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Late August roundup: 10 key news stories about birds

Least Tern in Flagler Beach, Florida, by Joshua Clark.
Least Tern in Flagler Beach, Florida, by Joshua Clark.

Here are the most important bird-related stories of the past two weeks:

1. Funds to curb illegal hunting: The 2015 British Birdwatching Fair concluded at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, east of Leicester. This year’s event raised funds to reduce the scale and impact of the illegal killing of migratory birds in the eastern Mediterranean. Last year’s fair raised £280,000 ($441,392), a record, to help advance the designation of new marine protected areas and to enrich worldwide marine wildlife. August 23

2. Every year, 25 million birds: According to a scientific review by BirdLife International, illegal hunting in Malta, Italy, Greece, and other eastern Mediterranean countries claims 25 million birds every year. “This review shows the gruesome extent to which birds are being illegally killed,” said BirdLife’s CEO. August 20

3. Thirty lost whales: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the recent deaths of 30 large whales in Alaska an “unusual mortality event.” Eleven fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified marine mammals have been stranded around islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula since May, almost three times the historical average. August 20

Takahē released on Maungatautari Mountain, Waikato district, North Island, New Zealand.
Takahē released on Maungatautari Mountain, Waikato district, North Island, New Zealand.

4. Killer in the water: The U.S. Geological Survey found the bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids in a little more than half of both urban and agricultural streams sampled across the nation and Puerto Rico. None of the concentrations exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aquatic-life criteria. August 18

Study: Insect-eating birds decline where bee-killing neonicotinoids are present.

5. Georgia on our mind: Aroclor 1268, a concoction of PCBs from a Superfund site near Brunswick, Georgia, was found in six populations of Least Terns along the Georgia coast. The birds showed contamination levels high enough to cause significant defects, including diminished egg production, immune disorders, and physical and physiological abnormalities in offspring. August 18

6. Arctic drilling OK: Ignoring the warnings of environmentalists who argue that little, if any, oil would be recovered if a large spill were to occur, the Obama administration granted final approval to Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic. August 18

Read about marine Important Bird Areas in Alaska (PDF).

7. Five percent gone: Deer hunters hired to cull a common swamphen known as the Pukeko on an island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf shot and killed four Takahē instead. About 300 of the critically endangered birds survive in New Zealand, and only 70-80 remain in the wild. The loss of the four Takahē amounted to a five percent decrease in the wild population.

8. Success in China: One of the rarest birds in the world, Chinese Crested Tern, had its most successful breeding season since its rediscovery 15 years ago. At least 16 chicks hatched and fledged successfully. The critically endangered species now has an estimated population of less than 100 individuals. August 13

9. ‘Eagle take’ rule set aside: A U.S. district court ruled that the Interior Department violated federal laws when it allowed wind-energy and other companies to obtain 30-year permits to kill protected Bald and Golden Eagles without prosecution. As a result, for now, 30-year incidental-take permits are no longer available to wind-energy projects.  August 12

10. Well deserved: The American Ornithologists’ Union presented its Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award to Joseph Wunderle, Jr., a research biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. Wunderle has made seminal contributions to our understanding of many Neotropical birds, including Kirtland’s Warbler. According to the AOU, the award recognizes extraordinary scientific contributions to the conservation, restoration, or preservation of birds and/or their habitats. August 1

Birds in the news: 10 important recent stories in early August.

Late July roundup: A half-dozen important news stories about birds.


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