Saturday, February 28, 2009

what's going on with Barn Owls

Maybe twice each year I post something about this symbolic and emblematic species, the Barn Owl. Barn Owl is endangered in Wisconsin, and is on the threatened or endangered list in a significant number of central US states, as well as in other countries around the globe. It is a cosmopolitan species, nesting on every continent except Antarctica. Learn more about this species at the website of the Barn Owl Trust.
Here's an overview from the WBCI All-Bird Plan BNOW Species account:
"Barn Owl population declines in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Midwest are likely attributed to habitat loss and consequent inadequate food supply and nesting sites (Matteson and Petersen 1988). Management efforts should encourage agencies and land holders to preserve existing grasslands and acquire additional land, such as cropland, which can then be converted to grassland. Such efforts will benefit not only the Barn Owl population, but other obligate grassland bird species of Wisconsin. Additionally, nest box provisions near areas of quality foraging habitat may be another important management strategy (Matteson and Petersen 1988, Schneider and Pence 1992). Conservation and management strategies for this species should be focused in the following Wisconsin ecological landscapes: Central Sand Plains, Southeast Glacial Plains, Southwest Savanna, Western Coulee and Ridges, and Western Prairie (WDNR 2005)."
More information is also available at the following links: Barn Owl Conservation - Pennsylvania Game Commission site

Thursday, February 26, 2009

bird checklist news

Although I had hoped to have Wisconsin's Annotated Checklist ready for the WSO website and for submission to the Passenger Pigeon by now, that will not be possible for a while longer. The updated checklist will have some new features it did not have in the past - look for it this summer. The "old" version of the Annotated Checklist is still available here.

On the other hand, here is news from the Ornithological Societies of North America (OSNA) and the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) about the North American checklist - an undertaking far beyond that for merely one state:

"The AOU is pleased to announce a new web page for the Check-list of North and Middle American Birds ( The check-list is now in a searchable database. Users can browse the full list of species as well as search by scientific/common name, family, or order. They can also download the entire list or their search results in an Excel compatible text file. Species names in the search results table are linked to the respective Birds of North America account (, if an account is available online.

The new check-list page also has a link to the committee's main web page (, the 7th Check-list and supplements, pending and prior proposals, and guidelines for submitting a proposal."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

international bird conservation news

Read the State of the World's Birds report from BirdLife International here. As has been well-established from many decades of ecological research, birds are excellent indicators of environmental conditions.

Then, read the latest news from Birds Australia here. Information on the effects of the recent wildfires is included, plus things you can do to help.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

more important than our other discussions

I suggest reading this new book, Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. It goes beyond all our other discussions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

bird conservation and other alternative birding news

Latest News Stories from the American Bird Conservancy Bird News Network

Fishermen Work to Keep Birds Off the Hook Thursday, February 12, 2009 West Coast fishermen are voluntarily taking measures to stop the accidental killing of seabirds which can be snared on the hooks of long-line fishing boats.
FAA Agrees to Study Lighting Requirements for Bird-Killing Towers Friday, February 06, 2009 The FAA has announced plans to conduct a study that will examine whether steady-burning sidelights on tall communications towers can be safely eliminated without endangering air traffic.
Phosphate Mine Gets Green Light at Expense of Wetlands Wednesday, February 04, 2009 In January, the state of NC amended a water quality certification to enable the expansion of a phosphate mine in Beaufort County.
Survey Finds Rare Hummer in New Areas, Locates First Ever Nests, Identifies Females Tuesday, January 27, 2009 The results of an ABC-funded study of the distribution and nesting of the globally endangered Esmeraldas Woodstar have just been released by Fundacion Jocotoco, with some encouraging news.
Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture Helps Priority Birds in Tennessee Tuesday, January 13, 2009 Bird conservation in the Appalachian Mountains received a big boost recently with the completion of a significant conservation acquisition in east Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau.
Three Massive New Protected Areas in the Pacific Benefit Seabirds, Marine Life Wednesday, January 07, 2009President George Bush announced yesterday the creation of three new Marine National Monuments that will protect vast areas of the Pacific Ocean.
Energy Developments Threaten Sage-Grouse Habitat in Wyoming Tuesday, January 06, 2009 The Greater Sage-Grouse is facing a severe decline in the amount of suitable breeding habitat due to energy development.
Government Review Confirms Red Knot and Other Imperiled Bird Candidates Should Be Listed as Endangered Species Friday, December 12, 2008 FWS has released its revised list of species that are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Habitat For The Declining Cerulean Warbler And Other Wildlife Conserved In Ozarks Wednesday, December 10, 2008 A coalition including ABC, the state of Missouri, TNC, and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation has protected 80 acres containing important floodplain habitat in the watershed of the Current River.
Western Bluebird Reintroduction Second Year Successes Monday, December 08, 2008 An ABC partnership project to return Western Bluebirds to one of their ancestral breeding territories on the San Juan Islands of northwestern WA State is nearing completion of the second year of its five-year timeline, with a number of important advances.

Bird Conservation Videos
To see presentations from the most recent Bird Conservation Alliance meeting concerning migratory birds, see our YouTube channel at

Other Bird Conservation News

Study: Birds shifting north; global warming citedThe Associated Press - Feb 10, 2009WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to global warming, the canary in the coal mine isn't a canary at all. It's a purple finch. As the temperature across the US ...

Cats tagged in bird killing studyBBC News, UK - 20 hours agoIt is thought this is "significantly affecting" some urban bird species. Rebecca Dulieu, a PhD student in environmental biology at the university has ...

Heart Mountain Wind farm feasibility appraisedPowell Tribune, WY - 1 hour agoHeart Mountain has a bird conservation area. There are raptors and bats that could become tangled in turbine blades, Molvar said. ...

World's largest wetland threatened in BrazilMacon Daily, GA - 5 hours agoOf the Pantanal's 650 bird species, the largest has a wing span of nearly 3 meters (yards) and the smallest weighs only 2 grams (0.07 ounce). ...

Migratory Songbird Mystery SolvedNational Geographic, DC - Feb 12, 2009The new information will aid future conservation efforts. The researchers equipped 14 wood thrushes and 20 purple martins with tiny geolocators—the first ...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a set of useful avian reference sites

Try this very useful reference site, the Bird Information Website. You'll find plenty of links to bird-related information of all kinds.


Some links to online ornithological literature can be found here, at BIRDNET - the Ornithological Council's website.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

what if the future of wild nature does not matter to you?

If the continued existence of wild nature is just not an issue for you, maybe your own continued well-being, and that of your descendants might be. Global environmental change threatens just those things; learn more at:

The Global Environmental Change and Food Systems site

Harvard Medical School Center for Health & The Global Environment

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

measure vulnerability to climate change

A new tool for measuring the vulnerability of plant and animal species to the effects of climate change is being developed by NatureServe. Read more about it at this link.

More information on climate change and biodiversity can be found at the NatureServe climate change page.

Other sources for information on climate change and biodiversity:

Convention on Biological Diversity

IPCC paper on climate change and biodiversity

United Nations Environment Programme

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

international conservation, biodiversity, etc. news

Next week is the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. In honor of that occasion, here are links to some international conservation news stories, biodiversity and related links:

Albatross news

Chinese year of the babbler

Fundacion ProAves

Darwin 200

Center for Biodiversity & Conservation at the AMNH

Monday, February 2, 2009

changing bird names

Recent discussions on the Wisconsin birdnet mention Blue-headed Vireo, which many birders recall as Solitary Vireo. But Blue-headed Vireo as a name for this bird pre-dates the more recent name Soilitary Vireo. My 1934 Peterson Field Guide calls it Blue-headed Vireo. This is one of those instances where the AOU has gone back to an earlier usage. If you were following the divisions in the vireos about 10+ years ago, Cassin's and Plumbeous Vireos (in the west) were split from Solitary. Since Solitary was the name that formerly "covered" or included all three, it's pretty clear why the old name was chosen again; plus there is the "first-name-used" convention, which applies (at least sometimes) for both scientific and common names. These 3 are distinct in plumage and geography. Since a lot of birders are happy when they get 3 out of 1 (but not usually too happy when it goes the other way), to me this looks like a good deal.

You can see the remaining use of the old name for the eastern and western Yellow-rumped Warbler forms in the 4-letter codes used by banders for the eastern "Myrtle" (Yellow-rumped) Warbler - the old name, has given us the banders' code [MYWA = MYrtle WArbler], whereas in the west there is the Audubon's (Yellow-rumped) Warbler [AUWA = AUdubon's WArbler].
The changes reflect recent research into genetic, morphological, biogeographic, and other aspects of ornithology. Why is it such a big problem for so many folks when names change? Change is hard, I guess! I always look forward to more information, and more new papers and books about birds. More changes are coming; might as well accept it.

To remind you about additional changes in the most recent version of the list, several of these familiar gulls' scientific names are now different, as is the sequence in which they are listed. Notice the names for Bonaparte's, Little, Laughing, and Franklin's Gulls. The sequence reflects the current state of knowledge about evolutionary relationships between a species and those "closest" to it on the list - those "most closely related":

FAMILY: LARIDAE - Gulls and Terns
Black-legged Kittiwake - (Rissa tridactyla)
Ivory Gull - (Pagophila eburnea)
Sabine's Gull - (Xema sabini)
Bonaparte's Gull - (Croicocephalus philadelphia)
Black-headed Gull - (Croicocephalus ridibundus)
Little Gull - (Hydrocoloeus minutus)
Ross's Gull - (Rhodostethia rosea)
Laughing Gull - (Luecophaeus atricilla)
Franklin's Gull - (Leucophaeus pipixcan)
Black-tailed Gull - (Larus crassirostris)
Mew Gull - (Larus canus)
Ring-billed Gull - (Larus delawarensis)
California Gull - (Larus californicus)
Herring Gull - (Larus argentatus)
Thayer's Gull - (Larus thayeri)
Iceland Gull - (Larus glaucoides)
Lesser Black-backed Gull - (Larus fuscus)
Slaty-backed Gull - (Larus schistisagus)
Glaucous-winged Gull - (Larus glaucescens)
Glaucous Gull - (Larus hyperboreus)
Great Black-backed Gull - (Larus marinus)
Sooty Tern - (Onychoprion fuscata)
Least Tern - (Sternula antillarum)
Caspian Tern - (Hydroprogne caspia)
Black Tern - (Chlidonias niger)
White-winged Tern - (Chlidonias leucopterus)
Common Tern - (Sterna hirundo)
Arctic Tern - (Sterna paradisaea)
Forster's Tern - (Sterna forsteri)
Royal Tern - (Thalasseus maximus)

If you'd like to read more about nomenclature in birds, go to this link, and this one. The latter especially is of historic interest, since if you look at the links in the left hand column at that page, it will take you to a pdf of the original AOU document on nomenclature, published in 1885, by Coues, Allen, Ridgway, Brewster, and Henshaw, some of the ornithological sages of that time.