them for a decline in the bird population and the deaths of untold numbers of voles, chipmunks and other small animals. How you feel about outdoor cats may also depend on where you are in the world. In the United States, about 81 percent of domestic cats are kept inside, according to a 2021 demographic study of pet cats. But elsewhere, it can be far more common to let them roam. In Denmark, only 17 percent of cats are strictly indoor pets. In Turkey, it is so common for feral cats to walk freely in and out of cafes, restaurants and markets that a documentary was made about the phenomenon. ” (via The New York Times)
5. The Mafia Hypothesis: Movies about gangsters and organized crime reveal the gritty underbelly of humanity. As it turns out, the Godfather syndrome also operates in the bird world. Now, don’t get ahead of yourself by imagining birds carrying around guns or peddling drugs. There is indeed an avian mafia, but it’s a lot different from what you might imagine. Animals interact with each other in many ways: predator-prey enemies, mutualistic business partners, best friends, or frenemies. We know that birds put a lot of energy and time into making nests where they can safely lay eggs and protect their young. However, some birds are too lazy to do all this. They just casually fly over and lay eggs in the well-prepared nests of different species of birds. These birds are called brood parasites. (via Science ABC)
6. We can only hope: In a move that surprised nearly everyone on Capitol Hill (including, humbly, your friendly neighborhood National Audubon Society policy and comms shops), the Biden Administration’s effort to pass sweeping climate action is back on the table. The Senate has an opportunity to advance one of the most significant pieces of climate legislation ever in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). It is, as Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told Stephen Colbert, “a BFD.” It is also massive, as these policy packages tend to be. There is a lot of content to explore, and as one of the leading organizations protecting birds and the places they need today and tomorrow, here are some of the highlights that we’re hoping will make it through the final vote. (via Audubon)
7. Shifting ranges: Birds are described as modern-day dinosaurs, and it seems they will be forced, yet again, to adapt to a rapidly changing world. A team of scientists led by Durham University has predicted that climate change will force avian communities worldwide to shift their ranges by 2080. To make their predictions for the future, the researchers looked at the past. They compared previous climate data to past avian ranges to determine where the birds might move. The team was interested in more than the number of birds and species diversity. They wanted to determine the effect the shift will have on phylogenetic diversity, which factors in how many different types of birds make up a community. (via Earth)
8. More neurons in the right place: If you've ever seen a grackle steal your dog pellets or a starling peck open a garbage bag, you get a sense of that some birds have learned to take advantage of new feeding opportunities — a clear sign of their intelligence. Scientists have long wondered why certain species of birds are more innovative than others, and whether these capacities stem from larger brains (which intuitively seems likely) or from a greater number of neurons in specific areas of the brain. It turns out that it's a bit of both. (via Science Daily)
9. BNI goes deep into AI and Optoelectronics: While the occurrence of bird strikes is not usually a cause of concern, it can become an issue if the bird makes contact with vital or fragile aircraft components. Airports worldwide have had dedicated airside departments to find ways of combating bird strikes consistently. Over in China, scientists may have unlocked another potential solution that keeps the birds at bay - an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven system and lasers. (via Simple Flying)
10. Thinking outside the box: Fresh seafood is on special this summer at the Westfield Annapolis Mall. As many shoppers and diners have noticed in recent weeks, a pair of osprey are raising a chick on a lighting fixture outside the former Macaroni Grill, near the intersection of Generals Highway and Bestgate Road. You don’t have to be an ornithologist to know that osprey typically nest near water, and a parking lot seems like a ridiculous choice for birds who depend on fresh fish for food. But Dave Brinker, a regional ecologist with the Maryland Heritage Wildlife Program, a branch of the Department of Natural Resources, says the nesting site represents progress, population growth and a formerly endangered species that has survived by becoming more flexible. (via The Washington Post)
11. Oops!: Australia has all sorts of amazing animals, but it doesn't have any vultures. At least not in modern times. A team of researchers has written a new chapter in the continent's history of birds by correcting a misidentification that had lingered for more than 100 years. Back in 1905, ornithologist Charles Walter de Vis described a bird fossil as an eagle, naming it Taphaetus lacertosus (powerful grave eagle). Paleontologists from Flinders University and the South Australian Museum took a fresh look at the fossil remains and discovered it was actually a vulture, not a bird of prey. It now has a new name: Cryptogyps lacertosus (powerful hidden vulture). (via CNET)
12. Way off course: A bird rarely seen in Maine has been sighted off the coast, according to a pair of birding experts. The tufted puffin was sighted by seabird biologists in June on Petit Manan, an island 2.5 miles off the coast of Steuben in Washington County. The bird was then sighted on Machias Seal Island, about 10 miles off Cutler. The last sighting took place in July in Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge – about 21 miles off Rockland. The species’ normal breeding range extends from the coast of northern California to the coast of northern Alaska, across to the coast of Russia, and south to northern Japan. (via The Press Herald)
13. Book Review: When European commentators in the 1830s admired the brilliantly colored, life-size prints in John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, they found the backgrounds almost as enthralling as the birds: forest clearings, swamps and canebrakes and waving prairie grasses—an unknown country. The land, not the sea, was Audubon’s element. Audubon at Sea, a selection of his oceangoing writings, asks us to imagine this landsman “challenged, on a deeply existential level, by an environment where he couldn’t rely on the instincts that normally made him such an effective observer and hunter of birds.” The focus is on Audubon as writer as much as artist, and the effect is strange and powerful. The texts are impeccably edited by Christoph Irmscher and Richard J. King. (King selected them, Irmscher wrote the eloquent introduction and headnotes, and they collaborated on the wide-ranging notes.) (via The New York Times Book Review)
Bird Photo of the Week
Photo by Hap Ellis, Atlantic Puffin – Eastern Egg Rock, ME.
Bird Videos of the Week
By A Shot at Wildlife, “Things You Need to Know about House Sparrows”.
Cornell Live Bird Cam - Royal Albatross Chick.
Cornell Live Bird Cam - Hummingbird Feeder.
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