Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Birds in the news: 10 important stories from the first weeks of 2016

Ivory Gull in Duluth, Minnesota, January 2, 2016, by Terry R. Crayne.
Ivory Gull in Duluth, Minnesota, January 2, 2016, by Terry R. Crayne.

Here are the 10 most important news stories that we tweeted or retweeted over the past two weeks. Follow us on Twitter.

Year in review: The 50 most important stories about birds and birdwatchers of 2015.

1. Setback in Australia: BirdLife International announced that 14 critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrots, Australia’s rarest bird, had been killed by rats late last year at a captive-breeding facility run by Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. January 7

In May 2015, Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner confirmed that deadly beak and feather disease had broken out in the only wild population of Orange-bellied Parrots.

2. Travel partners: Not one but two Ivory Gulls were recorded close to each other near the western tip of Lake Superior. One was observed loafing, flying, and eating fish provided by birders January 1-6 at Canal Park, in Duluth, Minnesota. The second was found dead at Connors Point, across the Duluth Harbor Basin in Superior, Wisconsin, on January 5. Ivory Gull has been recorded in Minnesota only about 12 times, dating back to 1948. January 5

3. Unprecedented die-off: More than 7,800 dead Common Murres washed ashore in Whittier, on the western shore of Prince William Sound in Alaska, an unprecedented die-off. A biologist who conducted surveys found nearly five dead birds per meter of beach. “These birds are wicked skinny — no fat reserves,” said a scientist with the USGS Alaska Science Center. “It’s an awful way to die, and they’re dying en masse.” January 5

Orange-bellied Parrot, male, Melaleuca, Southwest Conservation Area, Tasmania, Australia, by JJ Harrison (Wikimedia Commons).
Orange-bellied Parrot, male, Melaleuca, Southwest Conservation Area, Tasmania, Australia, by JJ Harrison (Wikimedia Commons).

4. ABA spotlights longspur: The American Birding Association announced that Chestnut-collared Longspur, a beleaguered resident of the short-grass prairies in the middle of the continent, would be its 2016 Bird of the Year. Surveys suggest that nesting populations have declined as much as 87 percent since the 1960s. January 5

See photos of Chestnut-collared Longspur.

5. Candid camera: A female Snowy Owl swooped up onto a traffic camera high above Highway 40 and Boulevard des Sources, on the southwest side of Montreal, giving viewers a rare, up-close view of the bird’s powerful wings and intense glare. January 3

10 photos of enigmatic, irruptive Snowy Owls.

6. Snowy Owl returns: Baltimore, a Snowy Owl that had been tagged in the first season of Project SNOWstorm and returned in the second, returned once again. The owl is the first of the Project SNOWstorm owls to appear in all three seasons of the project. January 3

How at least one Snowy Owl benefited from 2013 Razorbill irruption.

eBird maps show Snowy Owl’s summer and winter ranges.

7. What the cat dragged in: A Corn Crake, a rail that breeds in Europe and Asia and migrates to Africa, was discovered in Honesdale, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. The bird had been injured by a cat and soon died. According to Kenn Kaufman, the rail was “almost certainly a genuine wild vagrant.” The species was a regular vagrant to North America a century ago, says Kaufman, and they’re “definitely capable of long-distance vagrancy.” January 1

8. Biggest Big Year ever: Author and birder Noah Strycker, in Tinsukia, India, spotted Scaly Thrush, Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Nepal Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Fulvetta, White-hooded Babbler, Buff-chested Babbler, Large Woodshrike, White-cheeked Partridge, White-winged Duck, and Silver-breasted Broadbill, bringing his record-setting Big Year to a close with a grand total of 6,042 species. December 31

9. Outrage in Oahu: Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources announced that it is investigating the deaths of three Laysan Albatross and the destruction of 15 of 75 active albatross nests in the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, at the westernmost point on Oahu. Reserve managers reported that eggs were smashed and that monitoring cameras and sound equipment were stolen. A $10,000 reward was offered for the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the crime. December 30

10. One of only 23: The 35-year-old male California Condor named AC-4 was released back into the wild in Bitter Creek NWR, in central California. It was the bird’s first free flight since 1985, when he was one of just 23 condors left in the world. AC-4 fathered the first chick produced by the famous captive-breeding program that helped save the species. Week of December 27

Year in review: The 50 most important stories about birds and birdwatchers of 2015.

Early December’s 10 most important news stories about birds.

Follow BirdWatching on Twitter.

 

New to birdwatching?

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, descriptions of birding hotspots, and more delivered to your inbox every other week. Sign up now.

See the contents of our current issue.

How to subscribe to BirdWatching.

  Originally Published

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free