Freshwater fishes are an integral component of our environment…
yet large gaps persist in our scientific knowledge of their diversity, distribution, and ecology.
Several conservation groups recently joined forces to announce the first “Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz”, which will allow non-specialists to upload photographs of freshwater fishes observed in their natural habitat, along with details of where and when they saw the fish.
In addition to providing useful data about the world’s freshwater fishes, this initiative is intended to raise awareness of the threats faced by our planet’s freshwater fishes and the importance to all of us of preserving unpolluted, well-functioning freshwater ecosystems. Although most fish species spend their lives in either freshwater or marine habitats, some, such as many salmon, move between the sea and freshwater during their lives, connecting these habitats in ecologically important ways.
Listen to Encyclopedia of Life’s One Species at a Time podcast about one group’s efforts to educate schoolchildren all across British Columbia, in western Canada, about how the actions and choices all of us make in our daily lives impact Chinook Salmon and the habitats in which they live.
Although scientists have made huge strides in understanding Rusty Blackbirds on their breeding and wintering grounds - partly thanks to the original Rusty Blackbird Winter Blitz - we know surprisingly little about the migratory requirements and habits of this species. Are there hot spots where many individuals congregate during migration? Are similar migratory stopover areas used by Rusties each year? Are stopover areas protected, or might availability of these areas be limiting Rusty Blackbird survival?
The Spring Migration Blitz will kick off in March of 2014; each state, province, or territory is assigned target dates for conducting the Blitz based on estimated peak migration periods. Looking to get involved? Volunteers like you are critical to the success of this initiative! In 2010 alone, eBirders reported more than 11,700 Rusty Blackbirds during the Rusty Blackbird Winter Blitz. We encourage all experienced birders to participate; contact your state coordinator for more information!
One of the American Woodcock’s more colorful folk names is “timberdoodle,” probably for the bird’s forest-edge haunts, erratic, zigzag flight, and twittering call notes. These plump little birds are technically shorebirds, though they’re found far from any beach. Like the Spruce Grouse, they are beautifully camouflaged to match the forest floor, in varying tones and patterns of brown, black, buff, and gray.
American Woodcocks share their second-growth habitat with the Golden-winged Warbler and benefit from conservation measures designed for that bird. Rarely seen, the woodcock spends most of its time hidden in fields and forests, where it probes for earthworms with a flexible-tipped bill that can reach worms more than two inches underground. Its large eyes are positioned high and near the back of the skull, an adaptation that enables the bird to keep watch for danger while probing for food.
Since American Woodcocks are nocturnal migrants, they are a frequent victim of collisions with communications towers, glass windows, and other man-made structures. (ABC BirdTape can help prevent this!)…
Greater Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis tabida) that winter at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge stop in the San Luis Valley of Colorado during their annual fall and spring migration to rest and feed before moving on. These images were captured in the San Luis Valley last weekend as the cranes were migrating north.
A resourceful researcher discovers that urban green roofs attract surprisingly large numbers of migratory birds and their insect prey
by Rachel Nuwer
NEW YORK CITY’S CONGESTED AVENUES and imposing skyscrapers hardly seem like suitable wildlife habitat, save perhaps for the most hardy pigeon or rat.
But each year a teeming diversity of migrating birds pass through this urban jungle. While most of those feathered visitors are drawn to large expanses of green such as Central Park, Prospect Park and Jamaica Bay, others congregate in whatever small pockets of habitat they can find—a vacant lot or a bushy median strip—where they feed and rest before continuing on their way.
Now, a growing number of green roofs in the city are adding to those avian refuges, providing safe havens high above the honking cabs and frenetic crowds…
500,000 Cranes Are Headed for Nebraska in One of Earth’s Greatest Migrations
At the end of March, 80 percent of the world’s cranes will converge upon one 80-mile stretch of land
by Alex Shoumatoff
The sandhill cranes of North America are the most abundant crane species. Migrating sandhills come in three basic sizes—greater, lesser and the mid-size Canadian.
I’ve seen the resident sandhills in Florida, three of them pecking for worms on a lawn outside Orlando, and several members of another resident population in Mississippi, which has just 25 breeding pairs. The Eastern population has rebounded dramatically from near extinction in the 1930s and is now up to more than 80,000. I saw a couple of big sandhills on the north bank of the St. Lawrence River in eastern Quebec, just above the mouth of the Saguenay River, a few summers ago…
Primarily crepuscular or nocturnal, goatsuckers, aka nightjars*, spend the daylight hours hidden amongst leaf litter or imitating broken branches or snags - some are incredible mimics.
Common Poorwills are our smallest member of the family in North America, and breed throughout most of the western United States. They overwinter in Central America, but a few remain in southern California and certain regions along the Mexican border.
The Common Poorwill is notable in that it’s the only species of bird documented to go into extended periods of torpor- the extreme lowering of metabolic rates and body temperature. Many birds undergo torpor, but usually only overnight; it is used to conserve energy during periods of colder weather and/or reduced food availability. Poorwills may remain in torpor for weeks at a time, using their remarkable camouflage to hide among rocks or debris.
This behavior is mainly seen at the northern edge of its winter range in the southern US. Interestingly, historical records exist of poorwills ‘hibernating’ as far north as North Dakota.
Study Finds Up to One Billion Birds Killed in Building Collisions Each Year
In the most comprehensive study of its kind, involving the review and analysis of almost two dozen studies and more than 92,000 records, federal scientists have found that between 365 and 988 million birds are likely killed in the U.S. each year as a result of collisions with buildings.
Following a 16-year campaign by the Center for Biological Diversity to protect yellow-billed cuckoos, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finally proposed a listing decision for these rare and beautiful birds.
The Service proposes to protect the western population of yellow-billed cuckoos as “threatened,” which would provide the birds with protection and a recovery plan. But the proposal omits critical habitat designation, and so may not be enough to reverse the bird’s decline.
Western yellow-billed cuckoos once nested in riparian forests from British Columbia to Mexico. But now, due to loss and fragmentation of habitat, the birds no longer breed in the Pacific Northwest, and other western states likely support only a few hundred breeding pairs.
Take action now and urge the Service to list yellow-billed cuckoos as endangered and protect the critical habitat these birds need to survive…