Early December’s 10 most important news stories about birds

Painted Bunting at Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Jekyll Island, Georgia, May 16, 2015, by gman79.
Painted Bunting at Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Jekyll Island, Georgia, May 16, 2015, by gman79.

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

1. A fifth of all species: The annual Christmas Bird Count, the 116th, got underway. During last year’s record-breaking event, 72,653 birders in 2,462 circles worldwide counted an astounding 68,753,007 birds. Even more amazing, 2,106 bird species were tallied — roughly one-fifth of the avian taxa on Earth. December 14

2. Agreement, at last: Representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change. The talks had been called the world’s last, best hope of striking a deal that would begin to avert the most devastating effects of a warming planet. December 12

3. 90 million years ago: Researchers suggested that modern birds arose before, not after, the extinction event that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs. Birds arose around 90 million years ago in what is now South America, write scientists with the American Museum of Natural History, and then moved to other parts of the world via multiple land bridges while diversifying during periods of global cooling. December 11

King Eider at Echo Valley Park, Saskatchewan, December 5, 2015, by mayhaga.
King Eider at Echo Valley Park, Saskatchewan, December 5, 2015, by mayhaga.

4. Across a continent first, then across the ocean: As if making an annual nonstop flight over the Atlantic weren’t amazing enough, Blackpoll Warblers that breed in western North America first complete a marathon journey east across the continent. The birds depart from their summer homes earlier than eastern-breeding birds do, leaving them a shorter amount of time each year to nest and raise their young. December 9

5. Spotted Owl in decline: Researchers who analyzed data collected from 11 study areas in Washington, Oregon, and northern California between 1985 to 2013 reported that Northern Spotted Owl populations are shrinking in all parts of their range. The threatened owl is declining nearly four percent per year. According to the study, there’s “strong evidence” that Spotted Owl populations are being harmed by invasive Barred Owls. December 9

6. Call them Cheeseheads, not Bald Eagles: An aerial count in Wisconsin revealed 1,465 Bald Eagle nests, the highest number since surveys began. The state’s population is up nine percent from 1,344 in 2013, the last year a complete count was made. In 1973, the state’s eagle count stood at 103. December 8

Five majestic views of Bald Eagle.

7. An eider in Saskatchewan: A young male King Eider was photographed at Echo Valley Park in the Qu’Appelle Valley, in Saskatchewan. The only previous record in the province was an immature male seen at the Blackstrap Reservoir in the fall of 1983. December 5

8. 90 percent inadequate: Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International, and universities in Australia, California, and England called for greater international collaboration to save migratory birds, many of which are at risk due to loss of habitat along their flight paths. More than 90 percent of all migratory birds are inadequately protected due to poorly coordinated conservation around the world. December 3

9. A shearwater in Brazil: The body of a Manx Shearwater that had been banded and released by RSPB officials at Saunton, in North Devon, England, in September 2011 was found in November at Extremoz, Natal, near the easternmost tip of Brazil — 6,990 kilometers (over 4,300 miles) away. December 3

10. A bunting in Brooklyn: A male Painted Bunting was discovered at Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, New York, causing a media sensation. The directionally challenged but gaily colored bird was the first adult male ever spotted in Brooklyn (less colorful females had been recorded in the borough as recently as 2011) and one of only 10 Painted Buntings to be seen in New York City since 1927. December 2

See reader photos of Painted Bunting.

10 important news stories about birds from late November.

10 news stories from early November.

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