Mississippi Kites in the Northeast, Yellow-billed Magpie concerns, winter-finch forecast, and a photo gallery of recent rare-bird sightings.
Birding Briefs -- December 2009
Published: October 23, 2009
|Now breeding in New England: Mississippi Kite|
You'd expect to see this scene - an adult Mississippi Kite feeding a juvenile - in Georgia, Texas, or, yes, Mississippi. But these birds were photographed in late August in Newmarket, New Hampshire.
The town, located about 40 miles north of the Massachusetts border, is home to not one but two pairs of breeding adult kites. Both pairs successfully fledged young in 2008, and in 2009, one of the pairs was successful. Elsewhere in New England, a pair of kites has nested and raised chicks in Simsbury, Connecticut, northwest of Hartford, for the last two summers. And in Root, New York, west of Albany, two kites were seen frequently this summer, but a nest was not located.
|New concerns for the Yellow-billed Magpie|
In California, West Nile virus has had a more severe impact on the Yellow-billed Magpie than previously believed, according to new research. And scientists say the virus puts five other species at high risk.
Ecologist K. Shawn Smallwood and his wife Brenda Nakamoto of Davis, California, counted birds along 126 miles of roads in the Sacramento Valley - the heart of the magpie's range - in the fall and winter from 2005 to 2008, repeating bird-survey routes they had conducted from 1990 to 1995.
Magpie counts plummeted 83 percent overall. In Yolo County, however, the count rose 150 percent. The authors suggest that an aggressive mosquito-control campaign in nearby Sacramento reduced the incidence of the virus, which helped the birds.
Outside Yolo County, the population fell 90 percent, leading Smallwood and Nakamoto to write in the May issue of The Condor, the journal of the Cooper Ornithological Society, that they are concerned "for the persistence of the species."
In the journal's February issue, a team of scientists led by Sarah S. Wheeler of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California Davis published a study on the impact of West Nile virus on birds statewide. They concluded that in addition to the magpie, birds most at risk include American Crow, House Finch, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Western Scrub-Jay, and Oak Titmouse.
The virus, they write, "is now endemic throughout the New World and is likely to affect bird populations for years to come."
|Winter finches to expect this year|
No major finch irruptions are expected outside their normal ranges this winter, but good cone crops in the Northeast are sure to attract birds - and birdwatchers.
According to Ron Pittaway, a founding member of Ontario Field Ornithologists and author of a widely watched annual winter-finch forecast, Pine Grosbeaks will stay in the boreal forest, where mountain-ash berry crops are excellent. Common and Hoary Redpolls, birch-seed specialists, will likely move to northwestern Ontario and westward into Saskatchewan, not southward to bird feeders. Pine Siskins appear likely to remain in western Canada. And sightings of Evening Grosbeaks, the subject of "Gone astray," December 2009, will be few.
Poor seed crops in the north will cause Purple Finches to migrate south from Ontario, Pittaway writes. White-winged Crossbills should appear in northern New England and eastern Canada, including Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces, where white and black spruce crops are good. And heavy white pine crops in New Hampshire may attract Type 2 Red Crossbills. What's more, healthy mountain-ash crops around Lake Superior and in northern Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and northern New England suggest that birdwatchers should watch for Bohemian Waxwings.
To learn why northern finches make irregular winter movements, see "On the Move," December 2009.
Northern Wheatear, Blue-footed Booby, and more rare bird sightings.
Click to enlarge