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rdeatsman

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  1. The Common Tern is most widespread tern species in North America, but its breeding colonies in interior North America have been on the decline for decades despite conservation efforts. The problem, at least in part, must lie elsewhere—and a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances presents some of the best information to date on where these birds go when they leave their nesting lakes each fall. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/04/04/terns-face-challenges-when-they-fly-south-for-winter/.
  2. Understanding the factors that affect a bird species’ nesting success can be crucial for planning effective conservation efforts. However, many studies of nesting birds last only a few years—and that means they can miss the effects of long-term variation and rare events. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances demonstrates this with nearly four decades of data from Song Sparrows in British Columbia. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/03/21/long-term-study-reveals-fluctuations-in-birds-nesting-success/.
  3. This week's new commentary in The Auk on the overlooked importance of female birdsong has attracted some media coverage! Atlas Obscura: Female Birds Sing, Too Audubon: Female Birdsong Is Finally Getting the Attention It Deserves Washington Post: Female birds sing. These biologists want you to listen.
  4. When North American ornithologists hear a bird singing, they’re likely to assume it’s a male. But in many species, the females sing too—and a new commentary in The Auk: Ornithological Advances argues that a better understanding of these unappreciated female songs could lead to advances in many aspects of bird biology. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/03/15/scientists-remind-their-peers-female-birds-sing-too/.
  5. The review published in The Condor this week reassessing the status of the American Flamingo in Florida has been attracting some media coverage: Miami Herald: Is century-old Florida flamingo mystery finally solved? Scientists say yes New York Times: A Case for Wild Flamingos Calling Florida Their Home Audubon: It’s Official: Flamingos Belong in Florida
  6. Flamingos are a Florida cultural icon, and sightings of American Flamingos in the state have been on the rise in recent decades. However, whether they’re truly native to the U.S. or only arrive via escape from captivity has long been subject to debate, making developing a plan for managing Florida’s flamingo population challenging. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications reviews the evidence and provides a fresh argument that the birds should be considered part of the Sunshine State’s native fauna. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/02/21/are-flamingos-returning-to-florida/.
  7. Some tropical birds have longer egg incubation times than their temperate cousins, even though their habitat is teeming with egg-eating predators. The reason why has long been a mystery, but a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances applies new methods to confirm the evidence for an old hypothesis—that a longer development period leads to a stronger, more efficient immune system. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/02/21/long-incubation-times-may-defend-birds-against-parasites/.
  8. The central Appalachian region is experiencing the country’s most rapid growth in shale gas development, or “fracking,” but we’ve known almost nothing about how this is affecting the region’s songbird populations—until now. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications demonstrates that the nesting success of the Louisiana Waterthrush—a habitat specialist that nests along forested streams, where the potential for habitat degradation is high—is declining at sites impacted by shale gas development in northwestern West Virginia. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/02/14/fracking-tied-to-reduced-songbird-nesting-success/.
  9. Last week's new paper from The Condor: Ornithological Applications (http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1650/CONDOR-17-165.1) on tracking the timing of spring birdsong in the mountains of California has attracted some notice from the media. Popular Science: Canaries in the coal emissions: why climate change makes birds change their tune UPI: Springtime bird calls help scientists study global warming Huffington Post: Birds Are Changing Their Tune
  10. Biologists have known for a long time that animals living in colder climates tend to have larger bodies, supposedly as an adaptation to reduce heat loss. However, understanding how temperature affects animals has gained new importance thanks to climate change. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances uses European House Sparrows, which have spread into a variety of climates in Australia and New Zealand since their introduction in the mid-19th century, to show that this trend in birds might actually be due to the effects of high temperatures during development—raising new alarms about how populations might be affected by global warming. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/01/24/warming-temperatures-may-cause-birds-to-shrink/.
  11. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started the Safe Harbor program in North Carolina in 1995 to reduce conflict between landowners and conservation officials and to encourage private landowners to take steps to benefit endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers on their land. The program has successfully reduced conflict over conservation and reduced the abandonment of nest clusters, but a new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that while the program may have raised landowners’ awareness of and tolerance for their feathered neighbors, it has largely failed to improve breeding success of birds on private lands. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/01/24/endangered-woodpeckers-persist-but-still-struggle-on-private-land/.
  12. Studies of island bird populations have taught us a lot about evolution, but it’s hard to catch birds in the act of naturally colonizing new islands. Instead, a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances examines what’s happened by looking at the genetics of a species that arrived in Hawaii in the twentieth century through decidedly unnatural means—us. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/01/17/genetic-drift-caught-in-action-in-invasive-birds/.
  13. Climate change has scientists worried that birds’ annual migration and reproduction will be thrown out of sync with the seasons. Because birds’ songs are correlated with their breeding behavior and are easily identifiable to species, monitoring birdsong can be a good way to keep tabs on this possibility, and a new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications takes advantage of this approach to provide new baseline data for the birds of northern California. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/01/17/timing-of-spring-birdsong-provides-climate-insights/.
  14. Dams alter rivers in ways that reduce the creation of natural sandbars, which is bad news for threatened Piping Plovers that depend on them for nesting habitat. Between 2004 and 2009, more than 200 hectares of engineered sandbars were built along the Missouri River to address the problem—but how does this engineered habitat compare to the real thing? A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications takes advantage of a natural experiment created by the region’s 2011 floods, demonstrating that the engineered habitat doesn’t provide the benefits of sandbars created by nature. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2018/01/10/engineered-sandbars-dont-measure-up-for-nesting-plovers/.
  15. Birds’ songs and the ways they vary between places have been well studied–but what can the simpler vocalizations known as calls tell us about bird biology? A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances provides the first detailed description of how Marsh Wren calls vary across eastern North America and hints at the evolutionary processes playing out between wren subspecies. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/12/27/wrens-calls-reveal-subtle-differences-between-subspecies/.
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