Birdsong Apps Pose Threat to Breeding

June 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Bird watching as a hobby has been traced back to the late-18th century as portrayed in the works of English naturalists and ornithologists Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick and George Montagu. During the Victorian Era, the study of birds became fashionable, but not necessarily in their natural habitats, as collectors obtained specimens of eggs and preserved dead birds sourced from around the world. In the late 19th century the Audubon Society in the United States and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain were founded to protect birds from these collectors and from the increasingly popular feather trade. In 1901 a book published by British ornithologist and writer Edmund Selous, entitled simply Bird Watching, is thought to have been the origin of the term describing the practice of observing birds in their natural habitat – a pastime which requires plenty of patience.

In today’s society which is increasing becoming accustomed to instant gratification, patience may sometimes be seen as a hindrance rather than a virtue, and this may be the case among birding enthusiasts who are using mobile phone apps to mimic birdsong in an effort to attract birds. Wardens on England’s Brownsea Island have recently reported instances where visitors have used these mobile apps to mimic the unique call of the Nightjar, apparently so they could get a clearer photograph. What these visitors may not realize is that they are breaking a law (the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981) which was put into place to protect nesting birds from being intentionally disturbed. Designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), Brownsea Island is home to a host of bird species, including the Nightjar which, thanks to conservation efforts, has experienced an increase in numbers in recent years.

When a recorded birdsong is played repeatedly it is likely to divert the bird from essential duties, such as feeding its young. It may also prompt a bird to interrupt the mating process to chase off what it perceives to be a rival in order to protect its territory.

Giving birders the benefit of the doubt that they may be unaware of the negative impact their birdsong apps are having, the Dorset Wildlife Trust is launching an online campaign to warn people of the harm they may inadvertently be causing. To reinforce the message, signs will be erected on each of the 42 reserves overseen by the Trust requesting that birdsong apps not be used in the reserves.

Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival 2012

September 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

The 20th annual Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival offers the perfect opportunity to experience wildlife at its best. The keynote presentation of the event will be delivered by David Allen Sibley, one of America’s leading ornithologists and illustrators and author of the Sibley Guide to Birds. The program features guided tours, nature hikes, boat trips and much more. For more information visit www.esvafestivals.com

Dates: 5-7 October 2012
Venue: Cape Charles
State: Virginia
Country: United States

Sigurgeirs Bird Museum in Iceland

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Surrounded by volcanic landforms and wetlands, Lake Mývatn, located near the Krafla volcano in the north of Iceland, is home to a wide range of birdlife, particularly waterfowl. Its rich biodiversity and intriguing geology continues to attract biologists, naturalists, geologists and bird watchers from around the world. It was in these beautiful surroundings that Sigurgeir Stefánsson was raised, and his love for birds became evident. The results of his life-long interest in birds can be viewed in the fascinating Sigurgeirs Bird Museum where his collection of more than 300 birds, representing around 180 species, is displayed.

Sigurgeir Stefánsson was born and raised on the Ytri-Neslönd farm, and spent his youth exploring his surroundings and collecting birds’ eggs. Soon he had specimens of all the indigenous Icelandic birds’ eggs, which he used to create a small natural history museum. At the age of 14 years, Stefánsson was given a bird that had been preserved by the process of taxidermy. This was the beginning of his bird collection, and any dead birds he, or his friends and neighbors found, were taken to the taxidermist for preservation.

Stefánsson’s collection grew until it had taken over his family’s house. It was later moved to a nearby shack and continued to grow, with other bird-lovers showing an interest in his work. While focusing on creating a complete collection of the birds of Iceland, Stefánsson also communicated and traded with ornithologists in other parts of the world, and his collection includes some exotic birds. He was often consulted by visiting researchers, as he had an intimate knowledge of the area and its feathered residents. He had expressed the desire to build a museum to properly display his collection for others to enjoy, but had no funds to make his dream a reality.

Tragically, in 1999 during a storm Stefánsson and his two companions drowned in Lake Mývatn as they attempted to repair an underwater cable – he was only 37 years old. To honor his memory and his accomplishments in the field of ornithology, the Aurora Charity Fund, together with members of his family, established the Sigurgeirs Bird Museum, which opened on 17 August 2008. In addition to viewing the extensive collection of birds on display in the museum, visitors can make use of the binoculars provided to spot local birds in the surroundings and on the lake, which is known for having the most species of duck to be found in one location.

Feather Degrading Bacteria Studied

December 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

The existence of feather degrading bacteria in wild birds was only discovered for the first time approximately ten years ago. This natural phenomenon has therefore been plaguing ornithologists with more questions than answers and sparked the undertaking of the recent studies done to explore the effects feather degrading bacteria has on birds, and in which birds this occurrence is more common. Even though more information has been collected in regard to the bacteria, studies remain ongoing. A few interesting facts have been discovered so far.

The feather degrading bacteria seems to target brightly colored birds more than those with dull plumage. To investigate this fact, a group of scientists chose a large colony of Eastern Bluebirds living in Virginia as test subjects, studying the population as a whole and noting the differences of the bacteria found in the male and female birds. Not only does this bacteria influence the coloring of the birds, but their general health as well.

It is now known that most wild birds carry feather degrading bacteria and some birds are even host to more than one bacteria species. The exact impact the bacteria has on their feathered hosts is still unclear, but they are not found to be in the majority. Almost all the birds in the study were found to have the bacteria, which hydrolyses the protein beta-keratin. It had been found that melanin pigmented feathers are resistant to feather degrading bacteria and that the oils used by birds to preen can also halt the growth of the bacteria. These traits confirm that defenses against these bacteria can be built and it is therefore suggested that the bacteria could have an influence on the evolution of birds. It was also found that the bacteria had a greater impact on the female birds than on their male counterparts. The bacteria seems to dull the coloring of the feathers, and scientists believe that the difference in bacteria between male and female birds could be influenced by the routines followed by each sex, and the areas they travel in. It is, however, mere speculation as scientists are still trying to confirm if the daily routine of males and females could play a role in the bacteria occurrences. Alex Gunderson, from Duke University in North Carolina commented, “If bacteria detrimentally influence feather coloration, they may place selective pressure on birds to evolve defenses against them.”

Research & Studies

February 9, 2009 by  
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Many Non Government Organizations (NGO) and Non-profit organizations (NPO) study and conduct research on birds, often inviting the public to get involved. Most bird research is conducted by Ornithologists, and the information gathered by the study of birds is used to gain insight into their behavior and how they relate, and adapt, to their environment.

Why should we study birds? Birds are relatively easy to study, and often open the way for further nature and scientific studies. Their behavior is interesting and they are of great importance to the ecosystem. Birds also offer an indication of the overall the health of the environment, often alerting environmentalists to potential problems.

The study of birds by the public in conjunction with scientists is referred to as citizen science. To find out more about bird research in your area, contact a local study group. The public assist in bird research projects by counting birds and recording data. This data is used by scientists to determine the state of bird populations, issues affecting birds and to work out conservation strategies.

There are many different bird studies being conducted, for example, research is being conducted into bio-acoustics, which involves the development of new techniques to record and analyze bird sounds. The study of bird eggs is referred to as oology, which involves not only the study of bird eggs, but also research into breeding habits and the study of nests. Research into bird aviation hazards has saved the lives of many birds. Studies into migratory birds has helped scientists to discover their routes and thus devise ways to conserve their stop-over points to ensure a safe migration.

A matter of concern to many people is bird flu research, especially with regard to its possible impact on humans. Bird flu or avian influenza is a dangerous viral disease affecting mostly poultry flocks. Bird flu research has revealed how it is spread and using this information scientists will be able to develop ways of keeping humans safe.

Many resources are available for people who wish to study birds for their own benefit. By watching birds in your garden you can learn much about their behavior. Carefully observe how they have adapted to living and functioning in an urban environment.

Want to get connected with other bird enthusiasts? Bird societies are great places to start. You’ll find organized groups of bird enthusiasts on every continent in the world. Some focus on seeking out rare birds. Others focus on bird conservation and scientific studies. Most will provide interesting field trips and learning opportunities.

For example, the National Audubon Society has chapters in many countries, including the USA, Belize, Panama, and Venezuela. Your local chapter can teach you about bird conservation. It’s also a great way to meet other birdwatchers in your area. Audubon’s chapters can provide bird-watching trips for all ages and skill-levels.

Or join a Christmas Bird Count. In this 24-hour census, volunteers in teams count as many birds as possible in a single day. Scientists use the results to learn more about bird populations. Over 40,000 people participate in the Western Hemisphere, from South America to Canada. It’s the largest wildlife survey ever done- and anyone with binoculars can join.

Would you like your bird-watching to help bird conservation? Project Feeder-watch, run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, uses observations from backyard birdwatchers for their scientific study. In this program, anyone in North America can join. Birdwatchers count the numbers of birds at their backyard feeder, at specific times between November and April. They then report these numbers to the Cornell Lab. Scientists at the Lab will use the information in their study of winter bird distributions in North America.

Research and study of birds is vital to learn more about them and develop ways to ensure they are here for the enjoyment of future generations.

Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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Most commonly found in the American tropics and subtropics, the Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) is a fairly large bird that generally nests around well-watered areas or lakes and rivers. Besides being found on the mainland of North America as far up as Rio Grand and the Californian coast through to Mexico, Central America and the southern parts of South America, it can also be found on smaller landmasses such as the Bahamas, Cuba and Trinidad. Most of these birds are permanent residents, though some do wander north in the warmer months. Because the bird is so widespread, some ornithologists prefer to treat those found north as one species and those found in the south as another species. However, they can also be grouped into the subspecies Phalacrocorax brasilianus mexicanus (the northern birds) and Phalacrocorax brasilianus brasilianus (the southern birds) and the two are therefore often grouped together as one species of cormorant. The Neotropic Cormorant was formerly known as the Olivaceous Cormorant.

Neotropic Cormorants usually have a body length of 64 cm with a wingspan of 100 cm. They can weigh between 1 and 1.5 kg and those found in the south are usually bigger than those found in the north. Neotropic Cormorants are somewhat slender compared to other cormorants and they have a long tail, hooked bill and long, thin neck, which it frequently holds in an S-shape. The Gular region is pointed and dull yellow in colour and there is a thin pale border around this area. The adult bird has dark plumage covering its entire body, though the throat becomes whiter during breeding season with white tufts appearing on the sides of the head. Immature Neotropic Cormorants have dull brown upperparts and pale underparts.

The Neotropic Cormorant is somewhat different from other cormorants in that it often perches on wires. When it does perch, it is usually with wings spread wide open to dry. These birds feed mainly on small fish and also eat tadpoles, frogs and aquatic insects. They obtain their food by diving underwater and using their feet as a means of propulsion. The Neotropic Cormorant may also forage in groups, beating their wings in the water to drive the fish into the shallows. When it comes to mating, the birds are monogamous and they breed in colonies. They usually build their nest out of sticks in a depression. The centre is usually lined with twigs and grass and cater to as many as five eggs. Both parents sit on the eggs for a period of 25-30 days and then both work together to feed the young until the chicks reach independence at 12 weeks of age. Neotropic Cormorants raise only one brood a year.

Slender-billed Curlews Extinct?

December 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Sometimes the daily habits of a certain bird species may be so obscure that ornithologists are not even sure how many of them exist. That certainly seems to be the case with the Slender-billed Curlew as it seems there is some doubt as to whether or not this bird is still surviving or has become completely extinct.

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Ornithologist Pair Break Record

November 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

For many bird lovers it seems like the sort of thing dreams are made of – giving up everything to enjoy a year spotting some of the most rare birds in some of the most exotic locations around the globe. Welsh ornithologists Alan Davies and Ruth Miller have done just that. They’ve sold their home and belongings, quit their jobs and set off to break the bird-spotting world record.

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New Bio-Acoustic Technology A Boon For Conservationists

July 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Most people are aware of the fact that years of pollution is taking its toll on our planet and the creatures on it, but when it comes to birds it is sometimes difficult to get an accurate estimate of exactly how badly particular species have been affected. That is all about to change, thanks to a new voice-recording method that has been developed specifically to assist bird conservationists.

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Night Migration Mysteries Revealed

July 10, 2008 by  
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A recent study conducted by researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey and the University of Illinois has resulted in statistical data to prove that during their nocturnal migration birds fly together in loose flocks. This is the first conclusive data that confirms what many ornithologists and bird-watchers have suspected for some time.

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