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

Great White Pelican at J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR, near Fort Meyers, Florida, March 1, 2016, by Diane Doran.
Great White Pelican at J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR, near Fort Meyers, Florida, March 1, 2016, by Diane Doran.

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

1. First for New Hampshire: A Tufted Duck was photographed on a pond in Salem, in southeastern New Hampshire. If accepted by state recordkeepers, the sighting will go into the books as the first ever in the state. March 4.

2. Leap Day record: Counters with the Crane Trust, the well-known organization that works to protect habitat for Whooping and Sandhill Cranes along the Big Bend region of the Platte River Valley in Nebraska, announced that they had spotted 213,600 Sandhill Cranes on Leap Day, a record. The previous February high count, 30,000, was in 2005. February 29

3. Florida’s biggest pelican:Great White Pelican, a huge bird that breeds mostly in southeastern Europe and winters across much of Africa and in the Indian subcontinent, was observed for a few days at J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR, near Fort Meyers, Florida. The pelican’s provenance is uncertain. The species is surely capable of traveling great distances but also is held in zoos and private collections across North America. It had never been recorded in the ABA Area before. February 28

Blackpoll Warbler at High Island, Texas, April 23, 2011, by Lora Render.
Blackpoll Warbler at High Island, Texas, April 23, 2011, by Lora Render.

4. Cautious optimism: World Wildlife Fund officials announced that monarch butterflies covered about 10 acres in the Mexican mountains this winter, an area more than three times as large as the space they covered last year. The news kindled cautious hope that one of the insect world’s most captivating migrations may yet survive. February 26

5. A night on the town: Audubon officials offered an explanation for how young cowbirds, which are raised by host species, not their parents, learn to act like cowbirds. Using radio transmitters, researchers showed that cowbird moms don’t totally abandon their young after laying their eggs but keep tabs on them, and that, “one night out of the blue,” the young cowbirds leave their host nests to roost with other cowbirds before returning to their foster families the next day. February 25

6. Trapped in lights: The owner of a wind-energy facility in Belington, in northern West Virginia, was sentenced to pay $30,000 in fines after pleading guilty to federal charges related to the deaths of 483 migratory birds, most of them Blackpoll Warblers. The songbirds became trapped in the facility’s lights on October 1 and 2, 2011, when the weather was foggy and clouds were low. February 24

Far-flying Blackpoll Warbler crosses continent before crossing ocean.

7. No more open pipes: The Bureau of Land Management issued a memorandum describing how field offices across the nation can reduce the threat that open pipes pose to birds. The memorandum calls for BLM staffers to cap, close, remove, or screen pipes and requires all vertical pipes to have permanent caps or screens. Claim holders are also being encouraged to remove PVC pipes used as mine markers. February 25

Eye on conservation: Feds step up efforts to save western birds from open pipes.

8. Record numbers: Birdwatchers in Guangdong Province, in southeastern China, found record numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpipers not once, but two times this winter. Volunteers with the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society went first, finding at least 30 of the critically endangered sandpipers at the end of December. Then, in January, counters at four locations tallied at least 45 individuals, including a high count of 38 birds at the Fucheng Estuary. The global population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper numbers fewer than 400 adult birds. February 25

9. Condor milestone: Last year, for the first time in decades, the number of California Condors that hatched and fledged in the wild was greater than the number of adult wild condors that died. Fourteen young condors took flight, while 12 died. Conservationists called the ratio a key milestone in the bird’s return to the wild. February 23

10. Bald Eagles killed: Federal wildlife authorities and nonprofit organizations offered up to $25,000 for information leading to a conviction in the deaths of 13 Bald Eagles found on February 20 near Federalsburg, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. According to a USFWS spokeswoman, it was not clear how the birds died or whether a crime had been committed. February 22

— Chuck Hagner, Editor

Birds in the news: 10 important stories from the middle of February.

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