Articles

Conservation Column Sep 2014: Football Stadium Design Is Dangerous for Birds

Debbie Schlenoff


Sports teams have often branded themselves with animal monikers (hello, Duck fans!). Football teams borrow from our feathered friends—the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks. So it is sadly ironic that the massive football stadium under construction in Minneapolis will result in a large and unnecessary number of bird deaths. The new Vikings stadium, located on a migratory flyway next to the Mississippi River, features large expanses of glass (200,000 square feet) and is expected to kill thousands of birds if built as originally designed. Birds don’t see glass and will attempt to fly through the invisible barrier, only to be brought up short when they collide with the glass. The collisions are often fatal.

Conservation Column Jul–Aug 2014: North America’s Bird Nursery Is Under Pressure

Debbie Schlenoff


I’m always impressed by the skill with which many birders can identify bird species by ear. The birds can one-up us though; they can recognize individual birds by song. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that birds can discriminate between the songs sung by their neighbors and those sung by strangers. For birds, good relationships with neighbors may prove important. When blackbirds have familiar neighbors, they expend less energy to defend boundaries and have better reproductive success than birds that have to deal with strangers in the adjacent territory. In Great Tits, familiarity between long-term neighbors leads to cooperative behavior that increases nesting success. Birds, of course, do not recognize the territorial boundaries between neighboring human nations. Turns out that many of the birds we see in our backyards journey from our urban environment to the most extensive wilderness area left on earth, the boreal forest of our neighbor to the north. 

Conservation Column May-Jun 2014: Rodenticides Kill More Than Rodents

People have long been fascinated by owls. Search for the term owl facts and you’ll find lists such as fun owl facts and awesome owl facts (because, well, owls are awesome). On some of these lists, you’ll learn that a Barn Owl can eat up to 1,000 mice each year. Many owl species are voracious eaters and feed mostly on rodents. But for owls today, capturing and eating their main food source could prove deadly.

Conservation Column Apr 2014: The Birds and the Bees (and the Flowers and the Trees)

Spring is in the air—time to talk about the birds and the bees. Perhaps not “the talk” that first springs to mind, but rather the one about pollinators and how important they are to life on earth (not to mention their financial impact worth over $15 billion in crop value each year). It’s also time to consider why so many populations of bees and birds are in serious decline.

Conservation Column Mar 2014: Government Now Accepting Comments on Oregon’s Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program

A heron’s slender body elongates as it stretches its neck to spear a fish; a chunky Marbled Murrelet beats her wings rapidly as she carries a breakfast of fish for her young from the ocean to the forest; small shorebirds scurry like wind-up toys through the ebb and flow of the ocean tidewater. One-quarter of all bird species in North America use coastal habitats for some part of their annual cycle. Coastal watersheds are home to a plethora of birds and other wildlife, plants, and fish.

Update on the Greater Sage-Grouse

Dave Stone
When I wrote about the Greater Sage-Grouse in the November issue of The Quail, I mentioned that a final decision on protection of the bird would come in 2014. The Bureau of Land Management has just released its draft plan and is receiving comments until February 20. As expected, the draft plan is not as strong as it should be in protecting the grouse.

Conservation Column Dec 2013–Jan 2014: LCAS Works with Others to Make a Difference

Debbie Schlenoff
“Birds of a feather flock together.” This old saying applies to both birds and humans. The benefits of flocking for birds are many: They use mobbing to chase off potential predators, even when the predator is larger than they are. They flock together when eating, roosting, and nesting. Who among us does not wish to be able to understand their communications when they gather for “information exchange?” Flycatcher pairs communally defend their nests from predators and issue alarm calls to rouse their neighbors for help. In one study, researchers prevented a flycatcher pair from aiding their neighbors when an artificial predator was placed in the area. When that pair alarm-called in the next round, the neighbors did not respond. Apparently, birds take note when others don’t pull their weight in a group. It pays to cooperate.

Celebrating The 40th Anniversary Of The Endangered Species Act: Northern Spotted Owl Continues To Decline

At one time, the Northern Spotted Owl was found in old-growth forests throughout the Pacific Northwest. Heavy logging and other developments over the last 190 years have reduced spotted owl habitat by 60%. As a result, owl numbers have declined by 40%–60% in the last 10 years, leaving an estimated 2,000 pairs in existence today.

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act: Greater Sage-Grouse Losing Ground in Effort to Survive

It’s 6:00 a.m. and still dark when we arrive at the Millican lek, just east of Bend. Even in the predawn darkness of this early May morning, we can hear the “thump-gurgle, thump-gurgle” of the male Greater Sage-Grouse as they try to impress the females. The elaborate courtship display goes on for an hour and a half until the birds finally settle down in the full light of day, and it will continue every morning for another month as the sage-grouse work out their relationships.

This fascinating ritual is becoming increasingly rare in Oregon and across the West as development, livestock grazing, wildfire, and other environmental impacts reduce sage-grouse habitat.

Conservation Column Nov 2013: Empathy: Not Just for Humans

Imagine: You watch a friend get into a heated argument with someone. Afterward, you think your friend must be feeling bad, so you spend some time consoling him in the hope of making him feel better. Scenarios like this probably seem commonplace to you, and you are likely not surprised that such behavior occurs. But many people are astonished to learn that a goose or monkey might display similar behavior. It was long thought that people were the only animals that could understand the minds of others and respond as if they knew what others were thinking or feeling, a trait often dubbed empathy. Scientists have devised studies to demonstrate this ability in nonhuman animals and have shown that we are not the only ones that display empathy. Many of these studies featured our closest relatives, chimpanzees and other primates, but researchers have found intriguing evidence that birds have this ability as well.

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