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  1. NEWS RELEASE (from The Peregrine Fund) For immediate release, 17 June 2020 To save a species from extinction we must know that it exists Boise, Idaho - A new study shows that there is substantial disagreement among scientists on the number of species of birds, which prevents accurate decision making for prioritizing conservation efforts. The study, “Toward reconciliation of the four world bird lists: Hotspots of disagreement in taxonomy of raptors,” uses birds of prey as an example for why this problem requires immediate resolution. Birds of prey represent approximately 5.5% of the world’s bird species, but are significant in this discussion because roughly 52% of raptors have declining global populations. The lead researcher for this effort, Dr. Chris McClure of The Peregrine Fund says, “A place may or may not be deemed a priority for protection depending on the number of recognized species in the area. So we decided to compare the four most widely used world bird lists that scientists use and found that, among raptors, there was only 68% consistency in the species recognized across all four lists. That’s not very consistent and could lead to confusion among conservation practitioners and government agencies.” The four most widely used lists for recognized bird species include 1) the IOC World Bird List which is used by the international ornithological journal IBIS, 2) the Howard and Moore Checklist of the Birds of the World, which is used by several major museums around the world, 3) the eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, which is used by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the implementation of all of their programs, and finally 4) the Handbook of the Birds of the World and BirdLife International Digital Checklist of the Birds of the World, which is followed by BirdLife International when determining the Red List of Threatened Species and for several international agreements. McClure adds, “If this all sounds a bit confusing, that’s because it is. In fact the differences between the four world bird lists was recently referred to as ‘taxonomy anarchy.’” Dr. Jeff Johnson of the University of North Texas’s Department of Biological Sciences explains the problem from a conservation perspective, “Typically conservation efforts are focused on saving species, however subspecies can provide considerable genetic and ecological diversity.” Take the Cuban Kite, for example. This is a critically endangered raptor, but only considered a species on two of the four lists. The other two identify it as a subspecies of hook-billed kite, which is not considered to be threatened with extinction. While its current numbers are dangerously low, “losing the Cuban Kite entirely due to extinction would be a travesty,” according to Johnson. “Consistent recognition of the Cuban kite as a distinct species could help elevate its prominence and thereby increase efforts for its conservation.” Dr. Thomas Schulenberg of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology states, “In this study we looked at the ‘hotspots of disagreement’ between the four lists. We found that there’s a lot of disagreement about owls, particularly in southern Asia. More broadly, the classification of raptor species is not well aligned across the high diversity regions of Indonesia, India, and China.” Dr. Denis Lepage of Birds Canada says, “The bottom line is that, if we want to conserve birds, including raptors, working together to develop a single world bird list would go a long way.” According to McClure, efforts are now being discussed to consolidate the four lists, but no official announcement has been made concerning when that may happen. “Oftentimes, taxonomic research is not well funded,” lamented Lepage, “but this study demonstrates that a concerted effort is critical for conservation of biodiversity. This is too important to not give our best effort.” This study was a collaboration between the University of North Texas, Birds Canada, Boise State University, Ornithologi, Southern Cross University, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Michigan State University, and The Peregrine Fund.
  2. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 11 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including OrnithologyExchange and the Ornithological Council. Late last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) analyzing their proposed rule to limit the reach of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by exempting incidental take (or unintentional killing or harming) of birds. The Service announced their proposed rule in January, in an attempt to provide more regulatory certainty to public, industries, states, tribes and other stakeholders. This DEIS assesses the possible effects of their proposed rule, as well as two other possible actions - or alternatives - on migratory birds, other environmental resources, and the economy. According to the DEIS, the Service’s “preferred alternative” will have a likely negative effect on migratory birds, including increased mortality. Industry will see “likely reduced legal and financial costs.” In addition, the implementation of voluntary conservation measures will also likely decrease under the new rule, as there would be no risk of prosecution. Comments will be accepted on the DEIS until 20 July. Visit http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2018-0090, to submit comments. More information related to this proposed rule, scoping and other associated materials, can be found online at: https://fws.gov/migratorybirds/2020Regulation.php. Background: Until this administration, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was interpreted to cover both intentional and unintentional take (harm or killing) of species covered by the Act. The USFWS under this administration developed a policy known as an M-Opinion, which is internal agency policy, stating that the law does not prohibit incidental take of migratory bird species protected under the Act. The policy was challenged in the federal court and is still pending. One of the key aspects of the legal challenge - that there was no opportunity for public input - would be obviated by the promulgation of this regulation, since under the Administrative Procedure Act, public input is required when a formal regulation is proposed. USFWS Press Release: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made available a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This action is a required next step for the Service in its regulatory undertaking to define the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to provide regulatory certainty to the public, industries, states, tribes and other stakeholders. On February 3, 2020, the Service published a proposed rule clarifying that the scope of the MBTA only extends to conduct intentionally injuring birds. The rule codifies the 2017 Department of the Interior Solicitor’s Office Opinion M-37050, which was a legal determination that restricted the scope of the MBTA to intentional take of migratory birds and concluded that the take of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds. The Endangered Species Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, as well as state laws and regulations, are not affected by the Solicitor’s Opinion M-37050 or the proposed regulation. This publication is another step in the public process that the Service will continue to manage throughout the development of the rulemaking process. The public is encouraged to provide input to help ensure that these changes are clear, effective and advance the goal of migratory bird conservation. “We are making every effort to ensure we are not merely complying with NEPA, but are being open and transparent in our regulatory activities and engaging the public fully,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A federal agency is required under NEPA to consider a reasonable range of alternative actions, including a “no action alternative,” so as to fully review the environmental impacts of a rule. Reasonable alternatives must be economically and technically feasible, display common sense, and must address the purpose and need for the action. In this DEIS, the Service is proposing a no action alternative and two action alternatives. The draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available on June 5, 2020, opening a 45-day public comment period. Comments must be received on or before July 20, 2020. The DEIS will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2018-0090, and will include details on how to submit your comments. All the documents related to this draft Environmental Impact Statement and proposed rulemaking and information on how to submit comments is available online at: https://www.fws.gov/regulations/mbta/. BACKGROUND INFO HERE: Comments filed by the Ornithological Council on the notice that the USFWS would prepare this draft EIS HERE: When the Ornithological Council files comments on the DEIS, they will be posted on the OrnithologyExchange homepage.
  3. Nominees Sought for Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize Advisory Council to Promote Technology Innovation in Wildlife and Habitat Conservation May 12, 2020 Contact(s): Laury Marshall, 703-589-6947, Laury_Parramore@fws.gov The U.S. Department of the Interior seeks experts and leaders in wildlife and habitat conservation technology to advise the Secretary of the Interior as part of the newly formed Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize Advisory Council. The Council, established under the 2019 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, will act as a catalyst for technological innovation to advance wildlife and habitat conservation. It will focus on endangered species protection, invasive species management, poaching and wildlife trafficking prevention, and nonlethal solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. “We are looking for leaders and highly experienced professionals who can help guide our efforts to more fully incorporate innovation into conservation,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “This Council will do more than just award prizes for innovation, its members will serve as guides to competition winners, helping mentor them and chaperone their ideas towards their full potential.” The Council will administer $500,000 in prizes and advise competition winners on opportunities to pilot and implement their nascent technologies, helping them develop partnerships with conservation organizations, federal or state agencies, federally recognized tribes, private entities and research institutions with relevant expertise or interest. The Council will be governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt will appoint 12 to 18 Council members who have expertise in one or more of the following areas: biology, economics, engineering, endangered species, invasive species, technology development, business development and management, international wildlife trafficking and trade, wildlife conservation and management, nonlethal wildlife management, social aspects of human-wildlife conflict management, or any other discipline the Secretary determines to be necessary to achieve the purposes of the Council. For more information, please visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/05/11/2020-10008/call-for-nominations-for-the-theodore-roosevelt-genius-prize-advisory-council-and-advisory-boards.
  4. From The Ibis: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ibi.12822?fbclid=IwAR0nsfy9G0r78EzfGAJqJUpxes3utTyygvYwuruCG7qwuAzU3iitB8I1tpc With the death of Colin Pennycuick on 9 December 2019 at the age of 86 years, the ornithological community has lost a doyen of avian biology whose passion for flying informed his pioneering research into avian flight for over five decades. His innovative studies, which famously include developing the use of wind tunnels for studying flight performance, led to him to describing key principles underlying the mechanics of flight. A leading authority on the mechanics and physiology of flight in birds and bats, he was also an expert on their navigation and migration. He was particularly driven by a wish to test, and thus understand, why birds and bats fly in the way that they do. His own enthusiasm for piloting light aircraft – pursued from his student days – provided him with fresh insights into the constraints encountered by the birds during their daily movements and longer distance migrations. Colin James Pennycuick was born in Windsor, Berkshire, on 11 June 1933. His father, Brigadier James A.C. Pennycuick, served with distinction in the Royal Engineers during WWI, and his grandfather was Treasurer of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, and at Merton College, Oxford, Colin enlisted in the Oxford University Air Squadron for the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve, and this triggered his life‐long love of flying. A keen birdwatcher since childhood, whilst still an undergraduate he joined a goose‐ringing expedition to Spitsbergen. The results were published in the Seventh Annual Report of the Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust; WWT). He moved on to Peterhouse, Cambridge, for a PhD study on muscle physiology, and as a research fellow at Cambridge, he studied the navigation of the Common Pigeon Columba livia, before moving to become a lecturer in the Zoology Department at Bristol University. His association with Bristol continued over many years, though interspersed with periods spent working elsewhere. He also became a regular visitor to the Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge, and flew gliders with the WWT’s founder, Sir Peter Scott. During his initial stint in Bristol, from 1964 to 1968, Colin used the university’s first computer to design and build a wind tunnel, which he famously hung in a stairwell in the Zoology Building and then trained and pigeons to fly within it. His observations led to him adapting the existing aerodynamic theory for helicopters to birds, using the results of his wind tunnel experiments to derive a quantitatively accurate mechanical model of bird flight, which was published in a landmark paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology. During this period, he also used the wind tunnel to estimate basic properties for birds in steady gliding flight, with information gained about wing lift and drag from the body and wings leading to his classic ‘momentum jet’ model of flapping flight mechanics, and to addressing the key point of how the mechanical power required to fly varies with airspeed. A second seminal paper on this theory appeared in Ibis in 1969, describing its significance for the flight of birds of different sizes and with varying migration ranges. Colin concluded at the time that there is an upper limit to the body mass at which birds are capable of flight and migration, with larger birds more limited by the amount of body fat which they can carry as fuel, which reduces their range, but they can economize by soaring. He suggested that the upper limit lay approximately with the Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori. PDF Tools Share With the death of Colin Pennycuick on 9 December 2019 at the age of 86 years, the ornithological community has lost a doyen of avian biology whose passion for flying informed his pioneering research into avian flight for over five decades. His innovative studies, which famously include developing the use of wind tunnels for studying flight performance, led to him to describing key principles underlying the mechanics of flight. A leading authority on the mechanics and physiology of flight in birds and bats, he was also an expert on their navigation and migration. He was particularly driven by a wish to test, and thus understand, why birds and bats fly in the way that they do. His own enthusiasm for piloting light aircraft – pursued from his student days – provided him with fresh insights into the constraints encountered by the birds during their daily movements and longer distance migrations. Colin James Pennycuick was born in Windsor, Berkshire, on 11 June 1933. His father, Brigadier James A.C. Pennycuick, served with distinction in the Royal Engineers during WWI, and his grandfather was Treasurer of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, and at Merton College, Oxford, Colin enlisted in the Oxford University Air Squadron for the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve, and this triggered his life‐long love of flying. A keen birdwatcher since childhood, whilst still an undergraduate he joined a goose‐ringing expedition to Spitsbergen. The results were published in the Seventh Annual Report of the Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust; WWT). He moved on to Peterhouse, Cambridge, for a PhD study on muscle physiology, and as a research fellow at Cambridge, he studied the navigation of the Common Pigeon Columba livia, before moving to become a lecturer in the Zoology Department at Bristol University. His association with Bristol continued over many years, though interspersed with periods spent working elsewhere. He also became a regular visitor to the Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge, and flew gliders with the WWT’s founder, Sir Peter Scott. During his initial stint in Bristol, from 1964 to 1968, Colin used the university’s first computer to design and build a wind tunnel, which he famously hung in a stairwell in the Zoology Building and then trained and pigeons to fly within it. His observations led to him adapting the existing aerodynamic theory for helicopters to birds, using the results of his wind tunnel experiments to derive a quantitatively accurate mechanical model of bird flight, which was published in a landmark paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology. During this period, he also used the wind tunnel to estimate basic properties for birds in steady gliding flight, with information gained about wing lift and drag from the body and wings leading to his classic ‘momentum jet’ model of flapping flight mechanics, and to addressing the key point of how the mechanical power required to fly varies with airspeed. A second seminal paper on this theory appeared in Ibis in 1969, describing its significance for the flight of birds of different sizes and with varying migration ranges. Colin concluded at the time that there is an upper limit to the body mass at which birds are capable of flight and migration, with larger birds more limited by the amount of body fat which they can carry as fuel, which reduces their range, but they can economize by soaring. He suggested that the upper limit lay approximately with the Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori. In 1968 Colin moved to East Africa, where he was seconded to Nairobi University for 3 years and first acquired his own aircraft (a Piper Cruiser). There he used his wind tunnel to study gliding flight in the Egyptian Fruit Bat Rousettus aegyptiacus. This was followed by 2 years in the Serengeti National Park as Deputy Director of the research station, at which time he flew a powered glider with pelicans Pelecanus spp., storks Ciconia spp. and vultures Gyps spp. and discovered that soaring birds are able to travel across vast areas with little effort, using currents of rising air to gain height, then gliding to the base of the next thermal. In preparation for his return to Bristol in 1973, he adapted his Piper Cruiser for long‐distance flight and made a ‘stepping‐stone’ migration back to the UK, calling in at Addis Ababa, Cairo and Crete en route. This time he remained in Bristol until 1983, using the Piper to track migrating cranes in southern Sweden and also developing the ‘ornithodolite’, a portable instrument which recorded in real‐time on to a computer the azimuth, elevation and range of birds in flight. This he used in South Georgia to measure glide patterns for albatrosses Diomedea spp. and Phoebetria spp. to determine how the wind and waves of the Antarctic Ocean powered their flight, thus shedding light on gust‐soaring phenomena in the species. He also renewed his collaborative work with the WWT, including undertaking an aerial survey of Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis across Scotland and Ireland in the Piper, and being instrumental in bringing the first computer to the organization. In 1983 Colin moved to the US as the Maytag Chair of Ornithology at Miami University where he continued his studies of flight performance, using the ornithodolite to study frigate birds Fregata spp. flight, and the wind tunnel to refine his flight mechanics model. Here he developed his ‘Flight’ software, which he made readily available to other researchers, and his book Bird Flight Performance, a Practical Calculation Manual was published in 1989. He collaborated on several projects with the Patuxent Research Centre, including developing bird‐borne transmitters that could send data via the Argos satellite system, and recording basic flight characteristics data for several falconry‐trained raptors and wild sage grouse to test the effects of radio‐tagging on avian flight. When he returned to Europe in 1992 he again made an inter‐continental flight in his own aircraft, this time a Cessner 182, flying via Greenland and Iceland to Bristol. Once back in Britain, following much commuting between the US and the UK by both parties since the early 1980s, he married his wife Sandy, also in 1992. Several new projects commenced, with Colin making regular visits to Lund University where a new wind tunnel was inaugurated by King Carl XVI of Sweden and also, with WWT, tracking Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus migration between Britain and Iceland. This was of particular interest to Colin because the species was deemed to be at the upper limits for making the long‐distance overseas flight. His VW campervan became a familiar sight in Lund and at Whooper Swan catch sites in Iceland. Always generous with his time, Colin mentored a number of undergraduate and PhD students who went on to be highly successful in their fields, including such luminaries as Julian Hector, Anders Hedenström, Malcolm Ogilvie, Keith Scholey and Geoff Spedding, their tributes to Colin having contributed substantially to this article. Colin’s life‐long love of flying and his innovative spirit never diminished; on co‐supervising a PhD on Whooper Swan breeding biology during the early 1990s, he suggested that inaccessible parts of Iceland could perhaps be reached by the new method of paramotoring, a concept viewed less enthusiastically by others involved. He also took trouble to ensure that the results of his somewhat technical research were made accessible and understandable to a wider audience, including joining the WWT/BBC/Nenetskiy State Nature Reserve expedition to ring Bewick’s Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii in the Russian arctic in 2003, an expedition which included tracking Bewick’s Swans fitted with satellite tags for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Migration’ programme. Although recovering from treatment for cancer at the time, Colin was a calm and steadfast presence throughout, clearly delighted to be back in the field. Colin was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990 for his innovative work on the flight of birds and bats, and was made Honorary Companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1994. In 1996 he was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Lund University. His publications, including the textbook Modelling the Flying Bird (2008) and his ‘Flight’ software models on the mechanics of flapping and gliding flight and long‐distance migration, set out the principles of aeronautical engineering and how they may be adapted for exploring bird flight. These will remain valuable tools for future generations, and form a basis for the continuing research into avian flight and the dissemination of this information by those who he inspired.
  5. From Fred C. Schaffner: It’s taken me a long time to internalize this, and I can only offer my sincerest apologies to Heaven for delaying so long. Colin J. Pennycuick was the only true genius I have ever known and I cannot imagine meeting anyone of his calibre ever again. He was kind and patient with mortals like me, jovial, eccentric, and humble, sometimes hilarious, and always in good cheer. Often, we were the only ones in the room who understood one another’s jokes. I’ve tried to be as good a teacher and mentor as he, but matching his genius would be impossible. I had the honor of being his first PhD student after he came to the US from England. He taught me to fly, to master SI units in everything, and most importantly to see farther by patiently stepping back and starting with first principles. We flew together from Miami to my research site at Culebra, Puerto Rico piloting the Cessna 182 pictured in the article, which he later flew from Miami to England vía Greenland. I remember ground-breaking scientific articles he wrote on the backs of envelopes, and his home-built computers. And I remember a time when my mind was swirling with a tangled spaghetti of ideas as I tried to write my dissertation. He left the office with a magic marker in hand and returned from the restroom with a length of toilet paper on which he’d written, “When your thoughts come out, it helps to get them down on paper”. He told me to stick it on the wall and keep looking at it until the spaghetti got untangled. It worked! I remember him calling me one afternoon, years after I graduated, to tell me that for his 65th birthday he’d taken up hang-gliding and had gone to Spain to glide with the Griffons. I can’t imagine who or what or where I would be without him. He was a truly unique and stellar human being.
  6. The NAOC Steering Committee has canceled the in-person North American Ornithological Conference planned for Puerto Rico this August, due to concerns over health and safety. In its place, there will be a scaled-down virtual NAOC, taking form to be held during the week of August 10th. https://naocbirds.org/ An Important Announcement 23 April 2020 After weighing a range of options due to our concern for the health and safety of our attendees and the people of Puerto Rico, the NAOC Steering Committee has made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person North American Ornithological Conference planned for San Juan this August. This likely comes as no surprise given the global impact of COVID-19, and we know you share our disappointment that we will not be able to gather in-person this summer to reach across borders and connect with old colleagues, meet new ones, and share our important science. However, we are excited to announce our path forward, which will provide an opportunity for members of the ornithological community to connect virtually and present their science this summer and convene in Puerto Rico in a future year once it is possible to do so. NAOC host societies will host a virtual meeting the week of August 10. We hope that most people who submitted abstracts for the in-person NAOC will opt to keep their abstracts under consideration for the virtual meeting. Details are still being finalized, but we anticipate a registration cost in the range of $75 or less. If you registered for NAOC, a full refund will be made automatically; registration for the virtual meeting will be handled separately. You will receive a message shortly confirming your registration cancellation and refund. (If you have already booked hotel reservations etc., you will need to cancel those separately.) If you submitted an abstract, you will hear from us within two weeks to confirm your interest in continuing with a virtual presentation. We’re excited about the opportunities that a virtual meeting will offer, and we are hard at work figuring out the details. Please stay tuned for more news and updates as our plans for the virtual NAOC develop! 2021 meetings will go forward as planned. Postponing NAOC to 2021 was not an option, as many NAOC host societies already have plans in place with other venues for their 2021 meetings. Next year’s meetings are scheduled as follows: American Ornithological Society & Society of Canadian Ornithologists: London, Ontario, 22–29 August 2021 Association of Field Ornithologists: South America (specific location to be determined), early August 2021 Birds Caribbean: Trinidad, late July 2021 British Ornithologists’ Union: University of Nottingham, 31 March–1 April 2021 CIPAMEX: Pachuca, Mexico, October or November 2021 (tentative) Neotropical Ornithological Society: No 2021 meeting (next NOS Congress will be 2023) Waterbird Society: South Florida, late October/early November 2021 (tentative; a 2020 meeting is also planned for 10–14 November in Clear Lake, Texas) Wilson Ornithological Society: Albany, New York, April 2021 AOS will host its annual meeting in Puerto Rico in 2022 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan from June 27 to July 1, to convene ornithologists from throughout the world in the Caribbean. More details will be forthcoming over the next year as plans develop. We want to thank the entire ornithological community for your patience and support as we’ve grappled with this unprecedented situation. We look forward to continuing to connect with you virtually this summer as well as in person in the future. With gratitude, The NAOC Steering Committee
  7. In Memorium: Robert Charles Leberman (April 3, 1937 – March 10, 2020) by Robert S. Mulvihill Robert (Bob) Leberman passed away peacefully at his home at Powdermill Nature Reserve on March 10, 2020, after a courageous six-year-long battle with a rare “soft tissue” cancer, called leiomyosarcoma, which necessitated an above-the-knee amputation of his left leg. He was just a few weeks shy of 83 years old when he died. Born in Meadville on April 3, 1937, Bob was the second child of Charles and Mary (Nodine) Leberman. His surviving older brother is Ronald F. Leberman. The Lebermans were a nature-loving family, and Bob grew up exploring nature in the rich hemlock woods, glacial lakes, swamps, and bogs all around his boyhood home. In 1958, Bob obtained a federal bird-banding permit, and soon after that he initiated a seasonal, migration banding project at Presque Isle State Park—that migration monitoring continues to this day under the auspices of the Erie Bird Observatory. Bob’s mother and brother participated with him in the banding at Presque Isle, and they continued the banding there for many years following Bob’s own migration, in June 1961, to the newly created Powdermill Nature Reserve of Carnegie Museum. At the invitation of then-director, Dr. M. Graham Netting, Bob went to Powdermill and, using the still relatively new technique of mist-netting, banded some 1,500 birds that summer and fall—with that effort, the world-famous Powdermill bird-banding station was born! With strong support and professional guidance from the late Senior Curator and Assistant Curator of Birds at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Dr. Kenneth C. Parkes and Dr. Mary Heimerdinger Clench, respectively, Bob quickly established Powdermill as one of the premiere bird-banding research stations in North America. As Bob put it in an interview in Birding magazine (July/August 2013), “With their [Ken’s and Mary’s] enthusiastic mentoring, they turned a young, green birder into a working museum/field ornithologist.” Early on, Bob raised the practice of “skulling” birds to an art, and in 1970, he published a seminal paper on the subject, focusing on Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Because Bob was among the most skilled at accurately determining the ages of birds-in-hand, in those early years he conducted many formal and informal workshops to help train other banders in his techniques. Bob also pioneered studies of “differential migration,” the temporally separated passage of immature and adult birds of a species within migration seasons. Bob was among the first bird banders to consistently collect wing, fat, and body mass data for every bird he banded at Powdermill. In fact, Powdermill’s voluminous body mass data were so often requested for ecological and other studies, in 1978 he and Mary Clench summarized them in a detailed research Bulletin of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Decades later, with hundreds of thousands more data available, Bob co-authored a second compendium of body mass, fat, and wing length data for 170 species, which was published as the first-ever research monograph of the Eastern Bird Banding Association in 2004. The Powdermill banding database now contains well over a half-million records—a true treasure trove of data for decades to come! Alone and with others, Bob contributed many dozens of scientific and popular articles about birds based on these data. However, Bob's contributions to field of ornithology extended far beyond the invaluable data he helped collect and the studies he completed. In the course of his career, tens of thousands of visitors of all ages and all walks of life were welcomed and educated about birds in Bob's easy and good-natured way. For example, Bob might host a group of neighbor children at the banding lab one day, and a visiting Lord and Lady from London, England or a grandson of Theodore Roosevelt the next! Bob was an avid field birder, too. For many decades he regularly compiled notable banding records and field observations of birds seen at Powdermill and the surrounding area for monthly bird summaries of the Bulletin of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, and for seasonal summaries in American Birds, for the “Appalachian Region” editor, Dr. George Hall. Later, Bob replaced George as Appalachian regional editor. Bob served for many years as a member of the Pennsylvania’s Ornithological Records Committee, reviewing hundreds of observations submitted for formal recognition in the official record of the state’s birds. He also served as a county compiler for Pennsylvania Birds for many years. Bob was an organizer of the first breeding bird atlas in Pennsylvania. He served as a regional coordinator, was on the verification and publication committees, and authored more than twenty species accounts for the resulting book. He also contributed extensive block coverage and several species accounts for the second Pennsylvania breeding bird atlas in 2004-2010. Among more than a hundred publications written by Bob in his career, two were of particular interest to birders: Birds of the Ligonier Valley published in 1976; and, in 1988, his revised Birds of the Pittsburgh Region, an extensive updating of Ken Parkes’s classic 1956 work. Bob had been working on a complete revision of his Birds of the Ligonier Valley book before he died. In addition to Bob’s very significant contributions to field ornithology, in general, and Pennsylvania birding, in particular, Bob was an expert on the birds of Belize. He participated in expeditions and banding projects in Belize in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and co-authored avian distribution papers in the Annals of Carnegie Museum, as well as a new Checklist of the Birds of Belize. In his long career, Bob never focused strongly on any one particular bird species; nevertheless, he had a special fondness for Kentucky Warblers, the nesting ecology of which he studied in his spare time in the early years at Powdermill. Although he never published them, his expert observations of the Kentucky Warbler found their way into his friend, Hal Harrison’s popular work, Wood Warblers World. Bob Leberman may well have been the last of an era of largely self-taught ornithologists. In high school he focused more on classes related to business and art than the natural sciences, and his college experience was limited to assisting a professor at Allegheny College in teaching the field component of his ornithology class. Bob’s career at Powdermill overlapped with the career of another eminent, self-taught ornithologist, Curator Emeritus, W. E. Clyde Todd. Bob had largely committed to memory Todd’s classic, Birds of Western Pennsylvania, and he admired the work so much that he proudly named his house at Powdermill “Todd Manor” in honor of Mr. Todd. In the seven years between Bob’s arrival at Powdermill and Mr. Todd’s death in 1968, Mr. Todd became aware of some of the remarkable bird records that Bob had begun documenting through his bird banding, such as summering Prairie Warblers. Bob recalled that upon hearing of this, Mr. Todd was very skeptical as he himself had not found the species breeding during his extensive, decades-long fieldwork for his Birds of Western Pennsylvania, and was not convinced until seeing confirmatory photographs of the bird in hand. For generations to come, Bob Leberman will continue to shape our understanding of birds thanks to the dedicated works of all the students and young professionals whom he inspired and mentored in his characteristically genial and humble way. Bob did not only feed our hunger for knowledge and satisfy our craving for experience; he literally fed us, too. I would not even hazard a guess as to how many volunteers, visitors, and interns Bob nourished from his own kitchen and cupboards! Today, a great many of Bob’s well-fed “kids” have gone on to important careers in academia, conservation, wildlife management, and education. Some may be surprised to learn that birds were not Bob’s only interest nor his only area of expertise—not by a long shot. As alluded to above, Bob was a very good cook—in truth, something of a gourmet! He was an excellent amateur botanist and helped inventory the flora of Powdermill twice, under two different curators of botany! He was particularly adept at spotting and identifying cryptic wild orchids, and he grew cultivated orchids at home. He knew the butterflies very well, too, and contributed many field records to Carnegie’s lepidopterist, Dr. Harry Clench. Bob had excellent personal collections of antique duck decoys, flow blue china, natural history art, and, especially postage stamps and postal covers. Bob’s philatelic collection (especially from the former British Honduras, now Belize) and his knowledge of postal history (especially of northwestern PA during the early oil boom) was very extensive; Bob even co-authored a paper about postal cancellations in a national journal of postal history. Robert C. Leberman—a true gentleman and bona fide Renaissance man—made an indelible mark on bird banding and field ornithology and was an unfailingly positive influence on every one of us lucky enough to be mentored by him, whether for a day or a half a lifetime!
  8. We hope you and your loved ones are doing well during this trying time. After much careful deliberation, the U.S. Geological Survey, Canadian Wildlife Service, and Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity have decided to cancel all North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) field activities for 2020. We would prefer to be in the field collecting BBS data this spring, however, potential exposure to the health risks and hardships of COVID-19 is too great. Furthermore, the suspension of nonessential travel and activities in many locales as well as diminished access to roadways used by BBS routes due to public land closures would make conducting a BBS route illegal, if not impossible in many areas. Also, with national BBS staff having to work from home, we are unable to prepare or mail out your annual BBS packets/kits this season. As a result, we have decided that it is in the best interests of everyone to cancel the survey, to help ensure that we have a healthy team of participants for the 2021 season. The BBS staff at the national offices will not be idle during this time. We will instead take advantage of the next few months to make progress on exciting new developments outlined in the forthcoming “Strategic Plan of the North American Breeding Bird Survey: 2020-2030", which we will share with you soon. In the meantime, we hope that you will safely continue to sharpen your birding skills, using resources such as Dendroica or Merlin, in anticipation of the 2021 field season when we will continue our important BBS work. Please stay safe by following national and local COVID-19 response guidelines. Take care of yourself and of your families. Sincerely, BBS National Offices
  9. Yes and no. The worst problem - the fact that the system was telling you that no permit was needed - was partially corrected on April 4. At least now it tells you that "action is required." However, it still doesn't tell you what action or anything else. It says: "Uh oh, something's not right. This request has not yet been defined in this assistant and documentation may or may not be required. Please use the Contact Us link on the page for guidance." Moreover, they have still not added the definitional categories (such as Avian, all - research) and "various countries." Bottom line is that the import process is now so complex that even if this permitting assistant ever works efficiently for ornithologists, there is still so much more to know that the permit system can't tell you, such as treatment methods, when your lab needs to be USDA-approved as BSL2, and much more - and that's just for APHIS. Add the complexity of the USFWS requirements, the CDC, Customs and Border Protection - and not just the permits, but the actual importing process. So the bottom line is that ornithologists are still much better served by consulting with the Ornithological Council than relying on an online query system for any one agency. This system was developed to alleviate the pressure on the very understaffed National Import Export Services office, which fields non-stop phone calls all day. And they can't possibly take the time needed to query you in detail about your specific imports. So relying on the expertise of the Ornithological Council is your best bet.
  10. As of 29 May 2020, Ornithological Council executive director Ellen Paul will be leaving the organization. Taking her place will be Laura Bies, formerly the director of government affairs at The Wildlife Society. The Ornithological Council will, as of June 1, become a half-time entity for the foreseeable future, so please be patient if you do not receive immediate responses. Please be sure to take note of the contact information for Ms. Bies: laurabiesoc@gmail.com
  11. Updated 4/1/2020 Organizers of NAOC 2020 continue to monitor developments related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) outbreak and potential impact on global travel to Puerto Rico. We are tracking information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization to guide our action, as well as the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. While no official decision to cancel the meeting has been made at this time, society leaders and NAOC organizers are considering various options available to us, including converting some aspects of the conference to a virtual meeting in August. We are consulting with meeting professionals, colleagues in Puerto Rico, peer societies, and others in order to make informed decisions. Ultimately, the health and safety of our attendees, staff, vendors, and the people of Puerto Rico are our foremost concern. We encourage registrants to bookmark this page to check for any status changes in advance of the conference. Anyone wishing to cancel their registration may request a full refund. Submit refund requests via this Google form. Please allow up to two weeks for your refund request to be processed. https://naocbirds.org/covid-19-statement/
  12. The joint conference between the Raptor Research Foundation and the Neotropical Raptor Network originally scheduled for October 2020 is now postponed to October 2021. RRF and our co-hosts at The Peregrine Fund carefully considered the health, financial, and logistical challenges of organizing and hosting a conference during the coronavirus pandemic. While October 2020 seems like a long time away, the planning for this meeting had a tight timeline to ensure we could host a large number of registrants from outside the United States. Many factors went into this decision including the unknown health risk for travelers this October, the ability for registrants to obtain visas while many U.S. embassies are closed, cancellation fees for venues and hotels, and concern over financial hardships that both domestic and international attendees would incur should we make the decision to cancel at a later date. Postponing the Boise conference also means we unfortunately will also cancel RRF’s participation in the Asian Raptor Research Conservation Network meeting in Malaysia in 2021. The RRF Board is examining other opportunities to meet jointly with ARRCN in the future. We have suspended conference registration and abstract submission along with conference-related awards and grants. The Local Conference Committee will soon be updating the RRF website to reflect the new 2021 conference schedule. Those who have already registered will receive a full refund in the coming weeks. Applicants for the Wings to Fly Travel Award will be contacted separately with additional information. Questions about the Boise conference can be sent to RRF2020@peregrinefund.org. The RRF Board is also considering ways to offer other professional development opportunities to RRF members in 2020 in-lieu of a physical conference. If you have ideas for the planning committee please email president@raptorresearchfoundation.org. We appreciate your support in making this difficult decision for our raptor community. Stay safe and we look forward to seeing you in Boise next year! Sincerely, Raptor Research Foundation & The Peregrine Fund
  13. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 11 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including OrnithologyExchange and the Ornithological Council. The comments (attached here) filed by the Ornithological Council pertain to the NEPA Scoping notice and not the actual proposed regulation. That proposed regulation comprises policy only; it does not entail any scientific information or analysis. As an organization representing scientific societies, the Ornithological Council focuses on the scientific components of matters involving government or private decisions that affect wild birds. Therefore, the Ornithological Council opted instead to comment on the environmental analysis mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The "scoping notice" is a request by the agency to the public to identify issues that should be covered. The comments submitted by the Ornithological Council elucidate the scientific basis for an objection to the adequacy of the environmental assessment. The Ornithological Council, as a consortium of scientific societies, can explain how impacts on wild populations are assessed.When the inevitable lawsuit(s) challenging the adequacy of the environmental impact statement done by the USFWS are filed, any judge should be able to use these comments as a blueprint to determine if the environmental impact statement was adequate. As should be evident from the text of the comments, it is virtually impossible to make an adequate assessment of the impacts because for many species, the data simply don't exist or are insufficient. If a court determines that the environmental impact statement is inadequate, the agency must re-do the assessment, which, in this case, could easily take years. Background: What is a NEPA scoping notice and why does it matter? NEPA - the National Environmental Policy Act - requires agencies to assess the impact of their proposed decisions and actions. They don't actually have to DO anything different as a result of the analysis. It is often called a toothless law for that reason. But the hope was that formally assessing the potential impacts and considering the alternatives (required only if it is determined that there is likely to be a significant impact) would cause agencies to avoid really bad decisions and do what they could to mitigate. And that NEPA process starts with what is called a SCOPING NOTICE. The agency goes out to the public and asks "what should we consider in making this assessment?" OCComments-MBTA-IT-NEPAScoping-2020-Submitted.pdf
  14. The Ornithological Council is one of several organizations that has been consulting to the designers/programmers contracted by APHIS Veterinary Services to design a new online permit system. It is called the VS Permitting Assistant. It is not in and of itself the permit application system, which is known as e-permits. It is a guidance system to help you identify if you need a permit and if so, which permit. You would then go to the existing e-permits system to apply. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING IT AT THIS TIME. The Ornithological Council has reviewed it and it is faulty in myriad ways, the most serious of these being that it tells you that you don't need a permit - when, in fact, you absolutely, positively need a permit. The Ornithological Council is communicating with NIES on an urgent basis because if you use this thing now, you are going to get inaccurate results and if you rely on those results, you will show up at the border without the required permits. If you need help with import permits and the increasingly complex import process - for any agency, be it USFWS, APHIS, CDC, and CBP - please contact the Ornithological Council for assistance.
  15. COVID-19 Statement Organizers of NAOC 2020 continue to monitor developments related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) outbreak and potential impact on global travel to Puerto Rico. We are tracking information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization to guide our action, as well as the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Decisions about the conference will be based on the recommendations of these organizations and will be made in partnership with the societies participating in NAOC. At this time, our hope is that the meeting will not be disrupted, but we are considering multiple alternative options depending on how events unfold over the next few months and we will keep you updated as we learn more. Ultimately, the health and safety of our attendees, staff, vendors, and the people of Puerto Rico are our foremost concern. We encourage registrants to bookmark this page to check for any status changes in advance of the conference. Anyone wishing to cancel their registration may request a full refund. Submit refund requests via this Google form. Please allow up to two weeks for your refund request to be processed. Los organizadores de NAOC 2020 siguen vigilando los acontecimientos relacionados con el brote de COVID-19 (enfermedad coronavirus) y su posible impacto en los viajes mundiales a Puerto Rico. Estamos siguiendo la información proporcionada por los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades y la Organización Mundial de la Salud para orientar nuestra acción, así como la Fundación de Enfermedades Infecciosas. Las decisiones sobre la conferencia se basarán en las recomendaciones de estas organizaciones y se hará en asociación con las sociedades que participan en la NAOC. En este momento, nuestra esperanza es que la reunión no se verá impactada pero estamos considerando múltiples opciones alternativas dependiendo de cómo se desarrollen los acontecimientos en los próximos meses y les mantendremos informados a medida que sepamos más. En última instancia, la salud y la seguridad de nuestros asistentes, personal, proveedores y el pueblo de Puerto Rico son nuestra principal preocupación. Recomendamos a los inscriptos a que marquen esta página para comprobar cualquier cambio de estado antes de la conferencia. Cualquier persona que desee cancelar su inscripción puede solicitar un reembolso completo. Envíe las solicitudes de reembolso a través de este formulario de Google. Por favor, espere hasta dos semanas para que su solicitud de reembolso sea procesada. https://naocbirds.org/covid-19-statement/
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