USFWS Biologist Duck Banding in Canada

This past duck banding season, Amanda, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program in the Mountain-Prairie Region, assisted USFWS Migratory Bird Program Pilot Biologist, Walt Rhodes and a banding crew based in Saskatchewan, Canada. The crew members banded almost 4,000 ducks!

Read more : Duck Banding in Canada

(via: USFWS - Mountain-Prairie Region)

New report reveals scale of declines of UK migratory birds wintering in Africa
by Martin Fowlie
The migration of millions of birds across the face of the planet is one of nature’s greatest annual events. Every spring some species move in one direction, while every autumn those same species move in the opposite one, very often linking continents.
Although these migration patterns are as regular as the seasons, monitoring is revealing that, for some species, fewer birds are making the journey each season as the populations of these birds, including species nesting in the UK, are declining rapidly.
The latest in the annual series of State of the UK’s Birds report includes a migratory birds section, including trends for 29 migrant species which nest in the UK in summer and spend the winter around the Mediterranean, or in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.  For the first time the recent population trends for these migratory species have been combined into an indicator revealing some marked differences between species that winter in different areas…
(read more: Bird Life International)
image: Yellow Wagtail, by Andy Hay/rspb

New report reveals scale of declines of UK migratory birds wintering in Africa

by Martin Fowlie

The migration of millions of birds across the face of the planet is one of nature’s greatest annual events. Every spring some species move in one direction, while every autumn those same species move in the opposite one, very often linking continents.

Although these migration patterns are as regular as the seasons, monitoring is revealing that, for some species, fewer birds are making the journey each season as the populations of these birds, including species nesting in the UK, are declining rapidly.

The latest in the annual series of State of the UK’s Birds report includes a migratory birds section, including trends for 29 migrant species which nest in the UK in summer and spend the winter around the Mediterranean, or in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.  For the first time the recent population trends for these migratory species have been combined into an indicator revealing some marked differences between species that winter in different areas…

(read more: Bird Life International)

image: Yellow Wagtail, by Andy Hay/rspb

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Our new Question of the Week asks “What is a winter finch?” 
Short answer, it’s an informal term for birds of the far north (of North America) that visit our feeders in winter—sometimes. 
For more and a link to this year’s “winter finch forecast,” click here: 
Questions of the Week 
And don’t miss the link to our Ontario FeederWatch cam, and you *might* see some winter finches right now!
photo: Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)

Our new Question of the Week asks “What is a winter finch?”

Short answer, it’s an informal term for birds of the far north (of North America) that visit our feeders in winter—sometimes.

For more and a link to this year’s “winter finch forecast,” click here:

Questions of the Week

And don’t miss the link to our Ontario FeederWatch cam, and you *might* see some winter finches right now!

photo: Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)

TheRed-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

… is a small wader/shorebird. This phalarope breeds in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is migratory, and, unusually for a wader/shorebird, winters at sea on tropical oceans.

The typical avian sex roles are reversed in the three phalarope species. Females are larger and more brightly coloured than males. The females pursue and fight over males, and will defend their mate from other females until the clutch is complete and the male begins incubation. The males perform all incubation and chick-rearing activities, while the females may attempt to find another mate…

(read more: Wikipedia)

images: female - Andreas Trepte; male - Teddy Llovet; female and chick- US Fish & Wildlife Service

HOUSTON AUDUBON BEAK OF THE WEEK: White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus) Family: Vireonidae A small and secretive bird of shrubby areas of the eastern and southern United States, the White-eyed Vireo is more noticeable for its explosive song than its looks. Its song is loud, short, rapid, and harsh, with a sharp ‘chick’ at beginning and end. It has been described as sounding like “chick-ah-per-weeoo-chick”. This bird was recently heard at the Sims Bayou Urban Nature Center.  In addition to its bright white eyes, the combination of wingbars, yellow spectacles, and white throat differentiates it from any other similar-sized species. It should be noted that immature birds have dark eyes, but develop a white iris after their first winter.  While most birds are currently heading to their wintering grounds which range from the extreme southeastern United States through Central America to Guatemala and Cuba, some will linger into December and occasionally overwinter.
(via: Houston Audubon)

HOUSTON AUDUBON BEAK OF THE WEEK:

White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)

Family: Vireonidae

A small and secretive bird of shrubby areas of the eastern and southern United States, the White-eyed Vireo is more noticeable for its explosive song than its looks. Its song is loud, short, rapid, and harsh, with a sharp ‘chick’ at beginning and end. It has been described as sounding like “chick-ah-per-weeoo-chick”. This bird was recently heard at the Sims Bayou Urban Nature Center.

In addition to its bright white eyes, the combination of wingbars, yellow spectacles, and white throat differentiates it from any other similar-sized species. It should be noted that immature birds have dark eyes, but develop a white iris after their first winter.

While most birds are currently heading to their wintering grounds which range from the extreme southeastern United States through Central America to Guatemala and Cuba, some will linger into December and occasionally overwinter.

(via: Houston Audubon)

ABC Bird of the Week:  Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are slender, elusive birds. Like other cuckoos, such as the rare Bay-breasted, they seem stealthy even in flight, slipping through the trees on long, pointed wings. More often heard than seen, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s croaking call—sounding on hot summer days before storms—led to its folk name, “rain crow.”
Habitat loss and fragmentation have led to long-term declines. In the West, riparian habitat has been lost to farmland and housing; invasive plants such as salt cedar also degrade habitat. This western population is now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act; its range in the West is so diminished that it hardly appears on this small range map…
(read more: American Bird Conservancy)
photograph: Brian Small

ABC Bird of the Week:  Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are slender, elusive birds. Like other cuckoos, such as the rare Bay-breasted, they seem stealthy even in flight, slipping through the trees on long, pointed wings. More often heard than seen, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s croaking call—sounding on hot summer days before storms—led to its folk name, “rain crow.”

Habitat loss and fragmentation have led to long-term declines. In the West, riparian habitat has been lost to farmland and housing; invasive plants such as salt cedar also degrade habitat. This western population is now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act; its range in the West is so diminished that it hardly appears on this small range map…

(read more: American Bird Conservancy)

photograph: Brian Small

Hawk ID - MN, USA:
This is a really crappy picture, sorry about that. 
I’m trying to figure out what kind of hawk this is.  At least I assume it’s a hawk.  We spotted it in Minneapolis, MN on some railroad tracks, and then it kept hopping and flapping its wings as it tried to scurry away from people nearby.  It seemed injured (I did call animal control, but I’m not sure what happened to it after that :/ )  It had a pretty pale/cream colored chest, the feathers went pretty far down it’s legs as well.  It seemed to have a black tip on its beak, I didn’t -notice- any speckles or spots or anything on its chest but I could’ve been too far away. 
I’ve been looking through various bird identification websites and I’m just really stumped.  If you’re able to tell at all from this picture (despite the horrid quality - it was zoomed all the way), I’d really appreciate it, thank you!
Paxon:
No need to apologize. This photo is definitely good enough for identification.
This is an immature eastern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicencis). As juveniles, they do not have the rusty red tails of the adults. The keys here are the bulky size (that tells you its a buteo), the the mostly white neck breast and belly, and the spotty brown back and shoulders. :3

Hawk ID - MN, USA:

This is a really crappy picture, sorry about that. 

I’m trying to figure out what kind of hawk this is.  At least I assume it’s a hawk.  We spotted it in Minneapolis, MN on some railroad tracks, and then it kept hopping and flapping its wings as it tried to scurry away from people nearby.  It seemed injured (I did call animal control, but I’m not sure what happened to it after that :/ )  It had a pretty pale/cream colored chest, the feathers went pretty far down it’s legs as well.  It seemed to have a black tip on its beak, I didn’t -notice- any speckles or spots or anything on its chest but I could’ve been too far away. 

I’ve been looking through various bird identification websites and I’m just really stumped.  If you’re able to tell at all from this picture (despite the horrid quality - it was zoomed all the way), I’d really appreciate it, thank you!

Paxon:

No need to apologize. This photo is definitely good enough for identification.

This is an immature eastern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicencis). As juveniles, they do not have the rusty red tails of the adults. The keys here are the bulky size (that tells you its a buteo), the the mostly white neck breast and belly, and the spotty brown back and shoulders. :3

The Man Who Saves Cranes

At forty years and counting, celebrated ornithologist George Archibald’s global crusade to protect cranes still has the wind beneath its wings.

by Rene Ebersole

It was the spring of 1976, and Tex the whooping crane was confused. She thought she was human. Which was no surprise, since she had been hanging out with humans since the time she hatched at the San Antonio Zoo.

In science speak, Tex had “imprinted,” a perfectly normal behavior common among birds when they are reared by people. Trouble was, Tex’s mix-up was getting in the way of important science.Whooping cranes were in dire trouble.

The remaining population was well below 100 birds. Tex’s genes could play an important role maintaining some genetic diversity in the increasingly small whooping crane population, if she would breed in captivity…

(read more: Audubon Magazine)

The Harris’s Sparrow is Canada’s only endemic breeding bird…
 … (that is, it breeds nowhere outside of Canada, not even Alaska). They nest in tundra and the stunted northern edge of the boreal forest. 
In the autumn they fly south from their north-central breeding territories to winter in the south-central United States. Vagrants often turn up in the east or west during fall or winter. They are primarily seed-eaters outside of the breeding season, mainly of sedges and grasses, though they will also occasionally forage on fruit and berries. Despite this, they are not frequent visitors to bird feeders.
 During the non-breeding season, male Harris’s Sparrows maintain a social hierarchy based on the size of their black bibs. First year males have small or almost no bibs, while mature males have extensive ones. When researchers dyed the feathers of young males so they had bibs similar to those of older ones, the young birds rose in dominance.photo by Tom Talbott (tbtalbottjr) on Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)

The Harris’s Sparrow is Canada’s only endemic breeding bird…

… (that is, it breeds nowhere outside of Canada, not even Alaska). They nest in tundra and the stunted northern edge of the boreal forest.

In the autumn they fly south from their north-central breeding territories to winter in the south-central United States. Vagrants often turn up in the east or west during fall or winter. They are primarily seed-eaters outside of the breeding season, mainly of sedges and grasses, though they will also occasionally forage on fruit and berries. Despite this, they are not frequent visitors to bird feeders.

During the non-breeding season, male Harris’s Sparrows maintain a social hierarchy based on the size of their black bibs. First year males have small or almost no bibs, while mature males have extensive ones. When researchers dyed the feathers of young males so they had bibs similar to those of older ones, the young birds rose in dominance.

photo by Tom Talbott (tbtalbottjr) on Flickr

(via: Peterson Field Guides)

A perilous journey: Seabird runs gauntlet of hazards on 40,000-mile annual trip

by Sheryl Katz

Named for their low, rocking glide with wings seeming to slice the sea, Sooty Shearwaters rack up nearly 40,000 miles a year, flying from nesting colonies near New Zealand and Chile to fishing grounds as far north as Kamchatka, looping a giant figure 8 over the Pacific. Every spring and fall, they make their grueling, month-long journey, flying as much as 550 miles a day, much of it without stopping to eat.

Right around now, flocks of sooties are finishing up their summer vacations feasting in the rich, upwelling currents of the Northern Pacific and are heading south to breed. En route, they’ll run a gauntlet of manmade obstacles in the ocean: fisheries that deplete their prey and snare them with hooks and long lines, drifting continents of trash and noxious industrial spume. Crossing major shipping lanes, they risk getting slimed by oily bilge and clobbered by vessels. Their meals of anchovies and sardines are tinged with contaminants. To top it off, climate change brings warming waters and scrambled wind patterns that can leave them starving.

When they finally reach their breeding grounds in the southern hemisphere, rats and other foreign predators invade their burrows and kill their defenseless chicks. The parents unwittingly feed their chicks plastic. And on top of all that, sooties are a traditional food in New Zealand, where hunters kill hundreds of thousands every year…

(read more: Environmental Health News)

photos: Glen Temple; Scott Shaffer/PNAS; and Quensland NPRSR

HOUSTON AUDUBON BEAK OF THE WEEK: Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) Family: Accipitridae Broad-winged Hawks are small, compact raptors with chunky bodies and large heads. In flight, their broad wings come to a distinct point. The tail is short and square with black-and-white bands. Their call is a piercing, two-parted whistle.  One of the greatest spectacles of migration is a swirling flock of Broad-winged Hawks on their way to South America. Also known as “kettles,” flocks can contain thousands of circling birds that evoke a vast cauldron being stirred with an invisible spoon. Witness the marvel of migration in person by visiting the Smith Point Hawk Watch on the Bolivar Peninsula. Sponsored by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, counters and volunteers record the number of hawks observed from Aug 1- Nov 15. Broad-winged Hawk migration makes up 70% of the birds counted. During the peak of Broad-winged Hawk migration on the day of or the day after a cold front, it is not unusual for more than 10,000 raptors to pass by the tower. 
Learn more about the watch by visiting their blog: 
http://smithpointhawkwatch.wordpress.com/
(via: Houston Audubon)

HOUSTON AUDUBON BEAK OF THE WEEK:

Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)

Family: Accipitridae

Broad-winged Hawks are small, compact raptors with chunky bodies and large heads. In flight, their broad wings come to a distinct point. The tail is short and square with black-and-white bands. Their call is a piercing, two-parted whistle.

One of the greatest spectacles of migration is a swirling flock of Broad-winged Hawks on their way to South America. Also known as “kettles,” flocks can contain thousands of circling birds that evoke a vast cauldron being stirred with an invisible spoon.

Witness the marvel of migration in person by visiting the Smith Point Hawk Watch on the Bolivar Peninsula. Sponsored by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, counters and volunteers record the number of hawks observed from Aug 1- Nov 15. Broad-winged Hawk migration makes up 70% of the birds counted. During the peak of Broad-winged Hawk migration on the day of or the day after a cold front, it is not unusual for more than 10,000 raptors to pass by the tower.

Learn more about the watch by visiting their blog:

http://smithpointhawkwatch.wordpress.com/

(via: Houston Audubon)

Whooping Crane Conservation News:
Four endangered whooping crane chicks raised in captivity began their integration into the wild Saturday as part of the continuing effort to increase the wild population of this species. The cranes, hatched and raised by their parents at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, were released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. At one point in the past, researchers believe the Whooping crane population dropped to fewer than two-dozen birds. Today the population is estimated to be approximately 425 in the wild, with another 125 in captivity. If you’d like to read more about the chicks’ release, follow this link: 
Whooping Crane ReleasePhoto by: Kara Zwickey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
(via: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS))

Whooping Crane Conservation News:

Four endangered whooping crane chicks raised in captivity began their integration into the wild Saturday as part of the continuing effort to increase the wild population of this species.

The cranes, hatched and raised by their parents at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, were released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

At one point in the past, researchers believe the Whooping crane population dropped to fewer than two-dozen birds. Today the population is estimated to be approximately 425 in the wild, with another 125 in captivity.

If you’d like to read more about the chicks’ release, follow this link:

Whooping Crane Release

Photo by: Kara Zwickey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

(via: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS))