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rdeatsman

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Everything posted by rdeatsman

  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/.
  16. Depending on whether a species flourishes in a city environment, urban wildlife populations can be “sources” or “sinks,” either reproducing so quickly that individuals leave to colonize the surrounding area or needing constant immigration from outside to stay viable. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications examines the population dynamics of Cooper’s Hawks in urban Albuquerque, New Mexico, and finds that city-born birds aren’t just thriving—they’re actually forcing their rural neighbors out of their nest sites. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/12/13/urban-coopers-hawks-outcompete-their-rural-neighbors/.
  17. Changes in the timing of birds’ migration can have serious negative effects if, for example, they throw the birds out of sync with the food resources they depend on. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications uses a long-term dataset from the Pacific coast and shows that the timing of bird migration in the region has shifted by more than two days in both spring and fall over the past two decades. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/12/07/timing-of-migration-is-changing-for-songbirds-on-the-pacific-coast/.
  18. Puerto Rican coqui frogs were accidentally introduced to Hawaii in the 1980s, and today there are as many as 91,000 frogs per hectare in some locations. What does that mean for native wildlife? Concerns that ravenous coquis could reduce the food available for the islands’ native insect-eating birds, many of which are already declining, spurred researchers to examine the relationship between frog and bird populations—but their results, published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, weren’t what they expected. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/11/29/invasive-frogs-give-invasive-birds-a-boost-in-hawaii/.
  19. Birds use vocalizations to attract mates, defend territories, and recognize fellow members of their species. But while we know a lot about how variations in vocalizations play out between populations of songbirds, it’s far less clear how this variation affects birds such as penguins in which calls are inherited. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances examines differences in the calls of Little Penguins from four colonies in Australia—nocturnal birds for whom vocalizations are more important that visual signals—and finds that disparities in habitat, rather than geographic isolation or other factors, seem to be the key driver of variation in the sounds these birds use to communicate. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/11/01/penguins-calls-are-influenced-by-their-habitat/.
  20. Species translocation—capturing animals in one place and releasing them in another—is a widely used conservation method for establishing or reestablishing populations of threatened species. However, translocation projects often fail when the transplanted animals fail to thrive in their new home. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications demonstrates how close monitoring of the animals being released into a new area is helping wildlife managers gauge the success of their effort to save the Ridgway’s Hawk of Hispaniola. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/10/26/translocated-hawks-thrive-in-hispaniola/.
  21. For conservation efforts to be effective, wildlife managers need to know how many individuals of a species are out there. When species are spread out over large areas and occur at low densities, as is the case with the Golden Eagle, figuring this out can be tricky. However, a new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications applies an old technique called “mark-recapture” in a novel way, eliminating the need to actually capture and mark eagles but instead, using math that allows scientists to turn individual observations into population estimates. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/10/18/how-many-golden-eagles-are-there/.
  22. Some birds regularly move to new territories between years, depending on factors including habitat quality and the presence of predators, but what about within a single breeding season? Grassland ecosystems are particularly dynamic, continuously shaped by fire and grazing, and a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances confirms that one particular grassland bird moves frequently each summer in search of the best territories. For Grasshopper Sparrows, the grass really does look greener on the other side. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/10/11/grassland-sparrows-constantly-searching-for-a-nicer-home/.
  23. Canada Geese have shifted their winter range northward in recent years by taking advantage of conditions in urban areas—but what specific features of cities make this possible? A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications suggests that rather than food, geese are seeking safety, congregating in areas where they can avoid hunters and be buffered from the coldest winter temperatures. Read the press release at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/10/11/safety-not-food-entices-geese-to-cities/.
  24. Last week, The Auk published a new study on how competition and the social environment affect duck penis size (http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-17-114.1), and the science news media noticed. National Geographic: Duck Penises Grow Bigger Among Rivals Nature: Sexual competition among ducks wreaks havoc on penis size Popular Science: When growing their penises for the season, ducks bend to social pressure Discover Magazine: When Faced With Competition, Duck Penises Get Weird(er) Newsweek: Duck Penises Get Bigger When They Are Surrounded by Other Males
  25. Vocal communication is central to the lives of many birds, which use sound to attract mates and defend territories. Penguins are no exception, but we know little about how or why penguin vocalizations vary geographically between isolated populations. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances takes a broad look at vocalizations across the range of Gentoo Penguins and concludes that while their calls do vary from place to place, we still have a lot to learn about the processes at work. Read more at https://americanornithologypubsblog.org/2017/09/27/a-first-look-at-geographic-variation-in-gentoo-penguin-calls/.
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