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

Thursday, 19 July 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, 1 May 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, 8 June 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, 9 September 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, 14 August 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 of whom are believed to 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, 30 July 2014

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?

By Larry Powell

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.”
Another insectivorous species in decline, the purple 
martin. Are they becoming "neonic" victims, too?
PinP photo.
“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!

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, 12 October 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, 17 September 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, 28 October 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, 4 March 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.

Beyond Covid 19. Are we risking yet another pandemic if we continue to embrace "assembly-line" livestock production into the future?

by Larry Powell No one would argue that Covid 19 demands our undivided attention. Surely,  defeating this "beast" has to be &...