News about birds and birding from March and early April

condor
California Condor. Photo by Teri Franzen

Here are nine stories about birds and birding that have caught our attention recently.

Condors in the Northwest. The long-awaited move to reintroduce California Condors to the Pacific Northwest took a step forward today when federal agencies and the Yurok Tribe of northern California released a reintroduction plan. Under the proposal, up to six condors per year will be released at Redwood National Park, about 20 miles south of the Oregon border.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 60-day public-comment period on the proposal; all comments must be received by June 4, 2019. Information on how to submit comments is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS–R1–ES–2018-033. Also, public meetings about the proposal will be held in May in northern California and Oregon.

NYC considers window coatings. To help lower the number of bird collisions with windows, members of the New York city council have introduced a bill that would amend the building code to require that developers make 90 percent of glass used on new and altered buildings bird-friendly. If passed, the change would mean that developers would either need to use glass with a pattern on it or add a special coating—obvious to birds, more or less invisible to humans—to windows.

Cinematic penguins. On April 17, Disneynature will release the new feature film “Penguins” nationwide. (View the trailer above.) The studio says the film is “a coming-of-age story about an Adélie Penguin named Steve who joins millions of fellow males in the icy Antarctic spring on a quest to build a suitable nest, find a life partner and start a family. None of it comes easily for him, especially considering he’s targeted by everything from killer whales to leopard seals, who unapologetically threaten his happily ever after.” During opening week (April 17-23) in the U.S. and Canada, Disneynature will contribute $.20 from each purchased ticket to the Wildlife Conservation Network through the Disney Conservation Fund to support penguin conservation, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $100,000.

Prairie birds on film. Speaking of movies, we learned this week that shooting has begun on an IMAX nature documentary titled “Wings 3D.” Told over a seasonal year, it will follow the lives of Mallards, Sandhill Cranes, and Yellow Warblers in the prairies of western Canada and the Dakotas. Academy Award-nominated actor Michael Keaton will narrate the film, which is scheduled to released in 2021.

Birding series on YouTube. In case you haven’t heard, 32-year-old birder Jason Ward of Atlanta recently launched Birds of North America, a new web-based video series about his experiences as a birder. (That’s the teaser trailer above.) The videos are short, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Ward, who is African-American, tells WNYC that he wants “to be able to create that pathway for young kids who look like I do to feel emboldened to pursue a career in conservation.” The series has also been profiled in The Verge and The New Yorker. For a deeper look at race and birding, see this new piece from YES! Magazine.

Fantasy birding. You’re probably familiar with fantasy sports, in which people select players from various teams in baseball, football, etc., and then compete with others online based on how “their” athletes perform in real life. Recently, software developer Matt Smith released Fantasy Birding, an online game for anyone who wants to wants to try competitive birding at home. An article in Deadspin explains that participants use eBird to “select single locations on a map each day, and get credit for a bird if a real-life birder spots that species within a 10-kilometer radius that day. There’s also a global game for intrepid fantasy players hoping to spot birds around the world.”

Lost flight. If you have ever wondered why emus, ostritches, and other ratites can’t fly, a new study has the answer. New genetic analyses show that mutations in regulatory DNA caused ratite birds to lose the ability to fly up to five separate times over their evolution, researchers report in the April 5 issue of Science

Beach-nesting eagles. “Sometimes no matter how long you have worked with a species and no matter how wild you let your imagination run, you just cannot anticipate what they will do next.” So begins a story from the Center for Conservation Biology in Virginia. In the last few months, researchers there have documented two Bald Eagle nests built on beaches on two different barrier islands. Since 2013, three other eagle nests have also been constructed on beaches. The birds, of course, typically nest high in trees.

Endangered songbird spotted for first time in three years. BirdLife International reports on a recent sighting of a Rufous-headed Robin in the cloud forests of Malaysia — the first record of the bird since 2016. The sighting appears to confirm the location of the bird’s previously unknown wintering grounds.

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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