Conservation Column

Conservation Column Oct 2014: Human Activities Affect Birdsong

Debbie Schlenoff


Scientists are studying the psychological benefits that accrue when people listen to the sounds of birds. It is thought that hearing birds sing may help us to relax and recover from stress, assist our focus on tasks, and inspire us to think creatively. Given our deep connection to birdsong in poetry, music, and our daily lives, people would be wise to try to understand the potential impact of human activities on this behavior.

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.

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.

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.

Conservation Column Oct 2013: The O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act

The O&C lands consist of 2.8 million acres of public land in western Oregon. Originally given to the Oregon & California (O&C) Railroad Company in 1866, they were put into the public trust under federal management in 1937. Even after years of timber harvesting, these lands represent some of the best mature and old growth forest in the western United States. Counties with O&C lands received money when the forests were logged, and they came to rely on these funds. In 2000, the struggling counties began receiving federal funds, which continued each year to give them time to develop better economic models. Unfortunately, they did not do so, and the counties are now in crisis...

Conservation Column Sep 2013: The State of the Birds 2013 Report

This summer saw the release of the fourth State of the Birds report, a collaborative effort on the part of federal and state wildlife agencies, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, American Bird Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and several other organizations. The status of bird populations is widely considered one of the best indicators for the health of ecosystems. The 2013 report focuses on the distribution of bird populations and conservation opportunities on private lands.

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