Woodpecker Sounds of the U.S.: Drumming, Calls, and More

Bird Calls Black-and-White Warbler, Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock

Melissa Mayntz

Birds make many amazing sounds, from trills and warbles to screeches, hoots, and quacks. While not exactly considered the virtuosos of the bird world, woodpeckers do make many incredible noises, vocal and otherwise. Understanding the sounds woodpeckers make can give birders interesting insights into these beautiful birds and how they communicate.

Black-backed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker. Video by Justin Hoffman/Outdoors

A Feathered Drumline

The most famous and familiar woodpecker sounds aren’t songs or calls, but drumming, which is also called rapping, tatting, and tattooing. Woodpeckers peck on objects to create sound patterns as communication. Resonant objects such as hollow trees, logs, and stumps are favored for drumming because their resonance increases the strength and volume of the drumming so it can be heard further away. Other objects that make popular woodpecker drumheads include:

• utility poles and transformer boxes
• metal chimneys and attic exhaust vents
• rain gutters and downspouts
• trash cans
• exterior light covers.

Pileated Woodpecker by Jesse Seniunas/Shutterstock

Pileated Woodpecker by Jesse Seniunas/Shutterstock

The tempo, rhythm, duration, and repetition of drumming patterns vary between different woodpecker species. Because these patterns can be very distinct, they can sometimes be used for species identification. In a particular area, birders can learn to decipher which woodpeckers are nearby just by hearing drumming patterns. But individual woodpeckers can tap and drum at different speeds and volumes, and sound travels differently depending upon weather and distance, so this takes practice!

Drumming means a lot more than just identification to the birds, however. A strong, vibrant drumming pattern indicates a healthy, dominant bird, one that controls a rich territory or would make a good mate.

Both male and female woodpeckers drum, most often in late winter or early spring when they are more actively seeking mates and establishing territories. Drumming is common in the morning, but woodpeckers may drum at any time of day.

“Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus sanctorum)” xeno-canto Richard E. Webster Audio Player00:0000:00 1. “Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus sanctorum)” — Richard E. Webster 0:32 2. “Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber)” — bowtyler 0:08 3. “Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)” — Chris Parrish 0:12 4. “Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)” — Sunny Tseng 0:08 5. “Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)” — David Darrell-Lambert 0:07 6. “Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)” — Andrew Spencer 2:20

Other Woodpecker Sounds

Woodpecker calls, even if they are composed of a variety of notes and cadences, lack distinct melodies, and are not considered “songs” in the same sense as those sung by warblers, cardinals, or mockingbirds. Nevertheless, woodpecker sounds can be just as varied and distinctive as other birds’ songs and calls.

Calls may signal alarm, show agitation, or send a signal to a mate. Woodpeckers may not be as vocally adept as other species, but they do use churrs, purrs, rattles, chatters, screeches, and other short sounds, such as “peek” and “pik” notes.

Red-shafted Northern Flicker by Tim Zurowski/Shutterstock

“Red-shafted” Northern Flicker by Tim Zurowski/Shutterstock

Like drumming, the tempo, length, tone, and rhythm of woodpecker calls vary widely between species. Larger birds, like the tremendous Pileated Woodpecker, have deeper, more robust voices, while smaller species, such as the diminutive Downy Woodpecker, have brighter, lighter voices and higher tones. The Northern Flicker is one of the most vocal of the North American woodpeckers, uttering a laugh-like “ha-ha-ha-ha” call, soft screeching begging calls, and “kreee” or “kwirr” calls.

“Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)” xeno-canto J.R. Rigby Audio Player00:0000:00 1. “Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)” — J.R. Rigby 0:22 2. “Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)” — Ross Gallardy 0:11 3. “Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus)” — Russ Wigh 0:09 4. “Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)” — Thomas Magarian 0:40 5. “Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)” — Ross Gallardy 0:14 6. “White-headed Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus albolarvatus)” — Thomas Magarian 1:06

Using Woodpecker Sounds

People enjoying the outdoors may simply appreciate the symphony of woodpecker sounds, but those sounds can also be useful for bird identification and so much more. Learning the precise rhythms, tempos, and durations of drumming and calls can help pinpoint which woodpeckers are around. Furthermore, even if the sounds aren’t precise enough for a positive identification, they can be useful to help triangulate a bird’s location for a closer look. The type of sound, such as a relaxed call note compared to an alarmed chattering, may also help explain the bird’s behavior and alert birders to other activity in the area.

Hairy Woodpecker by female_rck_953/Shutterstock

Hairy Woodpecker by female_rck_953/Shutterstock

Protecting Woodpecker Sounds

The more we learn about woodpeckers and their sounds, the more we can appreciate these birds’ diversity and distinctiveness. But without protection, it is possible that the drumming, chatters, laughs, and churring may be heard less and less.

American Bird Conservancy is working diligently to protect woodpeckers’ habitats and to promote initiatives that can protect these birds. While many woodpeckers have healthy, even thriving, populations, increased habitat loss and pesticide use have put others at risk. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, for example, likely went extinct following widespread habitat loss and shooting in the southeastern United States.

Species with limited ranges and specialized habitat requirements, such as the Lewis’s, Red-cockaded, and White-headed Woodpeckers, especially benefit from targeted conservation efforts. These efforts include best practices for land management with birds in mind, increased awareness of the importance of forest conservation, and direct protection of the most critical areas of habitats.

With your help, woodpeckers can continue to make their varied sounds for generations to come.


Melissa MayntzMelissa Mayntz is a birder and a writer, naturally writing about birds. Her work has appeared in National Wildlife magazine, WildBird, Bird Watcher’s Digest online, and other publications. She is the author of Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds (Quadrille Publishing, 2020).

https://abcbirds.org/blog20/woodpecker-sounds/

Turn the Lights Out. Here Come the Birds.

<img src="https://static01.nyt.com/images/2021/03/24/multimedia/00xp-birds1a/00xp-birds1a-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&disable=upscale&quot; alt="Each year, about 365 million to one billion birds die by smacking into reflective or transparent windows.
Credit…Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Buildings, landmarks and monuments are turning off lights to prevent fatal impacts as birds set off on spring migration.

Published April 10, 2021Updated April 12, 2021

Dozens of American cities are being transformed this spring, enveloped in darkness as the lights that usually brighten up their skylines are turned off at night to prevent birds from fatal impacts during their annual migrations.

Each year, an estimated 365 million to one billion birds die by smacking into reflective or transparent windows in deadly cases of mistaken identity, believing the glass to be unimpeded sky.

“These birds are dying right in front of their eyes,” said Connie Sanchez, the bird-friendly buildings program manager for the National Audubon Society, which for two decades has asked cities to dim their lights from about mid-March through May, and again in the fall, under its Lights Out initiative.

Since late last year, at least six cities have joined forces with the 35 other places where the society, local organizations, ornithology experts and some of the nation’s largest companies have been helping birds navigate in urban centers. The efforts are gaining ground in cities including Chicago, Houston and New York City, which are among the top 10 in the United States for light pollution.

The timing of the lights-out campaign varies based on location. In Texas, whose coastal lands are the first that birds encounter after they cross the Gulf of Mexico, buildings will go dark in Dallas from mid-March through May. In Fort Worth, at least 11 of the city’s most prominent buildings will dim their lights from midnight to 6 a.m. through May 31.

In Jacksonville, Fla., where migration started in mid-March, building owners and managers are examining data from volunteers who walk the city, collecting carcasses and documenting where birds have fallen.

Buildings in Philadelphia have also joined the nationwide effort, a step that experts hope will help to avoid a repeat of the deaths of more than 1,000 birds last October, an event reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer as one of the largest such avian fatalities in decades.

Birds that died after hitting buildings in Philadelphia in October. 
Credit…Stephen Maciejewski/Audubon

Bird populations are already imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and cats. Turning lights out at night can mitigate one more risk to their lives, experts say.

But before a city knows if a lights-out campaign will work, it first has to know how many birds it might help. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has used radar data to identify abnormal bird densities. In some cities, the approach is old-fashioned shoe leather.

Three days a week, at about 7 a.m., volunteers hit the streets of Jacksonville, Fla., peering into shrubs or searching the bases of the city’s tallest buildings. In the week of March 14, they found two warblers and a dove. The tiny bodies were put into bags and handed over to the zoo for analysis.

Then the business of forensics begins. As in any cause of death investigation, clues must be extracted from their surroundings. In the case of birds, the only certainties are flight, gravity and thin air.

Moments after a fatal impact, birds plummet to sidewalks, drop onto high-rise ledges inaccessible to the public, or sink into bushes on private land until discovered there inexplicably dead, throwing the possible answers to the who, what, when and where of their deaths into disarray.

Sometimes, stunned by the impact, they keep flying before they fall, making the place of their original blow difficult to trace. Often, cleaning crews sweep up carcasses before the volunteers can document them.

Mike Taylor, a curator at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, who works with the volunteers, said cats will also get to the birds. “We don’t know if they caught the bird, or just took advantage of this free meal that fell to the ground in front of them,” he said.

Last October in Philadelphia, an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 birds in one night flew into buildings in a radius of just over three blocks of Center City, possibly because of a low ceiling of bad weather that interfered with migrating birds from Canada, Maine, New York and elsewhere toward Central and South America, The Inquirer reported.

After the event, Audubon Mid-Atlantic, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and two other local Audubon chapters formed a coalition to tackle the problem.

The response has been “extremely robust” among the city’s iconic properties, said Kristine A. Kiphorn, the executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association in Philadelphia. Comcast, One and Two Liberty Place and the Wells Fargo Center are among the 30 buildings that have so far signed up to go dark this spring.

“We feel it makes ethical, ecological and economic sense,” she said.

A bird that died after crashing into a building in Philadelphia  in October.
Credit…Stephen Maciejewski/Audubon

Bird strikes against buildings have been recorded for decades in Philadelphia. The first recorded window kills date back to the 1890s, when City Hall was lit up, said Nate Rice, the ornithology collection manager at Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences. Dr. Rice said the academy’s database now has 823 specimens that have been identified as window strikes in Philadelphia.

“If we can generalize, say, ‘Let’s keep lights out or at a minimum during peak migration time,’ this can have an impact on wild bird populations,” he said.

Modern architecture has accelerated the problem as sky-piercing, reflective structures are illuminated at night.

Birds use stellar navigation, and twinkling lights, especially on overcast nights, can confuse them, leading them to fly in circles instead of proceeding along their route. Others drop exhausted to the ground, at risk of predators, cars or smacking into glass when they take wing again. Some crash into buildings if they see a plant in the window or a tree reflected in the glass.

Many buildings do more than flip a switch. Some use glass with patterns to help birds differentiate between open sky and a deadly, transparent wall.

In Chicago, architects have angled exteriors. In Galveston, Texas, a pulse was added to safety bulbs on tall buildings. Fort Worth’s Frost Tower turns off its light and asks tenants to do so as well, using slides in the lobby to explain why.

Every year in New York City, the twin beams of light in the tribute to 9/11 victims are turned off at peak times to help free birds that have been drawn to the lights. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology estimated that the memorial’s lights altered the migratory behavior of more than 1.1 million birds over seven nights in September.

And in St. Louis, exterior lights at the Gateway Arch landmark are turned off at night to avoid disorienting birds during migration in the first two weeks of May, when warblers and other birds fly from Canada to Central and South America.

With the help of volunteers who are canvassing for bird bodies, the local Audubon chapter is preparing to introduce a formal Lights Out program for the city.

“We wanted to see what areas of downtown are causing problems to birds,” Jean Favara, the vice president of conservation at the St. Louis Audubon Society, said. “I hope by 2024 we will have 30 to 34 buildings enrolled, and we can go from there.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/us/bird-migration-lights-out.html#click=https://t.co/H00LRMWT3m

Spring Migration: Ten Tips to Help Birds on Their Way

Cerulean Warblers are active during spring migration

Spring migration, one of nature’s greatest annual journeys, is underway as billions of migratory birds leave their wintering grounds and head north toward seasonal food sources and favorite nesting spots.

But this high-endurance pilgrimage isn’t without danger. Outdoor cats, poorly placed communication towers, unforgiving and — to birds — invisible glass surfaces, and pesticide-laced plants all await. Add to that an ongoing crisis of habitat loss and it’s no mystery why so many birds fail to reach their destinations during spring migration.

The good news is that all of us can take steps to make migration a little safer. Even better, many of these activities are simple, free, and require only a few minutes. To get started, have a look at our staff’s top 10 suggestions — and find the solutions that work for you.

10. Paint a Window Warning
Painting windows can help make spring migration safer for migratory birds

“Hundreds of millions of birds in the U.S. die from hitting glass every year – almost half of those on home windows. Luckily, there are many ways to make your windows safe for birds. One of my favorite methods is applying tempera paint to the outside surface of glass. Tempera is nontoxic, cheap, easy to use (and remove) and amazingly long lasting — even in rain. If you’re short on time, using a sponge is a good way to make a quick pattern. With a little more effort, you can create spring-themed designs or even small works of art depicting your favorite birds; either will help prevent collisions. Remember: Whatever kind of design you use, make sure your lines are no more than two inches apart to help smaller birds avoid collisions.”

Chris Sheppard – Bird Collisions Campaign Director

9. Support the Laws that Migratory Birds Can’t Live Without
Scarlet Tanagers are aided by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a critical bird conservation law

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of the most important pieces of legislation affecting birds in the U.S. But a new government position asserts that the MBTA does not address unintentional harm that industrial activities cause to birds, effectively letting business off the hook. This move will have a negative impact on bird populations and hurt bird conservation, but that’s not all. It also puts our public heritage as the owners and stewards of our nation’s birds at risk. You can help protect this important law by signing ABC’s online petition.”

David Wiedenfeld – Senior Conservation Scientist

8. Protect Birds from Cats
Keeping cats constrained helps birds during spring migration

“Cats are lovable pets, but they’re also instinctive predators. One cat alone may kill up to 55 birds each year. It all adds up! So keep your cat on a leash or in an enclosure to protect migratory birds (and keep your cat safe, too). Don’t have a cat? You can still support bird-friendly practices in your community by encouraging the passage of local ordinances mandating responsible pet ownership. Learn more about other simple actions you can take to protect birds on our Cats Indoors page.”

Grant Sizemore – Director of Invasive Species Programs

7. Make Your Yard a Bird Paradise For Spring Migration
Providing food for birds is important during spring migration

“I’ve packed my quarter-acre lot in suburban Maryland with dozens of the same native plant species you might see in nearby woods. There’s a “mini meadow” of asters, goldenrods, and native grasses and a tiny woodland of native viburnums, hollies, and other berry-producing shrubs that birds love. But the most important way I support my local birdlife is by learning to love insects. Even seed-eating birds can’t live without insects, since their nestlings need protein-rich caterpillars to thrive. My yard is a “pesticide-free zone” and I prioritize plants that support the most insect species, using Douglas Tallamy’s research on plant-insect interactions as a guide. Some of them, like wild cherry , feed more than 450 species of moths and butterflies in the mid-Atlantic region.”

Clare Nielsen – Vice President of Communications

6. Communicate with Communication Tower Owners
Communciation towers can be a serious problem during spring migration

“Roughly 7 million birds die every year in North America from collisions with communication towers. Many of these deaths are caused by towers’ steady burning lights, which attract birds. The simple solution is to use flashing lights as they pose little danger to birds. But sometimes owners need to hear from concerned citizens before making the switch. Giving them a nudge is now easier with the release of the new SongbirdSaver app. The app identifies potentially dangerous communication towers near you and provides contact information for their owners. And because SongbirdSaver can pinpoint towers along common migration routes, spring is a great time to get started.”

Steve Holmer – Vice President of Policy

5. Stamp Your Approval on Spring Migration
Buying Duck Stamps is a good way to support birds during spring migration

“I purchase a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or “Duck Stamp,” every year to support conservation funding and support bird conservation. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 98 cents of every dollar spent purchasing Federal Duck Stamps is used to acquire and protect habitat or purchase conservation easements. These efforts support not just migratory waterfowl, but other migratory birds as well.”

Conor Marshall – Associate, Communications, Policy and Operations

4. Keep Your Woods Wild
Pileated Woodpeckers benefit when you keep your woods wild

“You can provide habitat for birds during spring migration by letting things around the house get a little messy. I have a wooded backyard, so I try to leave it as natural as possible. I let the understory grow and pull invasive plants such as Japanese stiltgrass and garlic mustard. I leave logs and fallen branches in place to shelter insects and other small critters that birds feed on.
When larger trees break or fall, I leave them be — as long as they’re not hanging over the roof. This gives snag-nesting migrants like Great Crested Flycatcher places to nest — as along with year-round residents like Eastern Screech-owl and Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers — and is a nice source of grubs and other bird food.”

Gemma Radko – Communications and Media Manager

3. Give Beach-nesting Birds a Break
Black Skimmers need space during spring migration

“As temperatures rise, many of us begin heading to the beach. And we’re not alone: this is a critical time for several migratory species — I’m thinking of Black Skimmers, Snowy Plovers and Least Terns — that lay their eggs in the sand and are particularly vulnerable. One of the biggest challenges they face are unleashed dogs. Our team in the Gulf Coast region team has seen loose dogs eat eggs and take chicks. This is a big problem considering that nearly all of these birds have declining populations. The obvious solution is to leash dogs. As our team likes to say, ‘Bird-friendly beaches have dogs on leashes!’”

Kacy L. Ray – Gulf Conservation Program Manager

2. Fuel a Hungry Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arrived during spring migration

“Put out those hummingbird feeders during spring migration — the hummers are arriving. Be sure to use a mixture of four parts water to one part sugar. And do without the dye: Red dyes serve no purpose. Most hummingbird feeders already have enough color on them to attract hummingbirds, and, even worse, these dyes contain petroleum that may be harmful to hummingbirds. Don’t forget to change the mixture often to be sure it’s fresh and safe for those super-charged flying jewels.”

EJ Williams – Vice President, Migratory Birds & Habitats

1. Inspire a Future Bird Conservationist
Children with ducks

“I have younger nieces and nephews in Wisconsin, and when I visit them during spring migration, I like to make sure they get outside, where I can introduce them to birds: Mr. Blue Jay. Mr. Cardinal, Mrs. Common Yellowthroat. Introducing birds to kids at a young age can instill a desire to explore the natural world. And that’s only one benefit. It also helps children bond with wildlife and develop an environmental ethic that will, hopefully, remain with them for the rest of their lives. I’m hoping one of my nieces or nephews will be the John Muir of 2030!”

Andrew Rothman – Migratory Bird Program Director

https://abcbirds.org/ten-tips-spring-migration

Orioles of the United States: A Photo List of All Bird Species

abcbirds.org

Excluding seldom-seen vagrant species, eight New World oriole species occur in the United States (see list below). Thanks to their distinctive orange-and-black or yellow-and-black plumage, orioles are fairly easy to identify. And because they inhabit large portions of the country — and occasionally visit feeders — many Americans are familiar with these colorful birds.

Despite their relative abundance, most North American orioles are in decline, some steeply. The Baltimore Oriole, for example, has experienced a 42-percent population decline in the last 50 years; the Audubon’s Oriole has been added to Partners in Flight’s (PIF’s) Yellow Watch List (an indicator of conservation concern); and the Altamira Oriole, which numbers fewer than 500 in Texas, has been listed as “threatened” in the state by the Texas Organization for Endangered Species.

Oriole losses have been driven by a range of factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use, collisions, and brood parasitism — raising cowbirds’ offspring, often to the detriment of their own. To reverse these declines, American Bird Conservancy has successfully advocated for the cancellation of pesticides shown to kill orioles and other birds. We promote bird-friendly building practices to reduce glass collisions. And, as part of our full annual life-cycle strategy, we collaborate with local landowners and nonprofits in Latin America to protect important wintering habitat for orioles.

Our List of U.S. Orioles

The alphabetical list below includes all orioles, both migratory and resident, that breed regularly in the continental United States. The PIF population and conservation data we use is exclusive to the United States and Canada. (Note that only three listed species reach Canada: Baltimore, Bullock’s, and Orchard.) As a result, population estimates shown here do not reflect total numbers for orioles with parts of their breeding ranges in Mexico and Central America. We have included one exotic species on our list, the Spot-breasted Oriole, which has been established in the U.S. for more than 70 years, and we have omitted several vagrant species that rarely visit.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira orioles are one of the many types of orioles found in the United States

U.S. Population Estimate: <500
Population Trend: Unknown
Habitat: Dry forest and brush near Rio Grande
Threats: Habitat loss
Note: Although most of the Altamira Oriole’s range lies south of the U.S. border, it can be found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The Texas Organization for Endangered Species lists the species as “threatened” within the state; however, the Altamira Oriole is still considered common in the southern parts of its range.

Audubon’s Oriole
Audubon's Oriole

U.S. Population Estimate: <5,000
Population Trend: Overall trend unknown; decreasing in the U.S.
Habitat: Dry forest and brush
Threats: Brood parasitism, habitat loss and fragmentation
Note: Formerly known as the Black-headed Oriole, Audubon’s Oriole is the only oriole species in the New World to sport a black hood with a yellow or orange back. Conservation concerns have led PIF to add Audubon’s Oriole to its Yellow Watch List.

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 12,000,000
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat: Open eastern deciduous forest
Threats: Habitat loss
Note: Like most oriole species, Baltimore Orioles build hanging nests by weaving an assortment of fibers, including hairs and grasses. The nests, which take one to two weeks to construct, are lined with feathers and downy fibers. Baltimore Oriole populations have decreased by 42 percent over the last 50 years.

Bullock’s Oriole
Bullock's Oriole

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 6,500,000
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat: Open western deciduous forest
Threats: Habitat loss, possibly pesticide use
Note: Bullock’s Oriole enjoy a varied diet, including insects, fruit, and even nectar from agaves and other flowers. They can occasionally be found sipping from hummingbird feeders. Populations of the Bullock’s Oriole have decreased 22 percent over the last 50 years.

Hooded Oriole
Hooded Oriole

U.S. Population Estimate: 350,000
Population Trend: Increasing
Habitat: Open woods and brush
Threats: Localized brood parasitism by Brown-headed and Bronzed CowbirdsNote: Hooded Orioles, which tend to nest in palm trees, have expanded their range northward, following the introduction of ornamental palms in residential areas. They can now be found as far north as Arcata, California.

Orchard Oriole
Orchard Oriole

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 10,000,000
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat: Open woods and brush
Threats: Habitat loss, brood parasitism
Note: The smallest of North American orioles, Orchard Orioles have a noted tolerance for other birds. In areas of favored habitat, multiple Orchard Oriole pairs will sometimes nest in a single tree. They are also known to nest in close proximity to Baltimore Orioles, American Robins, and Chipping Sparrows, among others. Orchard Oriole populations have decreased 23 percent over the last 50 years.

Scott’s Oriole
Scott's Oriole

U.S. Population Estimate: 1,600,000
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat: Varied open, arid habitats
Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation
Note: Although most birds avoid eating Monarch butterflies due to toxins ingested by the milkweed-eating insects, Scott’s Oriole and several other bird species have learned to prey upon them by eating the abdomens of less-noxious individuals. Populations of the Scott’s Oriole have decreased by 29 percent over the last 50 years.

Spot-breasted Oriole
The Spot-breasted Oriole is one of eight orioles species in the United States

U.S. Population Estimate: Unknown
Population Trend: Increasing
Habitat: Lushly planted suburban areas in South Florida
Threats: Severe winter freezes, habitat loss and fragmentationNote: Native to southern Mexico and Central America, Spot-breasted Orioles were introduced in the U.S. more than 70 years ago. The birds are now found in areas between Miami and West Palm Beach. They nest in human-altered landscapes with an abundance of flowering and fruiting ornamental trees and shrubs, including suburban yards and golf courses.

https://abcbirds.org/blog20/orioles-species-united-states/

Bird of The Week: Chuck-Will’s-Widow

Chuck-wills-widow-map, NatureServe

Chuck-will’s-widow belongs to a family of birds with the folk name “goatsuckers.” The family name, Caprimulgidae, literally means “milker of goats” and is based on an ancient belief that the birds milked goats with their enormous mouths each night.

In reality, the birds’ attraction to livestock was likely due to the presence of insects. Chuck-will’s-widow forages at dusk and dawn, silently swooping over the ground in search of prey. Specialized feathers known as rictal bristles help funnel insects into the bird’s mouth, which is so large that they may occasionally swallow small birds and bats as well!

The “chuck” is the largest nightjar in North America and is almost entirely nocturnal. During the day, the birds roost along tree branches or on the ground, where their beautifully mottled brown plumage provides perfect camouflage against dried leaves and tree bark.

Chuck-will's-widow and chicks, Dick-Snell

Chuck-will’s-widow and chicks by Dick-Snell

Chuck-will’s-widows do not build nests, instead laying their eggs on the ground among dead leaves, pine needles, or on bare dirt. Incubating adults are almost invisible against the forest floor and only flush off their nests when closely approached.

Since they have a highly insectivorous diet, Chuck-will’s-widows are impacted by pesticide use. They are sometimes killed by cars when they land on roads at night to pick up grit. Habitat loss on both breeding and wintering grounds is also a continual threat.

This nightjar winters in lowland forests throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, where it shares habitat with Wood Thrush, Kentucky and Prothonotary warblers, and Painted Bunting. Chuck-will’s-widow is benefiting from ABC’s efforts to “bring back the birds” in these areas, with our focus on conserving geographically linked habitats both north and south.

https://abcbirds.org/bird/Chuck-wills-widow/

Yellow Warbler

NAME: Setophaga petechia
POPULATION: 92 million
TREND: Stable
HABITAT: Breeds in wet woods, thickets, and riparian areas; winters in open woodlands, on farms and gardens with scattered trees, and in mangrove forests

Yellow Warbler range map, NatureServe

Yellow Warbler range map by NatureServe

The Yellow Warbler is the most widespread American wood-warbler. It nests from Alaska to northern South America (including the Galapágos Islands), and in parts of the Caribbean as well, and winters as far south as Peru.

Tail tip to forehead, this is also the yellowest North American warbler, even more so than the Prothonotary or Blue-winged. Cinnamon breast streaks embellish the male’s gleaming plumage.

Seet: Cowbird Alert!

One of the Yellow Warbler’s calls, a repeated seet, serves specifically as a Brown-headed Cowbird alert. When a female hears another bird make this call, she rushes back to her nest to prevent the cowbird, a notorious nest parasite, from laying eggs there.

Other birds, including Red-winged Blackbirds, also seem to understand this warning; when they hear it, they also zip back to protect their own eggs. (Hear the seet call and learn more.)

The Yellow Warbler’s song is a sweet-sounding series of whistled notes often characterized as “sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet,” repeated as often as ten times in a minute.

“American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga aestiva)” Audio Player00:0700:38 1. “American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga aestiva)” 0:38

(Audio of Yellow Warbler song by Dominic Garcia-Hall, XC394040. Accessible at http://www.xeno-canto.org/394040.)

So Many Subspecies

Another superlative associated with the Yellow Warbler is the species’ incredible diversity: 37 subspecies are recognized, divided among four groups. Subspecies vary mostly in plumage color and pattern.

The Yellow Warbler nests throughout most of Canada, Alaska, and at least two-thirds of the area covered by the lower 48 U.S. states. Long-distance migrants, few if any of these birds remain north of the Mexican border in winter.

Several resident, or nonmigratory, groups are found in Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. A resident subspecies even inhabits the Galápagos Islands off Ecuador’s Pacific coast. Males in nonmigratory populations have varying amounts of chestnut color on their heads, from just the cap to most of the bird’s head, as is the case with “Mangrove” Yellow Warblers.

For years, some ornithologists split the migratory and resident populations into two species, Setophaga aestiva and S. petechia. All now fall under the latter name.

Male Yellow Warbler feeding female on nest, Ivan Kuzmin, Shutterstock

Male Yellow Warbler feeding female on nest. Photo by Ivan Kuzmin, Shutterstock

Coffee Berry Protector

The Yellow Warbler feeds mainly on insects and spiders, gleaning them from shrubs and tree branches or sallying out from a perch to grab winged insects mid-air. This diminutive hunter sometimes hovers while seeking prey that might be hiding on the undersides of leaves. Like many other migratory songbirds, the Yellow Warbler adds fruit to its diet in winter.

Winter or summer, this warbler provides valuable pest control: One study, conducted on Costa Rican wintering grounds, showed that the Yellow Warbler and other insectivorous birds ate large quantities of invasive coffee berry borer beetles, helping reduce infestations on coffee plantations in that country by 50 percent.

A Clutch Performance

A male Yellow Warbler quickly claims a territory on the breeding grounds, chasing off intruding males. He courts prospective mates through incessant singing. In fact, one Yellow Warbler may sing more than 3,000 times in a day to attract a female! Once paired, the male attends his mate closely as she builds her nest, wary for other males, which often invade established territories and attempt to mate with resident females.

Like many other birds such as the Kirtland’s Warbler and Wood Thrush, the Yellow Warbler is frequently parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds. This problem is especially common in fragmented habitats, which provide easier access for female cowbirds to lay their eggs in host birds’ nests. But the Yellow Warbler fights back. It seems to recognize the foreign eggs, and often builds a new nest, covering over a cowbird-parasitized clutch with new nesting material. If the cowbird returns and re-lays, the warbler covers them again — sometimes resulting in nests with up to six tiers!

Females build and maintain the cup-shaped nests, incubate the eggs, and brood the hatchlings. Meanwhile, male Yellow Warblers aggressively guard nest sites and bring food to females sitting on eggs or young. Both sexes share chick-rearing duties: After the nestlings fledge, some may follow the mother, while the rest remain with the father.

Warblers on the Landscape

Although still numerous, Yellow Warblers are threatened by habitat loss, chiefly destruction of riparian habitats, and the overuse of pesticides. One subspecies, the Barbados Yellow Warbler, has been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1970.

ABC’s work helps to conserve the Yellow Warbler and other migratory birds across their full annual life-cycle through its BirdScapes approach to conservation. Several BirdScapes in the southwestern United States protect riparian areas for the Endangered western subspecies of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo that also shelter the Yellow Warbler and other birds.

Copyright 2021 © American Bird Conservancy. All Rights Reserved. American Bird Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) organization. EIN: 52-1501259

https://c.sharethis.mgr.consensu.org/portal-v2.html

https://abcbirds.org/bird/yellow-warbler/

Learn more about these amazing hummingbirds

Brown-headed Nuthatches Return to Missouri | American Bird Conservancy

Brown-headed Nuthatch

abcbirds.org

Brown-headed Nuthatches are back in Missouri thanks to habitat restoration and translocation efforts. Photo by Frode Jacobson

The release of 46 Brown-headed Nuthatches, translocated from Arkansas to restored pine woodlands in Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest in August and September 2020, marked this species’ return to the state. The brown-capped songbird had been absent since the early 1900s, following widespread habitat loss.

“I really think that a big take-home from all of this, and something we can all be proud of, is how well science, management, and conservation of species came together in this effort,” says Jane Fitzgerald, ABC’s Central Hardwoods Joint Venture (CHJV) Coordinator. “Most of the people who, decades ago, imagined all of this happening are now retired, but a new cadre of folks saw, and see, the vision and are moving the ball forward. In the Interior Highlands, we really are a conservation community, and I hope that continues for decades to come.”

During pre-colonial times, 6.6 million acres of Shortleaf Pine and pine-oak woodland covered Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. After settlement and development, which included widespread logging and fire suppression, these ecosystems were reduced to approximately 600,000 acres. The dramatic reduction in habitat led to the extirpation — or regional disappearance — of some bird species tied these open pinelands, including the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Brown-headed Nuthatch.

The nuthatch release was only possible after successful habitat restoration, which required years of hard work and patience. Although the Mark Twain National Forest had been actively restoring 12,000 acres of pine woodland on the Eleven Point Ranger District by 2006, the work was greatly accelerated when the forest was awarded significant funding through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The CFLRP, administered by the U.S. Forest Service, is intended to encourage collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes on and around national forest lands across the United States.

To help build this collaboration, ABC and the CHJV brought together key partners, including federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations and agencies that formally agreed to work together to restore pine woods in the same large landscape, called the Current River Hills. Ten years of dedicated funding was awarded to the Mark Twain National Forest in 2012, and now roughly 100,000 acres of Shortleaf Pine and pine-oak woodland has been, or is being, restored. It was this habitat restoration work that was vital to establishing the area as a place to bring back Brown-headed Nuthatches.

Shortly after the restoration work in Missouri began picking up, a team of researchers from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the University of Missouri pooled resources to investigate various aspects of the bird’s biology, quantifying the Brown-headed Nuthatch’s preferred habitat conditions in Arkansas; showing how the Missouri restoration efforts benefited other songbirds while confirming the nuthatch’s continued absence; building habitat models; and assessing the habitat structure at the Mark Twain restoration sites.

In addition, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC’s) state ornithologist and a wildlife biologist at U.S.D.A. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station worked with ecologists from Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida who had experience with Brown-headed Nuthatch translocations. With this input, they developed methods needed to safely capture the birds in Arkansas, then safely transport them to Missouri.

Because the nuthatches were released on public land, anyone can see these birds. Mark Twain National Forest visitors can help monitor the nuthatches’ presence and movements by submitting their observations to the eBird database (www.ebird.org).

###

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472 | jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter
Expert Contact: Jane Fitzgerald, Central Hardwoods Joint Venture Coordinator | jfitzgerald@abcbirds.org

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

https://abcbirds.org/article/milestone-brown-headed-nuthatches-return-to-missouri/?sl_tc=hp&utm_content=154626008&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&hss_channel=tw-325731776

Do Robins Migrate? American Robins’ Winter Habits Explained

Joe Lowe January 27, 2020

Springtime singer or snowy sentinel? The American Robin may be one of North America’s most familiar songbirds, yet its wintering patterns raise a common question: Do robins migrate?

The answer is yes and no. We associate robins with spring for good reason: In many places, they arrive with the warm weather. But that doesn’t mean all of these birds escape winter’s bite.

Winter Strategies

Unlike long-distance migrants and many hummingbirds, which head south en masse during the fall, robins react to winter’s onset in two ways.

Many retreat southward. Northern Canada empties of robins, while areas far to the south like Texas and Florida receive large winter flocks. But those making the journey are not lured by warmer temperatures: Robins can withstand extremely cold temperatures, adding warm, downy feathers to their plumage. The real motivation is food, or rather the lack of it. As their warm-weather diet of earthworms and insects wanes, robins begin searching for fresh supplies.

First, they change their diet, transitioning from protein-rich invertebrates to vitamin-rich winter fruits and berries, including junipers, hollies, crabapples, and hawthorns.

They also begin moving. In the spring and summer, robins aggressively defend their territories and raise young. In the winter, they become nomadic, searching widely for their favorite cold-weather fare. Weather also influences robin movements. A heavy snowfall that persists for more than a few days may send them on their way, searching for better conditions.

American Robin. Photo by Jeff Rzepka/Shutterstock

Robins also form flocks in the winter. These flocks, which can number in the hundreds or thousands, stand in contrast to the birds’ territorial pairings in spring and summer. Flocking offers critical benefits: Larger groups mean more eyes and improved chances to spot — and avoid —predators. They also increase the odds of discovering food.

Finally — and this is generally true throughout their range — robins make little noise during winter months. Although some males begin singing toward winter’s end as spring approaches and mating hormones kick in, they typically maintain a subdued presence.

Taken together, these changes dramatically lower robins’ profile in the northern part of their range, making sightings much less common, and leading some people to assume they are absent.

American Robin with berry. Photo by Kenneth Keifer/Shutterstock

American Robin. Photo by Kenneth Keifer/Shutterstock

To Stay or To Go

So how do Robins decide whether to stay or go during the winter?

There is not yet a good answer, but gender may play a role, as males are more likely to remain than females in northern areas. This offers an obvious territorial advantage, allowing males early access to the best breeding grounds.

When spring arrives, northern flocks of robins disperse and resume their invertebrate diet, picking earthworms and other invertebrates from the ground. Around the same time, migrating robins return from the South, with males arriving a few days to two weeks before females. In both cases, males sing vigorously as they begin defending territory. The result? Robins seem to be everywhere once again.

Do robins migrate? The answer is yes and no. Photo by Jeff Rzepka/Shutterstock

American Robin. Photo by Michael Stubblefield

Robin Conservation

Unlike many other birds, the American Robin seems to have benefited from urbanization and agricultural development. Although its populations are increasing, it remains vulnerable to many of the same factors threatening less adaptable species.

Pesticide poisoning remains an important threat, since American Robins forage on lawns and other open spaces that are often sprayed with toxins. Although DDT has been banned in the United States, other toxic chemicals such as neonicotinoids, chlorpyrifos, and glyphosate (used in the familiar weed-killer Roundup) are still in use. Pesticides can also affect populations of earthworms, a major food source for this bird.

Since American Robins often forage and feed on the ground, they are especially vulnerable to predation by outdoor cats. Collisions with windows, communications towers, and car strikes are other common hazards.

Many of ABC’s policy programs help to reduce the impacts of these hazards. Our Cats Indoors and Bird-Smart Glass programs in particular offer solutions for making backyards safer. We also offer tips on improving your backyard habitat to make it more welcoming year-round to the American Robin and other birds.

Copyright 2021 © American Bird Conservancy. All Rights Reserved. American Bird Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) organization. EIN: 52-1501259

https://abcbirds.org/blog20/do-robins-migrate/

Petition: Don’t Annihilate Entire Colony of Cliff Swallows – ForceChange

forcechange.com

Target: Caroline Mulroney, Minister, Ministry of Transportation Ontario

Goal: Protect the colony of Cliff Swallows under the Argyle Bridge before it is demolished.

The Argyle Bridge in Ontario is home to the largest colony of Cliff Swallows in the area. Yet it is slated for demolition and reconstruction, posing a serious threat to the birds. The new bridge design does not allow the swallows to make nests as they cannot build on a metal structure, putting the 65 current nests and their residents in danger. Animal protection regulations are being blatantly ignored since any colony over eight nests must be protected.

The government is paying $2 million to protect the local mussel population in the water, but refuses to make any changes to help the Cliff Swallows. This is especially negligent since simple solutions, such as coating the metal beams, would allow the swallows to safely nest.

Sign this petition to urge the government to responsibly care for a protected migratory species, and safeguard the Cliff Swallows.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Honourable Mulroney,

The destruction of the Argyle Bridge also spells destruction for the Cliff Swallows that find homes under its arches. Simple measures can be taken to make the new bridge a suitable habitat for these animals, yet your government is failing to take adequate measures.

The 65 nests under the bridge make perhaps the largest colony in southern Ontario, and it is negligent to ignore the significance of a nest site of this magnitude.

The project is clearly concerned about its environmental impact, as indicated by the vigilance of the mussels in the water, and I urge you to safeguard all animals who are impacted by this construction.

Protect the vulnerable Cliff Swallows under Argyle Bridge.

Sincerely,

Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar

https://forcechange.com/582036/stop-the-annihilation-of-an-entire-cliff-swallow-colony/

Protecting their habitat

Pattern Energy Makes Significant Contribution to Protect New Mexico’s Imperiled Bird Species

New Mexico landscape

Washington, DC March 3, 2021

Pattern Energy, an independent renewable energy company, entered into an agreement to fund extensive new research by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies to study birds associated with piñon-juniper woodlands in New Mexico.  Pattern Energy’s $80,000 contribution will support scientific monitoring of the potential impacts from management activities on the pinyon jay and other declining birds associated with piñon-juniper woodlands. 

Pattern Energy is developing the Western Spirit Wind Projects, collectively the largest single-phase wind project in the United States, in central New Mexico, where the landscape is typified by a mosaic of piñon-juniper woodlands and savannas.  The contribution comes from financial agreements for four wind energy projects:  Clines Corners Wind Farm LLC, Duran Mesa LLC, Red Cloud Wind LLC, and Tecolote Wind LLC (collectively, the “Western Spirit Wind Projects”).  

“The pinyon jay has suffered an 85% decline in population since the 1960s and is predicted to lose an additional 50% of its population by 2035. This research will be absolutely vital to protecting this vulnerable species and its habitat,” explained Carol Beidleman with Defenders of Wildlife in Santa Fe.  

“Along with the loss of over a million pinyon jays, many other bird species dependent on piñon-juniper woodlands, such as the juniper titmouse, have also declined significantly. The situation is dire, but thanks to strong support from Pattern Energy there will be reliable science to guide land management projects to better protect this vulnerable habitat and the bird species that are dependent on it,” added Beidleman.  

“We have learned from years of conducting extensive avian surveys that state and federal agencies, as well as conservation stakeholders, have expressed a lack of robust data on the current status and vulnerabilities of pinyon jays and we wanted to resolve that,” said Adam Cernea Clark of Pattern Energy. “Given the iconic nature of the pinyon jay and its role as a keystone species in a delicate ecosystem, Pattern Energy wants to build our collective understanding of the species and its habitat in New Mexico.”   

Of the iconic landscapes in New Mexico, the most familiar is probably that of the piñon-juniper woodlands.  Covering a significant portion of the state, this habitat has always been important to humans, as a source of firewood and the nutritious piñon “nuts,” but also for birds and other wildlife. Without the pinyon jay, however, there would be few new piñon pines. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship, with this beautiful blue jay being the primary consumer, and disperser, of the seeds. It “caches” or buries the seeds, allowing for more successful germination.  Many other bird species associated with this habitat are therefore dependent on the pinyon jay, just as we are.  

Through a collaboration with Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon Southwest, and The Nature Conservancy of New Mexico, Cernea Clark saw an opportunity to support a new research project focused on piñon-juniper woodlands and their associated bird species in New Mexico.  “What I learned from the conservation community is that the pinyon jay, with its caches of seeds, is the primary means for the piñon pine to expand its distribution,” said Cernea Clark.  “We know that ecosystems themselves are migrating in elevation and latitude in response to climate change and piñon-juniper woodlands need this bird to adapt to a changing climate. Pattern Energy’s mission is to transition the world to renewable energy, which we need to mitigate the intensity of climate change. There is an eloquent parallel in this bird’s role in the environment and the role of renewable projects like the Western Spirit Wind Projects.”

Some threats to the pinyon jay are known. Climate change and drought, accompanied by insect outbreaks, have killed many piñon trees.  But, less is known about how large landscape management projects, such as thinning for wildfire mitigation and clearing for rangeland improvements, affect this rapidly disappearing bird. 

“The National Audubon Society’s 2019 Survival by Degrees Report predicts a range loss in New Mexico for the pinyon jay of 19% (+2.0° C) to 30% (+3.0° C) due to climate change,” according to Jonathan Hayes, executive director of Audubon Southwest, “But we don’t have enough information on the effects of large-scale management of the bird’s habitat.”  

Fortunately, there are many bird conservation partners in New Mexico collaborating to learn more about the status and needs of the pinyon jay and to better understand the threats facing this species and associated birds.  Peggy Darr, co-chair of the New Mexico Avian Conservation Partners (NMACP), helped initiate this research project with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies to evaluate the response of New Mexico avian Species of Greatest Conservation Need to mechanical thinning treatments in piñon-juniper woodlands.  

It started as a subcommittee of the NMACP, and then partners came on board to help us learn more about how to protect this high-priority species in New Mexico.  In addition to Pattern Energy, Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon Southwest, and The Nature Conservancy of New Mexico, this project partnership includes Santa Fe County, the Bureau of Land Management, State Land Office, Los Alamos National Labs, and U.S. Forest Service.

“Partners in Flight has recently identified the pinyon jay as one of 39 ‘Species on the Brink’ in the U.S. and Canada, and the species most dependent on public lands management,” said Bryan Bird, Defenders of Wildlife Southwest program director. “This new research will be critical to protecting one of New Mexico’s highest priority birds. Pattern Energy is demonstrating that renewable energy and wildlife can co-exist and flourish together.”

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

CONTACT US

1130 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
1-800-385-9712

© 2021 Defenders of Wildlife

https://defenders.org/newsroom/pattern-energy-makes-significant-contribution-protect-new-mexicos-imperiled-bird-species?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=newsroom-PatternEnergy-030521

Types of Finches: All Finch Species in the United States and Canada

abcbirds.org

There are 17 North American finch species. These include crossbills, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, redpolls, and siskins. Birds in the Fringillidae family all have compact bodies, conical bills, and short necks with large jaw muscles. They also have relatively pointed wings, notched tails, and distinctive flight calls.

These small to medium-sized birds seem unassuming at first. However, when looked at more closely, their true beauty emerges. From the striking plumages of the three goldfinch species to the unusual and spectacular bills of crossbills and grosbeaks, finches really do have it all.

While these social birds are relatively conspicuous, they should not be taken for granted: More than half of North America’s finch species are in decline. New Hampshire, for example, is at risk of losing its state bird, the Purple Finch, as rising temperatures are expected to lead to a loss of 99 percent of this bird’s summer range in the state. Brown-capped and Black Rosy-Finches are also in danger and are on Partners in Flight’s (PIF’s) Red Watch List, and only an estimated 6,000 Cassia Crossbills remain.

Hazards like window collisions, outdoor cats, and pesticide use pose a threat to finches. Habitat loss from deforestation and other forms of land conversion are also major threats. But the effects of climate change seem to have taken the largest toll on finch populations.

To help these birds and many others, American Bird Conservancy and other organizations are taking a multipronged approach by promoting bringing cats indoors, working to decrease glass collisions, and educating the public about sustainable habitat managementand protecting birds from pesticides.

Our List

For the purposes of this U.S.-based list, we’ve used PIF population and conservation data exclusive to the United States and Canada. In many cases, these population estimates do not reflect global numbers. Cassia Crossbill information comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Our list is organized taxonomically and includes all regularly occurring finch species in  the continental United States and Canada.

Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeak

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 3.4 Million
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat: Northern and montane forests
Threats: Deforestation, disease, loss of food sources due to pesticides 
Conservation Status: PIF Yellow Watch List
Note: The Evening Grosbeak does not have a complex song, but rather draws from a repertoire of simple calls, including sweet, piercing notes and burry chirps.

Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeak

U.S./Canada Population Estimate:  4.4 million
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat:
Open boreal forest
Threats: Possibly climate change
Note: 
The Pine Grosbeak can be so tame and slow-moving that locals in Newfoundland affectionately call them “mopes.” Pine Grosbeaks declined by 2.4 percent per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 70 percent.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 200,000
Population Trend: Unknown
Habitat: Alpine tundra
Threats: Climate change
Note: 
The Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch has little fear of humans and will allow people to closely approach.

Black Rosy-Finch
Black Rosy-Finch

U.S. Population Estimate: 20,000
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat: Alpine tundra
Threats: Climate change 
Conservation Status: PIF Red Watch List
Note: The Black Rosy-Finch nests in crevices along cliffs in alpine areas that are rarely visited by people.

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

U.S. Population Estimate: 45,000
Population Trend: Decreasing
Habitat: Alpine tundra
Threats: Climate change
Conservation Status:
PIF Red Watch List
Note:
This is the most sedentary rosy-finch.Unlike the Black Rosy-Finch, this species is known to sometimes nest in abandoned buildings.

House Finch
House Finch

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 31 million
Population Trend:
Increasing
Habitat:
Generalist
Threats: 
House Finch conjunctivitis (mycoplasmal conjunctivitis)
Note: 
House Finches are native to the western United States and Mexico but were introduced in the eastern United States when illegal cagebirds were released in New York in 1939. This one of the most well-studied bird species.

Purple Finch
Purple Finch

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 5.9 million
Population Trend:
Decreasing
Habitat: 
Mixed northern, montane, and boreal forests
Threats: 
Competition with the House Finch over food and breeding grounds, possibly climate change
Note: 
Purple finches sometimes imitate other birds in their songs, including Barn Swallows, American Goldfinches, Eastern Towhees, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. Populations decreased by almost 1.5 percent per year between 1966 and 2014.

Cassin’s Finch
Cassin's Finch

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 3 million
Population Trend:
Decreasing
Habitat: 
Western forests
Threats:
Additional studies are needed to determine the factors causing declines in populations.
Conservation Status:
PIF Yellow Watch List
Note:
Both sexes tend to show more of a peaked head and longer, straighter bill than the House and Purple Finch. Cassin’s Finch populations have declined 69 percent since 1970.

Common Redpoll
Common Redpoll

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 38 million
Population Trend: Unknown
Habitat: Sub-Arctic forests and tundra 
Threats: Vehicle collisions, salmonella infections from bird feeders, possibly climate change
Note: During winter, Common Redpolls are known to tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. To keep redpolls and other birds safe at feeders, it is recommended that you clean your feeders with a diluted bleach solution several times a week, and make sure feeders are dry before filling them with seed. This helps prevent salmonella and other infections.

Hoary Redpoll
Hoary Redpoll

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 10 million
Population Trend:
Unknown
Habitat: 
Arctic tundra
Threats: 
Possibly climate change
Note: 
Many Hoary Redpolls overwinter in areas that are entirely dark, or nearly so, during the winter.

Red Crossbill
Red Crossbill

U.S./Canada Population Estimate:  7.8 million
Population Trend:
Decreasing
Habitat: 
Coniferous forests
Threats: 
Deforestation, vehicle collisions, possible chemical poisoning
Note: 
The crossbill’s odd bill shape helps it get into tightly closed cones. The crossed tips of the bill push up scales, exposing the seeds inside.

Cassia Crossbill
Cassia Crossbill

U.S. Population Estimate: 6,000
Population Trend:
Decreasing
Habitat: 
Lodgepole Pine forests, other coniferous forests
Threats:
Forestfires, infestations of Mountain Pine Bark Beetle, possibly climate change
Note: 
Prior to 2017, the Cassia Crossbill was considered one of ten types of the Red Crossbill. However, researchers discovered that it doesn’t breed with other crossbills, has a thicker bill, and isn’t nomadic. Its name comes from Cassia County, Idaho.

White-winged Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 35 million
Population Trend: 
Increasing
Habitat: 
Boreal forest
Threats:
 Habitat loss and fragmentation, possible chemical poisoning
Note: 
White-winged Crossbills with lower mandibles crossing to the right are approximately three times more common than those with lower mandibles crossing to the left.

Pine Siskin
Pine Siskin

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 35 million
Population Trend:
Decreasing
Habitat:
Northern and montane forests
Threats: 
Domestic cats and other predators, salmonella infections from feeders, pesticide poisoning
Conservation Status:
Common Bird in Steep Decline
Note: 
Pine Siskins can speed up their metabolic rate roughly 40 percent higher than a “normal” songbird their size to stay warm. Pine Siskin populations have declined by 80 percent since 1970.

Lesser Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch

U.S. Population Estimate: 4.7 million
Population Trend:
Increasing
Habitat:
Brushy areas, forest edges, gardens
Threats: 
Loss of riparian habitat
Note:
The Lesser Goldfinch is most common in California and Texas, with pockets of local populations throughout the rest of its U.S. range. It also occurs widely from Mexico to northern South America. This species’ range is increasing with urbanization.

Lawrence’s Goldfinch
Lawrence's Goldfinch

U.S. Population Estimate: 240,000
Population Trend:
Decreasing
Habitat: 
Chaparral, dry areas near water
Threats: 
Habitat loss, introduction of invasive species
Note: 
The Lawrence’s Goldfinch is nomadic, present in large numbers in a locality one year and absent the next.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

U.S./Canada Population Estimate: 43 million
Population Trend:
Increasing
Habitat: 
Open habitats, fields, forest edges, open woodlands
Threats: 
Cat predation, glass collisions
Note:
 Goldfinches have an almost entirely plant-based diet, only swallowing the occasional insect.

How Can I Help?

We all can do our part to protect North America’s finches.

American Bird Conservancy and our Joint Venture partners have improved conservation management on 6.4 million acres of U.S. bird habitat — an area larger than the state of Maryland — over the last ten years. This is a monumental undertaking, requiring the support of many, and you can help by making a gift today.

Policies enacted by Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have a huge impact on America’s birds. You can help shape these rules for the better by telling lawmakers to prioritize birds, bird habitat, and bird-friendly measures. To get started, visit ABC’s Action Center.

https://abcbirds.org/blog21/finch-species-united-states/

How Long Do Birds Live?

Bird Calls Black-and-White Warbler, Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock

BirdCalls

News and Perspectives on Bird Conservation

John C. Mittermeier January 29, 2021

How long do birds live? Whether you want to ace this question at your next bird-themed trivia challenge or just impress someone spontaneously, here’s the answer: Birds can live between four and 100 years, depending on the species.

While it may win you trivia points, this answer may raise more questions than it resolves: Why is there such a range of lifespans? Which birds live the longest? Can some birds really live to be 100?

Answering these questions proves to be surprisingly hard. In many cases, the seemingly simple question of how old is that bird can be impossible to answer.

By learning a few basic facts about how birds age, however, we can gain some interesting insights into bird lifespans and even begin to understand which of the familiar species around us are likely to be living longer (and shorter) lives.

Wisdom, a 69-year-old female Laysan Albatross, currently holds the record as the oldest-known wild bird. Photo by USFWS

Birds don’t age like we do

As humans, we’re accustomed to using visual hints to guess the age of someone or something. The neighbor’s dog with flecks of gray fur and a stiff walk is obviously getting up in years. That huge gnarled tree in the park must have been there for decades.

Birds are different. They don’t get gray; they don’t become arthritic; they don’t get bigger with each passing year; they don’t leave growth rings for us to count.

In fact, once most birds develop their adult plumage, they essentially become impossible to age.

How birds are able to accomplish this remarkable feat is not yet fully understood, but it probably has to do with how their bodies process oxygen and the proteins associated with metabolism.

The reality that birds don’t show physical signs of aging creates a challenge for understanding how long they live: If we can’t age adult birds, how can we study their lifespans?

Cookie, a Pink Cockatoo, lived to the age of 83, making her the world’s longest-living bird. Photo by Brookfield Zoo/Flickr

What we know (and don’t know) about the oldest birds in the world

If you Google “longest-lived bird,” you will find multiple claims of birds that lived for over 100 years. Some birds may have even lived to be 120!

Take these claims with a grain of salt.

These records depend on knowing when a bird hatched, a fact we usually do not have if the bird was born in the wild. Also, as with fishing stories, bird fanciers sometimes exaggerate how long their birds live.

According to Guinness World Records, the oldest confirmed bird is “Cookie,” a Pink, or Major Mitchell’s, Cockatoo that lived to the age of 83 at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago.

Some birds have almost certainly lived to be older than 83 (hence the upper range of the trivia answer), but for now, we do not yet have definitive confirmation of an avian centenarian.

It is usually difficult to age wild birds

As the claims for the title of “world’s oldest bird” demonstrate, accurately aging birds, even in captivity, is challenging. For wild birds, it is even harder. There’s the obvious problem that wild birds are difficult to keep track of. In almost all cases, it is impossible to know when exactly an individual bird began or ended its life. Furthermore, animals in the wild lead very different lives from those in captivity and the insights gained from captive individuals may not always be relevant to those in the wild. 

Our knowledge of birds’ lifespans in the wild comes almost entirely from bird banding. The theory behind this technique is simple: If you catch a bird that has already been banded, you can confirm its age — or at least the time elapsed since it was originally caught.

In practice, though, aging birds from banding is more complicated than it seems. Only a small percentage of banded birds are ever observed again, and if they were adults when they were first banded, their starting age is unknown.

How long do birds live for? The answer is: It depends. Red-tailed Hawks can live up to 30 years.

Red-tailed Hawks have been recorded living up to 30 years. Photo by Stanislav Duben/Shutterstock

Relatively speaking, birds live a long time

While there is still a lot to learn about how long birds live in the wild, one thing is clear: Many birds live much longer than we might expect.

Life expectancy in the animal world generally correlates with metabolic rate. In mammals, this is often linked to body size: Big mammals with slower metabolisms generally live longer lives; small ones with faster metabolisms live shorter lives. Humans, for example, live longer than dogs and cats, which live longer than mice and hamsters. (As is often the case with these generalized patterns, there are exceptions.)

Many birds are small and have extremely high metabolic rates. So, we would expect birds to be relatively short-lived. But they aren’t.

On the contrary, many birds live an extraordinarily long time, particularly when compared to similar-sized mammals. For example, under ideal conditions in captivity, a House Mouse can live four years. Meanwhile, a Broad-billed Hummingbird (a quarter the size of the mouse) can live up to 14 years in the wild.

There is no single answer to the question 'How long do birds live for?' Different owl species live for varying lengths of time.

Barn Swallows have been recorded living 16 years, enough time for these prodigious travelers to have traveled roughly half the distance to the moon during their annual migrations. European Goldfinches can live up to 27 years. Common Ravens are known to have lived 69 years, more than twice as long as the oldest-known dog.

As with their lack of physical aging, we are also still learning how birds are able to live so long with their super-fast metabolisms. The answers may offer clues to understanding aging in our own species.

One important point to keep in mind: Just because birds can live a long time doesn’t necessarily mean that all individuals of the species do live that long. Similar to us humans (who have been recorded living to 122), most individuals will have shorter lives than those at the extreme.

The question of how long do birds live is complicated. Wild Turkeys can live up to 15 years.

The oldest recorded Wild Turkey lived for 15 years. Photo by Paul Tessier/Shutterstock

Clues for identifying the longer (and shorter) lived birds around you

For those of us watching birds at our feeders or birding in the field, it will almost always be impossible to accurately age individual wild birds once they are adults. But we can begin to understand which of the bird species around us are likely to be longer (and shorter) lived.

Longer lifespan is often associated with features of a bird’s biology and natural history. Here are five characteristics that can help us make an educated guess about which species are likely to be longer-lived:

  1. Body size. On average, larger species tend to live longer than smaller species.
  • Number of chicks. Birds with longer lifespans often have fewer young, while those with shorter lifespans tend to have more.
  • Years to reach adulthood. Shorter-lived species tend to reach adulthood more quickly than longer-lived species.
  • Life on the ground. Birds that live and nest on the ground have often adapted for shorter lifespans than those that live higher up, such as in the shelter of the tree canopy.
  • Island life. Birds that live and nest on islands are often longer-lived than their mainland counterparts.

Keeping these insights in mind, which do you think lives longer: A Wild Turkey or a Red-tailed Hawk?

To get started, here are a few basic facts: Turkeys are larger than Red-tails (up to 24 lbs. versus vs. 2.8 lbs.), have substantially more chicks (up to 17 eggs versus up to five eggs), reach adulthood more quickly (one year versus three years), and live on the ground.

If you chose the Red-tailed Hawk, you’re right. Red-tails have been recorded living up to 30 years, while the oldest recorded Wild Turkey was 15 years old.

In addition to these biological and ecological features, there is another factor that often predicts how long a bird species is known to live: How much people have studied it. In general, birds that have been better studied are more likely to have records of long-lived individuals. Given how difficult it is to age birds, this makes sense. It also shows how much there still is to learn about how long many bird species can live.

Longevity records for some familiar North American birds in the wild (based on banding data from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory). To see more records, take a look at our expanded wild bird longevity graph.SpeciesAgeMallard27 yearsElf Owl5 yearsAmerican Flamingo49 yearsLaysan Albatross68 yearsGreat Blue Heron24 yearsBald Eagle38 yearsSandhill Crane37 yearsAtlantic Puffin33 yearsGreat Horned Owl28 years

See if you can use what you know about the size and natural history of some of these familiar birds to notice patterns in their lifespans. Remember, not all of these characteristics are hard-and-fast rules, and sometimes patterns are influenced by how much we have studied a species. For more, check out the avian longevity records by species from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory.

Smaller owls like the Elf Owl can live up to five years; larger species, like the Great Horned Owl, can live to be nearly 30. Photos (left to right) by Terry Sohl and Brent Barnes/Shutterstock

Longevity and Conservation

Longer-lived birds often have fewer young each breeding season and take longer to reach adulthood. This means that their ability to successfully produce young can be dependent on each individual being able to live a long time. Wisdom, a 69-year-old female Laysan Albatross that currently holds the record as the oldest-known wild bird, may have produced as many as 36 chicks over the course of her life. If this seems like a lot, consider that a very productive female turkey might produce nearly that many chicks over the course of one or two years!

The slow-paced lifestyle of long-lived birds such as albatrosses can have important consequences for conservation. On islands, for example, where birds have long lifespans, the introduction of new threats such as invasive predators can have disastrous results.

ABC’s work to protect long-lived island-nesting birds such as the Hawaiian Petrel is one way we’re helping long-lived bird species continue to make the most of their slow and steady lifestyles.

ABC works to improve prospects for birds throughout the Americas and beyond. This means taking on human-caused challenges to birds including habitat loss, building collisions, pesticides, and climate change. Your support helps us achieve conservation for birds and their habitats.

Dr. Steve Austad generously offered advice for this blog. His book Methuselah’s Zoo, which focuses on aging in the animal world, comes out in 2021. John C. Mittermeier is the Director of Threatened Species Outreach at ABC. He works with ABC’s partners in Bolivia and helps to lead ABC’s lost birds and bird trade initiatives.

Copyright 2021 © American Bird Conservancy. All Rights Reserved. American Bird Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) organization. EIN: 52-1501259

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Protect Songbirds from Salmonella Poisoning

Click to download and share this infographic!

An outbreak of avian salmonellosis is killing songbirds in the Bay Area.

Please take down your birdfeeders IMMEDIATELY if you see sick or dead birds in your yard!

Update February 18, 2021:
WildCare continues to admit multiple songbirds ill with salmonellosis every day. Although the numbers have decreased slightly, the outbreak is NOT over.

This disease is spread from bird to bird primarily at bird feeders and bird baths.

Just since the new year began, WildCare has admitted over 40 Pine Siskins with the symptoms of salmonellosis. Sadly, the vast majority of these beautiful little songbirds have died.

WildCare’s Hotline 415-456-7283 has received multiple calls about ill and dead songbirds in people’s yards from throughout the Bay Area, indicating there is a widespread outbreak of bacterial disease.

The disease salmonellosis is a common causes of disease and death in wild birds.

Bird feeders bring large numbers of birds into close contact with each other, which means diseases can spread quickly through multiple populations. The bacteria are primarily transmitted through contact with fecal matter, so birds at a crowded feeder are much more likely to be exposed than birds in a wild setting.

Sick birds may be lethargic, puffed up and thin and may have swollen eyelids. A sick bird may also be seen resting with beak tucked under wing, and may be the last bird to take flight if the flock is startled. You can tell these sick birds don’t feel very good!Donate today to help WildCare care for the flood of sick songbirds we’re admitting due to the outbreak!

Guidelines:

A healthy Pine Siskin shows his sleek plumage. Photo by Tom Grey

If you have dead or sick birds in your yard:

  • Immediately REMOVE bird feeders and birdbaths.
  • Disinfect with 9:1 bleach solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach.)
  • Scrub well to remove all debris and allow to soak 10 – 20 minutes.
  • Rinse very well and allow to dry in the sun.
  • Do not rehang feeders or bird baths for at least three weeks after the last sick or dead bird is seen in your yard.
  • Resterilize and allow to dry before rehanging.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling feeders or baths.

If you have not yet seen sick or dead birds:

Please use the following guidelines as preventative measures to protect your local birds from a outbreaks of Salmonella and other avian diseases. These measures should also be practiced as regularly scheduled maintenance to ensure healthy birds:

  • Bird feeders should be disinfected every other day, or at least once a week, while the outbreak is active.
  • Bird baths should be emptied and cleaned daily, regardless of disease outbreaks.
  • For feeders: Do not use wooden feeders (they easily harbor bacteria and other pathogens). Immerse feeders in a 10% bleach solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach.) Soak 10 minutes, scrub, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry fully, ideally in the sun, before refilling (a dry feeder will deter mold growth on seeds).
  • For baths: You can make a 9:1 bleach solution in a jug to bring outside. Scrub with a hard brush, cover with board while soaking to prevent birds bathing in bleach, rinse very thoroughly, allow to dry before refilling.
  • For hummingbird feeders: NO BLEACH! Change food often. Clean and fill with only enough to last 1-2 days (sooner if gets cloudy/moldy). Use vinegar and water in a 9:1 solution (9 parts water to 1 part vinegar) and special bottle brushes to get into small holes. Rinse thoroughly!
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling feeders or baths.

Additional Tips

  • Always wear gloves (latex or dishwashing) to keep bleach off your skin and a facemask to keep from accidentally ingesting feces, bleach, etc.
  • Always keep a large tray under feeder to collect hulls/seed that fall. Empty discards every evening. This will prevent mold & disease spreading to ground-feeding birds and will also prevent rodent infestations.
  • Keep cats indoors if you have birdfeeders.
  • Another suggestion to prevent wildlife problems (from rats, raccoons, skunks, etc.) is to bring feeders inside at night.
  • Bird feeders should be disinfected every two weeks regardless of disease outbreaks.
  • Bird baths should be emptied and cleaned daily regardless of disease outbreaks.

Click here to download and print this information (will open as a PDF.)

Frequently Asked Questions

How likely is it that kids or adults could get Salmonella from handling the bird feeder or feed?

Salmonella is primarily transmitted through contact with fecal matter, so, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), avoiding hand-to-mouth contact during, and washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with birds or their fecal matter will minimize or eliminate any risk.

The following recommendations from the CDC pertain to avoiding contracting Salmonella from domestic or exotic pets, but the general rules apply to wild bird feeders too.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching animals, their food (e.g., dry dog or cat food, frozen feeder rodents, etc.) or anything in the area where they live and roam.
  • Running water and soap are best. Use hand sanitizers if running water and soap are not available. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water as soon as a sink is available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years of age, older individuals, or people with weakened immune systems handle or touch high-risk animals (e.g., turtles, water frogs, chicks, ducklings), or anything in the area where they live and roam, including water from containers or aquariums.

How can I avoid transmitting Salmonella from the birdfeeder in my yard into my home?

The CDC recommends always cleaning items that have been in contact with animals outside. If it is necessary to clean a feeder indoors, the sink or tub used for cleaning should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with a bleach solution afterward.

Common sense precautions to avoid tracking bird feces into the house should be taken including checking shoes for fecal matter.

Are the domesticated birds in my home at risk?

Check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet birds. Salmonella bacteria are transferred between birds from contact with fecal matter, so making sure domestic birds do not come into contact with the droppings, seeds or hulls from your wild bird feeders is the first step to ensuring their safety.

Can my cat get salmonellosis from an infected bird?

Check with your veterinarian if you are worried about your cat. Studies have shown that it is possible for predator animals to get salmonellosis from eating their prey, and cats can contract the disease. Cats under stress or with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to the infection.

WildCare strongly recommends keeping your cat indoors to prevent him or her from coming in contact with sick birds or other hazards, but also to protect the songbirds that are drawn to your yard by your feeder.

Is my dog likely to get salmonellosis from playing in the yard?

Check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog or other pets. Salmonella is transferred from contact with fecal matter, so making sure domestic pets do not come into contact with the droppings, seeds or hulls from your wild bird feeders is the first step to ensuring their safety.

How often should I rake the hulls and fallen seed under my bird feeders?

According to Melanie Piazza, WildCare’s Director of Animal Care, for optimal bird health, and especially in an outbreak situation like this one, hulls should be removed every night.

The problem with feeder seed and hulls is that the birds sit above and knock seed down to the ground, but also drop their droppings down. As Salmonella and other bacteria are transmitted through feces, this means a concentration of potentially infected feces beneath the feeders which can be dangerous to ground-feeding birds, even when there isn’t an epidemic.

In fact, Melanie says that raking the hulls isn’t necessarily sufficient. The best choice is to put a pan or, even better, a sheet held down by rocks under the feeders and remove it and dispose of the hulls every night. This will also prevent rat and mouse infestations which is a bonus.

I’ve heard wood is better for cutting boards in the kitchen. Why do you recommend against wooden bird feeders?

This is a somewhat controversial issue in the kitchen— there are studies both proving and disproving the bacteria-killing properties of wooden cutting boards, and many chefs do prefer wooden cutting boards.

Whatever the best choice is for the kitchen, WildCare still recommends against wooden bird feeders for the following reasons:

  • Wooden bird feeders sit outside 24 hours a day and get cracked, soft and moldy which, Salmonella aside, can be detrimental to songbirds.
  • The wood used for bird feeders is usually not the same hardwood used for cutting boards and softer woods are more likely to mold and rot, trapping bacteria.
  • People are often less likely to want to bleach their wooden feeders because frequent soaking in bleach (especially of feeders made of pine and softer woods) will ruin them.
  • A plastic feeder will last longer through the recommended bleach soakings and can be rinsed and dried more thoroughly.

The main point, however, is no matter what kind of feeder you have, be sure to keep it clean!

Connect With Us:
Found an ill, injured or orphaned animal?

Call: 415-456-7283

Wildlife Emergencies (after 5pm pst)

Call our Wildlife Emergency Nightline at 415-300-6359

© 2021 WildCare, All Rights Reserved.

Location

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https://discoverwildcare.org/salmonella/

You can help keep them safe 🐦

Staying warm in the cold

What Do Owls Eat? 7 Facts About These Skilled Hunters

Erica J. Sánchez Vázquez October 29, 2020

Owls are quintessential creatures of the night (with a few exceptions mentioned below). Beautiful and formidable predators, they inspire admiration, fear, and a sense of mystery.

There are more than 200 species of owls around the world. They are divided into two families, Tytonidae (Barn Owls) and Strigidae, which includes all other owl species. Owls in both families have evolved outstanding hunting skills that allow them to catch their prey with quiet precision.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl by Alessandro Cancian/Shutterstock

With their superb hunting abilities, owls are truly fascinating. Here are some interesting facts about them that you might not know:

Exclusively Carnivorous

Owls eat other animals, from small insects such as moths or beetles, to large birds, even as large as an Osprey. A few species of owls mostly eat fish, such as Ketupa (fish-owl) and Scotopelia (fishing-owl) species, found in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, respectively. Owls spend much of their active time hunting for food. The Snowy Owl, for example, may have to try quite a few times, but can catch three to five lemmings a day.

Owls Cannot Chew

Like other birds, owls do not have teeth to chew their food. They use their sharp, hooked bills to tear the flesh of prey into pieces, often crushing their skulls and other bones. They can also swallow small prey whole, usually head-first. Any body parts that owls are not able to digest, such as bones and fur, are regurgitated hours later in the form of a pellet.

Barred Owl regurgitating pellet

A Barred Owl regurgitates a pellet. Original video by Justin Hoffman

Not All Owls Are Nocturnal Feeders

Although we typically associate them with the night, some owls are diurnal, or active during the day. Species in northern latitudes, such as Snowy Owls, must be able to hunt throughout the continuously bright days of summer. In western mountain forests, Northern Pygmy-Owls hunt small birds during the day, and although they mostly hunt at night, Burrowing Owls are often seen outside their burrows in daylight. Some others are crepuscular, active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk.

Guided by Sound

Mostly nocturnal, owls rely on outstanding hearing abilities to find their prey in the darkness. Barn Owls, for example, are able to locate small animals hiding in vegetation by using their auditory sense alone. The Great Gray Owl (in the video below) can find prey under almost a foot of snow. Owls’ flat faces work like dish antennas — the feathers around the face direct soundwaves to their ears, which are hidden on the sides. Many owl species also have a slight asymmetry in ear position, which helps them determine target distance.https://www.youtube.com/embed/w4OH6gMN6vY?autoplay=1&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fabcbirds.org

Bountiful Years Bring Lots of Chicks

The amount of food available affects owls’ reproduction. While Barn Owls typically lay four to seven eggs, they have been known to lay as many as 12 during years with high rodent populations. In years of food scarcity, however, some owls might refrain from breeding altogether.

Stealthy Hunters

The flight of owls is nearly silent, which allows them to approach and then pounce on unsuspecting targets. Because the wings’ surface area is larger than most birds in proportion to body mass, they can glide more slowly without stalling and dropping to the ground. Their feathers also play a role – their shape and soft texture help muffle the sound of the owl’s flight.

Owls’ Water Needs

Owls can drink, but they mostly get their water needs met by the animals they eat. During metabolism, the hydrogen contained in the animals’ fat gets oxidized, yielding around one gram of water for every gram of fat. During northern winters, owls sometimes may be seen eating snow.

Protecting Owls

While owls’ extraordinary hunting skills and nocturnal habits are the stuff of legend, the dangers they face are often overlooked. Threats like habitat losspesticides, and vehicle collisions have already sent a third of all owl species in the United States into decline.

The Northern Spotted Owl (a subspecies of the Spotted Owl) has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1990, and six additional owl species have been placed on Partners in Flight‘s Yellow Watch List, indicating the need for conservation action.

American Bird Conservancy and other organizations are taking a multipronged approach to helping owls by improving key habitat, banning dangerous pesticides, and pushing for improved protections.


Erica J. Sánchez Vázquez is ABC’s Digital Content Manager


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Take Action, Sign a Petition | The Rainforest Site, a GreaterGood project

Reverse the Damage the Trump Administration has done to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Sponsor: The Animal Rescue Site

Reverse the Damage the Trump Administration has done to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act


Executive Branch decisions have all but neutralized the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the last few years, despite a court ruling that its position is against the law and will increase preventable bird deaths. A final blow to the MBTA was dealt by a rule that allows companies and individuals to kill migratory birds as long as “they didn’t mean to1.”

Any industrial activities, including oil waste pits, oil spills, power lines, tailings ponds, and others, will now be exempt from the law1.

This rule comes at a time when scientists have raised alarm over the loss of 3 billion North American birds during the past 50 years. It would end enforcement against incidental take of birds–the predictable and preventable killing of birds by industrial practices–even though last summer a federal judge struck down the Interior Department legal opinion that the new rule seeks to codify2.

The MBTA covers more than 1,000 species, some which are already dwindling to the point of becoming endangered. This measure could lead to billions of bird deaths as they crash into power lines and buildings, or get trapped in oil pits3.

National Audubon Society President David Yarnold said the potential fallout from this decision is largely being ignored at an already trying time in U.S. history.

Birds are being harmed as nesting grounds are destroyed to make way for new developments. In Virginia, 25,000 shorebirds were displaced to make way for a road and tunnel project. State officials had ended conservation measures for the birds after federal officials advised such measures were voluntary under the new interpretation of the law3.

The National Audubon Society and chapters across the country helped pass this bird protection law in 1918. Since then, innumerable species have been saved from extinction. But climate change and habitat destruction have made it even harder to conserve North American bird species. Since 1970 more than 3 billion birds have disappeared, while two-thirds of our bird species are at risk of going extinct4.

Without the MBTA, we could lose many more birds, and if the Trump Administrations’ changes to the MBTA are withheld, we surely will.

Sign the petition below and tell the Administrator of the EPA to restore the MBTA in full, reinstating penalties for companies and individuals who violate this important law.

The Petition:

Dear, Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

Three billion North American birds have vanished since 1970 and many more will soon disappear forever if the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is not restored.

The Audubon Society and many others were responsible for writing the MBTA back in 1918. It’s helped bring many birds back from the brink of extinction. Rule changes administered by the Trump Administration have rendered it ineffective, however.To Top

https://therainforestsite.greatergood.com/clickToGive/trs/petition/restore-the-mbta?utm_source=trs-ta-enviro&utm_medium=email&utm_term=01182021&utm_content=takeaction-A0&utm_campaign=petition-restore-the-mbta&oidp=0x4a568a63ec7cab2cc0a82937

Support Virginia’s Groundbreaking Steps to Protect Migratory Birds!

abcbirds.org

I am writing to express my support for the proposed regulation on incidental take of migratory birds, 4VAC15-30-70. Thank you for leading the Commonwealth toward a commonsense plan to protect migratory birds.

This much-needed regulation will be a win-win for everyone. In addition to the many benefits of bird conservation, this will provide regulatory clarity for industry.

I have been dismayed at the last three years of regulatory rollbacks at the federal level. This has left our already-diminished birds at even greater risk. I am encouraged to see the Commonwealth step in to fill this regulatory void.

I offer one very important suggestion: That the overarching goal be clarified to achieve no net loss of migratory birds for regulated activities. Please require industry to provide compensation for its impact to birds, no matter the permit level. By requiring compensation for all permits, we can offset the continued loss of our declining bird populations.

Again, thank you for taking this important step to protect the birds of Virginia and beyond.

https://abcbirds.org/action/virginia-incidental-take-regulation/

The Golden Eagle

National Eagles Day

Bird of the week

The Snow Owl

A Declining Population

FY 2021 Federal Bird Conservation Funding Petition | American Bird Conservancy

Ask Congress to Boost Conservation Funding in 2021

Cape May Warbler by Paul Sparks/Shutterstock

The annual spending bill is now before Congress, and millions of dollars for birds are at stake. We need to raise our voices and make sure that conservation programs get the funding they need.

The loss of bird populations in North America continues to be alarming. Habitat loss, collisions with glass, and climate change all pose serious threats to birds, and adequately-funded federal conservation programs are critically needed to address these issues.

The House has already approved another $15 million increase for birds, but these funds could easily be re-allocated if Congress doesn’t hear from us again.

Speak up to ensure that federal conservation programs have the resources needed to protect birds.

Your message will be sent to:

Your U.S. Senators & U.S. Representative First Name* Last Name* Email Address* Address, line 1* City* State* Zip Code*

NOTE: Congressional offices may require additional information. If prompted, please complete additional form fields and click “Continue” again to submit the form. Thank you. Subject: Protect Birds: Oppose Harmful Riders and Support Bird Conservation Funding Message: With the loss of nearly three billion birds in the United States and Canada since 1970 , we need to do more to conserve bird species and their habitats. I am particularly concerned about the decline of one-third of all U.S. migratory bird species, the increasing threats to Greater Sage-Grouse, and the fate of critically endangered birds in Hawai’i — known as the “bird extinction capital of the world.”

In addition to opposing harmful policy changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other critical environmental laws, I ask that you please prioritize funding for the following areas critical to conserving America’s birds during the FY 2021 appropriations process:

* Increase the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act to $6.5 million.

* Increase Migratory Bird Joint Ventures to $19.9 million.

* Increase State of the Birds funding for critically endangered Hawaiian birds to $5 million.

* Increase North American Wetlands Conservation Act funding to $50 million.

* Increase State and Tribal Wildlife Grants to $70 million.

* Increase funding for invasive species control by $10 million.

* Support endangered species recovery and Greater Sage-Grouse conservation by opposing the one-year ESA listing moratorium. The sage grouse rider erodes the ESA and undermines efforts to conserve the grouse and reverse severe population declines.

Increased funding for these programs and initiatives will can help chart a better future for our native birds and their habitats, helping reverse this widespread population loss. Thank you for considering these requests. show more Remaining: 250 Continue >>  Yes, I’d like to receive updates on ABC’s bird conservation efforts!

 Photo: Cape May Warbler by Paul Sparks/Shutterstock 781 Shares

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Researchers Still Don’t Know Why So Many Birds Died This Fall

www.sierraclub.org

It was midnight in Velarde, New Mexico, and graduate student Jenna McCullough was in search of dead birds.

She had driven two hours to a site where on the previous day, September 13, journalist Austin Fisher had stumbled upon a mass of deceased birds and posted a video of the grisly scene on Twitter.

When she saw the video, McCullough—who is studying avian genetics and evolution at New Mexico University—thought, “Oh my god, this is such a massive die-off here, just in one little spot.” She had to go investigate herself.

Now in the darkness picking up carcasses, McCullough felt the lightness of the birds. Of course, birds are light—an adaptation that enables flight—but these ones were particularly boney. And there were hundreds of them.

“It was really incredible. I work with dead birds. I see them all the time. But I had never seen just piles and piles of dead birds in one spot,” McCullough said.

Unfortunately, McCullough was not alone in witnessing such a scene this fall. Across New Mexico, similar swaths of dead birds were discovered as part of an unusual mass mortality event that has baffled researchers. Were the mortalities caused by the drought conditions in the Southwest? A recent cold snap? The smoke from wildfires raging in California? Or some other unknown peril?

Each autumn, billions of birds soar south from Canada and Alaska, passing over the southwestern US on their way to overwinter in Central and South America. While migration is always a risky journey, for thousands of birds this year, it was far deadlier than usual.

Birds literally fell from the sky. Others exhibited strange behavior, with species that normally swoop among trees and bushes seen huddling together on the ground, moving slowly as they searched for insects. There were bright-yellow warblers, shimmering swallows, brown sparrows, and other migratory species. Many were insectivores, or insect-eating birds.

The first recorded incident occurred on August 20, when hundreds of birds were found dead at the White Sands Missile Range military facility in New Mexico. Incidents all over the state followed in mid-September and into October. Whether all these events are related or separate remains unclear.

I work with dead birds. I see them all the time. But I had never seen just piles and piles of dead birds in one spot.

Researchers have sent carcasses to US Fish and Wildlife laboratories in Oregon and Wisconsin for testing, though results will likely take months. They also put out a PSA for the public to log found dead birds on the iNaturalst app, of which there are currently 980 observations across the western US and into Mexico.

That night in Velarde, McCullough and another graduate student identified 305 dead birds, 258 of which were violet-green swallows. They decided to collect some data for themselves. After weighing the carcasses back at the lab, they found that the average weight of the swallows was 9.5 grams. The birds usually weigh about 14 grams, on average.

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The low weight, indicative of starvation, would have made the birds far more vulnerable to the unusual weather event that struck New Mexico between September 8 and 9, when temperatures dropped over 50 degrees and wind and snow whipped through parts of the state.

“If a lack of food contributed to the mortality event, birds would have less fat and no protection against hypothermia. Indeed, of the hundreds of birds we assessed, none had fat stores on their bodies,” wrote McCullough on the American Birding Association website.

Cold also limits the availability of insects, particularly insects flying through the air, which are the primary food source for aerial insectivores like violet-green swallows.

That’s enough evidence for McCullough to pinpoint weather as the culprit. “Birds with extreme weather events during the height of migration are more susceptible to something like this,” she said. “It’s not a sexy story to sell to newspapers that birds died of something that they routinely die of.”

Yet others suspect that different or additional causes are afoot. The thick wildfire smoke that blanketed California and western states throughout late summer and autumn could have harmed the birds’ lungs. Smoke also decreases visibility for birds. One theory suggests that species may have altered their flight paths away from historically food-rich areas and instead went through the food-scarce Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico.

Additionally, this year the Southwest experienced its worst drought in decades and possibly centuries. Such dry conditions could have limited insect availability. That’s on top of the fact that insect populations are already declining globally at perilous rates, a looming extinction that no doubt spells trouble for insect-eating birds.

Or it could be all of the above. Martha Desmond, an ornithologist at New Mexico State University, told the Las Cruces Sun News that “we saw a large number of mortalities leading up to it and following” the September cold snap, “which indicates that there might be multiple stressors coming together.” Rather than distinct events with distinct causes, these multiple stressors may have created the “perfect storm” of perilous conditions for migratory birds this fall.

Until the US Fish and Wildlife autopsy information is available, however, it is impossible to say conclusively what caused the avian deaths. Mass mortality events are not unheard of for migratory birds and are typically due to extreme weather. Yet with one in four bird species having disappeared from North American in the past 50 years, it’s hard not to feel existential dread about the fate of birds in 2020.

https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/researchers-still-don-t-know-why-so-many-birds-died-fall?suppress=true&utm_source=greenlife&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

The beauty of nature

Pretty in Pink

No More Killing Innocent Birds: Stop Pigeon Shoots: Petition

Guardians Of Life

Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

Pennsylvania is the only state left that allows this horrible practice.

Pigeon shoots have been banned in every part of the country except for the state of Pennsylvania, so call on the President of the Pennsylvania State Senate, Floor Leaders, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and the Pennsylvania State Governor to end the barbaric ‘tradition’ of pigeon shoots! It is inherent cruelty of shooting live, captured birds for sport, and this practice needs to end!

Today, Pennsylvania is the only remaining state that allows the practice to continue. In 2014, a bill to end pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania was allowed to expire after the NRA stepped in at the 11th hour with some heavy-handed lobbying [3] which put animal cruelty above that of animal rights.

Not only are 75% [4] of people in the state are in favor of a law that…

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