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Birds in the news: 10 important stories from the beginning of February

Piping Plover with four chicks in Newbury, Massachusetts, by Kim Caruso.

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

1. More plovers in Massachusetts: Over the past four years, the number of Piping Plovers nesting on beaches in Massachusetts has exceeded the federal goal of 625 pairs. Last year, 689 pairs were recorded, and the number is climbing steadily. The long stretch of beaches north of Cape Ann — including Plum Island and Crane Beach — account for almost 15 percent of the statewide population. February 6

Snowy Owl by Jim Cumming.
Snowy Owl by Jim Cumming.

2. Home on the range: Project SNOWstorm announced that it had finally equipped a Snowy Owl on the Great Plains with a GPS-GSM transmitter. The bird, a female, was captured and tagged in east-central North Dakota. The Snowy, nicknamed Dakota, was the 40th that the project has tagged. February 6

3. Eagle vs. drone: Dutch police released a video showing a trained eagle swooping down and snatching a small white drone out of the sky. Police are investigating whether the birds can be used above large events or near airports, where the small flying machines are banned. February 2

4. Theory of mind: An experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Vienna offered the strongest evidence yet that Common Ravens have a “theory of mind” — that is, that they can attribute mental states such as knowledge to others. “Our results,” write the researchers, “suggest that ravens can generalize from their own perceptual experience to infer the possibility of being seen.” February 2


5. Rare treat: A Nazca Booby was confirmed from Pt. Pinos, in Monterey County, California. The species breeds on the Galapagos Islands, and locally north to western Mexico. February 1

6. To end illegal hunting in Greece: Champions of the Flyway announced that proceeds of the 2016 race would benefit the Hellenic Ornithological Society/Birdlife in Greece. The annual race is dedicated to preventing the illegal killing of migratory birds in the Africa-Eurasian Flyway. In previous years, it has supported BirdLife Cyprus, BirdLife Malta, and Bird Conservation Georgia. This year’s race will take place March 29. February 1

7. Endangered genome: Scientists at San Diego Zoo Global and the University of Hawaii announced that they had fully sequenced the genome of Hawaiian Crow, or Alala. This crow was once reduced to a population of about 20 birds, and the sequencing of the genome will help conservationists monitor the reduced genetic diversity now seen in the species. January 27

8. 52,000 wind turbines: According to the American Wind Energy Association, the American wind industry installed 5,001 megawatts during the fourth quarter of 2015, more than in all of 2014. Altogether, there is now 74,472 MW of installed wind capacity in the United States, and more than 52,000 wind turbines are in operation. January 27


9. Bathing beauty: An American Flamingo delighted birders (and photographers) at San Carlos Bay Bunche Beach Preserve, near Fort Myers. The tall pink birds are usually found only in the southernmost Everglades, but one has been visiting Lee County, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, on and off since July 2015. January 24

10. Farewell, friend: Martha’s Vineyard birder Vernon Laux, 60, died from complications related to esophageal cancer. Laux led birding expeditions, both internationally and on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, he penned columns for local newspapers, and he was a popular source of birding news on the radio. In our February 2005 issue, he described his discovery of a Red-footed Falcon in Martha’s Vineyard in August 2004. The species had never been recorded in the Western Hemisphere before. January 21

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Birds in the news: 10 important stories from the end of January.


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