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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last Glimpse of Long-Tusked ‘Elephant Queen’
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.
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.
Canadian Geese – Death-Defying Strategy For Surviving Hailstorms
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.”
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.
Climate change leaves birds hungry
Warmer springs due to climate change are leaving chicks in UK woodlands hungry, according to new research.
As springs get warmer earlier, caterpillar numbers spike too soon meaning by the time many birds’ eggs have hatched later in the season, there is not enough food to go around.
The study adds to mounting evidence that the changing climate is playing havoc with the seasons and causing problems for animals and plants whose actions are calibrated to annual rhythms.
“With spring coming earlier due to climate change, leaves and caterpillars emerge earlier and birds need to breed earlier to avoid being mismatched. We found that the earlier the spring, the less able birds are to do this.”
Bird lovers are being warned that their garden feeders could contribute to the spread of serious disease among wild birds unless they are cleaned regularly.
A new British study found that contaminated feeders could be causing rare bird illnesses to become epidemics.
Experts recommend using feed from accredited suppliers and leaving it out in moderation so the feeders are emptied every day or two, allowing them to be cleaned more often.
They also suggest rotating the feeding sites to avoid accumulation of waste food and bird droppings that could carry disease.
One of the Tiniest Ancient Birds – About 127 million years ago, tiny birds the size of grasshoppers lived alongside some of the biggest animals to walk the Earth, including the long-necked sauropods, a new study finds.
Sleep Singing Finches
Argentine researchers have found that zebra finches seem to be practicing their songs while they sleep without actually making a sound.
It’s long been known that the birds’ brains spontaneously reproduce the same patterns in their sleep that they use when singing during the day. But scientists from the University of Buenos Aires have found that the finches’ vocal muscles are also moving during their avian slumber.
The only thing keeping the tiny birds from actually singing while sleeping is the absence of an air flow through their throats. Scientists think the sleep “singing” may be how the birds learn new songs or keep their existing tunes stable.
Primates in Peril
Roughly half of the orangutans living on Borneo have disappeared over the past 16 years due to hunting and vast destruction of their habit.
Researchers say much of the loss of 100,000 of the island’s orangutans is due to logging operations that clear the land to make way for palm plantations and mining.
Field researcher Serge Wich says targeted killings and other direct conflicts between the orangutans and humans are pushing the primates beyond their well-known ability to adapt to a changing landscape.
A northern Namibian village was raided by a herd of 28 elephants that wrecked 18 homes, uprooted trees and destroyed the village borehole well.
Residents of Otjorute say the animals frequently arrive from a nearby conservation area during harvest time, but this month’s raids are unprecedented.
The villagers say the pachyderms arrived early one morning in mid-January amid much noise and chaos, leaving a trail of uprooted or damaged trees.
The New Era daily reports at least one elephant followed people’s footprints until it got into their houses.
The cacophony of manmade sounds in the modern world may be causing symptoms in birds similar to what humans experience when suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History studied birds exposed to the constant noise of natural-gas compressors and found skewed stress hormone levels, possibly due to increased anxiety, distraction and hypervigilance.
Report co-author Rob Guralnick believes the noise could act as an “acoustic blanket,” muffling the sound clues birds rely on to detect predators, competitors for food and their own species.
“They’re perpetually stressed because they can’t figure out what’s going on,” said Guralnick.