Showing posts with label Birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birds. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

More proof. A walk-in-the-park really can boost our feelings of well-being - especially when there are wild birds to sing to us along the way! Researchers.

It's not exactly "news" that spending time in nature benefits human health and well-being. But an experiment conducted by social scientists along some mountain trails in Colorado shows - it's not just the wind in our faces or the grandeur of the scenery we need to thank. 

                                            by Larry Powell

A PinP photo.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Massacre on Cyprus. Researchers call for a crack down on poachers who lure millions of birds to their deaths on the Mediterranean island with recordings of their own songs.

 By Larry Powell

The Sardinian warbler (Curruca melanocephala), common to the Mediterranean region. Photo by Andreas Trepte. 

Billions of birds like the Sardinian warbler (above) and the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) have been migrating through the region for a long time. And, each year for many years, poachers on Cyprus have been trapping and killing them illegally. The slaughter is now said to have reached "industrial levels."

Conservationists found 155 different bird species in trappers' nets in 2018. These included 82 listed as "conservation priority species;" Among them, the Cyprus warbler, a protected species which is a "short-distance" migrator but breeds only on the island.

A study just published by The Royal Society takes aim at the devious methods the poachers use. They lure their unsuspecting prey to their deaths by playing recordings of the birds' own songs. 

But it has not been widely known just how well that practise works - until now. 

The researchers set up an experiment that would emulate the poachers methods. 

(In an email, the study's lead author, Dr. Alexander N. G. Kirschel of the University of Cyprus, tells PinP how it was done. "We caught birds in mist nets, banded them and released them.")

What they found confirmed their worst fears. 

The lures worked so well, they were able to trap eleven times more of the targeted species with the birdsong recordings than without. Not only that, they attracted a higher number of "bycatch" species which the trappers would presumably not want and just throw away. And these may include species "of conservation concern."

A dish of ambelopoulia. Photo by George M. Groutas.

It's all part of a controversial, yet lucrative practise of satisfying the appetites of many Cypriots for ambelopoulia (above). It's a "traditional" food dish considered a delicacy there. It's made up of songbirds that may be grilled, fried, pickled or broiled. And it's still being served illegally, not just in private homes, but in some restaurants on the island, as well.

In the words of the study, "Targeting tape lures would be a significant step in the battle against poaching. Our study has serious implications for conservation and will aid conservation practitioners in their fight to protect migrating birds from the annual massacre in Cyprus."

Monday, August 10, 2020

Popular insecticides harm birds in the United States

Nature Sustainability

The increased use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the continental United States may have impacted bird populations and reduced bird diversity, according to a paper published this week in Nature Sustainability. 
Overall tree swallow populations declined by 49% between 1966 and 2014, according 
to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. A PinP photo.

Bird biodiversity is declining at a marked rate. Bird populations in the United States have decreased by 29% since 1970, which has been attributed to various factors including the increased use of pesticides in agricultural production. Nicotine-based pesticides — known as neonicotinoids — have been used increasingly in the United States over recent decades.  Previous research has shown that neonicotinoids are potentially toxic to birds and other non-target species. However, the impact of these pesticides on bird diversity in the United States is unclear. 

Madhu Khanna and colleagues studied the effects of neonicotinoids on birds in the United States from 2008–2014. They analysed data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey to identify county-level changes for four different bird species groups — grassland birds, non-grassland birds, insectivorous birds and non-insectivorous birds — and combined this with county-level data on pesticide use. 

The authors found that an increase of 100 kg in neonicotinoid usage per county, a 12% increase on average, contributes to a 2.2% decline in populations of grassland birds and 1.6% in insectivorous birds.  By comparison, the use of 100 kg of non-neonicotinoid pesticides was associated with a 0.05% decrease in grassland birds and a 0.03% decline in non-grassland birds, insectivorous birds and non-insectivorous birds. Since impacts accumulate, the authors also estimate that, for example, 100 kg neonicotinoid use per county in 2008 reduced cumulative grassland-bird populations by 9.7% by 2014. These findings suggest that neonicotinoid use has a relatively large effect on population declines of important birds and that these impacts grow over time. The authors also found that the adverse impacts on bird populations were concentrated in the Midwest, Southern California and Northern Great Plains.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Mercury linked to dramatic decline of migratory songbirds: study

RCI Radio Canada International
The Cape May warbler, while not named in this story, also migrates from the 
West Indies to the Boreal forests of Canada. A PinP photo.
Examination of tail feathers suggests that mercury is one of the determining factors for the steep declines of many songbird populations that migrate long distances to and from North America. More here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Even familiar birds at risk of extinction, new study finds



A White-crowned sparrow. Photo by Wolfgang Wander
The 2018 State of the World’s Birds report, which provides a comprehensive look at the health of bird populations globally, has found that the extinction crisis has spread so far that even some well-known species are now in danger. More here.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Song diversity hints at thrushes' evolutionary past

Photo by Matt MacGillivray
The Hermit Thrush is famous for its melodiously undulating song, but we know very little about whether its songs vary across the large swath of North America that it calls home in the summer. A new study from "The Auk" provides the first thorough overview of geographic variation in Hermit Thrush song structure and hints at how isolation and adaptation shape differences in the tunes of a learned song within a species. Details here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Audubon's Birds & Climate Change Report

314 Species on the Brink
Shrinking & shifting ranges could imperil nearly half of North American birds within this century. Story here.

A robin caught in a freak storm in Manitoba.                                                                                                                                                         Barn swallows. 

Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a familiar sight in western North America, 
may be under threat before the end of the century. (P in P photos)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Big Farm Groups Adopt the "Ostrich Approach" to Major Environmental Issues.

by Larry Powell

It has been exactly two weeks since I contacted Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), Manitoba's main farm lobby group, to comment on my story, "New Studies Show Farm Chemicals Are Affecting More Than Bees. Bird Populations are Declining, Too. Is modern agriculture's toxic hold on nature becoming a death grip?" 

(It appeared both on this blog on July 30th and subsequently in the Virden Empire Advance weekly. A number of other publications declined to publish.) 

I reported on new research showing that insecticides, widely used on crops in this province and elsewhere, were associated with declines in populations of birds which eat insects. The chemicals, members of the "neonicotinoid" family, are the same ones which have, for some time, also been linked to large and significant declines in populations of pollinators, especially honeybees. 

Purple Martins. 
Among the "insectivorious" 
birds on the decline. Larry Powell - PinP photo.

The vast majority of conventional farmers, many who belong to KAP, sow seeds treated with "neonics," described as the most widely-used insecticide in the world.

My e-mail asked whether KAP, which describes itself as "Manitoba's general farm policy organization," feels any sense of responsibility for what seem to be escalating problems with the toxicity of the products in question.

I addressed my request to no less than six officials of the farm organization. 

Not one has responded!

I made the same request of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), which claims to be "a voice for 200,000 farm families at the national level." 

Like KAP, CFA did not respond, either!

What are Canadians to make of this; That the producers they represent do not care about the environment? 

I find this hard to believe. I've known many farmers over the years who claim to take their role as "stewards of the land" very seriously, indeed. 

So, are these organizations not doing justice to their members? 

Until they come clean and begin publicly confronting pressing issues such as this, head-on, I guess we'll all just have to keep wondering...


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Studies Show Farm Chemicals Are Affecting More Than Bees. Bird Populations are Declining, Too.

Is modern agriculture’s hold on nature becoming a death grip? 
By Larry Powell
Another insectivorous species in decline, the purple 
martin. Are they becoming "neonic" victims, too?
PinP photo.

This summer, the tragedy of dying pollinators took on a new dimension. A team of Dutch researchers found that, in addition to bees, “significant declines in populations of insect-eating birds are also associated with high concentrations of neonicotinoids.”

“Neonics,” as they are commonly called, have become the most widely used group of insecticides in the world – and, the most infamous. As well as killing the crop pests they are supposed to, they’ve been implicated in the deaths of billions of honeybees from near and far, for well over a decade. The European Union even clamped a two-year moratorium on their use, last year.

Various formulations of the chemical are made by multinational corporations like Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and Monsanto. They’re used as seed dressing on crops ranging from canola, soya and corn, to potatoes. They are “systemic” poisons. That means they penetrate all part of the plant, even the nectar and pollen. But as little as 2 percent of the plant takes up the active ingredient. The rest gets washed off, contaminating both soil and water. “Neonic” use exploded onto the farm scene about two decades ago, on crops that now cover vast areas of the world’s farmlands.

The study, by scientists at Radboud University, was published in the journal, Nature. It concludes, the most widely-used “neonic,” imadacloprid, poisons not only insects harmful to the crops, but others which form an important part of the birds’ diets, especially during breeding season and while raising their young. These would include grasshoppers, butterfly caterpillars, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies (an important food source for fish, as well as birds).

“In the Netherlands, local (bird) populations were significantly more negative in areas with high surface-water concentrations of imadacloprid. In those cases, bird numbers tended to decline some 3.5% per year. (This would translate into a staggering loss of about 35% in a decade!) These declines appeared only after the introduction of imadacloprid to the Netherlands in the mid ‘90s. Our results suggest the impact of neonicotinoids on the natural environment is even more substantial than has recently been reported and is reminiscent of the effects of persistent insecticides in the past.”

This is an apparent reference to DDT,another persistent insecticide. It was banned in North America after Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” exposed it in the 60s for the mass die-offs of both birds and fish on the continent. She also revealed its widespread and dangerous presence in various human organs.

Birds are much less vulnerable to neonics than insects. So, it is believed avian numbers are declining, not because of direct poisoning, but because the chemicals are killing off the insects they normally eat.

“A route to direct mortality.”

But, it’s also unlikely any bird that directly eats seed treated with “neonics” will stand a chance. One study concludes, “A single corn seed can kill a songbird.” Another finds, “Consumption of small numbers of dressed seeds offers a route to direct mortality in birds.” And some of the bird species included in the Dutch study, like starlings and skylarks, eat grain as well as insects.

Is this just a “faraway” problem? Not really!

(4) Last winter, a biologist at the University of Saskatchewan sounded a very similar alarm. Christey Morrissey is about halfway through a four-year study of the chemical in question. She told the CBC, “Huge amounts of 'neonics' are leaching into the millions of potholes that dot the landscape of the Canadian prairies. This can have potentially devastating impacts on aquatic insects such as mosquitoes and midges, both important food sources for birds. She says levels of the poison in the water have been found to be anywhere from ten to a hundred times above limits which are considered safe!
The barn swallow, now in rapid decline. A PinP photo.

Meanwhile, she notes, populations of insectivorous birds such as barn swallows, have plummeted some 70 percent over the past 30 years. She concedes other factors, like habitat loss, are contributing to the decline, too. But she still believes neonics are playing a significant role.

The Dutch study team suggests, “Future legislation should take into account the potential cascading effects of neonicotinoids on ecosystems.”

Ms. Morrissey offered this observation to the CBC.

“We all want to have food that we consume and enjoy. But, at what cost? Is that the cost of having no more birds around? Of having no more butterflies? Having no bees? People are thinking about that now.” 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gas Flare in Atlantic Canada Draws Thousands of Birds to Their Deaths, and Ignites Questions

E & E Publishing

The conditions that night were a perfect storm -- foggy, low cloud cover, an early fall evening that was right for flight. Full story here.

Goldfinch. PIP photo

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Help Coming for the Greater sage-grouse

Ecojustice Breaking News logo - flying gooseLarry,

It took nearly two years of legal wrangling, but it looks like the federal government is finally prepared to introduce emergency protections for Canada’s endangered Greater sage-grouse.

The announcement, made this morning, is a welcome breath of fresh air to a case that’s been mired in secrecy, delays and procedural roadblocks. In fact, our efforts may well have helped set another important legal precedent. To our knowledge, this is the first time Ottawa has explicitly stated its intention to introduce emergency protections for an endangered species.

Thank you. None of this would have been possible without you. 

Thanks to your support, we were able to bring forward a series of legal challenges that have forced the federal government to act. But as I told CBC’s The National (10 p.m. local), we know all too well that the devil will be in the details and that our work is far from done. 

We’re still waiting to learn when the emergency order will be implemented and what it will include.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Toronto's Glass Towers Take Awful Toll on Precious Bird Life

New York Times

No one is sure, but Toronto's massive banks and other skyscrapers may be making it the most deadly city in the world for our precious, migratory birds. Details here.

Cape May Warbler. PLT photo

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Study Predicts a Bleak Future for Many Birds

By JIM ROBBINS - New York Times - Feb 24'12
Cape May Warbler - PIP photo
A just-published analysis of some 200 separate studies of the impact of climate change on birds is grim. Full story here.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...