Identify 500 birds with new Birdsnap app

Take a picture of a bird and identify it. This free new iPhone app is an electronic field guide featuring 500 of the most common North American bird species.

Take a picture of a bird and identify it. This free new iPhone app is an electronic field guide featuring 500 of the most common North American bird species.

Researchers at Columbia Engineering, led by Computer Science Professor Peter Belhumeur, have taken bird-watching to a new level. Using computer vision and machine learning techniques they have developed Birdsnap, a new iPhone app that is an electronic field guide featuring 500 of the most common North American bird species.

The free app, which enables users to identify bird species through uploaded photos, accompanies a visually beautiful, comprehensive website that includes some 50,000 images.

Birdsnap, which also features birdcalls for each species, offers users numerous ways to organize species—alphabetically, by their relationship in the Tree of Life, and by the frequency with which they are sighted at a particular place and season. Continue reading

Recreational fishing poses threat to shore-nesting birds

 

 A red-capped plover.Credit: Ben Parkhurst

A red-capped plover.Credit: Ben Parkhurst

Fish waste left on beaches by recreational fishers could harm shore-nesting birds by attracting native crows that eat the birds’ eggs, a UNSW-led study shows.

Researchers found that the activity of Australian ravens was 17 times higher near nests that had fish carcasses nearby, than near nests without carcasses.

The study also revealed that foxes were not the culprits in loss of eggs from nests as is often assumed. Continue reading

We need the birds, and the birds need us

Birds under threat

Birds under threat

Birds are a critical part of our ecological system. But more than ever, birds are threatened by human pollution and climate change.

We need the birds to eat insects, move seeds and pollen around, transfer nutrients from sea to land, clean up after the mass death of the annual Pacific salmon runs, or when a wild animal falls anywhere in a field or forest. Continue reading

The chough: RSPB survey into one of Scotland’s rarest birds

The red-billed chough has suffered a decline in numbers in recent years in its Islay stronghold

The red-billed chough has suffered a decline in numbers in recent years in its Islay stronghold

One of Scotland’s rarest birds, the chough, is to be the subject of a national survey to see how its population is faring.

The study aims to assess current numbers of the red-billed birds – believed to be around 60 pairs – after years of decline.

In Scotland, choughs are only found in a small area of the south-west, with 90 per cent concentrated on Islay.

Naturalists believe 14 pairs were lost between 2002 and 2012.

A team of surveyors has now begun work to chart the fortunes of the “acrobatic” birds, known for their flamboyant flying style. Continue reading

Hunting down the common myna on the island of Atiu in the Cook Islands

The common myna was introduced to the Cook Islands in the early 1900s to control the coconut stick-insect but soon became a pest itself. May, 2014.

The common myna was introduced to the Cook Islands in the early 1900s to control the coconut stick-insect but soon became a pest itself. May, 2014.

Beyond the sandy beaches and shimmering lagoons of the Cook Islands, there is a jungle war being fought.

The location is Atiu, the third-largest of the Cooks’ 15 islands. Its original name is Enuamanu – Island of the Birds. But the island’s rare and endangered winged natives are under threat from an avian invader – the common or Indian myna.

This aggressive bird is listed in the world’s top 100 most invasive species and is one of the greatest threats to native birds in Australia, stealing their territory, nesting sites and food. Continue reading

New Study Changes Thinking on Evolution of Flightless Birds

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At the bottom of the world there lives a small, shy flightless species of bird. They only come out at night, and are rarely seen by anyone. However, this bird, the kiwi, holds the key to new thoughts on flightless birds. A new study has shown a link between the kiwi of New Zealand and the giant, aptly-named and extinct elephant bird of Madagascar. This link has changed scientists’ thinking on the theory of continental drift as well as the evolution of flightless birds. Continue reading