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BirdWatching

BirdWatching

May/June 2021
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BirdWatching is a must-read for anyone who loves birds, whether you are a casual birdwatcher or avid birder. Each issue includes articles by the best known, most respected names in birding, identification tips, spectacular photography, hands-on information about the best birding locations in North America, answers to intriguing reader questions, and much more.

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Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Madavor Media, LLC
Frequency:
Bimonthly
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$26.95
6 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
it’s ok to have hope

My nomination for the sentence I’m most sick of hearing? “I can’t wait until things get back to normal.” The sentiment behind the words may be sincere — because, yes, we all want to be able to gather with family and friends, not have to wear masks, and be free to go to restaurants, plays, concerts, and birding lectures again. But for me, the grating aspect of going “back to normal” is two-fold. First, it implies that we’re willing to overlook all the people who have been lost in this pandemic, as well as the grief of survivors, the enormous job loss and business closings, and the significant mental-health impact endured by millions of people due to stay-at-home orders and the like. We cannot and must not forget the tolls COVID has…

2 min.
unpredictable owls

Whenever Snowy Owls turn up in winter in the lower 48 states and southern Canada, they light up social media and rare-bird alerts and may be reported on in newspapers or by local broadcasters. The birds may stay in one place for a while, as one well-documented young Snowy did this winter in New York City’s Central Park, or they may move around. A lot. A paper published in March in the journal Ornithology tracked the movements of 50 Snowies that were tagged with GPS transmitters in eastern and central North America from 2013 to 2019 as part of Project SNOWstorm, a research effort that studies the species. The researchers, led by Rebecca McCabe of McGill University, classified 58 percent of the owls as nomadic and 42 percent as “range-resident,” meaning they…

2 min.
eye on conservation

Ongoing recovery for the Millerbird Known from just two remote Hawaiian Islands, the endangered Millerbird is descended from a Pacific Island reed-warbler ancestor that arrived around 2.3 million years ago. Unfortunately, the songbird’s far-flung strongholds proved vulnerable. Starting in the 1890s, human activities and introduced rabbits destroyed all vegetated habitats on Laysan Island. Later, invasive plants further transformed the island. The combined impacts resulted in the extinction of Laysan’s Millerbird subspecies and two other bird species, leaving Nihoa Island as the Millerbird’s last stand. After many years of habitat restoration on Laysan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invasive plants have been largely controlled there, paving the way for the Millerbird’s reintroduction. Working with federal, state, and non-governmental colleagues, ABC biologists Chris Farmer and George Wallace helped plan, fund, and implement…

2 min.
whoopers steer clear of wind turbines

Whooping Cranes migrating through the Great Plains avoid “rest stop” sites that are within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of wind-energy infrastructure, according to a study published in March in the journal Ecological Applications. Avoidance of wind turbines can decrease collision mortality for birds, but it can also make it more difficult and time-consuming for migrating flocks to find safe and suitable rest and refueling locations. The study’s insights into migratory behavior could improve future siting decisions as wind energy infrastructure continues to expand. “In the past, federal agencies had thought of impacts related to wind energy primarily associated with collision risks,” said Aaron Pearse, the paper’s first author and a research wildlife biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. “I think this research changes that paradigm to a…

1 min.
report: lesser prairie-chicken habitat disappearing

A 2019 court decision requires the Interior Department to decide by May 26 whether it will once again list the Lesser Prairie-Chicken under the federal Endangered Species Act. The bird had been listed as threatened in 2014, but a court revoked the protection in 2015. In March, officials at the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife released a white paper detailing habitat loss for the bird since it was delisted. They found that about 50,000 acres of habitat have been converted to new development such as oil and gas infrastructure, and nearly 600,000 acres have been impacted by this growth given federal guidelines that stipulate a 200-meter buffer around tall infrastructure, as the species avoids tall structures. Additionally, more than 832,000 acres of habitat have been converted to new agricultural uses since 2016. The…

1 min.
evidence found for a ‘migration gene’

A study of Peregrine Falcons in Eurasia is shedding new light on bird migration. Millions of migratory birds have seasonally favorable breeding grounds in the Arctic, and they spend their winters in different locations across Eurasia. However, little is known about the formation, maintenance, and future of their migration routes or the genetic determinants of migratory distance. Xiangjiang Zhan, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and colleagues combined satellite-tracking data from 56 Peregrines from Eurasian Arctic populations with genome data from 35 other Peregrines. They reported in the journal Nature that the migratory routes used by the species have been shaped by environmental changes since the last ice age. The paper also presents evidence that the distance traveled during migration is influenced by a genetic factor. The authors found that five…