Kirtland’s Warbler Population Stabilizes

September 27, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Kirtland’s Warblers have very specific habitat requirements and are found only in the jack pine forests of Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin. Due primarily to habitat changes, the numbers of these elusive little birds were declining drastically, but thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, recent research by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has revealed that the population not only appears to have stabilized, it may even have grown. More than twenty years ago the Kirtland’s Warbler population in northern Michigan had declined to a count of 167 pairs.

The Kirtland’s Warbler count takes place in the second and third weeks of June each year, as this is the time when they defend their nesting territories and become quite vocal about it. The birds are very elusive and would be difficult to detect if it were not for their distinctive song. Only the males sing, and total population is based on the assumption that each male has a mate. The count carried out in June 2010 recorded 1,747 males, with this year’s count indicating that 1,805 males are resident across their habitat range. Two pairs were located in Ontario and another 21 in northern Wisconsin.

Kirtland’s Warblers select nesting sites in jack pine forests where the trees are between four and twenty years old. In the past, nature would create these new forests as wildfires swept through the area burning down the older trees and making way for seedlings to sprout and grow. This natural cycle has been interrupted by humans who have implemented fire suppression programs in the interests of safety. Even so-called ‘controlled’ fires can get out of hand and are considered too risky an option for reestablishing the natural order of things. So, in order to recreate the effects of wildfire and allow the growth of new jack pine trees and other rare plants in the ecosystem, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, along with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service carry out a continuous cycle of cutting, burning, seeding and replanting, over an area of around 3,000 acres.

The program has proven to be successful in a number of ways. The Kirtland’s Warbler population has increased, and snowshoe hares, deer and turkeys are among the creatures that are thriving in the area. Moreover, the program is providing valuable timber without damaging the environment. Although the Kirtland’s Warbler population has grown, it remains on the endangered species list where it has been since 1973. It appears likely that the population has reached its peak determined by the habitat available to it, but with ongoing conservation measures, the Kirtland’s Warbler will still be around in the years to come.

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

September 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The 18th Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival will feature a number of fantastic seminars, field trips, a trade show, authors signing, childrens activities, Raptor Project flights and more. Seminar topics will include: Birding by Ear, Shorebird ID, Butterflies, Tales with Tails, Intro to Birding in Spanish, Nature Journaling, Great South Texas Birding Quiz Show and more. The Big Sit on Saturday involves counting birds for twelve hours. Register now so as not to miss out.

Dates: 9 to 13 November 2011
Venue: Harlingen Municipal Auditorium Complex and Casa Amistad
City: Harlingen
State: Texas
Country: United States of America

Personality is Vital for Male Birds

September 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

It seems that it is not only humans who want more than just good looks in a partner, as a recent study revealed that even in the bird kingdom, being handsome does not guarantee the attention of a female companion. Researchers have realized that personality plays a vital role for male birds to catch the attention of a female, so feathers are not the only feature females take into consideration when looking for a mate. The survey was performed by a group of scientists from the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Exeter, Canada and the Carleton University.

Zebra finches were used to conduct the study. Interestingly enough, it was the confident and more adventurous males that drew the attention of the females, regardless of the beak color, size or plumage condition of the males. More than a hundred and fifty birds were used in the program, and the personality of the females was found to play a large role in their selection as well. From the various exercises that were performed, allowing females to show scientists their preferences, it was also obvious that the more out-going females preferred the confident males, while the more shy females were not very particular when it came to choosing a prospective partner. The team leader of the project was Dr Sasha Dall (University of Exeter), who commented that the research proved that personality played a large role in a female’s decision, irrespective of the appearance of the males. It also proved that what would be expected from humans selecting partners, namely the compatibility of personalities, has been overlooked in other species.

To determine the personalities of each bird, the birds were put in a cage to explore. The females were able to view this through a clear window, but unknowingly to them, one male was held back on purpose, and the females therefore viewed him as being less confident as they did not see him exploring the cage. Some birds showed no fear in regard to discovering their new environment, while others were happy remaining in one position watching the others. The more confident birds therefore paired together, while the rest did not show any dominant preferences. Once again it was shown that there is so much about our feathered friends that we don’t know yet, leaving the future open to many possibilities and new discoveries.

Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival

September 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

The 19th Annual Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival will be a fantastic event for all bird lovers. Friday kicks off with keynote speakers Michael male and Judey Fieth. The resto of the schedule offers a great line-up, including an exhibition, vendors, wildlife watching at Cape Charles, the Family Passport Program, a fun run and more. Be sure to catch this great festival.

Date: 7 to 9 October 2011
Venue: Cape Charles Volunteer Fire Department Building
City: Cape Charles
State: Virginia
Country: United States of America

Sandhill Crane Festival

September 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

For many years Sandhill Cranes have migrated to the delta wetlands where Lodi is now located. Every year thousands of birders visit Lodi’s wildlife refuges and farms to view this natural wonder, and the annual Sandhill Crane Festival is a wonderful time to do this. The festival schedule is made up of tours, workshops and the Sandhill Crane Festival Art show. Featured speakers for the event will be Dr. Richard Beilfuss (International Crane Foundation) and Hank Lentfer (author of “Faith of Cranes: Finding Hope and Family in Alaska”). This festival is a wonderful celebration of these elegant birds and a great opportunity to expand your birding horizons.

Date: 4 to 6 November 2011
Venue: Hutchins Street Square
City: Lodi
State: California
Country: United States of America

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