2017-04-13. Rare peregrine falcons claim UC Berkeley’s Campanile as temporary home.
By Andrea Platten, The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley.
2015-10-29. Vultures nearing extinction in Africa.
2015-10-06. Bird Men—Thanks for falconers, endangered peregrines are flourishing in Midwestern cities.
By Susan Cosier, OnEarth, NRDC.
2015-06-19. Researchers push to prevent a last dance for the lesser prairie chicken.
By Marianne Lavelle, Science.
2015-06-19. Vulture populations plummet across Africa.
By Erik Stokstad, Science.
2014-09-08. Climate Change Will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says.
Excerpt: The Baltimore oriole will probably no longer live in Maryland,
the common loon might leave Minnesota, and the trumpeter swan could be
entirely gone. Those are some of the grim prospects outlined in a report
released on Monday by the National Audubon Society, which found that
climate change is likely to so alter the bird population of North
America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven
to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed
over the next 65 years. If they do not — and for several dozen it will
be very difficult — they could become extinct. The four Audubon Society
scientists who wrote the report projected in it that 21.4 percent of
existing bird species studied will lose “more than half of the current
climactic range by 2050 without the potential to make up losses by
moving to other areas.” An additional 32 percent will be in the same
predicament by 2080, they said. Among the most threatened species are
the three-toed woodpecker, the northern hawk owl, the northern gannet,
Baird’s sparrow, the rufous hummingbird and the trumpeter swan, the
report said. They are among the 30 species that, by 2050, will no longer
be able to live and breed in more than 90 percent of their current
territory. ...“Common sense will tell you that with these kinds of
findings, it’s hard to believe we won’t lose some species to
extinction,” said David Yarnold, the president of the National Audubon
Society. “How many? We honestly don’t know. We don’t know which ones are
going to prove heroically resilient.” ...Drought in Southern California
is blamed for a sharp drop in breeding among California raptors,
perhaps because a lack of water is killing the insects and small rodents
they feed on.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/09/us/climate-change-will-disrupt-half-of-north-americas-bird-species-study-says.html. By Felicity Barringer, The New York Times.
2014-04-29. Friends in high places: Peregrine falcons soar above us. Excerpt: Not long ago, Berkeleyside reader Patrick Hickey kindly sent in a photo of a beautiful bird of prey, perched on a tall building near his home in downtown Berkeley. ...Rusty Scalf, teacher and trip leader for the Golden Gate Audubon Society, confirmed it: the bird was a peregrine falcon — the fastest animal on Earth. In California, not long ago, it was also one of the most endangered. ...“Many of us were looking at the extinction of the peregrine in the 1970s,” said Glenn R. Stewart, director of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG) . “It really looked like they were going to be gone forever.” At that time, Stewart and other scientists could find only two pairs of peregrine falcons in California. In the eastern part of our country, peregrines were totally gone. ...The pesticide DDT — widely used in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s— accumulated in the fatty tissues of peregrine falcons (and also, bald eagles), causing these birds to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke in the nest during incubation. With the banning of DDT in 1972, and decades of impassioned work by Stewart and the SCPBRG, peregrine falcons have undergone a near-miraculous recovery. Today, an estimated 250 to 300 peregrine pairs are living and nesting in California, a number that Stewart believes approximates original pre-DDT populations. “The interesting part of the peregrine’s tale is their adaptability to the urban environment,” says Shirley Doell...a peregrine volunteer — a “citizen scientist”— who ventures out at dawn nearly every morning in spring, plus some evenings, to monitor pairs of peregrines on skyscrapers, high-towered bridges, and tall industrial cranes in the East Bay. ...“Most endangered species can only live in a particular niche in a particular kind of habitat,” Doell says. “But the peregrines don’t seem to mind the bustle and noise of the city, if there are tall structures and birds around for them to catch.” ...In cities like Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, peregrines hunt pigeons for about 90% of their diet. ...“And living in a place like downtown San Francisco, where there’s an abundance of pigeons… it’s like living on a remote island in British Colombia with an abundance of sea birds nesting. Only here, the cliffs happen to be buildings, or bridges. The food happens to be nonnative pigeons.”.... See also San Francisco nestcam and San Jose nestcam. By Elaine Miller Bond. Berkeleyside. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/04/29/friends-in-high-places-peregrine-falcons-soar-above-us/
2013-05-14. Wind farms get pass on eagle deaths. Excerpt: CONVERSE COUNTY, Wyo. (AP) - It happens about once a month here, on the barren foothills of one of America's green-energy boomtowns: A soaring golden eagle slams into a wind farm's spinning turbine and falls, mangled and lifeless, to the ground. Killing these iconic birds is not just an irreplaceable loss for a vulnerable species. It's also a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines. But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret. ...More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin. ...Nearly all the birds being killed are protected under federal environmental laws, which prosecutors have used to generate tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years. ...By not enforcing the law [for windfarms], the administration provides little incentive for companies to build wind farms where there are fewer birds. And while companies already operating turbines are supposed to avoid killing birds, in reality there's little they can do once the windmills are spinning. ...Flying eagles behave like drivers texting on their cellphones; they don't look up. As they scan for food, they don't notice the industrial turbine blades until it's too late. ...The golden eagle population in the West, prior to the wind energy boom, was declining so much that the government's conservation goal in 2009 was not to allow the eagle population to decrease by a single bird. ...In its defense, the wind-energy industry points out that more eagles are killed each year by cars, electrocutions and poisoning than by turbines. ...The Interior Department recently approved construction of the nation's largest wind farm in Wyoming, with what would be 1,000 turbines. The federal government predicts that project, which was analyzed because it was on federal land, would kill 46 to 64 eagles each year. At a different facility, Duke Energy's Top of the World wind farm, a 17,000-acre site with 110 turbines located about 35 miles east of Casper, 10 eagles have been killed in the first two years of operation. It is the deadliest of Duke's 15 wind power plants for eagles.... http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=WhxcFpkn. Dina Cappiello, AP.
2011 May 24. Getting Wise to the Owl, a Charismatic Sentry in Climate Change. By Jim Robbins, The NY Times.Excerpt: ...As [owl researcher Denver Holt] prepares for his 20th field season in the Arctic, he says that the snowy owl has a role to play in understanding ecological changes in one of the fastest changing places in the world. “When lemmings are doing well, everything is doing well — eider ducks, sandhill cranes, arctic fox and weasels,” Mr. Holt said. “If climate change results in habitat changes and it affects the lemmings, it will show up in the snowy owls because 90 percent of their diet is lemmings. The owls are the key to everything else.”…
…Long-term studies are rare, Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick said, but valuable. “Long-term studies allow us to understand how organisms deal with variations in nature through time,” he said. “One extreme year in 10 can drive the system, and so long-term data gives us context. But it takes a lot of patience and endurance to keep a study going that long.”
2010 Nov 16. New Hurdle for California Condors May Be DDT From Years Ago. By John Moir, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Could DDT — the deadly pesticide that has been banned in the United States since 1972 — produce condor reproductive problems nearly four decades later?
…Mr. Burnett says that preliminary results from [Ventana Wildlife Society’s] study suggest that the Big Sur eggs are “substantially thinner” than those from the inland birds, and that early indicators point to DDT as the principal cause of the thinning…
…Concerns about condors and DDT have prompted the Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate a new one-year project to study how marine mammals might be carrying Montrose DDT up the California coast...
2010 October 25. Serving Up Feathered Bait to Attract Ecosystem Data. By Sandra J. Blakeslee, The New York Times. Excerpt:…Hawks today face many threats… which makes the need to count and band them more important than ever.
…As more giant wind farms are erected, an increasing number of hawks are slashed and killed by turbine blades. Oil and gas exploration is fragmenting many hawk habitats. Urban-suburban growth, pesticides, herbicides, electricity lines and climate change are other stressors…
The only way to understand what is happening to hawks is to collect data over many decades, banding as many birds as can be captured… [and] the only way to catch hawks is to use live birds as lures…
2010 June 4. Pelicans, Back from Brink of Extinction, Face Oil Threat. By John Collins Rudolf and Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt:
…But on Thursday, 29 of the birds, their feathers so coated in thick brown sludge that their natural white and gray markings were totally obscured, were airlifted to a bird rehabilitation center in Fort Jackson, the latest victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Another dozen were taken to other rescue centers.
….“The pelicans are in dire trouble,” said Doug Inkely, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, who worried that the oil spill could put an end to the bird’s recovery in Louisiana.
…Last year, the birds were officially taken off the endangered species list. But the oil spill, experts said, could change that. Like all birds, pelicans are very sensitive to oil, said Melanie Driscoll, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society’s Louisiana Coastal Initiative. It prevents them from regulating their body temperature when it gets on their feathers, she said, and in Louisiana the pelicans are subject to overheating. The oil can also poison the fish the pelicans feed on and seep through the shells of pelican eggs, killing the embryos.
…Most of the birds were so thoroughly coated in crude that they could not stand up. Some were stuck to the floor of their cages. Workers wiped off thick globs of oil with towels, then gave them fluids and fed them a fish slurry.
2008 June 4. 7 Condors Poisoned by Lead; One Dies. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Excerpt: LOS ANGELES (AP) - Seven endangered California condors, about 20 percent of the population in Southern California, have been found to have lead poisoning.
The birds started turning up sick about a month ago during random trappings at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley.
One of the birds died during treatment at the Los Angeles Zoo, and six others are still being treated there.
Officials do not yet know the source of the contamination, but a United States Fish and Wildlife Service official said the birds had probably been poisoned by eating the carcasses of animals shot by hunters.
...The California condor nearly became extinct in the 1980s, but a trapping and breeding program has helped restore the species. There are about... 200 in the wild over all.
Experts believe that lead poisoning is a major factor in preventing the species' recovery.
Under a ban that takes effect July 1, it will be illegal for California hunters to possess or fire lead ammunition when they are in the birds' habitat.
12 November 2007. Md. Scientists Monitor Saw - Whet Owls. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: BOONSBORO, Md. (AP) -- The high-pitched, staccato mating call of a northern saw-whet owl pierces the night and lures birds into a gossamer net that researchers have strung along the Appalachian Trail.
The owls -- fluffy, brown-and-white raptors about the size of a human fist -- are weighed, measured, banded and released to help scientists learn more about their migration patterns.
By Thanksgiving, the Department of Natural Resources hopes to have banded and released more than 1,000 saw-whet owls captured while flying from the northern United States and Canada to southern destinations including western Maryland and West Virginia.
...''Three a.m. to dawn, we can get slammed,'' said David F. Brinker a DNR ecologist and founder of Project Owlnet....
''This is a species that for many years people thought was rare, but it was rarely seen,'' Brinker said.
In the fall, many northern saw-whet owls migrate hundreds of miles south while others stay within their breeding ranges -- patterns that are well documented in some areas but still poorly understood, according to Project Owlnet.
Every four years, an ''irruption,'' or sudden population increase, provides opportunities for studying the owls at dozens of banding stations. Brinker said the numbered leg bands include instructions on how to report an owl found dead or alive.
The saw-whet owl is named for its distinctive alarm call, which sounds like the whetting of a saw blade....
8 October 2007. Conservationists Work to Save Sea Bird. By ANNIE HUANG, The Associated Press
Excerpt: TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwanese and mainland Chinese conservationists are joining hands to save an endangered sea bird from extinction by urging fishermen to stop collecting and eating the birds' eggs, a Taiwanese birdwatcher said Monday.
The Chinese crested tern -- white with a black-and-white crest -- migrates to eastern Chinese coasts between May and September, Taiwanese conservationists say. It's thought the birds fly there to escape the heat in South Asia, although they have not been seen outside of China or Taiwan.
...Taiwanese have stopped eating sea birds' eggs in recent years, but Chinese fishermen often sneak onto Matsu to collect the eggs, which are prized as a delicacy in parts of China, said Chang Shou-hua, head of the Matsu Birdwatching Society.
...A Chinese survey conducted over recent successive breeding seasons found that the number of crested terns had fallen to 50 birds, about half the population found three years ago, according to Birdlife International, a conservation group based in Cambridge, England. The group warns that the crested tern could become extinct in five years if protection efforts are not stepped up.
21 August 2007. Birds Band Together to Raise Offspring in Dire Times. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt: While the verdict may be out on the human race in this regard, African starlings are a different matter. Some starling species exhibit remarkable cooperative behavior, and a new study shows one factor that has influenced its evolution: climate uncertainty.
The behavior is cooperative breeding, in which some individuals delay their own breeding to help raise the offspring of others, who may or may not be relatives. Among the 45 African starling species, some breed cooperatively and some do not.
Dustin R. Rubenstein, now at the University of California, Berkeley, and Irby J. Lovette of Cornell's Laboratory of Ornithology undertook a genetic analysis of all 45 species and used it to build a family tree showing evolutionary patterns. Then they used rainfall data, in some cases going back more than 140 years, from across Africa to determine how predictable the weather is in various starling habitats. ...Cooperation would be expected to confer an evolutionary advantage, because in very dry years, when food and other resources are scarce, it helps ensure that more offspring survive.
28 June 2007. Bald Eagles, Thriving, Settle into Suburban Life. The New York Times. By Felicity Barringer. Excerpt: OCALA, Fla.— Bald eagles, whose numbers dwindled to historic lows in the early 1960s, are again flourishing and no longer need the protections of the Endangered Species Act, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced Thursday.
Here in Florida, bald eagles have thrived for a decade, multiplying to a statewide population of 1,150 breeding pairs and giving this state, with Minnesota, bragging rights as the top eagle haven in the country. ... They can be found nesting in cellphone towers and raising chicks near landfills and airport runways, along highways and high up in the pine trees of the state’s upscale developments. ... The only thing required of residents — in return for feeling that they are living in a National Geographic special — is a willingness to tolerate the odd fish skeleton on the lawn, or the occasional white pile on the drive. ...
In Florida, home to about 12 percent of all eagles in the lower 48 states, the question is no longer whether these birds can cope with development and commotion, but how much is too much? … Biologists, after recovering from the initial shock of finding eagles in the suburbs, have documented in a six-year study that suburban birds breed as well as their rural counterparts. But the young birds have slightly higher mortality, thanks to ill-timed meals of roadkill or too-comfortable seats on power lines. ...
Property-rights advocates have argued in court that restrictions on the use of eagle-occupied land should be loosened; conservationists have countered that eagles still need buffers against the hubbub of humanity. …
This month, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intention to continue to prohibit activities — like running a bulldozer — that are likely to make eagles abandon their nests or interrupt their normal activities. …
29 May 2007. Bald Eagle Nest in Philadelphia Fails. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A bald eagle nest at the old Philadelphia Navy Yard has failed, but birdwatchers are holding out hope that the first pair of bald eagles spotted in the city in more than 200 years will nest again next year. After the nest was spotted in February, state officials began keeping a close eye on the eagles in hopes that they would breed. But birdwatchers and state officials say the eagles haven't been spotted since April. ''We believe it is failed and that the birds are gone,'' said Debbie Beer, a birder who spotted the eagles in February and has been helping the state to monitor them. ''I'm hoping that they come back next year and nest again.'' ...Dan Brauning, wildlife diversity supervisor for the state Game Commission, said the birds could still be nearby. ''I would not expect them to abandon that area,'' he said. State officials estimate that 20 percent to 30 percent of bald eagle nests fail each year in Pennsylvania. Last year, state officials said they had confirmed more than 100 bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania for the first time in more than a century....The birds are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, meaning nearby development plans could be altered, delayed or even halted. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to delist the eagle next month because of how well it has rebounded. Such a move could ease the restrictions on development near bald eagle nests.
29 May 2007. U.S. to Study Protection for Alaska Loon. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for a rare loon that breeds in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve has been accepted for review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservationists hope an eventual listing of the yellow-billed loon will curb petroleum development in the 23-million acre reserve that covers much of Alaska's western North Slope. The petition was filed three years ago by the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Resource Defense Council, Pacific Environment and other U.S. and Russian scientific and conservation organizations. ...The yellow-billed loon breeds in tundra wetlands in Alaska, Canada and Russia, and winters along the west coasts of Canada and the United States. Petroleum development through leasing ordered by President Bush could reduce its numbers, said Brendan Cummings, ocean program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. ''The yellow-billed loon is one of the rarest and most vulnerable birds in the United States, yet the Bush administration's plan to 'protect' it is to approve oil drilling in its habitat,'' Cummings said. The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are 16,500 yellow-billed loons in the world, including 3,700 to 4,900 that breed in Alaska. More than 75 percent of the Alaska breeders nest in the petroleum reserve. ...According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, yellow-billed loons nest exclusively in coastal and low-lying Arctic tundra, always near permanent, fish-bearing lakes. The large-bodied birds have low reproductive success and depend on high annual adult survival to maintain population levels. Individual birds must live many years before they can reliably replace themselves with offspring that survive long enough to breed, according to the agency. ...Yellow-billed loons do not recover easily from population declines, are susceptible to disturbance and may be vulnerable to habitat loss, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
12 March 2007. Groups: Development Threatens Waterbird. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Worldwide efforts to protect endangered waterbirds are falling short as industrial and urban development eat away at their habitats, and hunting and pollution take their toll, according to a book released Monday. ''Despite global conservation efforts, waterbirds are being sidelined by economic development,'' according to three groups that edited ''Waterbirds Around the World,'' which includes data covering 162 countries and 614 species. In January, a global survey called the Waterbird Population Estimate found that 44 percent of the world's 900 waterbird species numbers have fallen in the past five years, while 34 percent were stable, and 17 percent were rising. In the last such survey in 2002, 41 percent of waterbird populations worldwide were found to be decreasing. ...a ''shocking example'' in South Korea where a land claim project on the shores of the Yellow Sea completed in April 2006 destroyed 155 square miles of intertidal mudflats that were a key wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds in Asia, including the endangered spoonbilled sandpiper and Nordmanns greenshank....
3 February 2007. Alabama's Bald Eagle Population Booming. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- After 15 years of checking bald eagle nests from small planes, there are now an estimated 100 nesting pairs, up from 77 the previous year and 10 times the state's recovery goal under the Endangered Species Act. With the nest-to-nest status check by plane ending last year, the state now will start watching over a few dozen nests to monitor the eagles' health. ''It's getting to be a little costly for airplane time,'' said Keith Hudson, the state biologist chiefly responsible for tracking the eagle's progress in Alabama. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to remove the bird from the Endangered Species List in June, saying the eagle only needs monitoring now that it has successfully repopulated the lower 48 states. The population increased from 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to more than 8,500.....
14 November 2006. Climate
Change Pushing Bird Species to Oblivion. Excerpt:
NAIROBI, Kenya, Environment News Service
(ENS) - Birds are suffering the escalating
effects of climate change in every part
of the planet, finds a new report released
today by the global conservation group
[World Wildlife Fund] WWF at the United
Nations climate change conference in
Nairobi. The report reveals a trend
towards a major bird extinction due
to global warming. The researchers found
declines of up to 90 percent in some
bird populations, as well as total and
unprecedented reproductive failure in
others. They estimate that bird extinction
rates could be as high as 38 percent
in Europe, and 72 percent in northeastern
Australia, if global warming exceeds
two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial
levels - currently it is 0.8¼C
above those levels. "Robust scientific
evidence shows that climate change is
now affecting birds' behavior," said
Dr. Karl Mallon, scientific director
at Climate Risk Pty. Ltd of Sydney,
Australia, authors of the report. ..."We
are seeing migratory birds failing to
migrate, and climate change pushing
increasing numbers of birds out of synchrony
with key elements of their ecosystems," Mallon
said. The report, "Bird Species
and Climate Change: The Global Status
Report," reviews more than 200
scientific articles on birds in every
continent to build up a global picture
of climate change impacts. "Birds
have long been used as indicators of
environmental change, and with this
report we see they are the quintessential
'canaries in the coal mine' when it
comes to climate change," said
Hans Verolme, director of WWF's Global
Climate Change Program. The report identifies
groups of birds at high risk from climate
change - migratory, mountain, island,
and wetland birds, Arctic and Antarctic
birds, and seabirds. ...Download the
full report, "Bird Species and
Climate Change: The Global Status Report" [75
pages], or a summary at: http://www.panda.org/climate/birds
29 August 2006. Trying
to Export the Success of a Maine Seabird
Program. The New York Times. EASTERN
EGG ROCK, Me. - On a summer day, this
treeless seven-acre island at the seaward
edge of Muscongus Bay attracts visitors
from around the world. The arctic terns
screeching overhead wintered in Antarctica,
the puffins flying in out of the fog
with herring stacked crosswise in their
colorful bills came here to nest from
waters well offshore, and the seabird
biologist Lei Cao traveled more than
6,000 miles from China to work and learn
here. In the last few years, biologists
from developing countries have joined
the seabirds that summer on Maine's
islands to learn the techniques that
Project Puffin of the National Audubon
Society has used to bring seabirds back
to Maine. ...The colony that is the
focus of her research here has an estimated
35,500 breeding pairs of these tree-nesting,
diving seabirds. In 2005, Dr. Cao also
helped organize a survey of water birds
along the lower Yangtze River floodplain,
from Three Gorges Dam to Shanghai, important
wintering grounds for more than a half-million
swans, ducks and geese. ...Stephen W.
Kress began an experiment that has brought
back puffins and terns to this and other
Maine islands. He said his work was
based on restoring the nesting habitat
and controlling predators, especially
the large gulls that had taken over
since other seabirds were hunted out
100 years earlier. His team relocated
puffin chicks from thriving colonies
in Newfoundland to specially constructed
burrows here and fed them by hand. They
used decoys and recorded calls to lure
puffins and terns to the nesting grounds.
And they staffed the island each breeding
season to ensure that the large gulls,
which do not like to nest around people,
would not return.
Eastern Egg Rock now has 70 pairs of
breeding puffins. ...Imperiled seabirds
worldwide have benefited from the restoration
techniques pioneered in Maine, Dr. Kress
said. Biologists have used decoys to
establish new breeding grounds for the
critically endangered short-tailed albatross
on the Japanese island of Torishima
(the primary colony there is threatened
by eruptions from an active volcano)
and have used recorded calls to encourage
cahows (Bermuda petrels) to nest on
higher ground as their nesting islands
disintegrate. ...Jo Hiscock, who spent
the summers of 2004 and 2005 with Project
Puffin, is working for the New Zealand
Department of Conservation protecting
Chatham Island taiko petrels from predators;
once thought to be extinct, fewer than
150 of the birds remain....
3 May 2005. Found
in Arkansas: Hope on Wings. By
JAMES GORMAN. NY Times. ...On
Thursday, the day that scientists
announced the first confirmed sighting
of an ivory-billed woodpecker in 60
years, I went for a short paddle in
the Cache River National Wildlife
Refuge, where the bird was seen. I
was with four other people, two from
the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which
had made a major effort to confirm
the sighting, and two from the Nature
Conservancy, which has been buying
land in the area. ...The common wisdom
had been that the ivory bill was gone
for good, not a bird anymore but a
symbol, a reminder of loss. It once
lived in southern swamps and bottom
land and depended on large areas of
old forest, since it needed dead trees
for nesting and for feeding on grubs
and beetles beneath the bark. Logging
squeezed out the ivory bill, turning
it into an accusatory ghost. ...It
was the biggest of its kind, something
Americans always love. It had a 30-inch
wingspan and a jackhammer beak. Audubon
called it the "great chieftain
of the woodpecker tribe" and
others called it the Lord God bird
because when people saw it, they said, "Lord
God!" But it was gone, one of
the natural treasures that a growing
country stepped on and broke. ...Tim
Gallagher, who wrote "The Grail
Bird" about the search and the
sighting of the ivory bill, said that
Bobby Harrison, his partner on the
search, wept when he saw the bird
fly in front of his canoe. I know
of at least one person with no connection
to the search who wept on reading
the news, and I'm sure he was not
alone. Why was the discovery so powerful?
I think it is the reason for the bird's
survival. It wasn't a miracle. It
wasn't luck. And it wasn't simply
the resilience of nature, although
that helped. The reason for the astonishing
re-emergence of a mysterious bird
is as mundane as can be. It is habitat
preservation, achieved by hard, tedious
work, like lobbying, legislating and
fund-raising. ...Think about where
the bird was found, in a national
wildlife refuge, and in an area, the
Big Woods of Arkansas, that conservation
organizations and government agencies
had targeted as crucial for preservation.
Just south of the Cache River refuge
is the White River National Wildlife
Refuge. State refuges are nearby.
And the Nature Conservancy has been
buying up land in that area. ...I
think the reason the discovery is
so moving is that so many people worked
so hard to save and protect land,
telling themselves there may be an
ivory bill out there, and that protecting
the bottomland had to be important.
I'm not sure they all believed it,
but they acted as if they did. ...It
is possible that this is the last
ivory bill, that it won't appear again.
See also information at the Nature
For Falcons as for People, Life in the Big City Has Its Risks
as Well as Its Rewards - By Melissa
falcons teach their fledglings to
fly in Temple Square, the most popular
tourist site in Salt Lake City, a
cadre of human volunteers act as a
May 2004. Altamont
Pass is the most lethal wind farm
in N. America for raptors. Wind
turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind
Resource Area (APWRA) kill more birds
of prey than any other wind facility
in North America.
Articles from 2004–present