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Bay Area Bird Blog » endangered species

Archive for the 'endangered species' Category

21st 2011
Climate change bad news for birds and others

Posted under endangered species

Long time, no post.  Without a steady audience of readers, it seemed like a pain to keep the blog going.  But I’m going to try to post here every now and then anyway.  Every now and then someone still finds the blog through a search engine, and finds something useful on it, so why not?

Today’s post is prompted by a New York Times article entitled “Climate Threatens Species at Every Altitude.”  It opens with a photo of the long-tailed willow bird, which it says was once far more common but is now threatened.  Without looking into it, I’m guessing that the usual suspects like invasive species and human development are more to blame than climate change so far…but climate change is just getting started and is going to get much, much worse.  From the article:” “It’s a really simple story that at some point you can’t go further north or higher up, so there’s no doubt that species will go extinct,” said Walter Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale…”

Not far from here, in the Sierra, we’re already seeing substantial effects from climate change: “Last year, new research in the journal Ecological Applications and elsewhere showed that the pika, a thick-furred, rabbitlike animal that takes refuge from the sun in piles of stones, was moving upslope at about 160 yards a decade and that in the past decade it had experienced a fivefold rise in local extinctions, the term used when a local population forever disappears.”


24th 2010
Better to wipe out a species than to play football on Saturdays?

Posted under endangered species

I recall an article about this several months ago.  The New York Times has an article about some high school football in Hawaii being switched to Saturday during the day instead of Friday nights as has been usual, in order to reduce deaths of Newell’s shearwater.  ”The birds take their first flight a few months after hatching from ground nests in Kauai’s wet mountain forests. These fledglings, some still with down feathers, are prone to mistaking the bright lights at sports fields, hotels, parking lots and other places for the moon and stars, leading them to repeatedly fly around in circles. They become exhausted and eventually drop to the ground, where they are often attacked by cats or hit by cars unless they are rescued by volunteers.”  The government threatened big fines if the bird deaths continued.  The school district is going to put in specially shielded lights, but until they do (a year or two) the kids have to play football on Saturdays instead of Fridays.  Doesn’t sound all that bad, right?

Sadly, but all too predictably, lots of people don’t like the new policy. “They have been showing up to games wearing T-shirts that disparage the policy, and occasionally voicing their displeasure from the stands.”

Here’s a quote that really gets me: “They chose the bird over our keiki,” [parent Rich Rapozo] said after a Saturday game, using the Hawaiian word for children.  Hey, listen Rich: nobody chose to kill your children instead of killing birds, OK?


29th 2010
I hope the good news just doesn’t get as much coverage

Posted under activism & endangered species & wildlife (general)

Over the past few days I’ve been catching up on some New Yorkers that arrived while I was on vacation.  One of them has a long article about the illegal slaughter of literally millions of songbirds annually in Mediterranean countries, and the fruitless efforts to fight it.  Some places have an entrenched culture of killing birds, mostly for sport  – Malta, Cyprus, and Italy are specifically named, but there’s no claim that they’re the only ones — to the extent that the authorities won’t even try to enforce the laws. (In this regard, I’m reminded of dog laws in California parks).

And then last night I read an article about overfishing.  The article implies that it’s only recently been realized that fish populations everywhere are declining, the catch in almost all established fisheries is declining in spite of more sophisticated fishing gear, and that many former “staple” species, like North Atlantic cod, have been reduced to economic and ecological irrelevance.  Actually those facts were recognized by a lot of people years ago — for instance, the book “The Empty Ocean” came out in 2003 — but perhaps the article is right that they’re not widely known by the public.

And the San Francisco Board of Supervisors just approved an enormously expensive bridge right through a wetlands that Golden Gate Audubon has been restoring, to save 2 minutes of travel time for a small number of drivers.

And, of course, there’s the oil disaster in the Gulf, the failure of any climate bill in the Senate this year…it’s been a depressing couple of days of news.

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6th 2010
Sage Grouse, endangered but not on Endangered Species List

Posted under birds (general) & endangered species & government

The New York Times reports that “The Interior Department said Friday that the greater sage grouse, a dweller of the high plains of the American West, was facing extinction but would not be designated an endangered species for now.”  It goes on to say “Residential building and energy development have shrunk the sage grouse habitat over the past several decades, causing its population in 11 Western states to dwindle from an estimated 16 million 100 years ago to 200,000 to 500,000 today.”  That means it’s down to about 3% of its historical numbers, and falling fast.  And yet, still no federal protection.

I find it very sad that people don’t care more about things like this.  Here’s a quote from Jason Chaffetz, a U.S. House representative from Utah: ““The only good place for a sage grouse to be listed is on the menu of a French bistro,” he said recently. “It does not deserve federal protection, period.”  To be indifferent — or, in this case, happy — about the prospects of the extinction of a charismatic species…well, it makes me sad and angry that there are people like this at all, much less serving in Congress.

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22nd 2009
Antioch burrowing owls are being evicted

Posted under activism & endangered species & local birds

This is really sad.  The City of Berkeley, and the Golden Gate Audubon Society, have been working really hard to preserve their tiny remaining population of burrowing owls (three in Cesar Chavez Park, two in the adjacent Eastshore State Park).  At the same time, over in Antioch, a developer is “evicting” burrowing owls (by installing one-way, outward-only gates on their burrows) in preparation to fumigating to kill all of the ground squirrels there, to make way for a big housing development.  Read more about it at “the birder’s report”.  At the least, there should be some kind of required mitigation to try to compensate for the loss of habitat for these birds, which are a “species of special concern” of the State of California because of rapid population decline. Please write to John McCamman the director of the California Department of Fish and Game, with a cc to Regional Director Chuck Armor  At this point they are not going to stop the project but it may not be too late for them to require mitigations; also, it is very important that they know that people out here in the real world notice and care when they drop the ball like this.

[Note added 1/5/09: I just got a request from the Department of Fish and Game, to remove the name and contact information of the DFG’s local representative, Susan Gilmore.  As you can see here, I have removed the contact info but not the name; people who make important decisions should be accountable for them. But there’s no point overwhelming her with messages if she’s not going to read them or is not supposed to read or respond to them, and I assume that’s the case here.]


12th 2009
…and then there were none: The jaguar is now extinct in the United States

Posted under endangered species

After decades of neglect, and refusal (by state and federal government, over many years) to create a species recovery plan as required by the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. jaguar population had long ago fallen to nearly negligible levels. Now the last U.S. jaguar, “Macho B”, is dead. The story of his death is sad, but it’s the loss of the whole species that is tragic. Perhaps someday jaguars can be imported from Mexico (as wolves have been imported from Canada) to re-establish this magnificent species in the U.S.


22nd 2008
Tired of bad news? Tough.

Posted under birds (general) & endangered species & science

Read the whole article at BBC Online, but here’s the gist of it:

The populations of the world’s common birds are declining as a result of continued habitat loss, a global assessment has warned.

The survey by BirdLife International found that 45% of Europe’s common birds had seen numbers fall, as had more than 80% of Australia’s wading species. 

The study’s authors said governments were failing to fund their promises to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.


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11th 2008
Extinction on the way: from 10 million to 5000, and falling fast.

Posted under birds (general) & endangered species & science

Asian Vulture photo by Munir Virani

Back in January, I blogged about how and why the south Asian white-backed vulture is on its way to extinction: a medicine called diclofenac, given to cows in India, is so toxic to vultures that a few bites from a dead cow will kill the vulture.  In just a few years, vultures have gone from ubiquitous to nearly extinct.  Some scientists have started captive breeding programs to save the species, in the hope of releasing them to the wild in the future. (Diclofenac is officially banned but is still being made and used).  

Unfortunately, a new study, reported in ScienceDaily, says the genetic diversity in the captive birds may not be enough.  They need to catch more birds. 

The Science Daily article says:

While the death of an unattractive bird that scavenges for a living may not sound like a great loss, vultures have important cultural and religious significance in south Asia. The ancient Parsi religion holds earth, fire and water sacred, and to avoid contaminating them, the Parsis dispose of their dead by placing them on “Towers of Silence,” where vultures consume the remains. In addition, the vulture saint Jatayu is an important figure in Hindu religion. The absence of vultures poses a direct threat to public health as well, as uneaten livestock carcasses provide breeding grounds for bacteria and attract feral dogs, which may spread rabies and other diseases.


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