Wildlife

Avian Tragedy

Thousands of migrating swallows and swifts were found dead across parts of Greece during the first week of April after they were killed by freak high winds and downpours. Others were found gravely injured.

The country’s ornithologist association blamed currents that blew the birds from northern Africa into the strong winds from the north of the Aegean Sea, especially around the Greek Islands.

The association warned residents to take care not to drive or walk over exhausted birds that may have landed after flying for many hundreds or thousands of miles.

Wildlife

Wildlife Return to Urban Areas

Streets and other urban landscapes emptied out around the world in recent weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic are becoming repopulated by wildlife that had historically roamed the areas.

Rafters of turkeys are rambling through Oakland, California, while pumas stalk the streets of Santiago, Chile, returning to habitats once taken from them.

Foxes “change their behavior very quickly. When a place becomes quiet, they’re straight in there,” Romain Julliard, of the French Natural History Museum, told AFP. Lawns left unmowed are also providing conditions for bees and butterflies to thrive, Julliard added.

Trump’s industry-friendly rollback could kill billions of birds

The Trump administration intends to end the long-established practice of threatening criminal penalties to pressure companies into taking action to prevent unintentional bird deaths.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) allows for fines or prosecution for oil and gas, construction, communications and other companies who do not take steps to protect bird populations.

The most notable enforcement case bought under the MBTA resulted in a $100m settlement by BP, after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 killed approximately 100,000 birds.

The Trump administration is swiftly pushing through industry-friendly rollbacks on dozens of environmental protections ahead of the election in November.

A rollback on vehicle emission standards was announced on Tuesday. In January, a rule to remove environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater was completed.

The Trump administration says deaths of birds that fly into oil pits, mining sites, telecommunications towers, wind turbines and other hazards should be treated as accidents not subject to prosecution. The proposal would cement that into federal regulation.

The threat of fines and prosecution meant that companies took steps to protect birds such as red lights on communication towers, sirens and loud noises these to prevent birds landing on toxic water sites.

Most notable was the destruction last fall of nesting grounds for 25,000 shorebirds in Virginia to make way for a road and tunnel project. State officials had ended conservation measures for the birds after federal officials advised such measures were voluntary under the new interpretation of the law.

The move to relax the bird law, combined with Trump rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act puts birds and their habitat at greater risk, said Audubon Society vice president Sarah Greenberger.

Wildlife

Urban Avians

A new study finds why some birds thrive in cities while others go extinct due to human activities — they can either grow large brains or produce more offspring.

“On the one hand, species with large brains, like crows or gulls, are common in cities because large brain size helps them deal with the challenges of a novel environment,” said lead author Ferran Sayol of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg.

“On the other hand, we also found that small-brained species, like pigeons, can be highly successful if they have a high number of breeding attempts over their lifetimes.”

Venetian Revival

Fish and even dolphins have returned to the now-calmed waters of Venice’s famed canals due to the shutdown of tourism and daily life during Italy’s coronavirus health crisis.
The hundreds of speeding motorboat taxis and tourist boats that used to churn La Serenissima’s canals are now docked in silence. The huge cruise ships are also gone, while even most of the gondolas are moored.
The city’s typically turbid canals are now clear enough to see the native seaweed and returning schools of fish.

Wildlife

Climate-sensitive bird hints at global warming’s lasting impact

It’s hard to be a bird these days.

Take the black-throated blue warbler. The migration patterns of this small songbird have been slowly but steadily changing over the past 50 years, according to a study published Thursday in the journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

The timing of the bird’s flight patterns has been advancing, with its spring migration occurring around one day earlier per decade. While the warbler isn’t facing the same risks as some of its other feathered friends, it’s the kind of small but unignorable change that ornithologists are becoming all too familiar with.

Birds are very susceptible to changes, and they are really good indicators of what’s happening around them in their physical environment. This has made birds a particularly important part of understanding the growing impact of climate change.

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Wildlife

Birds are shrinking – Study

Birds are getting smaller. So shows an analysis of migratory birds that died after colliding into buildings in Chicago and were collected as specimens for the Field Museum of Natural History.

David Willard, a Field Museum ornithologist, has measured the Windy City’s dead birds since 1978. Data from his calipers and scales reveal decades-long trends in bird bodies: Their legs, on average, are growing shorter. They have lost weight. Their wings are getting slightly longer.

These changes are present in nearly all of the species he measured, according to a study of 70,716 bird specimens from almost 40 years published Wednesday in the journal Ecology Letters. Morphing birds, Willard and his colleagues say, reflect a changing climate.

The study authors examined precipitation, vegetation and other factors that could contribute to bird size. They determined an increase in summer temperatures is the strongest predictor for smaller birds.

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Global Warming

North American Birds under Threat

Two-thirds of bird species in North America are at risk of extinction if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a new report from scientists at the Audubon Society. A total of 389 species, out of 604 studied, are expected to experience declines in their populations as a result of warmer temperatures, higher seas, loss of habitat, and extreme weather, all driven by climate change.

Among those birds most at-risk are the greater sage grouse, Baltimore oriole, common loon, and the wood thrush. The new study comes less than a month after research found the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds since 1970, equal to losing one out of every four birds.

Global Warming

Earlier breeding season for some Arctic seabirds

The breeding season of some seabirds in Arctic regions takes place earlier as a result of the temperature rise caused by climate change, according to a science article with Francisco Ramírez, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona -as one of the main authors.

According to the study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, surface-feeding seabirds in the north of the Pacific Ocean are moving their breeding season to an earlier timing than the rest of species -about ten days before for over the last thirty-five years- due the ocean’s temperature rise and ice melting, which are signs of Spring onset in the Arctic.

The Arctic is one of the most sensitive areas to the global warming effects. Ice melting and the continuous rise of temperatures -higher than the average worldwide- are dramatically altering the structure of the Arctic ecosystems.

Wildlife

Bears Starving in Canada

Grizzlies in Canada are starving as the salmon population withers amid climate change. Excruciatingly thin grizzly bears in Canada are fresh evidence of the dire consequences of climate change and vanishing food sources for wildlife. Salmon, a key food source for grizzlies, is at an all-time low, affected by climate change. Fisherman say the salmon population is the smallest they’ve seen in 50 years.

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Bird Populations in Mojave Desert Collapse

Bird populations in the Mojave Desert have collapsed over the last century, and now scientists say they know why: The animals’ bodies can’t cope with the hotter and drier weather brought on by global warming.

The discovery, described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, draws upon historical records and high-tech virtual bird modeling to explain how climate change has caused such drastic population losses — and how it will likely cause even deeper losses in the future.

As climate change and habitat destruction due to human activity continue across the globe, many species have found themselves in decline or under threat. A recent study in the journal Science, for instance, found that there are nearly 3 billion fewer birds in North America today than there were in 1970.

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Wildlife

Disappearing Birds

Pollution, habitat loss and environmental degradation have led to North America’s bird population plunging by 2.9 billion since 1970, a new report says.

Writing in the journal Science, scientists say the greatest losses have occurred among species that live in grasslands, such as blackbirds, finches, sparrows and warblers. Their populations dropped by around 53% over the past half-century while overall bird losses were about 29%.

“Birds are the quintessential indicators of environmental health, the canaries in the coal mine, and they’re telling us it’s urgent to take action to ensure our planet can continue to sustain wildlife and people,” said co-author Peter Marra.

Wildlife

Birds lose weight, migrate later after consuming insecticide

Birds that have ingested seeds treated with a common insecticide experience weight loss and delay their migrations — effects that could reduce their chances of surviving and reproducing, researchers found.

In a study of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in Canada, biologists documented the effects in birds that eat the equivalent of just a few seeds treated with the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid — an amount they could be expected to consume in the wild from agricultural fields.

Researchers suspect these impacts could be related to a dramatic decline in some songbird populations.

Neonicotinoids are often applied as a seed coating to protect crops from harmful insects, but when the chemicals are exposed in the environment, studies have found they can affect pollinating insects as well as birds.

Researchers found that birds given a higher dose of the pesticide lost 6% of their body mass within six hours, causing the birds to stay an average of 3 ½ days longer than birds in a control group at the stopover site before resuming migration.

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Wildlife

Birds vs Buildings

A new study finds that hundreds of millions of birds die by crashing into U.S. buildings each year during their migrations.

Songbirds are among the greatest victims at night because they emit chirps that signal other birds to follow and sometimes crash into the structures.

City lights and glass windows that appear as clear air to the birds are also threats. Chicago is said to be the most deadly city for bird crashes, with Houston and Dallas coming in second and third.

Researchers say that since half of migratory birds pass through a particular city during six nights in the spring and seven nights in the fall, cities could cut down on bird deaths by dimming their lights during those brief periods.

Whale Liberation

The Kremlin has intervened to free nearly 100 whales that have been held in small pens in Russia’s Far East following months of pressure from animal rights groups and Hollywood stars.

It is believed the whales were caught last year for sale to Chinese marine parks, which pay millions of dollars for them. Surveillance by Greenpeace and other groups revealed that the whales have suffered from hypothermia, skin lesions and flipper deterioration.

An international group of scientists, including the famed marine expert Jean-Michel Cousteau, announced that the whales will be released in phases under the new agreement with Moscow.

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Wildlife

Tiny Traveller

The epic migration of a tiny bird was tracked as it traveled 12,400 miles back and forth between Alaska and the Amazon.

Scientists from Canada’s University of Guelph say the 0.4-ounce blackpoll warbler is one of the fastest-declining songbirds in North America.

The record-holding bird was observed taking 18 days to fly from Nome, Alaska, to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, where it rested and fattened up for almost a month.

The bird then endured a nonstop 2.5-day flight across open water of the Atlantic toward its wintering grounds in South America.

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Wildlife

Last Glimpse of Long-Tusked ‘Elephant Queen’

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An elephant matriarch in Kenya that recently died of old age was an impressive sight to the very end, thanks to a pair of tusks that were so unusually long that they resembled those of a woolly mammoth. The elephant, known as F_MU1, lived in Kenya’s Tsavo region for more than 60 years.

F_MU1 died of natural causes, but big tuskers usually aren’t so lucky, as their massive tusks make them targets for ivory poachers. In 2017, poachers killed and mutilated a big tusker named Satao II who was nearly 50 years old; one of the creature’s tusks weighed 114 lbs. (51.5 kilograms) and the other weighed 111 lbs. (50.5 kg), The Guardian reported that year.

To date, only about 25 big tuskers remain in the wild.

Climate Change Linked To Declining Bird Populations In Idaho And Across Great Basin

A new study finds habitat for waterbirds has been declining due to climate change. Warmer temperatures and less precipitation are leading to a reduction in habitat which, in turn, has resulted in fewer waterbirds in the Great Basin.

Focusing on waterbirds – including ducks, geese and herons – the researchers looked at their presence along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory corridor in the Western U.S. The scientists found significantly warmer temperatures and lower amounts of precipitation in the Basin over the last two decades. As it gets hotter, and these wetlands get drier and saltier, they become smaller and less viable for birds raising chicks.

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Wildlife

Wise Old Bird

The world’s oldest known wild bird has become a mother yet again, hatching at the approximate age of 68 what is about her 40th egg.

The Laysan albatross known as Wisdom was first banded in 1956 and has regularly nested to hatch her eggs on the remote Midway Atoll in the central Pacific.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the blessed event, saying that Wisdom spends about 90 percent of her life at sea, feeding on squid and fish eggs between hatchings.

She and her current mate, Akeakamai, have returned to the same nest site on Midway each year since 2006.

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Wildlife

Canadian Geese – Death-Defying Strategy For Surviving Hailstorms

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These Canadian geese stare up into the sky as hail pounds the pavement all around them.

If you or I were to try this form of high-intensity storm watching, we’d likely walk away with bruises or a black eye. However, according to Jeremy Ross, a biologist and bird expert at the University of Oklahoma, this behavior has been spotted before in feathered creatures when hail is falling. And it probably helps them survive the storms, by presenting a smaller target for the falling ice, he said.

What’s more, “a few individuals seem to be actually reacting to individual hailstones,” Ross said. “So not only are they looking up into the sky to reduce their profile, but perhaps when a hailstone was imminently going to hit them in the face, they dodge it really quickly.”

Vanishing Penguins

The population of king penguins in what was once the world’s largest colony has plummeted by nearly 90 percent over the last 35 years, and scientists say they don’t know why.

The Île aux Cochons colony in the southern Indian Ocean was also once the second-largest colony of all penguins. But satellite images revealed the number of birds there dropped from 502,400 breeding pairs in 1982 to 59,200 in April 2017.

Scientists say overfishing, feral cats and invasive diseases or parasites could be responsible for the disappearing penguins in the remote French territory.

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