Blog Birding #330

One of the more extraordinary bird stories in recent years, Sarah Gilman at Cornell’s All About Birds writes about the re-discovery of a South American bird that had been unseen for decades.

Though deforestation was common around the Tchira Antpitta’s suspected home, some of the undisturbed forest was protected inside Venezuela’s El Tam National Park. There were also other explanations for the bird dropping off the radar besides extinction: That border had been nearly impossible to visit until recently because of guerilla activity in adjacent Colombia. And as a group, antpittas are legendarily difficult to spot, singing only in the narrow window before dawn and dusk and sticking to the thick undergrowth of steep, soupy woods at high elevations.

Laura Erickson shares her thoughts about how conservation stands to suffer in these polarized times.

Here in Minnesota, I requested the DNR to restrict the dove season in the northeastern corner of the state where American Kestrel migration is concentrated. It’s easy to mistake flying Killdeer and American Kestrels for doves, and kestrels perched on wires for doves, too. Even in states like Texas, with a long-standing dove-hunting culture, hunters occasionally mistake birds of other species for doves. It didn’t seem worth the risk to the already-declining kestrel, especially because the dove population up here is very small.

The Breeding Bird Survey, 50 years old this year, is one of the continent’s most impressive citizen science initiatives, and The AOS-COS Publications blog discusses how the venerable ornithological journal plans to celebrate it.

In 1966, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist named Chan Robbins launched an international program designed to measure changes in bird populations using volunteers recruited to count birds on pre-set routes along country roads. The result, the North American Breeding Bird Survey or BBS, is still going strong more than five decades later. This month The Condor: Ornithological Applications is publishing a special set of research papers to honor the program’s fiftieth anniversary.

At Feathered Photography, Ron Dudley spends time at the nest of a Red-naped Sapsucker, noting how long it takes to go from helpless chick to fledgling.

Recently I spent many hours over four consecutive days photographing (and attempting to photograph) nesting Red-naped Sapsuckers in Idaho’s Targhee National Forest. Surprisingly there was only one youngster in the nest cavity. I’ve photographed nesting sapsuckers on several previous occasions and one of the difficulties has always been predicting when the chicks would be old enough to poke their heads out of the nest cavity in anticipation of food. Obviously, getting both the adult and the youngster in the photo makes for a more interesting image and I’ve often wondered how long they do it before they fledge long drives to an already abandoned nest tree just aren’t very productive.

Tool use in animals has long been seen as a sign of intelligence, even as the behavior has been noted in an increasing number of species. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty impressive when young Brown-headed Nuthatches are observed doing it, as reported at BirdWatching Daily.

Recently, scientists from the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy in Tallahassee, Florida, reported what they say are the first observations of tool usage by juvenile birds in the wild. In a paper in Southeastern Naturalist, Mary Mack Gray, Elliot W. Schunke, and James A. Cox describe five instances in which they saw juvenile Brown-headed Nuthatches using tools. The birds used pine needles, twigs, and a pine-bark scale to probe for food under bark scales and in a mass of pine needles stuck in the crotch of a limb.

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