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

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Brambling in Medina, Ohio, January 16, 2016, by Randy Smith.

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

1. Third time’s a charm: A Brambling was recorded in Arkansas for the first time — and for the third time in the Lower 48 this winter. Randy Smith took the photo above in Medina, Ohio, on January 16. January 23

2. Too full to fly: According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, garbage in Europe’s landfills provides so much food that some White Storks have stopped migrating. Scientists say juvenile birds that spend their time in the landfills have a greater survival rate than storks that fly south for the winter. January 22

3. Ultralights grounded: Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that they would end migrations of Whooping Cranes led by ultralight aircraft. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership used the technique for 15 years in an attempt to build a self-sustaining flock in the eastern U.S. Nearly 100 cranes are in the Eastern Migratory Population today, but of more than 240 birds released into the population, only 10 chicks survived to fledge. January 22

4. First recordings: The first recordings of Fasciated Tiger-Heron were uploaded to the website Xeno-canto, the amazing 10-year-old collection of recorded wild bird sounds from across the world. The bird’s vocalizations were previously unknown to science. January 21

Himalayan Forest Thrush, Dulongjiang, Yunnan province, China, June 2014, by Per Alström.
Himalayan Forest Thrush, Dulongjiang, Yunnan province, China, June 2014, by Per Alström.

5. A new species: A team of scientists from Sweden, China, the United States, India, and Russia announced that a bird considered a single species, Plain-backed Thrush (Zoothera mollissima), was in fact two species — one that lives in coniferous and mixed forest, and another found on bare rocky ground above the treeline. The new species has been named Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii). It’s found in northeastern India and adjacent parts of China. January 20

6. Hot enough for you? According to independent analyses by NASA and NOAA, Earth’s surface temperatures in 2015 were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880. Globally averaged temperatures shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23°F (0.13°C). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much. January 20

7. Waterbird census underway: BirdsCaribbean announced the start of the 2016 Caribbean Waterbird Census. The goal is to learn more about the status of migratory and resident waterbirds and strengthen their conservation. Counts can be done at any time of the year, but the main count is held during the three weeks from January 14 to February 3. January 19

8. Another Big Year record: California birder John Sterling set a record for a Big Year for the Golden State in 2015. He recorded 500 species, 490 of which were non-introduced birds. The total breaks a record of 475 native species set 20 years ago by Vernon Howe and tied last year by Curtis Marantz, who ended his year with 485 total. January 14

9. Two cranes shot: An 18-year-old Texas man was charged with illegally shooting and killing two endangered Whooping Cranes on December 10 in a rural area about 18 miles west of Beaumont. The birds were members of a population that had been reintroduced to Louisiana. Their deaths leave 44 cranes in the flock. January 14

10. More than half gone: BirdTrends 2015, a report based on data gathered during surveys led by the British Trust for Ornithology, identified 29 species for which long-term trends show statistically significant population declines greater than 50 percent over periods of 31–46 years. Turtle Dove, Tree Sparrow, Willow Tit, Snipe, and Grey Partridge have declined more than 90 percent since 1967. January 8

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

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