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Important bird news from the end of November

Gray Jay made bird news recently. This one was at Cypress Mountain, Vancouver, British Columbia, by Tony Joyce.
Gray Jay made bird news recently. This one was at Cypress Mountain, Vancouver, British Columbia, by Tony Joyce.

Here’s a roundup of the latest bird news. In chronological order below are the 10 most important stories that we followed over the past two weeks. Follow us on Twitter.

1. Great news for Night Parrots: Scientists in Queensland, Australia, observed a fledgling Night Parrot for the first time in nearly 100 years. The nocturnal species is one of the world’s rarest birds. The young parrot was photographed at the 56,000-hectare Pullen Pullen Reserve. November 24

2. There are more bird species than you think: After comparing molecular and morphological estimates of species numbers based on two differing concepts, researchers suggested that current estimates of avian diversity are way too low. The current taxonomy of birds, they say, underestimates the world’s birds by at least a factor of two. November 23

3. Canada to ban neonic: Health Canada proposed phasing out agricultural use of Imidacloprid. The neonicotinoid has been under heavy scrutiny because of environmental concerns and risks to bees. The European Union has already banned Imidacloprid, and a handful of municipalities have also banned the use of neonicotinoids, but no federal ban is in place in North America. Ontario restricted the use of neonics in 2016. November 23

Northern Harrier made bird news recently. Photo by mayhaga.
Northern Harrier made bird news recently. Photo by mayhaga.

4. A third record-breaker: Laura Keene became the third Big Year birder this year to pass Neil Hayward’s 2013 total of 749 species. According to the American Birding Association, Keene’s sighting of the Common Scoter in Oregon was her 750th. (She has also recorded two provisional species.) Last we heard, John Weigel had recorded 774 species (2), while Olaf Danielson had spotted 771 (1). November 23

5. Harriers are not the same species: Scientists used DNA sequencing to confirm that the Eurasian Hen Harrier and the American Northern Harrier are distinct species. The British Ornithologists’ Union already regards the harriers as different species, but the American Ornithologists’ Union and other avian taxonomic committees do not. November 23

6. Oil-spill evidence on land: Scientists identified the first evidence of Deepwater Horizon oil in a land animal — Seaside Sparrow. “We know that carbon from oil entered the offshore and nearshore food webs as demonstrated for plankton, fish and filter feeders,” said an associate professor at LSU. “But this is the first demonstration that carbon from oil was also integrated into a terrestrial vertebrate species.” November 22

7. A first for Tennessee: A Bohemian Waxwing was recorded in Tennessee for the first time. The bird was recorded in Sequoyah Hills Park, in Knoxville. November 22

8. Arctic drilling banned: The Obama administration banned offshore oil drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off northern Alaska for at least five years. The move was a victory for environmentalists, but the ban could be overturned by President-elect Donald Trump. November 18

9. Canada’s national bird: The Royal Canadian Geographical Society announced that Gray Jay had been selected over Common Loon, Snowy Owl, Black-capped Chickadee, and Canada Goose as Canada’s national bird. The federal government has not committed to naming a national bird. The society hopes the selection will be made official in time for Canada’s 150th birthday. November 16

10. Why seabirds eat plastic: About 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic, and now we know why: Researchers discovered that microscopic algae that collect on plastic give off a chemical smell that birds associate with food. The rate of plastic pollution is increasing, scientists say. A quarter of a billion tons of the stuff was recorded in the oceans in 2014. November 10

— Chuck Hagner, Editor

Important bird news from the beginning of November.

Ten most important stories from the end of October.

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