Category: Birds

Can Protecting Core Areas Help Imperiled Sage Grouse Populations?

Can protecting core sage grouse habitat while allowing energy and housing development in less-sensitive areas help conserve this declining bird? That’s the focus of a recent paper in PLoS One journal that measures the effectiveness of sage grouse conservation actions in Wyoming, the state with the largest population of these birds.

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Cool Green Review: Spine of the Continent, Imperial Dreams

Welcome to Cool Green Review, our monthly look at notable conservation science books. This month: Mary Ellen Hannibal’s The Spine of the Continent and Tim Gallagher’s Imperial Dreams.

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Spotting Banded Birds: Another Way Birders Can Contribute to Citizen Science

Anyone with a pair of binoculars is able to contribute to our understanding of migratory birds by simply keeping a look out for birds with bands. Birders Pat and Doris Leary have made significant contributions to science by focusing on bird bands and reporting their findings. You can help, too. Our blogger tells you how birders can turn every outing into an exciting citizen science project.

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The Cooler: 5 Lessons for Live Animal Cams

What makes for a great animal live cam feature? Of course you need some compelling animals — but that’s just one key ingredient in the recipe. You need science, community and a willingness to let people project their imaginations onto the critters, too.

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Farewell to Osprey Cam

All kids eventually leave home to make their own way in the world. While most human parents have 18 years or so years to prepare for the inevitable “empty nest” syndrome, bird parents only have a few months. Such is the case with our charismatic osprey family on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, stars of this summer’s popular blog and social media hit, Osprey Cam. Now, eager wildlife cam fans want to know: will the osprey cam be renewed in 2014?

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Traveling Naturalist: 5 Top Spots to See Yellowstone’s Wildlife

Heading to America’s first national park? Our blogger points you to the best spots to see Yellowstone’s diverse wildlife, including creatures very, very large and those very, very small.

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Science Video: Why Do We Value Some Species More Than Others?

Why does one endangered species get lots of conservation attention, while a similar one doesn’t? In the case of two very similar threatened birds, says a new video from Australia, it’s about familiarity and values.

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Conservation Future: Announcing the 2013 NatureNet Fellows

Nine young scientists — with specialties ranging from energy infrastructure to urban ecology, Kenyan pastoral techniques to nanotechnology — inaugurate a program designed to help kick-start conservation toward addressing the challenges facing people and nature in the 21st century.

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The Charismatic and Elusive Birds of Manus Island

Want to see a Manus Friarbird? Birder and conservation scientist James Fitzsimons will point you in the right direction on this off-the-beaten track birding destination.

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The Latest Victim of Non-Native Cheatgrass: Golden Eagles

Cheatgrass keeps ecologists up at night. Its spread eliminates native plants, sage grouse and mule deer. New research adds golden eagles to that list.

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Osprey Cam: Reality TV Featuring Our Wild Neighbors

There are some new neighbors in town, and I can’t stop spying on them!

Allie and Bama recently moved to Orange Beach, Alabama. They live on prime real estate in this pristine beach town along the northern Gulf Coast. The climate is sub-tropical, grocery shopping is close-by, and the commute to work is more than manageable. They utilize locally sourced food for nourishment and have recycled building material for their humble abode. Their family is healthy and quickly growing with the arrival of two new offspring.

Allie, Bama and their newborns are not your typical beach-town family. They are birds of prey, called osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and in late spring this spring, The Nature Conservancy and our partners installed a camera to monitor their activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We have been invited into the home of Allie and Bama, and it has been the best unscripted reality show I’ve ever seen!

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Boucher’s Birding Blog: Apps for the Smart Birder — Which One Should You Use?

Need an app that helps you identify birds in the field? Don’t bother searching for “birds” in any app store. Unless that thrush happens to be angry, those dozens of Angry Bird apps that pop up won’t be of any use to you.

So here is my expert take on 5 iPhone birding apps — Audubon Birds, iBird Pro, National Geographic Birds, Peterson Birds, and Sibley eGuide to Birds (all also available on Android) — that are focused on the things that birders need for identifying birds in the field:

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Sage Grouse, Sagebrush and Science

They appear like ghosts before light: small groups of plump birds standing amongst the sagebrush. They puff up, tail feathers erect, chest extended. Large air sacs are inflated on their breasts, making a distinct plop.

I’m on the spring display grounds of the greater sage grouse, one of the arid West’s most iconic birds. Each spring males gather on these grounds, known as leks, to impress females with their display.

You have to get up early in the morning and sit motionless in the high desert. But you’ll be rewarded in the soft light of dawn, as sage grouse begin their show. It’s not unusual 15 males vying for the attention of female grouse on a lek, a site that grouse use year after year. (I’ve seen more than 50 on a lek at The Nature Conservancy’s Crooked Creek Preserve).

It’s one of the world’s most memorable wildlife spectacles. But finding it has grown increasingly difficult, as sage grouse continue to decline across their range.

Why are sage grouse on the decline? And is there anything we can do about it?

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Everyday Nature: Cartoonish Coot Chicks

Most baby birds, cute though they may be, are not exactly colorful. This makes good evolutionary sense: Baby birds, unable to fly, make easy meals for predators.

They thus must blend into their surroundings. A drake mallard or canvasback is a colorful, striking water bird, but baby ducks are nondescript. They disappear into the marshy reeds, making it harder for a hungry raccoon or mink to find them.

Not so the American coot.

Adult coots are fairly drab birds. But their babies? They look like they were designed by a deranged tattoo artist.

The front half of the coot’s body is covered in orange-tipped plumes, giving them a jarring appearance. We’re not used to seeing baby birds covered bright feathers. While this orange fades rather quickly—in about six days—it still leaves them conspicuous when they are at the most vulnerable stage of their lives.

This coloration makes them more susceptible to predation. What advantage would such feathers possibly confer?

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Boucher’s Birding Blog: Mamba Meets Bushbaby

Sometimes when you go birding, you can’t help but see other animals – elephants, army ants, beautiful butterflies.

Occasionally, if you get out early (as birders always do), you can get to a park before the crowds and you might see something really special (and, in this case, gruesome).

In January, we traveled to Ghana for some superb birding. Our visit included the famous canopy walkway at the Kakum National Park near the Ivory Coast. The seven bridges strung high up in the trees usually teem with visitors who have no appreciation of the amazing birdlife.

They might notice the monkeys, but for most, the canopy walkway is just a low-tech amusement ride. They shriek as they bounce from one platform to the next on the narrow, swaying  wooden planks.

We arrived very early, our guide having arranged for the park to admit us before the regular opening hour.  We were the first visitors on the path that climbs to the walkway.

It was barely light as we tramped up the steep hill, trying not to trip over hidden roots and rocks. As we reached a turn, we heard a ruckus near the trail – about head height — and we all peered into the tangle of vines and branches.  We had the surprise of our lives.

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Featured Content

Osprey Cam: Watch Our Wild Neighbors
Watch the ospreys live 24/7 as they nest and raise their young -- and learn more about these fascinating birds from our scientist.

What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

2. Blog with astonishing photos, videos and dispatches of Nature Conservancy science in the field.

3. Home of Weird Nature, The Cooler, Quick Study, Traveling Naturalist and other amazing features.

Cool Green Science is managed by Matt Miller, the Conservancy's deputy director for science communications at the Conservancy, and edited by Bob Lalasz, its director of science communications. Email us your feedback.

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