King Vulture

abcbirds.org

King Vulture range map by ABC

King Vulture range map by ABC

The King Vulture is a clownish-looking bird with a serious mission: In most of its extensive tropical range, this species is the largest scavenging bird. The King’s smaller, more plentiful relations, including Black and Turkey Vultures, depend upon this heavy-billed bird to tear into larger carcasses first. The King only plays second fiddle to the Andean Condor in a few areas, such as northern Peru, where both species live side by side.

At 6.5 feet, the King Vulture’s wingspan is certainly impressive, but it doesn’t match up to those of the condors: The Andean Condor, wingtip to wingtip, can reach 10.5 feet; the California Condor is only slightly smaller.

Top of Their Line

Despite having larger cousins, the King deserves its royal moniker for at least three reasons: As mentioned before, it outranks other vultures of the Americas in size in most of the remote lowland forest and environs where it occurs. And its size, including its hefty bill, puts it at the top of the “picking order” — able to muscle its way into feeding frenzies and dig deeper into carcasses than other species sharing its habitats.

The King Vulture also wins the “beauty” prize for most colorful vulture. Adults sport multicolored, featherless heads that are a hodge-podge of peach-orange, yellow, red, and pink, all framed nicely by a charcoal feather neck ruff. Another eye-catching accent: the bird’s piercing white eyes, which are outlined by cherry-red orbital rings. These birds are striking in flight as well: Adult King Vultures can be easily identified from great distances, thanks to gleaming white backs, underparts, and underwing coverts fringed by black flight feathers. (At a distance, soaring Wood Storks are the birds most likely to cause confusion.)

Widespread but Generally Scarce

King Vultures occur from southern Mexico to northern Argentina and northern Uruguay. This range includes most of Brazil. In Central America, distribution is now spotty, with this majestic bird most frequent in remaining wilderness areas. For example, in Costa Rica, King Vultures are most reliably found in the remote Osa Peninsula in the south and the San Carlos River region near the border with Nicaragua.

King Vultures are mostly found in forested lowlands, but in the southern Andes they can occur at elevations up to 6,000 feet. The species is thought to be nonmigratory, but individuals travel long distances in search of food. While most frequently encountered in or over humid and semi-humid forest habitats, the King Vulture also occurs in regions with dry forest, usually where large areas of habitat remain. Although associated with forest, these birds also soar over and forage in open areas.

King Vultures have been documented emitting at least a half dozen harsh vocalizations at nest sites. Most are from nestlings and some by adults attending the young. These include growls, groans, screeches, and a noise like a cutting saw. Otherwise, while out and about, this bird is not known to vocalize.

Late to the “Party”

King Vultures cover large areas and tend to occur in low numbers, especially compared to some of their smaller relatives. But they have a special “seat at the table” at carcasses. For a study published in 1987 in the journal The Auk, researchers observed the goings-on at 217 animal carcasses in northern Peru, where five scavenging bird species vied for the spoils. These feeding assemblages might seem chaotic, but the study revealed a certain order that likely helps explain how these species coexist: Turkey Vultures, which likely have among the best olfactory senses in the family, often showed up first at carrion, holding sway over arriving, smaller Black Vultures, unless their numbers exceeded dozens. The Crested Caracara, not a vulture but an opportunistic follower, cautiously skirted the edges of the frenzies, visiting for leftovers after the main feeding. Arriving last were the largest birds — the King Vulture (which may not have a good sense of smell) and the even-larger Andean Condor. These birds brought their superior cutting equipment — their heavy bills — which allowed them to tear open large carcasses the other birds could not. For these larger meals, the smaller early arrivals had to wait on the sidelines until the giants had their fill.

King Vulture in flight by Ondrej Prosicky, Shutterstock

King Vulture in flight by Ondrej Prosicky, Shutterstock

Although King Vultures are best known as scavengers supreme, feasting on a wide variety of dead creatures from fish to monkeys to livestock, they have also been seen eating maggots, and also palm fruits. In addition, there are reports that these birds sometimes kill small lizards, wounded animals, and newborn livestock.

One-Shot Wonder

King Vulture pairs, like those of the Laysan Albatross, put all their energy into a single egg. Incubation and feeding duties are taken on by both female and male. King Vulture breeding remains rather poorly understood, in good part because the birds are stealthy nesters often in remote areas. The egg is laid in a secluded spot. Locations have included a simple scrape on the ground, a rotting stump or tangle, a large tree hole, a cliff ledge, and even in Mayan ruins. Parents incubate the egg for almost two months, and then the hatchling remains at the nest site until it fledges, after between two to three months, or longer.

Not only do King Vultures have only one shot at success — it takes them a long time to reach breeding age. Female Kings don’t reach adulthood for four to five years; males take longer, at five to six.

Saving Room for the King

Although still found in 20-plus countries and ranked as “Least Concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the King Vulture is declining in many parts of its range. Causes of decline likely include habitat loss and persecution, including unregulated shooting, capture, and poisoning. Along Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts, the northern extent of this species’ range shrank dramatically over recent decades, and it has become scarce in many other regions with extensive forest clearing, including western Ecuador and southeastern Brazil.

ABC’s BirdScapes approach to bird conservation helps to protect habitats throughout the Americas, including forests harboring King Vultures as well as Neotropical migrant birds such as the Wood Thrush, Hooded Warbler, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

The King Vulture can be found at a number of reserves in ABC’s Latin American Bird Reserve Network, including Barba Azul in Bolivia and El Dorado in Colombia.

https://abcbirds.org/bird/king-vulture/

Rest In Peace Kathy… You’re Finally Free

Persistent Inflation Threatens Biden’s Agenda – The New York Times

www.nytimes.com

 

Jim Tankersley


Supply chain disruptions, a worker shortage and pain at the gasoline pump have made inflation an economic and political problem for the White House.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Oct. 26, 2021Updated 1:44 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — At least once a week, a team of President Biden’s top advisers meet on Zoom to address the nation’s supply chain crisis. They discuss ways to relieve backlogs at America’s ports, ramp up semiconductor production for struggling automakers and swell the ranks of truck drivers.

The conversations are aimed at one goal: taming accelerating price increases that are hurting the economic recovery, unsettling American consumers and denting Mr. Biden’s popularity.

An inflation surge is presenting a fresh challenge for Mr. Biden, who for months insisted that rising prices were a temporary hangover from the pandemic recession and would quickly recede. Instead, the president and his aides are now bracing for high inflation to persist into next year, with Americans continuing to see faster — and sustained — increases in prices for food, gasoline and other consumer goods than at any point this century.

That reality has complicated Mr. Biden’s push for sweeping legislation to boost workers, expand access to education and fight poverty and climate change. And it is dragging on the president’s approval ratings, which could threaten Democrats’ already tenuous hold on Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.

Recent polls shows Americans’ concerns over inflation are eroding their economic confidence and dimming their view of Mr. Biden’s performance. National surveys by CNBC and Fox News show a sharp decline in voter ratings of Mr. Biden’s overall performance and his handling of the economy, even though unemployment has fallen quickly on his watch and economic output has strengthened to its fastest rate since Ronald Reagan was president. Voter worry over price increases has jumped in the last month.

Administration officials have responded by framing Mr. Biden’s push for what would be his signature spending bill as an effort to reduce costs that American families face, citing provisions to cap child care costs and expand subsidies for higher education, among other plans. And they have mobilized staff to scour options for unclogging supply chains, bringing more people back into the work force, and reducing food and gasoline costs by promoting more competition in the economy via executive actions.

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“There are distinct challenges from turning the economy back on after the pandemic that we are bringing together state and local officials, the private sector and labor to address — so that prices decrease,” Kate Berner, the White House deputy communications director, said in an interview.

Mr. Biden’s top officials stress that the administration’s policies have helped accelerate America’s economic rebound. Workers are commanding their largest wage gains in two decades. Growth roared back in the first half of the year, fueled by the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill the president signed in March. America’s expansion continues to outpace other wealthy nations around the world.

Inflation and shortages are the downside of that equation. Car prices are elevated as a result of strong demand and a lack of semiconductors. Gasoline has hit its highest cost per gallon in seven years. A shift in consumer preferences and a pandemic crimp in supply chains have delayed shipments of furniture, household appliances and other consumer goods. Millions of Americans, having saved up money from government support through the pandemic, are waiting to return to jobs, driving up labor costs for companies and food prices in many restaurants.

Much of that is beyond Mr. Biden’s control. Inflation has risen in wealthy nations across the globe, as the pandemic has hobbled the movement of goods and component parts between countries. Virus-wary consumers have shifted their spending toward goods rather than services, travel and tourism remain depressed, and energy prices have risen as demand for fuel and electricity has surged amid the resumption of business activity and some weather shocks linked to climate change.

But some economists, including veterans of previous Democratic administrations, say much of Mr. Biden’s inflation struggle is self-inflicted. Lawrence H. Summers is one of those who say the stimulus bill the president signed in March gave too much of a boost to consumer spending, at a time when the supply-chain disruptions have made it hard for Americans to get their hands on the things they want to buy. Mr. Summers, who served in the Obama and Clinton administrations, says inflation now risks spiraling out of control and other Democratic economists agree there are risks.

“The original sin was an oversized American Rescue Plan. It contributed to both higher output but also higher prices,” said Jason Furman, a Harvard economist who chaired the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama.

That has some important Democrats worried about price-related drawbacks from the president’s ambitious spending package, complicating Mr. Biden’s approach.

Credit…An Rong Xu for The New York Times

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a centrist, has repeatedly cited surging inflation in insisting that Mr. Biden scale back what had been a $3.5 trillion effort to expand the social safety net.

Mr. Biden has tried to make the case that the investments in his spending bill will moderate price increases over time. But he has struggled to identify things he can do right away to ease the pain of high-profile price spikes, like gasoline. Some in his administration have pushed for mobilizing the National Guard to help unclog ports that are stacked with imports waiting to be delivered to consumers around the country. Mr. Biden has raised the possibility of tapping the strategic petroleum reserve to modestly boost oil supplies, or of negotiating with oil producers in the Middle East to ramp up.

During a CNN town hall last week, Mr. Biden conceded the limits of his power, saying, “I don’t have a near-term answer” for bringing down gas prices, which he does not expect to begin dropping until next year.

“I don’t see anything that’s going to happen in the meantime that’s going to significantly reduce gas prices,” he said.

Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that she expects improvement in the overall inflation rate “by the middle to end of next year, second half of next year.”

With an American public that had gone nearly 40 years without seeing — or worrying — about inflation, the issue provides an opening for the opposition. Republicans have turned price spikes into a weapon against Mr. Biden’s economic policies, warning that more spending would exacerbate the pain for everyday Americans.

“It’s everywhere,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, in an interview. “You can’t live your life without seeing your paycheck buy less.”

White House officials have monitored inflationary pressure for months. They remain convinced, as they were in April, that price increases will not spiral out of control and force abrupt interest-rate increases from the Federal Reserve that could slam the brakes on growth.

Virus-wary consumers have shifted their spending toward goods rather than services, even as the pandemic has hobbled the movement of goods and component parts between countries.
Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

The president and his top advisers remain confident that price growth will start to fall well before the midterms. They defend the size of the rescue plan and say Americans are focused on inflation right now because the success of the stimulus bill accelerated economic and employment growth and took a larger issue — the availability of jobs for people who want them — off the table.

“It is a highly incomplete view to try to assess the economy, and even people’s views about the economy, by looking at inflation alone,” Jared Bernstein, a member of Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. “You also have to appreciate the robustness of the expansion, and how it’s lifting job and earnings opportunities.”

Mr. Bernstein and other advisers say many of the causes of inflation are already improving. They point to calculations by Mark Zandi, a Moody’s Analytics economist, that suggest Americans who have left the labor force will begin flocking back into the job market by December or January, because they will likely have exhausted their savings by then.

The advisers are also continuing to explore more actions they could take, including efforts to increase the number of truck drivers near ports and to force lower prices and more competition in the food industry.

“We are always all in on everything,” Ms. Berner said.

To which many officials add a caveat: Almost anything the White House could do now will take time to push prices down.

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https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/26/business/economy/biden-inflation.html

Afghan evacuees start to leave U.S. military sites as part of new resettlement phase

USA flies Afghans out of Germany

www.cbsnews.com

Camilo Camilo

October 21, 2021 / 7:00 AM / CBS News

The U.S. has begun discharging thousands of Afghan evacuees from military facilities and placing them in communities across the country as part of the new phase of a massive, nationwide resettlement effort, the latest government figures show.

In recent weeks, 6,000 Afghan evacuees have left temporary housing sites at U.S. military installations to start new lives in America with the help of nonprofit refugee resettlement agencies, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Another 3,000 U.S. citizens, green card holders and Afghans with close ties in America have left the facilities on their own.

Nearly 4,000 Afghan evacuees were resettled in U.S. communities during the past week alone.

More than 55,000 Afghans, half of them children, remain at eight U.S. military sites in Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin. Another 5,000 evacuees housed at overseas military bases are waiting to be placed on U.S.-bound flights, according to the DHS statistics.

The pace of relocations from the military sites has ramped up in recent days after the U.S. completed a campaign to vaccinate evacuees against COVID-19 and other diseases. The number of arrivals has also increased after the U.S. lifted a three-week pause on evacuation flights earlier this month.

More than 10,000 evacuees have arrived in the U.S. since the flights resumed, bringing the total number of people relocated since mid-August to more than 75,000, DHS figures show. Roughly 89% of the evacuees are Afghans, while the rest are U.S. citizens or green card holders.Afghan families walk through the waiting area for departure to the U.S. On the wall of the tent is written “Welcome to the USA.” Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Before the mass evacuations started in August, the U.S. government relocated thousands of Afghans who were determined to be eligible for Special Immigrant Visas because of their assistance to American military forces.

A senior Biden administration official, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said the government is working to process evacuees as quickly as possible, while making case-by-case decisions on which U.S. communities can receive them.

“It’s not easy to move large groups. Our overall goal is to get the balance right here,” the official told CBS News. “We certainly could just move people to a big housing facility somewhere. But we’re really keen to move people to their final resettlement destination and a place that meets the needs of their family.”

U.S. Army at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin shelters Afghan refugees

Resettlement officials said a major hurdle in getting Afghans out of the military bases more expeditiously is the limited housing in U.S. communities where many of evacuees have family ties, including northern California and the Dallas, Houston and Washington, D.C., suburbs. 

“The bottom line is that housing is and will remain a major stumbling block, especially in these preferred destinations,” Erol Kekic, a senior vice president at Church World Service, one of the nine national resettlement agencies, told CBS News.

The administration official acknowledged the housing shortage, saying the government is encouraging evacuees to move to states like Oklahoma, which has offered to subsidize their housing for more than a year. The state is set to host the third-largest number of Afghan arrivals during the first resettlement phase. Volunteer Sandra Hoeser plays frisbee with Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy U.S. Army base, in Wisconsin, U.S., September 30, 2021. Barbara Davidson/Pool via POOL / REUTERS

The administration has also allowed resettlement groups to place Afghans with family members living in the U.S. and outside the typical 100-mile radius limit from a local resettlement office, the official noted. It is also working to identify short-term housing options in popular destinations.

“It’s not ideal to not put people in their final homes right from the very beginning. But in some of these areas where it’s busier, I think it’s probably better to get them at least off the bases, into some kind of housing. Their kids can be registered in their ultimate school, etcetera,” the official said.

Before boarding flights to the U.S, Afghans have been subjected to biometric and biographic security screenings conducted by multiple law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including DHS and the FBI. 

Flights of Afghan evacuees were suspended in September after several cases of measles were identified among the new arrivals. Before lifting the suspension in early October, the U.S. vaccinated 49,000 Afghans at the military sites against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. 

Under the terms of their entry into the U.S., Afghan evacuees are also legally required to receive vaccines against polio and COVID-19. As of October 15, approximately 98% of the evacuees had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to DHS data.

As part of a pilot program, personnel at the military sites have been asking evacuated Afghans about their skills and education and whether they speak English. Officials are then including their information in a database that prospective employers can use to hire them, the senior Biden administration official said.  Afghan flights halted over measles 05:14

At the military facilities, adult evacuees have access to English classes and children are receiving ad hoc educational services, the administration official said. Evacuated Afghans are also getting help filing immigration paperwork, including applications for asylum and Special Immigrant Visas, the official added.

The Biden administration has determined that at least 50% of the at-risk Afghans relocated to the U.S. are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas because they aided American forces during the 20-year war in Afghanistan, according to the DHS. Special visa holders become permanent U.S. residents.

Those who do not qualify for the special visas — like journalists, activists and humanitarian aid workers — don’t have a pathway to secure permanent U.S. legal status. Unless Congress legalizes them, they will likely have to seek U.S. status though the backlogged asylum system.  

Many Afghans evacuated to the U.S. have family members in Afghanistan or in neighboring countries like Pakistan whom they believe could be harmed by the Taliban. Refugee advocates have urged the administration to set up a process for these individuals to request U.S. resettlement.

The senior Biden administration official said the government will try to make parole — a humanitarian process that authorizes the entry of immigrants without visas — available to certain Afghans overseas, particularly immediate family members of evacuees in the U.S.

“Family reunification for children with parents is always going to be an immediate priority,” the official said. “That is one thing we’re looking at parole for.”

According to internal notices sent this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees have been asked to volunteer to help process “an increasing number of requests for parole for Afghan nationals outside the United States.”

Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez

Camilo Montoya-Galvez

Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/afghan-evacuees-start-to-leave-u-s-military-sites-as-part-of-new-resettlement-phase/#app