Golden-wings of Sterling Forest

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Join the Connecticut Ornithological Association to explore Sterling Forest – home to substantial numbers of Hooded, Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers. Sterling Forest, with its multitudes of different habitats is a birding enthusiast’s paradise. For more information on this event visit the Connecticut Ornithological Association Website.

Date: 2 June 2012
Time: 10am
Venue: Sterling Forest
City: Essex
State: New York
Country: USA

Cerulean Warbler Weekend

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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

Kirtland’s Warbler Population Stabilizes

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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.

Six Foreign Species Fall under Endangered Species Act

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Many bird species across the world have been placed under protection, as the importance of conserving them has become necessary. Due to their declining numbers, ornithologist have been submitting requests for at least seventy species to be noted in the Endangered Species Act since the 1980s. These species were submitted from all over the world, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that most of these bird species submitted would come under the Endangered Species Act. Now six foreign bird species have been entered onto this database.

To speed up the process of getting the suggested list of endangered bird species recognized, the Centre for Biological Diversity began legal proceedings in the years 2004 and in 2006, and by 2008 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a list that featured proposals for five bird species, but noted that an additional forty-five foreign species deserved to be listed as well. The Center for Biological Diversity once again put pressure on the department in 2009, which led to the agreement to extend the list and six species recently received their permanent place under the protection act. These species are the Jerdon’s Courser, Cantabrian Capercallie, Eiao Marquesas Reed Warbler, Slender Billed Curlew, Marquesan Imperial Pigeon and Greater Courser.

One would wonder why the Center for Biological Diversity could be campaigning for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recognize foreign species, but the answer is quite simple: the restricting of the selling and purchasing of wildlife that are endangered. Once on the list, funding for conservation will increase, and it will also increase the scrutiny on areas that are at risk of development programs, preventing vital habitats to be destroyed. Agencies such as the World Bank would be required to ensure that prospective project land is not the habitat of the birds on this list.

The attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, Justin Augustine, commented that they are pleased that the birds that are bordering on extinction will now receive the protection they deserve, and that being under the Endangered Species Act gives these species a better chance of survival and will also bring attention to the urgent need to conserve the bird species that find themselves under threat of human intervention and development.

Warblers Ward off Imposters

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Cuckoos have never been very popular amongst other birds species. They are known to be lazy parents and have become sophisticated in their methods of camouflaging their own eggs to look like those of other species, so that they are able to introduce their own eggs into the nest and have the other birds raise their chicks. But host birds are beginning to wise up to the counterfeit eggs being laid in their nests and have developed their own skills to fight off imposter eggs.

Studies conducted at the University of Cambridge, led by Claire Spottiswoode, revealed that host birds, especially warblers, have become more vigilant in regard to recognizing imposter eggs. Most birds use one of two methods. They either teach themselves to be able to recognize the imposter eggs purely by sight, or they have taught themselves to change the coloring of their own eggs, making it more difficult for the cuckoo to copy. During the research studies, scientists placed the eggs in the nests of bird species that were closely related to warblers. It seemed to show that the red-faced cisticola was quite apt in noticing an imposter egg purely by sight, while the tawny-flanked prinia was not very confident in noticing a difference. In its defense, the prinia is able to lay a rainbow color of eggs, complete with variable patterns, which deter cuckoos from the challenge of laying eggs in their nests. In addition they are able to recognize the imposter egg due to their defenses and eject the eggs immediately. The rattling cisticola is no longer the target of the cuckoo, as it has been able to use both defenses, that of recognition and color changing of eggs, to establish which of the eggs are imposters.

Researcher Dr. Martin Stevens expressed his findings of the outcome of the studies, saying: “Our experiments have shown that these different strategies are equally successful as defenses against the cuckoo finch. Moreover, one species that has done a bit of both – the rattling cisticola – appears to have beaten the cuckoo finch with this dual strategy, since it is no longer parasitized. The arms race between the cuckoo finch and its host emphasizes how interactions between species can be remarkably sophisticated especially in tropical regions such as Africa, giving us beautiful examples of evolution and adaptation.”

Uzbekistan Birdwatching Tour 2010

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Uzbekistan is a bird watching paradise, with a variety of birds such as Alpine Swifts, Wheatears, Bearded Reedlings, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Rose-coloured Starlings, Common Mynas, Hume’s Short-toed Lark and Paddyfield Warblers, to name but a few, being found throughout the country. The Uzbekistan Birdwatching Tour 2010, which takes place from the 23rd to the 29th of May 2010, will provide visitors with a guided tour to various birdwatching hotspots, including Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and Chimgan. Tour packages can be arranged around the requirements of bird watching visitors, and is an unforgettable experience.

For more information in regard to this colorful adventure, contact tour organizers on info@birdwatching-uzbekistan.com.

Date: 23 – 29 May
Venue: Various
City: Various
Country: Uzbekistan Birdwatching Tour 2010

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Kirtland’s Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii)

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One of the most rare members of the Paulidae family is the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii). This is a fascinating bird species seen on occasion in the jack pine forests of Michigan where it is reliant on very specific habitat. Kirtland’s Warblers are endemic to the USA and are found only in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. Much needs to be done if the Kirtland’s Warbler is to survive and the first step is gaining knowledge about the elusive species.

As a rare bird species, the Kirtland’s Warbler was only first described by scientists in 1851. The newly discovered species was named after Dr. Jared Kirtland, author of a list of Ohio’s animals. The Kirtland’s Warbler is a small songbird measuring about 5 inches in length. As an insect-eater, the warbler’s bill is thin and pointed. The nape and upperparts are grey whilst the throat, belly and breast are yellow. Its undertail covers are white and the wings have dull white bars. Its sides and flanks are streaked. The Kirtland’s Warbler is also easily identified by its constant tail wagging. The male and female are similar but males have black streaks on their back and black lores. If you are looking out for the Kirtland’s Warbler, you may hear it before you see it, so listen for a clear, loud “chip-chip-che-way-o”.

Kirtland’s Warblers are very choosy when it comes to habitat, the females even more so than the males. These warblers will only nest in small jack pines. Jack pines will only release their seeds after a fire so the warbler will only come to nest there 6 years after a fire when the young tree is around 2 m high. As the tree reaches over 3 m in height, the Kirtland’s Warbler will vacate the area. Kirtland’s Warblers are known as neotropical migrants. Males arriving back from the Bahamas in breeding season will establish territories. The female builds the nest whilst the male warbler supplies her with sustenance. A clutch contains 3 to 6 eggs and incubation lasts 14 to 15 days. The young ones fledge quickly in about 12 to 13 days.

The numbers of Kirtland’s Warbler populations has decreased largely due to the suppression of fire necessary for their chosen habitat. They also suffer due to nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Extensive conservation efforts are being made to protect the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler.

Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)

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The Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia) was first recorded by Alexander Wilson in the 1800s. He had noticed a specimen in the magnolia trees while in Mississippi. The name ‘Magnolia’ has persisted through the years, although this bird is native to the northeastern regions of the United States. Wilson had at first used the English name of “Black and Yellow Warbler” with “magnolia” as the Latin name. The Magnolia Warbler is part of the warbler family and is the most common of the warbler species in this area. These warblers prefer to forage close to the ground and in low growing bushes. Preferred habitat would be overgrown pastures, on the edges of a swamp or lake, or clearings that have small trees.

The Magnolia Warbler is a tiny bird that is approximately 13 centimeters in length and weighs about nine grams. It has bright yellow plumage over its throat, breast and belly, and is striped with black on its breast. The warbler also has a black mask on his face, a pale gray colored crown, and a white broken eye ring. The black coloring continues down its back, and runs into gray wings that have broad white edges. The female is relatively similar, with duller coloring. Its wingspan is about 20 centimeters, and the birds have extremely weak flight abilities, which results in the rapid beating of wings, and the alternating of wings to rest.

Male Magnolia Warblers are known to have two different bird songs. The one is used during the mating season, and the other is to protect its territory. The warbler feeds on insects as its primary source of food, but will also eat berries, and if humans have been kind enough to leave any bread product out they will gladly eat that too.

Shallow grass and root nests are built for the female to lay her eggs in. The warbler female will lay between three to five eggs, usually four, which are white in color and have brown spots on the shell. Only the female Magnolia Warbler will take part in the 11 to 13 day incubation period. The males will assist in the feeding of the chicks after they have hatched. Chicks will fledge the nest after 8 to 10 days.

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