Southeastern American Kestrel in Louisiana

September 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest member of the family Falconidae in North America. The American Kestrel can be identified by two distinct black streaks on each side of the head that contrast with the white throat and cheeks, and by a blue-gray patch encircling a rufous-colored spot on the top of the head. The males have a prominent rufous coloration on the back and tail. The Southeastern American Kestrel (F.s. paulus), which is one of two subspecies that occurs in the United States, is a local resident of Louisiana. It is approximately the size of a robin, and the female is larger than the male. The Southeastern American Kestrel (SAK) is often seen during the winter months in Louisiana perched on telephone lines located along fields and pastures.

The resident SAK is often confused during the winter with the migratory subspecies F.s. sparverius, although the resident species is smaller. The mean body mass of the SAK is approximately 22 percent lower in males and 26 percent lower in females, as compared to the migratory subspecies. It is very difficult to distinguish the two subspecies in the field. F.s. sparverius may look chunkier, but it takes someone who has spent long hours in the field watching kestrels to determine the difference between the two subspecies.

SAKs form strong pair bonds that tend to remain permanent. Displaying high site fidelity, pairs often remain on or near their nesting territories. SAK territories can range in size from 300 to 700 acres. In Louisiana, the SAK prefers open, park-like pine forest and open areas with scattered mature trees, which are needed for perch and nest sites. It is important that forest stands do not have a dense understory. The SAK prefers the same type of habitat preferred by the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker (RCW).

The SAK begins breeding courtship in late winter. The courtship includes aerial displays in which the male performs dives and a flutter-glide to advertise to the female. The SAK nests in cavities located in snags or living trees, usually excavated by woodpeckers. The Pileated Woodpecker often plays on important role in creating cavities suitable for nesting SAKs by enlarging the cavities of smaller woodpecker species. The SAK will also use nest boxes, when they are placed in suitable habitat. On Fort Polk, we usually find our first eggs in early April, and a full clutch usually consists of four to five eggs. The incubation period lasts 29 to 30 days. The young will fledge around the age of 30 days. The adults and young will forage together until dispersal, which occurs in the fall.

The SAK hunts from a perch, on the wing, and hovering. It is a generalized predator, feedings on rodents, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and small birds. The favorite food items on Fort Polk are lizards, including anoles, fence lizards, and skinks.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formerly considered the SAK a candidate subspecies for listing as threatened or endangered. It is no longer being considered a candidate for listing, but is considered a species of concern. The SAK is listed as threatened in Florida by the state’s game and fish commission. The SAK is a nonmigratory resident of the gulf coast states, now very rare over much of its former range. Current range includes east Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and the southern portions of the states of Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. The ranges of the two subspecies overlap during the winter.

Habitat loss is the main factor in the population decline of SAK in parts of its range. Industrial forest lands provide open areas important for the SAK, but they do not provide mature trees for nests sites. When the timber matures, the timber stand is usually too dense to be suitable for the SAK. Lack of prescribed fire is also detrimental to the SAK, because it prefers open, park-like forest stands kept open by regular prescribed burning. Prescribed burning and placing nest boxes in suitable habitat are the quick and feasible ways to improve SAK habitat.

Contributed by: Kenneth Moore

Also by Kenneth Moore: Southeastern Kestrel Management on Fort Polk

Iowa Purple Martin Potluck

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Anyone interested in Purple Martins is invited to attend this event being held on Saturday August 17th at the Edgewood Park in Madrid, Iowa from 1PM until late. For more details on this fun and informative event visit www.purplemartin.org

Date: 17 August 2013
Time: 1PM until late
Venue: Edgewood Park
City: Madrid
State: Iowa
Countrey: United States

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.

The Mississippi Flyway: An Essential Migration Route

December 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Starting in central Canada and stretching to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi Flyway is the name given to the route followed by birds migrating from their breeding grounds in North America to their wintering grounds in the south. The flyway includes Canada’s Mackenzie River which flows north through uninhabited forest and tundra into the Arctic Ocean, with tributaries reaching southwards, feeding into and out of a number of lakes, including the Great Slave Lake, Great Bear Lake and Lake Athabasca. As the name suggests, the Mississippi Flyway follows the route of the Mississippi River in the United States – North America’s largest river system. Originating in northern Minnesota, the slow-flowing river travels southwards for a distance of 2,530 miles, cutting through, or forming a border for, the states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee to before emptying into the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Audubon, nearly half of the bird species and up to forty percent of the waterfowl of North America spend part of their lives in the Mississippi Flyway. With spectacular forests, grasslands and wetlands, the route provides good sources of food and water, with no mountainous areas to navigate along the entire route. The greatest elevation above sea level along the route is below 2,000 feet. The route is used by large numbers of geese, ducks, shorebirds, sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes and warblers, the majority of which cut across the Gulf of Mexico, providing excellent birding opportunities along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.

Unfortunately, years of exploitation of natural resources by man has taken its toll on the environment, with waterways being diverted for irrigation having an impact on the habitat that birds and other wildlife rely on. A combination of dams, locks and levees have reduced the Mississippi to less than ten percent of its original floodplain with an estimated nineteen square miles of delta wetlands disappearing annually. Thanks to the efforts of Audubon, which has offices in Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, efforts to preserve habitats along the Mississippi Flyway are making a difference to the birds that make use of the route each year. Audubon is currently focusing intensive conservation efforts on twenty-seven bird species along the Mississippi Flyway, namely: Mottled Duck; Greater Prairie-Chicken; Brown Pelican; Little Blue Heron; Reddish Egret; Swallow-tailed Kite; Clapper Rail; Snowy Plover; Wilson’s Plover; Piping Plover; American Oystercatcher; Upland Sandpiper; Ruddy Turnstone; Red Knot; Sanderling; Western Sandpiper; Short-billed Dowitcher; Least Tern; Black Skimmer; Prothonotary Warbler; Swainson’s Warbler; Cerulean Warbler; Grasshopper Sparrow; Henslow’s Sparrow; Seaside Sparrow; Bobolink; and Eastern Meadowlark.

2012 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Individuals attending the 2012 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua have a fantastic program to look forward to. A number of exciting field trips have been organised in a variety of habitats. Interesting presentations and workshops will be hosted including: Aerial Predators and Ecology, Nature Awareness: Fire by Friction and Primitive Shelters, Meet the Chipmunks, Bird Vocalizations, Field Sketching, Great Basin and Sierra Nevada Odonates 101, Who Gives a Hoot, Introduction to Image Editing, Bird Words, The Art of Seeing and much more. Don’t forget to register for the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua.

Dates: 15 to 17 June 2012
Location: Lee Vining
State: California
Country: United States of America

Cerulean Warbler Weekend

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Organized by Michigan Audubon the Cerulean Warbler Weekend is held in the state’s best area for spotting these delightful little birds, Barry County. This weekend is devoted to learning about North America’s fastest declining songbird and its conservation. Several birding tours will be held, focussing on Cerulean Warblers, Henslow’s Sparrow, Flycatchers and so forth. The Cerulean Warbler Weekend schedule also includes workshops on butterfly and dragonfly identification and opportunities to paddle on Glass Creek. Keynote speaker at the evnet is Dr. Jeff Hoover, an Avian Ecologist from the Illinois Natural HIstory Survey.

Dates: 1 to 3 June 2012
Time: 05:30 am
Location: Barry County
State: Michigan
Country: United States of America

Physical Traits and Genetics in Pigeons

February 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Believed to have been domesticated in the Mediterranean region up to 5,000 years ago, pigeons are providing new insight into the role of genetics in the development of physical traits. A study being carried out by the University of Utah, in the United States, has revealed that there is an enormous amount of diversity among these birds, with more than 350 breeds of pigeons differing in body size, color, patterning, beak size and shape, posture, skeletal structure, vocalizations, flight behavior and feather placement. Enlisting the help of pigeon breeders around the world, the study focused on the visible traits and genetic relationships of 361 pigeons representing 70 domestic breeds, as well as populations on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Michael Shapiro, assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah, and the senior author of the study which was published in the journal Current Biology earlier this year, noted that it was observed during the study that similar traits can be found in birds that are distantly related, and conversely, closely related birds can at times look quite different. Among the examples cited to support the study is the fact that both the English trumpeter pigeon and the German owl pigeon have crested head feathers despite not being closely related. Furthermore, English trumpeters have feathers on their feet similar to that of English pouters, and yet the two species are not closely related, as is the case of the short beaks shared by the African owl pigeon and the Budapest short-faced tumbler. On the other hand, the closely related African owl and German owl pigeon have short beaks in common, but the African owl has plain head feathers, with the German owl sporting a head crest.

Other interesting findings of the study include the fact that free-living pigeons, such as those commonly found in cities, particularly around statues, carry the DNA of racing pigeons. Some of the traits found in pigeons are likely as a result of selective breeding, as is the case with other domesticated animals, such as dogs, but many of the traits found in pigeons are as a result of adapting to their environment. Shapiro pointed out that many different animals use the same genes in order to build similar body structures, and if scientists can understand which genes are behind normal diversity in the wild through the study of pigeons, this knowledge could ultimately provide insight into diversity in humans, including human disease.

Exotic Bird Expo 2010

May 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

To view a wide range of exotic birds, or to purchase a few special items for your birds at home, get down to the Hickory Metro Convention Center on 10 July 2010, for the 2010 Exotic Bird Expo. The expo will feature a number of baby bird species and vendors that will offer everything related to caged birds, including bird nutrition, toys, bird cages and various other items. It is also an educational experience, and parents are encouraged to bring the entire family to share in the fun and excitement.

For more information, contact the Hickory Metro Convention Center of (828) 324 8600 or contact Paul Hamilton on 704 240 9182.

Date: 10 July 2010
Venue: Hickory Metro Convention Center
City: Hickory
Country: United States of America

Exotic Bird Fair Show Expo 2010

April 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

Medina is getting ready to host one of the biggest exotic bird fairs in the state, which will be held on the 23rd of May 2010, at the Medina Fairgrounds. Visitors to the fair can look forward to browsing through a variety of vendor stores selling products such as nesting boxes, perches, bird cages, food cups and bird cages. Breeders will also be attending, with numerous exotic hand raised birds being available for visitors to marvel at and buy. There will also be food stalls, lucky draws and raffles.

For more information in regard to the show and its vendors, visit the official expo website at http://www.exoticbirdfairexpo.com/.

Date: 23 May 2010
Venue: Medina Fairgrounds
City: Medina, Ohio
Country: United States of America

Tropicana Bird Show 2010

April 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

When in Las Vegas, birding enthusiasts should not miss out on the opportunity to see Meko, Mango, Mariah and Dorothy perform live, with bird trainer Tiana Carroll. This colorful and highly entertaining group, has audience members in fits of laughter and amazement, as Meko (Congo-African Grey Parrot) and Dorothy (Yellow-Nape Amazon), perform their duet version of How Much is That Doggie In The Window. Meko (Moluccan Cockatoo), shows off his rollerblade and motorbike skills, while Mariah (Green-Winged Macaw) assists Tiana throughout the show.

The show takes place at the Tropicana, at 11 am, 12:30 pm and again at 2 pm. It is an exotic bird show for the entire family to enjoy.

Date: Every Day
Venue: Tropicana
City: Las Vegas, Nevada
Country: United States of America

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