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The most important bird news from late July

New Zealand's Kakapo made bird news recently.
Kakapo on Codfish Island, New Zealand, December 23, 2005, by Mnolf (Wikimedia Commons).

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. Bird flu: Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced that wild ducks and other aquatic birds are not an ongoing source of highly pathogenic flu infection in domestic poultry. The H5 avian influenza A virus that devastated North American poultry farms in 2014-15 was initially spread by migratory waterfowl, the scientists write, but such highly pathogenic flu viruses do not persist in wild birds. July 25

2. A first for Maine: A Great Knot, an East Asian shorebird, was recorded in Maine for the first time ever. A puffin researcher on Seal Island, an islet south of Isle Au Haut, Maine, photographed the bird. The species had been recorded in the eastern part of the continent only once before (in 2007 in West Virginia, believe or not). July 23

Saltmarsh Sparrow made bird news recently.
Saltmarsh Sparrow by Wolfgang Wander (Wikimedia Commons).

3. Sparrows decline: University of Connecticut researchers announced that Saltmarsh Sparrows have been declining at a rate of about nine percent a year since the late 1990s and will likely go extinct within the next 50 years. Sea-level rise and tidal restrictions at marshes are thought to be factors in the decline. July 20

4. Hotter than average: June marked the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking heat, with global temperatures measuring 1.62°F above the 20th-century average, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced. The first half of 2016 was 1.89°F above last century’s average. July 20

5. Iraqi marshes designated: UNESCO named four marshes in southern Iraq a World Heritage Site. One of the world’s largest inland delta systems, the Iraqi marshlands once offered a home to millions of birds and served as a stopover location for birds migrating from Siberia to Africa, but Saddam Hussein ordered the wetlands drained in the 1990s. July 18

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6. Aleutian Tern crash: According to research published last year, the Alaska population of Aleutian Tern appears to have declined 92 percent in about 30 years. Numbers in Russia, which hosts 80 percent of the world’s 30,000 terns, seem to be stable. July 17

7. Prairie-chicken no longer protected: The federal government announced that it was removing the Lesser Prairie-Chicken from the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service said it had not concluded the species didn’t warrant protection for biological reasons. “The service is undertaking a thorough re-evaluation of the bird’s status and the threats it faces using the best available scientific information to determine anew whether listing under the ESA is warranted,” it said. July 19

Kenn Kaufman recounts the troubled history of Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

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8. Unsafe for human survival: Researchers reported in the journal Science that across a majority of the Earth’s land, the abundance of animal and plant species has fallen below a level that biologists consider safe for human survival. “This is definitely a situation where the precautionary principle needs to be applied,” said a professor of ecology at Oxford University. “We can’t afford to wait to see the long-term consequences of degradation of natural ecosystems.” July 15

9. Success in New Zealand: Conservationists in New Zealand announced that the critically endangered Kakapo, a flightless bird (pictured above), had a record-breaking breeding season, producing 34 chicks. The world Kakapo population is now estimated to be 157 birds. July 14

10. Great Lakes birds: A decades-long inventory of bird communities in national forests in Wisconsin and northern Minnesota suggests that breeding populations of many species are stable or increasing. Some 700 birders volunteered or worked as paid field researchers in the Chequamegon-Nicolet, Superior, and Chippewa National Forests for more than 25 years to complete the inventory. July 12

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The most important bird news from early July.

Important news from late June.

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