Bateleur Eagle, Terathopius ecaudatus,
photographed at a zoo in North Carolina. Click image for a much larger view.
Image appears here with the kind permission of the photographer, Chris Losinger.
Birds in Science
Like bacteria, various farm animals have been cloned to produce a variety of protein drugs that benefit humans. These protein drugs can counteract medical conditions such as anemia and diabetes and even some cancers. However, these cloned animals are expensive, large, and most take years before they can produce these desired protein drugs in sufficient commercially-viable quantities. However, some researchers have decided that chickens can be desirable protein drug factories because they are small, inexpensive and have rapid generation times. Further, chickens could produce neat packages -- eggs -- that are loaded with these desired protein drugs.
Is the movement of birds north of their normal ranges a response to climate change linked to greenhouse gas emissions? Or are other factors at play, such as the proliferation of bird feeders in urban yards, which may be enticing species away from their historic ranges? Such debates are bound to heat up with a draft U.N. report on climate change released in Paris this past Friday.
People Helping Birds
An environmental group has welcomed new restrictions on longline fishing aimed at reducing the deaths of albatrosses and other seabirds. Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has announced three measures designed to reduce seabird bycatch: a daytime ban on surface longlines targeting tuna or swordfish; bird-scaring devices must be used on all surface longlines; and all longline fishing voyages must provide five days' notice to the Fisheries Ministry observer program.
Prime Ministers of China and Japan have met and discussed the conservation of one of Asia's flagship birds, the Crested Ibis, Nipponia nippon. The move has been deemed a crucial step forward in the conservation of one of the world's most threatened bird species. This important move recognizes that working together is the best way forward for the conservation of the ibis, a species that in the 1980s was considered on the brink of extinction. "We are very much hoping this beautiful bird will fly freely in the sky of China and Japan as a symbol of the friendship between the two countries in future." said Noritaka Ichida, Director, BirdLife International Asia Division.
Birding and Bird Fairs
A British Birdwatching Fair has raised record amounts towards the conservation of Parrots in the Pacific. The RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), gave a check for £215,000 (421,000 USD) to BirdLife International from the organisers of the British Birdwatching Fair. "It was another record-breaking year for the British Birdwatching Fair." said Tim Appleton, co-organiser of the event. "The fair continues to be a great day out for anyone with an interest in the countryside and wildlife and by coming along people are contributing to conservation on a global scale. It's a fantastic achievement." (pictured, Uvea Parakeet, Eunymphicus uvaeensis, only 750 remain).
The 10th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be February 16-19. People of all ages, from beginning birdwatchers to experts, can participate wherever they are. To join in, count and record species positively identified. Use a tally sheet to record the highest number of individual birds of each species seen at one time. Then enter those figures on the Great Backyard Bird Count Web site. Last year, participants contributed more than 60,000 checklists, reporting 7.5 million birds and 623 species.
Avian Influenza and other Avian Diseases
Two small mutations are enough to turn off the ability of the highly lethal, wildly contagious "Spanish influenza" virus to pass from person to person, a new study suggests. The experiments, done in a high-security lab here using a reconstructed version of the microbe that killed about 50 million people worldwide in 1918 and 1919, show that small changes may have huge consequences in flu virus evolution. The new finding, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, does not shed light directly on the risk of the H5N1 "bird flu" virus, currently active in Indonesia, becoming a pandemic threat to humans. But it may help researchers know what to look for as they monitor the evolution of flu viruses in hundreds of bird and mammal species.
An outbreak of bird flu on a farm run by Europe's biggest turkey farmer Bernard Matthews is the highly pathogenic H5N1 version of the virus which can kill humans, the European Commission said on Saturday. Government veterinary experts were called to the farm near Lowestoft in eastern England late on Thursday after the death of 2500 birds. The UK government is enforcing EU-agreed controls to contain the outbreak, which involves setting up a protection zone with a radius of 3 kilometres (2 miles) and a surveillance zone of 10 km around the infected farm. It is the second confirmed case of H5N1 in the 27-country European Union in 2007, following one in Hungary.
Nigeria's first human death from the deadly bird flu virus has been confirmed by the World Health Organization, the country's information minister said. Lab tests conducted by WHO in London confirmed initial Nigerian tests that had indicated the 22-year-old woman was infected with H5N1 when she died on 17 January, Information Minister Frank Nweke Jr. said in a statement.
The government will grade the severity of the next flu pandemic just as forecasters grade hurricane strength - with a ranking system unveiled last Thursday to help states determine when they should take increasingly strong steps to combat flu's spread. At issue are old-fashioned infection-control measures that may help slow the spread of the next worldwide outbreak of a super-flu until vaccines become available, steps that range from home quarantine to closing schools and postponing sporting events.
Avian malaria parasites found in a quarter of introduced sparrows and blackbirds in New Zealand are threatening to wipe out New Zealand's vulnerable native birds. The introduced species are left unharmed but carry the parasite, which poses a huge threat to native species such as tui and kokako with little resistance to new diseases. Two outbreaks during the past decade among zoo populations of the New Zealand dotterel and mohua (yellowhead) have shown that an outbreak could be devastating. Landcare Research epidemiologist Dr Dan Tompkins said: "Sparrows and blackbirds don't seem to be affected at all by it. The scary thing is that they can just carry it. They've evolved with many of these strains up in the Northern Hemisphere, whereas our native birds have possibly no prior exposure. It's something new coming along that could hit them."
This week on BirdNote, for the week of 5 February 2007: Monday, Wrong-way Kingbird, about the Tropical Kingbird, Tyrannus melancholicus, that visited Magnuson Park in Seattle, WA last fall; Tuesday, the migration of the Sooty Shearwater, Puffinus griseus; Wednesday, "You Are What You Eat," about the diet and coloration of the male House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus; Thursday, the myth of the Raven and the winding river; and Friday, the whisper song of the Steller's Jay, Cyanocitta steller. BirdNotes transport the listener out of the daily grind with two-minute vignettes that incorporate the rich sounds of birds provided by Cornell University and by other sound recordists, with photographs and written stories that illustrate the interesting -- and in some cases, truly amazing -- abilities of birds. Some of the shows are Pacific Northwest-oriented, but many are of general interest. BirdNote can be heard live, Monday through Friday, 8:58-9:00AM in Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia, Canada, on KPLU radio and now also in North Central Washington state on KOHO radio. All episodes are available in the BirdNote archives, both in written transcript and mp3 formats, along with photographs. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [rss].
Not long ago in the country of Colombia, a chicken was born with webbed feet, similar to a duck. As some people suggested, this bird isn't the result of a duck sneaking into the hen house because experts say it's impossible for the two species to interbreed. Instead, experts said the bird is a genetic mutation.
The "Cove Coffee" shop at the Point Arena pier, California, held a modest crowd, with people sipping hot brew and peering at their newspapers shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday. Then the front door was flung open. "The albatross is back!" a young, bearded man announced. "Just saw him come in and land." This illustrious visitor is a legendary bird locals had named Mr. Al B. Tross, a wandering Laysan Albatross, Phoebastria immutabilis (pictured, image source), who has wintered at this harbor in southern Mendocino County for fourteen consecutive seasons. "Al B. Tross is a different sort of critter," said David Jensen, vice-president of the Mendocino Coast Audubon Society. "He's unique among vagrants. To the best of my knowledge, he's the only Laysan Albatross anyone can see while still standing on the shore of this continent.
Seventeen of 18 endangered young whooping cranes, <i<Grus americana (pictured, image source USFWS), that were led south from Wisconsin last fall as part of a project to create a second migratory flock of the birds were killed in storms in Florida, a spokesman said. The cranes were being kept in an enclosure at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River, Fla., when violent storms moved in Thursday night, said Joe Duff, co-founder of Operation Migration, the organization coordinating the project. "The birds were checked in late afternoon the day before, and they were fine," he said Friday.
A new study will investigate whether grey squirrels are responsible for declining numbers of woodland birds in the West Midlands, in Britain. Concerns over grey squirrels eating the eggs and chicks of woodland birds have prompted conservation charities to look at what impact this might be having on vulnerable species. The £170,000 project is backed by The European Squirrel Initiative (ESI), which aims to restore the native red squirrel to England by removing grey squirrels. "This research could provide some very valuable information on grey squirrel damage, which may have important implications across Europe."
In Juneau, Alaska, an ambitious bald eagle had apparently found a deer head in the local dump and was carrying it away when the bird crashed into nearby power lines, causing a power outage for approximately 10,000 people.
The Fine Print: Thanks to Diane, Jeremy, Ellen and Ron for sending story links. Thanks in advance to Ian for catching my typos; as you probably know by now, I put a few typographical errors in these documents just so Ian can find them! The featured image appears here with the kind permission of the photographer, so please contact him if you also wish to purchase this or other of his images. Other images are resized and are either linked from the news story that they accompany or they are credited and linked back to the photographer.
What is the point of Birds in the News? I publish BITN each week because I want to increase people's awareness of the importance of birds in our everyday lives. Birds represent many things to us; beauty, freedom, music, wildness. But everywhere, birds are coming under increasing pressure for their very survival, and by linking to news stories about birds, I hope to make the smallest impression upon the public and the mainstream media, as well as our decision-makers, that birds are an important feature of our everyday lives, that there are so many reasons that we could not do without them.