Posts Tagged ‘bird conservation’

A Day at the Beach

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
A Day at the Beach

What could be more summer-like than a day at the beach? Who doesn’t love having fun in the water and on the sand? And the beach is a popular spot for wildlife as well. Terrapins cross busy streets to get from the marsh to

piping_plover_chick
Piping Plover chick

the sandy shores to lay their eggs, then return home across those same busy streets; horseshoe crabs lay their thousands of eggs along the shoreline, and eating the eggs gives long-distance flying shorebirds the energy they need to complete their migration; Osprey and terns ply the waters close to shore, diving for food; beach nesting birds lay their perfectly camouflaged eggs in the sand

and raise their equally camouflaged young there.  On beaches, there’s a lot going on! And it might not be a surprise to know that birds that use our shores face some big challenges.

Next time you’re at the beach, take a careful look around. All beach nesting birds, like the oystercatchers below,  lay eggs directly on a little shallow in the sand. For their protection from predators, these eggs all blend in perfectly with the sand, as do the teeny chicks who when hatched, are extremely difficult to see. Many areas where birds nest on the beach are roped off so they can enjoy a zone away from the rest of us enjoying the same real estate.

Want to help beach-nesting birds?  Here are some things you can do:
If you see a nesting area that has been roped off, don’t enter it for any reason.  The eggs or chicks, if they have hatched, could be anywhere.  Plus, the adults have a difficult time herding their precocial chicks, and see everything that moves as a potential predator — including pets.  Even if your dog is on a lead and outside the nesting area, his presence can distract the adults who may
oystercatcher and chick at beach
American Oystercatcher and chick on beach

feel they need to leave their chicks to defend against a passing dog. This might lead to an opening a gull or crow has been waiting for to grab an unattended  chick.  Plus some birds, like Piping Plovers, need to safely escort their chicks to the water’s edge multiple times each day to feed them. A busy beach is a challenging place for a beach nesting bird! If you are respectful, they will stand a much better chance of successfully raising their young.


The beach is a great place to spend hot summer days, and its also a terrific place to see wildlife.  Enjoy the beach and be respectful of the wild birds and other animals with which we share it.  This is the best way to ensure they will be there in the future for all of us to continue to enjoy.

The Mystery of the Migration Route

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The Mystery of the Migration Route

Do birds fly the same route on migration in spring and fall? Would it surprise you that many of them don’t? In fact, scientists are finding out that many birds, especially in spring, follow a path of new plant growth — what is migrating_cormorantscalled a “green wave” of migration — where birds follow patches of insects and food going north. In fall, especially in the western US, they take a more direct route south, staying at higher elevations, creating a round trip route that looks like a loop for their migration as opposed to a straight line used both directions.  For birds in the western US, it might seem to us to be a less enticing route, but if the choice is flight over desert, or flight over wilted foliage with insects in it, the choice seems fairly straight forward.

This “looped migration” offers conservationists the opportunity to fine tune their efforts to benefit birds on migration by building, preserving and reinforcing stop-over habitats where they are needed.

The information which went into this study has been made possible by birders like you who post sightings on ebird, which helps create a database of bird sightings over time.  See more on this interesting discovery at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Family Fun: Join the Christmas Bird Count!

Monday, December 15th, 2014

It’s that time of year again! Time to be part of the Christmas  Bird Count which is a birdwatchingreally fun thing to do with the entire family! In its 115th year this year, from December 14 through January 5, National Audubon Society organizes groups of people across the entire US who spend one specific day counting the birds in their area. It’s well organized and all the reported bird sightings become part of the data used to keep a record of where birds are each year. This information is invaluable for conservation purposes. And you can help! Just go to this link and find the representative doing it near you. You can sign up online, find the location and date of the count and show up to join tens of thousands of volunteers across the country every year who help keep track of our native birds through this citizen science project.

If you love birds and want to have a truly great day out birding while contributing to bird conservation, make a point of signing up and bringing your family and friends along. It’s a wonderful holiday gift for the birds and everyone participating benefits!

Photo credit: National Audubon Society

Where To See Birds: California’s Central Valley

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

WHERE TO SEE BIRDS: California’s Central Valley

The Central Valley of California is a great spot for overwintering waterfowl.  It has also been making the

snow_geese_central_valley_ca_gary_zahm_usfws
Snow Geese – Gary Zahm, USFWS

news a lot lately as the drought there has reached epic proportions, and it’s not just farmers who are affected. About 60 percent of the waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway use California’s Central Valley for wintering habitat making this area an extremely important bird habitat — especially for wintering ducks and geese.  Its 13 million acres once contained a rich wetland complex covering 4 million acres.  But with intense agriculture and human development only 205,000 acres of highly managed wetlands remain.

As global climate patterns continue to predict more droughts, the future of wetlands in the Central Valley is uncertain. Agriculture claims about 80 percent of the water use in the region, and as urbanization continues, demand for that water increases. But it’s not all bad news! In recent years rice farmers have worked with conservationists to manage rice fields for birds. It’s a practice called “Bird Friendly Agriculture”, whereby farmers are compensated for providing habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds during critical times of year when the farmers aren’t using their fields for agriculture anyway.

Visit California’s Central Valley in the wintertime to see incredible flocks of  Snow Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Canada Geese,  Mallards, Canvasbacks, Dunlin,  Sandhill Cranes and so much more! We recommend visiting a National Wildlife Refuge, such as Merced National Wildlife Refuge in Merced, California, or Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows, California. After you enjoy the show, be sure to support the many organizations that protect wildlife in California’s Central Valley. You can learn more about them by visiting the  Central Valley Joint Venture website.

Watch Ospery Migration Live Online

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Watch Osprey Migration Live Online!

osprey_flying Compared to other birds of prey, Ospreys start their migration south early. Ospreys cannot tolerate cold weather and they start their trek to warmer climes in August before temperatures start to drop.

In recent years scientists have been attaching transmitters ospreytrax_map to Ospreys, enabling them to track their movements in real time.  To get real time updates on the whereabouts and routes some ospreys take, check out Ospreytrax. Here you will find an interactive map which lets you see where the birds in this group are right now; and you can use the slider at the bottom of the map to see their movements. The birds in this map are a mix of experienced adults and juveniles migrating for the first time.  It’s fascinating to check back from time to time to see who is where as each bird has his or her own path and time frame for their migration!

Snowy Owls and Airports

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
IN THE NEWS:  Snowy Owls and Airports

snowy_owl_flying Snowy owls are coming into the US in record numbers this year, and are being seen as far south as South Carolina! If you enjoyed reading about the current irruption of Snowy owls last month in our newsletter, you might be interested in this news story.

Snowy owls like hunting for food in open areas, like airfields, and birds and jet aircraft don’t mix well.  If you saw the news story in early December about the Snowy owls at JFK airport, you may recall that the Port Authority who manages the airport, decided to kill 5 Snowy owls that were near the field, much as they do Canada geese and other birds who pose a potential safety hazard to aircraft.

Birdwatchers who had come long distances to see the owls were shocked at this decision, as Snowy owls at other airports, such as Boston’s Logan airport, are trapped and released.  Additionally, the biggest safety issue involves birds in large flocks that are sucked into jet engines and can more readily cause an accident.  Snowy owls are solitary and pose far less of a threat than do flocking birds, so this decision to shoot the owls near JFK was perceived as a bit extreme.

With the help of many NGO’s including NY Audubon and Friends of Animals, as well as many New Yorkers who contacted the Port Authority protesting this inhumane treatment, the Port Authority very quickly agreed to stop shooting the owls and provide for a non-lethal way of getting them off the field. JFK will now be safe from owl strikes and it will be done humanely.  Thanks to everyone who made their feelings about this known to the authorities.  New Yorkers don’t want owls killed!

Safer Glass + Fewer Lights = Safer Migration

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Safer Glass + Fewer Lights = Safer Migration

Migration is pretty challenging to begin with.  But there are some additional man-made risks that birds have to contend with and they are often deadly.

bird_glass_strike
courtesy Sara Sharf/FLAP Canada

Colliding with glass poses a serious threat to birds.  It is estimated that nearly 300 million to 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with glass and confusion from lights on tall buildings, communication towers and homes — and the risk is increased during migration.  Research indicates that collisions are second only to habitat loss in the leading causes of bird deaths in North America.

During the evenings, it is thought that birds are attracted to the glow of excessive lights.  For centuries, birds have used patterns of light from the moon and stars to navigate the night sky.  Songbirds in particular prefer to migrate at night. Urban sprawl has only confused birds on their evening migrations.  They are drawn to the artificial lighting of cities and find themselves in a maze of brightly lit buildings where they often become trapped and fly in endless circles, unable to free themselves from the overwhelming light. These birds fall to the ground exhausted and often dead.

Hummingbird_stunned
courtesy FLAP Canada

Many cities including San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Toronto, have a Lights Out program.  From midnight to dawn during peak migration in fall and spring, buildings turn their lights out, making passage safer for many migrating birds…and helping to save energy as well!  If your city doesn’t do this, you can try to get a Lights Out program established. It’s very important for migrating birds, and something anyone can do.

During the daylight hours, birds are attracted to reflections of their habitat and surroundings in glass. They see things differently than we do and may see the reflection of trees in a window for a resting spot and fly in.  Or they may not see there is glass they have to get through to get to a garden on the other side. Sound familiar?  Have you ever walked into a door not realizing it was glass?  At high speed, a bird hitting plate glass suffers greatly or even fatally with this kind of collision.

Glass is a serious concern for birds, but luckily products are becoming available to help birds from colliding with glass.  A new glass called Ornilux has a UV pattern that is nearly invisible to humans, but it allows birds to see the glass before they collide with it. Its a breakthrough in bird-friendly glass products and is great for new residential construction or commercial use.

But it’s not just the glass in city buildings that cause problems. Birds in your backyard are experiencing similar issues and need your help. If you spend time watching the birds in your yard, it is likely you have seen or heard them strike a window.  Placing your feeders within 3-4 feet of windows can in fact help reduce the likelihood of a window strike.  At a shorter distance, birds won’t build up enough speed to seriously injure themselves should they collide.  Closing blinds and moving houseplants away from Completed Window Examplewindows can also help lessen confusion. Placing strips of flapping fabric every 12-18 inches on the window shows there is no space to fly through, but it doesn’t look great. The most effective method is to put a repeating pattern on the windows that creates a view the birds know they can’t fly through. Single decals don’t really work as the birds think they can fly around them.  But Feather Friendly makes a dotted tape that you can apply yourself to make your windows safer for birds and it wont interrupt your view of them or your garden!

For more information regarding collision risks and how to prevent them, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program website.  They have excellent tips on providing a bird friendly environment in your hometown and backyard.

FAMILY PROJECT: Help Long Distance Migrators

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Birds that migrate long distances need your help!

There are fun and easy things anyone can do and they can make a big difference to wildlife. If you like taking a stand for the right thing – animals like the Red knot and horseshoe crabs need you to stand up for them to keep them from disappearing.  Take Mike Hudson in Maryland, for example.  At 14 years old, he and some friends started a letter writing campaign to the US Fish and Wildlife Service asking the Red knot be listed as an endangered species.  You can visit his website Friends of the Red Knot to see what he is doing.  For his effort he has gained a great reputation and he now assists researchers gathering data on these birds – something he really loves to do. Are you good at social media, maybe Facebook or Twitter?  Start your own social media campaign and get your friends involved to contact lawmakers and let them know how important it is to not harvest horseshoe crabs, and to get Red knots federally listed as endangered.  Birds like the Red knot need your help and it’s fun to do!

If you live near any grassland or prairie area – they used to exist all across the US – take a look to see if there is anyone restoring the original prairie, like Citizens for Conservation in Illinois.  There is a lot of this going on and prairie restoration can be a lot of fun to do!  You work with a group of people to get rid of the bad invasive plants and put in the native ones, plant seeds and sometimes create ponds and marshes.  Grasslands can start recovering fairly quickly and the work you do helps birds and animals in a very big way by giving them more areas to nest and use as stopovers during migration.  It’s a great family project that will leave you incredibly satisfied at the end of the day.

Please let us know what you are doing to help migrating birds.  We would love to let our readers know!

Another Grey Bust

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Another 1000 African Gray parrots were discovered earlier this month in crates about to leave the airport in Cameroon for transport to Bahrain and the Middle East. This is the second illegal shipment of these parrots intercepted in two months in Cameroon. The total number of birds discovered numbers over 1500 between the shipments – all sent to Limbe Wildlife Refuge for rehabilitation. The birds who are alive and who are able to be released will be. Many have already died from being crushed or glued or just general rough handling and fear during the “shipment.”

These are all wild caught birds of the endangered species variety. They are CITES II which means trade in them is restricted because their populations in the wild are so low that they cannot sustain any trade. I spoke with Dr. Irene Pepperberg of The Alex Foundation who has done the seminal work on the intelligence of African Grey Parrots. She told me that when there is this high a number of birds being poached, it means there are a number of large flocks from which the adults are taken. Stripped of their teaching population, the younger birds remaining in these substantially decreased flocks are left trying to learn to survive in the wild on their own and it makes these diminished flocks extremely vulnerable. If any of the birds that eventually are released are young, they have an equally challenging situation in that they also need adult birds who will teach them how to survive. But in this case it’s even trickier because these unrelated birds being released will need to know to search out and find adults who are willing to teach them. Add to this the fact that, according to research done by Dr. Pepperberg over a 30 year project, African Grey parrots have an emotional equivalent of a 2-3 human child and the intelligence of a 5-6 year old human child, and seeing these birds tightly crammed in baskets and crates is even more heartbreaking.

Limbe is charged with caring for over 1000 parrots right now – a financial and time burden they never expected. The best way to stop these kinds of killing shipments is to end the market for wild caught birds. It can start with each of us. Triple check your desire for an exotic bird before buying one. Make sure you are prepared for the commitment. It can be up to 80 years of commitment and you can expect your life to change dramatically to accommodate the bird – you cannot reasonably expect the bird to accommodate your lifestyle and still have any kind of satisfying life for either of you. If you still must get one, then be absolutely certain the bird was domestically bred and raised and there are several generations of domestically bred and raised birds in his or her lineage. Wild birds make terrible pets anyway. Those domestically bred and hand raised are more accustomed to human interaction and there is generally less aggression than with a wild caught bird. We can avoid unwittingly aiding and abetting the poaching of exotic birds by shrinking the market for them. The birds are much happier when they remain in the wild. And, it would be a travesty for a regal bird like the African Grey to disappear because of his ornamental value in the pet trade.

 

Photo credits: Limbe Wildlife Refuge

Finch Fights

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Apparently there are no animals too small be bet upon in forced fighting rings. The latest bust, this one in Massachusetts, of illegal immigrants who keep finches in intolerable conditions, get them worked up , sharpen their beaks and then get them fighting, is a sad testimony to what goes on. Who would have thought finches weighing just grams could be considered fighting instruments with which to make money? This article in the Boston Herald tells a tough story about an improbable, but apparently not uncommon form of animal abuse.

photo credit: Boston Herald

 

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