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Blog Birding #399

The population of the range-restricted Golden-cheeked Warbler has been increasing in recent years, but the potential loss of its Endangered Species status could incite conflicts with developers. At 10,000 Birds, Jason Crotty has more.

In 2014, FWS completed a five-year status review, concluding that continuing urbanization and associated habitat destruction and fragmentation still threatened the warbler. The review included substantial new information, including, for example, required size of habitat patches. Although it breeds in areas as small as 25 acres, Golden-cheeked Warblers are much more successful in larger un-fragmented patches. Ultimately, FWS maintained the “endangered” classification, in large part because of continued habitat loss.

At Shorebird Science, Alan Kneidel shares the story of an expedition to track Semipalmated Sandpipers on their wintering grounds.

During November and December of 2018, a team of shorebird scientists led by New Jersey Audubon and Tulane University went on a month-long expedition to Brazil. The trip, a part of a multi-year regional effort, centered around the deployment of nano-tags on Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla) to help generate overwinter survival estimates for the species. These estimates will be used along with survival estimates from studies during migration and breeding periods to develop life cycle migratory network models to investigate what period during the annual cycle might be driving population declines. The target locations for this trip were two sites on either side of the mouth of the Amazon River, in the states of Amapá and Pará.

Painted Buntings are unquestionably one of our most spectacular birds, but there is a lot we don’t know about where they go in the winter. At Audubon, Lisa Foderaro has more.

But ornithologists have a weaker grasp on their journeys come fall. They know that buntings head to south Florida, as well as the Bahamas and Cuba, but with the exception of Florida, there are no good annual surveys like the Christmas Bird Count. What records do exist are often conflicting. One study from a decade ago that combed historical data found that in the Bahamas, for instance, they were described variously as “common,” “an uncommon winter visitor” and “readily found in winter.” The same was true in Cuba.

Bird eyes are huge compared to their body size, and the sensory system is more highly developed than any other vertebrate. Eldon Greij at Birdwatching explains why that is and how they function.

First, bird eyes are huge in relation to the size of their heads. They are proportionately much larger than human eyes. The eyes of eagles and owls are about the size of human eyes or larger, and the eyes of the Common Ostrich are about twice as large as those of humans. In many bird species, including songbirds, the eyes are about as large as their brains.

Corvids are fascinating, with complex vocalizations and social structures. Kaeli Swift of Corvid Research breaks down some of the recent research on crow vocalizations.

If you’ve ever fed a crow  you may have noticed that shortly after whatever tasty morsel you’ve offered hits the ground, the receiving crow will give a couple caws. If you’re anything like Loma Pendergraft, your next thought will be, “Why?” Are they inviting family members to the feast? Are they trying to scare off competitors? Do the number of caws mean anything?

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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