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Friday, May 11, 2012

This week in birds - #20

(Owen Deutsch photo of male Painted Bunting courtesy of American Bird Conservancy.)

The American Bird Conservancy's Bird of the Week is the Painted Bunting. This is a bird of concern because its numbers are declining primarily because of loss or degradation of habitat. It is also vulnerable to cowbird parasitism. 

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I told you last week about the Bald Eagle in Philadelphia that had been found injured, suffering from lead poisoning, from being shot, and apparently from being hit by a car. Its fate was still in the balance at the time I reported on it. Good news! The bird has now recovered sufficiently that it was able to be released back into the wild.

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A lot of media outlets with the sense of humor of middle-school boys have been having a lot of fun this week with a scientific paper that propounded the idea that dinosaur farts may have affected the climate of Earth, helping to keep it moderate enough to sustain an environment that was friendly for dinosaurs.

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The Mockingjay was a fictional genetically engineered bird in the popular The Hunger Games trilogy. But is such a bird actually possible?

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The invasive brown tree snake has been a catastrophe for native wildlife on many Pacific islands where it has been accidentally introduced. Now Guam is waging an all-out war on the snake. One of the weapons in their arsenal is mice laced with acetaminophen. It's a pain-killer for humans but is a deadly poison for snakes. 

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In other Pacific island news, the endangered Hawaiian goose, the Nene, has rebounded in recent years but the state is still carefully protecting its state bird as it makes its comeback. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year moving birds away from areas where they might be in danger, such as areas near runways of airports. 

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The cause or causes of the deaths of dolphins and seabirds that continue to wash up on the beaches of northern Peru has still not been determined, although authorities theorize that the sea mammals may have died from a virus and that the birds could have been victims of starvation.

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Lakes in the undeveloped High Peaks area of Adirondack Park in the Northeast are covered with ice for significantly shorter periods than they were just 32 years ago. Scientists say that the most pristine lakes in the area are the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

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In more news of global warming,  new research has shown that a sector of the Antarctic Ice Sheet is at risk of melting within the century.  

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Birds with more than one color variation are likely to evolve and split into different species faster than birds that have a single color morph, according to scientists. 

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Around the backyard:

A female Downy Woodpecker searches for insects to feed her hungry babies, next to a series of parallel lines of holes drilled by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers last winter. 

All around the yard this week the main business of Mama and Papa birds has been keeping those wide-open  beaks of their nestlings stuffed with insects. They work from dawn to dusk, flying themselves ragged to keep their families fed. In a few weeks, the nestlings will be fledglings and then, soon, they'll be on their own, and Mama and Papa can take a well-earned rest.

To all Mamas out there, I hope you will enjoy a well-earned rest this weekend. Happy Mothers' Day! 

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