American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #420

Wind turbines in the Great Plains seems like a no-brainer, until you start to look into the impacts of the turbines on birds like prairie chickens. At The American Ornithology Society Blog,  a summary of research that tries to determine whether it’s the noise or the land cover that causes these birds to avoid wind turbines.

Imagine living in a grassland landscape with an almost constant low-frequency hum from spinning wind turbine blades. The humming is distracting, so what do you do? You could move to a quieter area where the turbine noise would be less disturbing. But our research shows that if you’re a Greater Prairie-Chicken, one of North America’s most threatened grassland birds, you’re more likely to stay put.

A long-term project focusing on banding Northern Saw-whet Owls has revealed that the little birds are far far more common then was previously expected, as Scott Weidensaul explains at All ABout Birds. 

One thing’s for sure, the hill hasn’t gotten any less steep in the past 23 years. But my companions and I don’t wait to catch our breath; shining our headlamps down along the line of nets, I can see three—no, four—small, gray-brown bodies cradled and wriggling in the mesh, and likely more around the corner where the remaining array forms an L shape. Someone flips a switch to turn off the audio play­back, and the night goes silent as I reach carefully into the net and grasp the small, fully feathered feet of the owl to keep its needlelike talons out of my fingers. In a few moments I have slipped the owl free from the mesh.

At Ornithologi, a look at the northward movement of Red-legged Kittiwake breeding sites in response to changes in food distribution.

Our paper in Marine Ornithology details what we found and where we found it, and also discusses the status of the species in the region. We discuss behaviors that we observed that indicated the birds likely attempted to breed on the island in 2018, although we were unable to confirm eggs or nestlings before we left in early July. Regardless, our observations of a few hundred Red-legged Kittiwake on St. Matthew is at least notable because it differs from past records that list only a handful of records of single individuals seen in waters near the island.

Jeremy Fox at Dynamic Ecology considers what it really means to lose 3 Billion Birds.

These two figures suggest that on a species level, many have increased, many have decreased, most are not too terribly far from no change and the data is not terribly far from centered on no change but in fact the average percent loss is -30.9% (this is not that different than their reported 29% loss but I got there by less sophisticated methods). 31% decline over 48 years sounds pretty big but it is over almost 5 decades so less than 1% (0.64%) loss per year on average. We’re on average losing for sure, but not racing towards zero at break neck speed (it would take another 56 years to further decline from 69% to 50% of original numbers by one overly simplistic calculation).

Laura Erickson looks at Scrub Jays and their nascent humanity.
I’d bought a sandwich on my way to Griffith Park, and when I sat down on a bench to eat it, a homeless man sat up from under some newspapers on a nearby bench, so I naturally gave him half. Voraciously, he started to scarf it down, but then a scrub jay hopped in, and that poor hungry man looked at the little bird and broke off a generous chunk of the sandwich to share. This is the world I love living in—where we look out for each other and all share what we have with our fellow creatures. My fondness for scrub jays is entwined with that encounter.