Balancing birds and biofuels: Grasslands support more species than cornfields

A Henslow’s sparrow, a bird the Wisconsin DNR includes among its Species of Greatest Conservation Need, perches atop a plant. A new study shows that grasslands support more than three times as many bird species as cornfields.

A Henslow’s sparrow, a bird the Wisconsin DNR includes among its Species of Greatest Conservation Need, perches atop a plant. A new study shows that grasslands support more than three times as many bird species as cornfields.

In Wisconsin, bioenergy is for the birds. Really. In a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientists examined whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy production and bountiful bird habitat.

The research team found that where there are grasslands, there are birds. Grass-and-wildflower-dominated fields supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields, including 10 imperiled species found only in the grasslands. These grassland fields can also produce ample biomass for renewable fuels. 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

Tar Sands Development Is Killing Birds, New Study Finds

Whooping cranes depend on Canada’s boreal forests for breeding grounds.

Whooping cranes depend on Canada’s boreal forests for breeding grounds.

Canada’s boreal forest is a key nursery for migratory birds, but tar sands development is destroying habitat and killing the birds that depend on it, according to a new report.

The report, published by the National Wildlife Federation and Natural Resources Council of Maine, outlines the risks Canadian tar sands development poses to migratory birds. More than 292 species of protected birds rely on the boreal forest for breeding habitat, including the endangered whooping crane, and at least 130 of those are threatened by tar sands development. Continue reading

Self-Fumigation? Endangered Birds On Galapagos Given Treated Cotton To Kill Parasites In Nest

A safe-for-birds pesticide may help wild finches threatened by an invasive species of nest fly, researchers say.

A safe-for-birds pesticide may help wild finches threatened by an invasive species of nest fly, researchers say.

Endangered wild finches in the Galapagos Islands are weaving cotton balls laced with pesticide into their nests, left by biologists hoping to kill a parasitic fly threatening the species.

“We are trying to help birds help themselves,” says biologist Dale Clayton, who visited Galapagos recently with colleagues from the University of Utah.

Using a pesticide called permethrin, the researchers say this method of self-fumigation is the only way of controlling the nest fly Philornis downsi, whose maggots hatch to eat eggs in the nest. Continue reading

New Evidence That Urban Water Pollution Is Harming Birds

A white-throated dipper in County Kerry, Ireland. (snowmanradio / Wikipedia)

A white-throated dipper in County Kerry, Ireland. (snowmanradio / Wikipedia)

Bloated rats and fat pigeons aside, the urban environment doesn’t always super-size animals. In fact, cities might be having the opposite effect on one critter – the European dipper, a bird that’s struggling with development problems linked to urban water pollution.

That’s the theory of scientists at Cardiff University and elsewhere who’ve been poking around in the rivers of South Wales, which bear a rich history of industrial pollution. Compared to dippers that hail from rural environments, they say, the birds living downstream from cities are not doing so well. Continue reading

Scientists fear BP blowout killed far more birds than officially reported

brown pelicans

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Several hundred carcasses of brown pelicans oiled by the BP blowout were recovered, but the death toll may be higher by a large multiple.

Almost from the start, wildlife advocates described the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a war on the Gulf ecosystem. Few quibbled with that analogy as a record 210 million gallons spewed into the Gulf just 50 miles from one of the world’s most productive coastal estuaries.

Yet four years later, wildlife workers, especially those concerned about birds, are skeptical of one metric commonly used to assess wars of any kind: the official body count. Continue reading