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Bay Area Bird Blog » birds (general)

Archive for the 'birds (general)' Category

15th 2010
Bird deaths from collisions: shocking numbers

Posted under birds (general) & science

Golden Gate Audubon Society just put up an information page about how many birds are killed in collisions. The uncertainties are pretty high, but even the low-end estimates are huge: at least 100 million birds per year killed in collisions with windows, for example.  A lot of these happen one collision at a time — a bird gets hit by a car, or runs into a window that it doesn’t realize is there.  But sometimes there are horrific mass-kill incidents, when huge flocks of birds get confused by radio tower lights and fly in circles around them, with birds running into the guy wires at every circuit and falling to the ground with wings broken.  There are known things that can be done to reduce all of these causes of mortality, if we can get people to care.

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17th 2010
Name That Bird quiz

Posted under birds (general)

I just did a post about the Nature Conservancy, but here’s another: a very short quiz.  See how many of these species you can identify.  I got four out of six.


9th 2010
Contribute to International Bird Rescue Research Center

Posted under birds (general) & science

The IBRRC is, of course, totally overwhelmed with birds from the gulf oil spill.  They work in many other places too.  They’ve done a lot of great work over the years, both developing better treatment and cleaning methods and actually saving birds.  They could really use your contribution, now or any time: go to their blog and hit “Donate Now.”

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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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12th 2008
Salmonella in Songbirds: don’t be part of the problem!

Posted under birds (general) & local birds

According to the terrific local group Wildcare, “An outbreak of Salmonella is killing songbirds throughout the Bay Area, and WildCare needs your help to stop the spread!”  They give specific advice on their website .  The take-home message for me: I should be cleaning my feeders way more often and way more thoroughly than I do.  Maybe I shouldn’t have them at all!  I will definitely give this some thought, and if I keep the feeders I will definitely clean them better and more frequently.  Please do the same. 

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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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15th 2008
Finally, some good news: Red Kites in Scotland are on the rise

Posted under birds (general)

According to BBC News, “There are now 122 breeding pairs in Scotland and 1,200 pairs across the UK.  Red kites were once common all over the British Isles, before widespread killings in Victorian times led to just a few pairs surviving in mid-Wales.”


I was pretty pleased to read about that!  But then I made the mistake of reading the rest of the story: “Red kites are almost entirely confined to Europe, and the species is faring badly in many other countries, with population declines recorded in the main breeding areas of Germany, France and Spain. The species is now classified as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to its population declines in Europe.”

So, OK, it’s good news in Scotland, bad news everywhere else.  Allow me to focus on the good news for once, it’s depressing to just look at the losses everywhere.  Hooray for the Scottish kites!

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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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