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The most important bird news from late August

Blue-winged Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler made bird news recently.
Blue-winged Warbler in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, May 10, 2015, by jbuescher.

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. Pyle honored: At the sixth North American Ornithological Conference in Washington, D.C., the American Ornithologists’ Union welcomed 21 new Fellows. One of them was Peter Pyle, of the Institute for Bird Populations at Point Reyes Station. Pyle is well known for his two-part Identification Guide to North American Birds, used by banders everywhere, or almost everywhere, when ageing and sexing birds. August 22

2. Fifteen months in a row: For the 15th consecutive month, the global land and ocean temperature departure from average was the highest since global temperature records began in 1880. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the July 2016 combined average temperature was 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th-century average, besting the previous July record set in 2015 by 0.06°C (0.11°F). July 2016 marks the 40th consecutive July with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th-century average. August 22

3. A plover in Ontario: A Common Ringed Plover was photographed in Ontario for the first time ever. The shorebird was spotted on the man-made Leslie Street Spit, in Tommy Thompson Park, in Toronto. August 21

Snowy Egret is protected by the MBTA, which made bird news by turning 100.
Snowy Egret by Greg Lavaty.

4. A swift in Alaska: A Pacific Swift was recorded on the North American mainland for the second time ever. The bird was photographed as it foraged in the Colville River Delta in the far north of Alaska. Nearly all previous records of the species in the ABA Area came from islands in the Western Alaska. August 19

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5. 99.97 percent alike: Researchers with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced that Blue-winged Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler are almost identical, genetically speaking. Scientists say the findings suggest conservationists should be less concerned with hybridization and focus instead on preserving habitat for both species. “This is something that conservation practitioners have wanted for a very long time,” said a study co-author. August 19

6. BirdWatching goes to Washington: Editor Chuck Hagner and contributing editor Kenn Kaufman contributed to a symposium on meeting bird-conservation needs through better public policy at the North American Ornithological Conference. Hagner spoke about editing a magazine about birds for backyard birdwatchers, listers, and ornithologists, while Kaufman talked about using birder economics to build support for regional conservation efforts. August 18

7. Merger approved: Also at the North American Ornithological Conference, the Fellows of the American Ornithologists’ Union formally approved the merger of their organization with the Cooper Ornithological Society. Members of the COS had voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger earlier in August. Together, the two groups will form a new organization called the American Ornithological Society. August 17

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8. A century of bird protection: The landmark Migratory Bird Treaty, signed by the United States and Canada on August 16, 1916, turned 100 years old. The treaty became U.S. federal law in 1918 as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. August 16

9. Flocks fly fast: Researchers in Sweden proved for the first time that flight speed increases as flocks become bigger. The researchers evaluated morphology, counted birds in different flocks, and measured flight speeds on the island of Öland. Flight speed is determined by a variety of factors, they confirmed, one of which is flock size. Exactly why bigger flocks travel faster isn’t clear. August 16

10. Gunnison Sage-Grouse plans: The Bureau of Land Management released long-awaited plans to protect the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. Only about 5,000 of the birds remain, in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The species was listed as a threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. August 12

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The most important bird news from early August.

The most important news from late July.

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