Cats are Number One Threat to Birds

March 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

According to a report by the American Bird conservancy, cats are responsible for the deaths of between 500 million to one billion birds each year in the United States. These figures include birds killed by feral and domestic cats, and many cat owners have had the experience of being presented with a feathered ‘gift’ from their furry felines. Following a study, the results of which were presented in the Journal of Ornithology, research scientist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Peter Marra, confirms that cats wreak havoc on bird populations in both urban and suburban areas.

Although these studies only serve to confirm what bird-lovers have known all along, that cats are enemy number one to birds, having this confirmed by scientists has been helpful in dealing with the controversy of wind-turbines and bird deaths. With the growing demand for renewable and alternative energy sources, wind turbines are getting a lot of attention. The European Wind Energy Association held its annual event in Brussels, Belgium, on 14-17 March 2011, with up to 200 top speakers addressing the more than 8,000 visitors on various issues related to using wind to generate energy. It has been reported that up to 440,000 birds are killed annually by flying into wind turbines in the United States. While the figures seems high, when compared to the number of birds killed by domestic cats alone, it becomes clear that cats pose far more danger to birds than wind turbines do.

In the study conducted by Peter Marra and fellow scientific researchers, radio transmitters were attached to fledgling Gray Catbirds in an effort to document the factors that influenced their chances of survival. The results revealed that predators were responsible for up to 80 percent of deaths among the birds being monitored, with close to half of the predators being domestic cats. Directly related to the number of cats in the area, the fledglings had a survival rate of between 20 and 50 percent. It has been shown, especially in closed ecosystems such as islands, that cats play a significant role in declining bird populations, even hunting some bird species into extinction.

The bottom line is that the leading cause of bird deaths in the United States is collisions with buildings, windows and towers, with predators being the second most common cause. While wind turbines do lead to bird deaths, this needs to be seen in relation to the value of turbines as an alternative energy source – bearing in mind that the family cat is a far greater threat to bird populations.

Study Sheds Light on Bird Collisions

March 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

It seems that the engineering feats of humans, such as wind turbines, telephone poles, pylons and buildings, are accidently causing the death of many birds. As birds are considered creatures with very good eye sight, we have not been able to understand why this happens so frequently. However, a closer look at how their vision works explains how most of the fatalities occur. A study done by Professor Graham Martin (Birmingham University) approached the project with the aim of understanding why these fatalities occur and to find out how birds perceive the world during flight.

Martin explained his findings saying that birds have a very unique visual system that is different to those of humans. He said: “When in flight, birds may turn their heads to look down, either with the binocular field or with the lateral part of an eye’s visual field.” This makes them blind, so to speak, in regard to the direction they are traveling in. Their frontal vision is mainly used to detect movement, and as bird’s eyes are located on the side of their heads, looking ahead is not as easy for them as it is expected to be. Their vision is at its peak looking laterally and down in search of prey.

Some birds also have another disadvantage – the speed at which they travel. Some birds have extremely fast flight speeds, making it difficult for them to react on information received, especially when sight is further complicated by weather conditions, such as mist and rain.

The study, however, is not only negative, as measures to minimize deaths can now be taken. Prof. Graham Martin stated: “While solutions may have to be considered on a species by species basis, where collision incidents are high it may be more effective to divert or distract birds from their flight path rather than attempt to make the hazard more conspicuous.” Some organizations, such as the Royal Society of Birds have already been lobbying for wind turbines to be constructed in areas that are not directly in the flight paths of birds, and conservationists are supportive of coming up with solutions to reduce bird deaths.

Southwest Wings Festival

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The 20th Annual Birding and Nature Festival in Sierra Vista, or Southwest Wings, is both educational and fun, as participants learn about birds, reptiles, mammals and insects in southern Arizona. The festival boasts a busy schedule of events including 40 field trips (including overnight trips), a welcome reception, keynote address by Scott Weidensaul (the title being “Living on the Wind: The Miracle of Bird Migration”) and movie night. There will also be a number of free programs, including Warbler identification, Butterflies for Birders, choosing and using optics, Bird identification, Hummingbirds of the US, Birding by ear, Arizona Dragonflies 101, Ants of Southern Arizona, Photo workshop, Hummingbirds 101 and so much more. Registration for the event can be done online.

Date: 3 to 6 August 2011
Venue: Cochise College Campus
City: Sierra Vista
State: Arizona
Country: United States of America

2011 ABA Young Birder’s Camp in Colorado

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The 2011 ABA Young Birder’s Camp in Colorado is set to be an exciting event for birders aged 13 to 18. Based in the Woodland Park area, participants will learn about birds in a variety of habitats, from wetlands to prairies. The schedule will include a field trip to the where the 50 000 acre Hayman Fire took place in 2001, so that young birders can learn about the effects of fire on the bird communities as well as assist with gathering data for the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas. Other trips will take participants to the Arkansas River Valley and Pueblo Reservoir, San Luis Valley and Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado’s Eastern Planes, Hoosier Pass, and Garden of the Gods Park.

The event is truly a great adventure and educational experience for teens. Booking is essential. Contact the ABA for pricing and reservations.

Date: 25 June to 2 July 2011
Location: Woodland Park
State: Colorado
Country: United States of America

Kern River Valley Hummingbird Celebration

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The 13th Annual Kern River Valley Hummingbird Celebration is a delightful day for bird enthusiasts. The day will involve learning about hummingbird feeder maintenance, a bird walk and nature walk, hummingbird identification workshop, how to garden for hummingbirds and much more. The Hummingbird Celebration is hosted at the ideal time of year for those taking part to see about six species of hummingbird, including Black-chinned, Anna’s, Costa’s, Rufous, Allen’s and Calliope. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch!

Date: 6 August 2011
Time: 8am to 2pm
Location: 18747 Highway 178
City: Weldon
State: California
Country: United States of America

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