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Saturday, November 23, 2013

This week in birds - #89

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:

Photo by Bill Hubick, courtesy of ABC.
It isn't often that American Bird Conservancy chooses a Bird of the Week that is a resident in my neighborhood, but this week they have. It is the cutest (in my opinion!) and perkiest of the nuthatch family, the little Brown-headed Nuthatch. The Brown-headed Nuthatch loves old pine trees in an open mature forest and it finds plenty of those in my neighborhood. My next door neighbors have about seven or eight pines of over 100 feet in height in their backyard and they are often visited by the nuthatches, as well as warblers. In the late afternoons, I love to sit in my backyard and monitor the activity there. There's always something going on.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is one of the few birds that is known to use a tool. It will use a piece of bark to pry up tree bark to get at insects.

This bird is a resident of the Southeastern United States and its population is decreasing because of logging and the fragmentation of its habitat, as well as fire suppression. Fires actually help to create the optimal habitat for the little birds.

They may be decreasing in some areas, but they seem to be doing very well in my neighborhood.


It's the time of year when we usually see stories about Wild Turkeys in the news and this year is no exception. The turkeys are an avian success story as they have recolonized many of the areas that they have been pushed out of in the past by human developments. One of those places that they have recolonized is New York City!


And still more about turkeys. It is well known that Benjamin Franklin wanted the Wild Turkey to be the symbol of our country. He thought it was a much nobler and more courageous bird than the eagle and he made an impassioned defense of his choice, but, in the end, his argument did not carry the day, and so we have the Bald Eagle as our symbol.


The Justice Department has brought its first case against a wind power company because of its causing the deaths of protected birds. It won the case against Duke Energy which has agreed to pay one million dollars to a group of conservation groups and to make changes in the way it operates to try to minimize such deaths in the future.


There has long been a suspected link between the practice of fracking to extract oil and gas and the increase in the number of earthquakes in the areas where fracking occurs. Now a seismologist in Oklahoma is proposing a study to prove the truth (or not) of that suspected link.


Did you ever wonder about the success of the invasive House Sparrow? I mean, it isn't just in North America. The European bird is now resident in practically every country of the world. Scientists have learned that one of the reasons for their success is that they are able to alter their immune systems to attack the pathogens that are endemic in the area that they are invading.


David Sibley creates wonderful field guides and he has a new one that is coming out in March. The current issue of BirdWatching has an interview with him in which he discusses the changes he has made to the guide in the new edition.


Grist has a list of the top ten politicians that get money from fracking interests. Unsurprisingly, three of the top ten are from Texas and at the very top, by a considerable amount, is Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX.


A study involving White-throated Sparrows shows that these birds are able to predict weather changes and will adjust their behavior according to the barometric pressure.


The Northern Spotted Owl continues to be a bird of great concern to conservationists. Several conservation groups have called on the forest service to protect the bird's habitat from post-fire logging.


Invasive plants may become  less robust and their detrimental effects lessened over time, but they are also most likely to be displaced by other invasive plants.


Birds seem to be wandering farther and farther afield, perhaps in an attempt to expand their range or maybe they are just lost. Lately, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher has been found in Philadelphia, of all places, and a Lark Sparrow has turned up in a Delaware state park.


Around the backyard:

Woodpeckers have been hitting the suet hard this week.

 Here, a female Red-bellied flashes just a bit of that red belly that gives her her name.

A little male Downy climbs the post to get to his favorite suet bar.

There are now at least two Rufous Hummingbirds in my yard - the one I showed you yesterday on the feeder outside my office window and this one.

This also is a female and she typically sits in the same perches as one of the females who spent the winter with me last year. I tend to think it is probably the same bird, although, of course, I can't prove it.

Bird activity in the yard is still rather subdued and things do not look promising for my third session of FeederWatching this weekend. The cold and wet weather will not be an ally.

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