The end of emperor penguins? Birds could face extinction because of melting sea ice

Endangered? Researchers have warned that emperor penguins could face extinction due to melting sea ice

Endangered? Researchers have warned that emperor penguins could face extinction due to melting sea ice

Emperor penguins could face extinction if temperatures continue to rise as melting sea ice will have a ripple effect on the birds’ food chain, new research has warned.

At nearly four feet tall, Antarctica’s largest sea bird has gained worldwide affection thanks to films like March Of The Penguins and Happy Feet, but if temperatures were to rise their numbers could fall by a third by the end of the century.

Researchers behind the first comprehensive study into the future of the species say their findings suggest that emperor penguins should be protected by the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Birds That Use Quantum Mechanics to Migrate

2014.06.28-Bird-migration-quantum-mechanics

Researchers in the budding field of quantum biology hypothesize that birds are capable of using properties of quantum mechanics to help them make their extraordinary annual migrations. In particular researchers speculate that quantum entanglement can influence light-sensitive molecules within the eyes of birds and help them to “see” the Earth’s magnetic fields. Some experts predict that if true, this would mean that birds are capable of maintaining quantum entanglement for periods of time longer than those that can be detected using the most current and sensitive scientific instrumentation. Continue reading

Earlier snowmelt prompting earlier breeding of Arctic birds

 Just hatched Arctic shorebirds, like this long-billed dowitcher above, need to feed on abundant insects to grow and get ready for their southward migration in mid-summer. With earlier and earlier springs, shorebirds and other Arctic birds are challenged to adjust the timing of their breeding to insure that young have abundant resources. Credit: Steve Zack

Just hatched Arctic shorebirds, like this long-billed dowitcher above, need to feed on abundant insects to grow and get ready for their southward migration in mid-summer. With earlier and earlier springs, shorebirds and other Arctic birds are challenged to adjust the timing of their breeding to insure that young have abundant resources. Credit: Steve Zack

 

A new collaborative study that included the work of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) biologists has revealed that migratory birds that breed in Arctic Alaska are initiating nests earlier in the spring, and that snowmelt occurring earlier in the season is a big reason why.

The report, “Phenological advancement in arctic bird species: relative importance of snow melt and ecological factors,” appears in the current on-line edition of the journal Polar Biology. Lead author Joe Liebezeit (formerly with WCS) and co-author Steve Zack of WCS have conducted research on Arctic birds and conservation issues in Alaska for more than a decade. Liebezeit now works for the Audubon Society of Portland. Other co-authors of the study include Kirsty Gurney of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Michael Budde and David Ward of the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center. Continue reading

Habitat loss, not poison, better explains grassland bird decline

sandpiper

Contrary to recent well-publicized research, habitat loss, not insecticide use, continues to be the best explanation for the declines in grassland bird populations in the U.S. since the 1980s, according to a new study by ecologists.

Last year, a pair of researchers linked the drop in the populations of grassland bird species, such as the upland sandpiper and the Henslow’s sparrow, to insecticide use, rather than to a rapid decline of grasslands, a more commonly accepted theory. However, after re-examining the data, Penn State and U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers now believe that the loss of habitat continues to be the best explanation, said Jason M. Hill, a postdoctoral research associate in ecosystem science and management, Penn State. Continue reading

Scientists Finally Find Elusive Hormone Leptin in Birds

Researchers have found leptin – a hormone that regulates body fat storage, metabolism and appetite – in the Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata).

Falco peregrinus babylonicus. Image credit: John Gould, Birds of Asia, vol. 1, pl. 4.

Falco peregrinus babylonicus. Image credit: John Gould, Birds of Asia, vol. 1, pl. 4.

How does the Arctic tern fly more than 70,000 km in its annual roundtrip North Pole-to-South Pole migration? How does the Emperor penguin incubate eggs for months during the Antarctic winter without eating?

These physiological gymnastics would usually be influenced by leptin. Continue reading

Caged birds unfaithful, says scientist

Photo: Birds of a feather flock when together: study shows zebra finches have affairs when caged but are monogamous in the wild. (Image: Flickr Patrick_K59)

Photo: Birds of a feather flock when together: study shows zebra finches have affairs when caged but are monogamous in the wild. (Image: Flickr Patrick_K59)

In the wild, the zebra finch is one of the most monogamous bird species in the world.

But, when domesticated, its life becomes a wilderness of sneaky dates, passionate affairs and general infidelity.

This is one of the many startling discoveries by a team of researchers, who are studying the bird in far west New South Wales, at Fowlers Gap station.

Dr Simon Griffith from Macquarie University has been studying zebra finches for the last decade. Continue reading