Top 25 Arid Birds

Wild Bird Trust presents this week’s Top 25, “Arid Birds”. These birds face stressors such as aridity and heat but thrive nonetheless. Some birds made use of microclimates to escape the heat, using shade to keep cool. Others will dissipate the heat form their bodies by dilating blood vessels in their legs or by holding their wings away from their body. But heat is not the only challenge, deserts and semi deserts are by definition, dry. Some birds such as raptors and insectivores get sufficient moisture from their diets. But some need to drink, even daily, like the sandgrouse. The Namaqua Sandgrouse has a unique adaptation which allows the males to absorb water into their abdominal feathers and carry them back to their young. Here we present 25 of these amazing birds. Thank you to everyone who shared images with us this week, your efforts have brought the magical arid landscapes and their birds to life for all of us.

The Berthelot’s Pipit only occurs on the Canary Islands, off the coast of west Africa. Here they stay in semi-desert areas, like this one photographed in the dunes (Edwin Godinho)Male MacQueen’s Bustards maintain their breeding territories year by year and females like this one will nest nearby her mate’s territory (Dr. Malay Mandal)Like most desert dwelling birds, Crested Larks subsist mainly on invertebrates and seeds. These larks also need to drink from time to time and will travel to find water (Dhairya Jhaveri)Short-eared Owls inhabit a wide range of habitats including tundra, marshes and forests but they also do well in dry habitats like prairies and savanas (Harish Chopra)The Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark prefers dry, open habitats. This is a male, he has distinctive black markings, the female lacks these and is rather indistinct (Vijay Singh Chandel)The Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse can be found in the semi-deserts of India and the border of the Sahara desert. They drink daily during the cooler parts of the day, typically 2-3 hours after sunrise (Narahari Kanike)Dusky Grouse are closely associated with dry habitats with Douglas Firs. The Male has a red patch on the side of the neck, which he exposes during the breeding season by lifting the feathers (Tim Nicol)The Yellow-wattled Lapwing is found in the dry and open parts of India and surrounding countries. Interestingly Lapwings in the south are smaller than those in the north (Ajay Singh Rajawat)The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill occurs in the savannas of southern Africa. In arid areas they are restricted to watercourses where there are trees. They need trees as they are cavity nesters, the females seals herself into a cavity while she lays eggs and raises the young, the male brings them food(Michal Richter)This dry, bare, rocky terrain is typical habitat for these Painted Sandgrouse (Kishore Reddy)Long-tailed Shrikes are highly opportunistic feeders, hence they use a number of different habitats, including semi deserts (Edwin Godinho)Grey Francolins are monogamous and the young will stay with the parents until the next breeding season. This francolin was photographed in Dubai by Mukund KumarLittle Terns are of conservation concern and are vulnerable to a multitude of predators such as gulls and foxes. Recently in Portugal, another predator was discovered, these Eurasian Stone Curlews were found predating a Little Tern nest (Edwin Godinho)Three-banded Coursers can be found in sandy clearings in the north of Africa and the open ground of woodlands in eastern and southern Africa (Sammy Mugo)The African Hoopoe, a sub-species of the Common Hoopoe, is found in dry wooded savannas. The name Hoopoe is derived from their call which is a low ‘hoo-poo’ sound (Michal Richter)This Greater Hoopoe-lark can be found in the Sahara as well as the deserts of the Arabian peninsula and India (Dr Malay Mandal)Isabelline Shrikes are typically found in semi-desert areas. They require habitat with much open ground as they spend most of their time foraging for insects on the ground (Gaurav Budhiraja)This beautiful bird is a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, photographed in Spain by Carlo GallianiRufous-tailed Larks breed in open, sparsely vegetated areas. The nest is typically a scrape in the ground, surrounded with grass and twigs (Kishore Reddy)Sykes’s Nightjars prefer semi-desert and stony habitats, they are most active at night where they will fly over open areas and swamps foraging for flying insects (Vipul Trivedi)The Tawny Pipit inhabits dry, open areas where they run on the ground, pecking at prey (Anil Goyal)The Isabelline Wheatear breeds in central Asia and overwinters in south Asia and Africa. Some migrants over winter in starkly different habitats to their breeding range but these wheatears use open and arid habitats in both of their ranges (Ajay Singh Rajawat)A Desert Wheatear photographed in the grasslands of Rajasthan, India by Anil GoyalThe Indian Courser is a true Indian resident, it has never been recorded outside of the Indian Subcontinent (Gaurav Budhiraja)A Cream-coloured Courser photographed in Gujarat, India by Dr. Malay Mandal

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

Top 25 Birds Protected by the MBTA

Originally posted 2018-04-20 19:16:06.

Top 25 Birds of Europe

Wild Bird Trust presents the Top 25 Birds of Europe. Europe is a fairly species poor continent, with about 700 birds recorded. European bird populations are under severe threat from human development, particularly agriculture. A recent review found one third of all birds in Europe to be threatened. Even common birds like the European Turtle Dove has declined drastically, with their population dropping 90% since the 1980s. While overall Europe’s birds are in trouble,  some are bouncing back. Thanks to conservation efforts, birds like the Great Bustard and Common Cranes are recovering.

Here we present 25 of the birds that occur in Europe, we hope you enjoy our selection! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the them for next week’s Top 25 contest.

The Eurasian Coot adapts well to eutrophic water bodies and man-made environments, as a result their population has expanded in Europe (Edwin Godinho)Willow grouse In the true Arctic will spend up to 17 hours of the day in their snow burrows (Judi Fenson)A juvenile Greater Flamingo photographed in Ankara, turkey by Zafer TekinThe Eurasian Blue Tit is a common garden bird, they especially favour gardens with bird feeders! (Giuliano Mandeli)The Eurasian Golden Oriole prefers woodland habitats, they are rarely found in areas without trees (Christian Bagnol)Over the last 60 years, the population density of Whinchats in western Europe has dropped by 50%, this is largely due to the intensification of agriculture (Edwin Godinho)A European Bee-eater snacking on a Painted Lady butterfly in Bulgaria (Terry Ayling)A Cattle Egret strides through the dewy grass in Italy (Giuliano Mandelli)A Northern Gannet breeding pair greeting one another in yorkshire. These pairs often stay together for multiple seasons, perhaps even for their whole life (Edwin Godinho)A Eurasian Hoopoe photographed in Camargue, France by Christian BagnolThe Chukar Partridge is native to eastern Europe and central Asia. There are also a number of introduced populations, in the USA, New Zealand and South Africa (Owen Deutsch)A European Roller in its breeding range in Northern Greece (Antonis Tsaknakis)The Glossy Ibis’s in Africa and Australia are resident but populations in Europe migrate to Asia for the winter (Christian Bagnol)Goldcrests eat tiny insects like springtails and aphids (Oana Badiu)An Osprey with a freshly caught fish in Sweden (Jorg Asmus)European Robins are common in sub-urban gardens. They have been known to follow gardeners digging, catching insects that are disturbed (John Parkinson)Sanderlings breed in the tundra, they breed either monogamously or polyandrously, with one female and two males (Brigette Petras)The Sardinian Warbler occurs widely in the Mediterranean countries of Europe, this one was photographed in Mesologgi, Greece by Antonis TsaknakisBreeding White Storks that return to the same nest site every year tend to have higher nest success. This is mainly because older, more experienced birds tend to be more faithful to nest sites (Christian Bagnol)global warming is changing the vegetation in the willow grouse arctic habitats. Woody shrubs are becoming more dominant and as the grouse rely on willow shrubs, this may result in the expansion of their range (Anthony Roberts)Eurasian Treecreepers forage ‘mouse-like’ on trees for insects (Antonis Tsaknakis)Eurasian Oystercatchers can die in large number in years of low productivity, this is exacerbated by commercial shell fisheries catching their prey (Suranjan Mukherjee)Common Sandpipers migrate between Eurasia and Africa, southern Asia and Australia, undertaking non-stop flights of up to 4000 km (Jorg Asmus)A Eurasian Siskin photographed in Ivalo, Finland (Samuel Bloch)Northern Long-eared Owls rely greatly on their hearing to hunt, they can catch prey in total darkness (Romain Bodereau)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

Top 25: Birds of America

Originally posted 2018-06-08 19:24:20.

Historical Sign of Chesapeake Winter, the Canvasback, Still Brightens the Bay

Hundreds of canvasback ducks on Chesapeake Bay in winter.Hundreds of canvasback ducks flock to open water on a cold winter morning on Chesapeake Bay. (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

“They came back,” says biologist Donald Webster. “This year.” His voice has a wistful note, wondering if the king of ducks, as the beautiful, crimson-headed canvasback is known, will return to rule Chesapeake Bay again next winter.

In parka, gloves and hat, Webster, waterfowl coordinator for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), raises his binoculars near a seawall that runs along the Choptank River near Cambridge, Maryland. The lookout where the Choptank meets the Chesapeake is a mecca for wintering canvasbacks and other ducks.

“Canvasbacks, the waterfowl everyone comes to see, are usually here by Christmas, sometimes by Thanksgiving,” Webster says. “They stay through March, then they’re gone, heading north to nesting grounds.”

Canvasbacks form large groups in winter.Canvasbacks form large groups in winter, especially in areas near food sources. Here,
on Chesapeake Bay. (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

Skeins of waterfowl

On this early March morning with calm winds and temperatures that hover around freezing, the canvasbacks’ red heads stand out against winter-dark waters. The ducks glide near the seawall, where a dozen photographers jostle for a quintessential shot of an iconic Chesapeake duck. “This spot is known as the ‘wall of shame,’” laughs Webster, “because it’s almost too easy to get great waterfowl pictures here.”

Chesapeake skies fill with ducks – canvasbacks, buffleheads, greater and lesser scaup, and many others – from December through March. The bay is the Atlantic Coast’s most important waterfowl migration and wintering area. The Chesapeake and its 19 major tributaries, including the Patuxent and Potomac rivers, provide winter habitat for 24 species of ducks as well as Canada geese, greater snow geese and tundra swans on their annual stopovers.

“Long-term worsening of the Chesapeake’s water quality, however, and loss of habitat, especially the grasses so many of these birds depend on, have contributed to declines in wintering waterfowl on the bay,” says Webster.

Canvasbacks in an out-of-the-way spot on the Chesapeake.Canvasbacks in a spot along the Chesapeake that’s protected from winter winds, and where aquatic grasses are ready-to-eat. (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

Seesawing duck and grass estimates

According to a 2016 estimate, the most recent available, some 97,433 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) remain in the bay and its tributaries, down from historic levels that may have reached more than 600,000 acres.

There’s good news, however. The 2016 estimate is an 8 percent increase over 2015, and more than twice the SAV in 2013.

In 2011, Chesapeake SAV fell to 48,195 acres, a result of the effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The storms sent a flood of sediment downstream and into the bay. Conditions since, which have been relatively dry, reduced the flow of grass-smothering sediment and helped the SAV recover. More sunlight has reached submerged grasses, allowing them to flourish. In turn, SAV filters runoff, helping keep Chesapeake waters clear.

Canvasback dives for dinner.Several birds watch a canvasback diving for dinner. (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

SAV: A canvasback’s best friend

As recently as 1950, half the continent’s population of canvasbacks – more than a quarter million — wintered in Chesapeake Bay, relying on aquatic grasses as a favored food source.

During Colonial times, as many as one million canvasbacks may have spent wintertime on the bay. In the 19th century, the ducks’ abundance and, to many, good taste made them a favored selection in many East Coast restaurants, says Matt Kneisley, regional director for the Northeast Atlantic Flyway at the Delta Waterfowl Foundation, a waterfowl conservation and hunting organization.

The birds congregate in large flocks on open waters, leading to easy -– too-easy — harvesting. At the end of the 19th century, commercial hunters with batteries of weapons went after rafts of canvasbacks, often killing dozens with one shot. The ducks were shipped by boxcar to markets from Baltimore to Boston. Such “market hunting” was outlawed with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

“Canvasbacks were a favored quarry of market hunters because their meat was considered the tastiest of all the ducks due to their consumption of wild celery,” writes Guy Baldassarre in the 2014 edition of Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America.

Adds Kneisley, “Large beds of wild celery, a canvasback favorite, once attracted thousands of these ducks to an upper bay area known as Susquehanna Flats.” The decline in the Chesapeake’s water quality greatly reduced the amount of wild celery bay-wide, however.

The ducks switched their foraging efforts to small clams on the Chesapeake’s shallow bottom. A less nutritious diet of shellfish such as Baltic clams may affect canvasbacks’ winter survival rates, scientists believe.

How many canvasbacks on the Chesapeake? Winter waterfowl counts offer answers.Canvasbacks shed water after diving for food. How many of these ducks winter on the Chesapeake? To find out, scientists conduct an annual count. (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

Counting canvasbacks

Annual bird counts, Webster says, “give us a very good picture of how declines in SAV have affected wintering waterfowl.”

Half a century ago, four to five million ducks, geese and swans spent time on Chesapeake Bay during the winter. Now, that number is less than one million, according to results from the 2018 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey. The nationwide count has taken place annually since the 1950s.

Along the Chesapeake and nearby Atlantic coast, aerial survey teams of pilots and biologists from the Maryland DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make visual estimates of the region’s waterfowl. In 2018, the teams counted some 1,023,300 ducks, geese and swans, higher than the 812,600 birds observed in 2017 and above the 5-year average of 851,980.

“Cold weather and accompanying ice and snow to the north will typically push birds south as they search for food and open water,” says Maryland DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service director Paul Peditto. With December’s frigid temperatures and iced-in lakes in northern states, ducks were on-the-wing to points south.

Estimates of Chesapeake canvasbacks in 2018 were 60,000; in 2017, 75,100; in 2016, 19,800; and in 2015, 64,200. Sixty years earlier, in 1955, 225,450 canvasbacks were sighted. The last time the canvasback count exceeded 100,000 was in 1967: 133,100.

Nonetheless, says Webster, “Chesapeake Bay is one of the best places on Earth to see waterfowl in winter, and as they migrate in and out in late fall and early spring.”

Most waterfowl migrate along corridors, the well-known “flyways.” Four major routes pass through the United States: the Pacific Flyway, which runs north-south along the West Coast; the Mississippi Flyway, which leads from the bays of northern Canada and the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico; the Central Flyway from northwestern Canada to Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula; and the Atlantic Flyway, which funnels waterfowl from central and eastern Canada along the Atlantic Coast to Florida. Chesapeake Bay is a major duck stop along the Atlantic Flyway.

Canvasback hen among drakes.A lone canvasback hen in a crowd of potential suitors. (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

Bird nursery

Many of the Chesapeake’s wintering ducks began life in the prairie pothole region, which extends from the Midwestern northern tier states into Canada. There, about half North America’s ducklings hatch.

When the Wisconsin ice sheet of the last glacial period retreated northward some 15,000 years ago, tens of thousands of landlocked icebergs were left in its wake, writes Michael Furtman in On the Wings of a North Wind: The Waterfowl and Wetlands of North America’s Inland Flyways.

These small icebergs melted into the soil. As they faded, Furtman states, “they became the foundation of the prairie potholes. An estimated 10 million glacially carved depressions once pockmarked the landscape of the prairie pothole region of the United States and Canada.”

As climate warmed, the potholes evolved into a habitat so enticing that more than 130 bird species have used a single pothole in one year. Ducks were likely among the first residents. With millions of potholes from which to choose, waterfowl had plenty of room to find nesting sites.

“The diversity of potholes, ranging from small spring ponds to large permanent wetlands, provided ducks with the habitats necessary for each stage in their breeding and brood-rearing cycles,” Furtman states.

But as undisturbed land in the region gave way to agriculture, the number of potholes decreased, especially over the last 40 years. In North Dakota’s pothole region, where as many as 100 of these basins per square mile once existed, “60 percent of the original five million acres of wetlands has been lost,” Furtman reports. “Ninety-five percent of that loss is attributable to agriculture.”

Fisheye view of canvasbacks on the Chesapeake.Will the Chesapeake always welcome wintering canvasbacks? (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

Hot times?

If increasing agriculture isn’t challenge enough for waterfowl, rising global temperatures may result in more frequent and severe droughts in the prairie pothole region. The effect on breeding ducks would be devastating, says Webster.

“Decades ago,” he remembers, “the Chesapeake was full of canvasbacks. But no more. I’d like to see the days come back when canvasbacks’ red heads bobbed on the water as far as you could see.”

Canvasbacks and the many other ducks that winter on the Chesapeake have come a long way, Webster says. “The least we can do is show them some hospitality by making sure their environment — here, and on their breeding grounds — is healthy.”

Otherwise, the spectacle along the Choptank River may vanish, the seawall indeed becoming a wall of shame as the last canvasback’s wingbeats fade into silence.

The last of the "king of ducks"?The last Chesapeake canvasback? We need to do our part to help the “king of ducks” grace the bay each winter. (Photograph: Paul Bramble)

Originally posted 2018-03-17 17:01:48.

What Migrating Songbirds Tell Us About Our Planet

Top photo: Kristen Ruegg of the Bird Genoscope Project. Photograph courtesy of Kristen Ruegg.

Songbirds roam every corner of our planet, and as global “canaries in the coal mine” could become our best indicators for the health status of life on Earth. So says Professor Martin C. Wikelski, Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Wikelski has received numerous grants from the National Geographic Society to study animal migration and is a National Geographic Fellow. Much of his work involves tagging migrating animals with tiny instruments that record their movements by satellite. His latest Society grant goes further: He plans to fit 520 common cuckoos with newly developed tags that report GPS position, acceleration, magnetometer direction, temperature, humidity, pressure, and altitude, over two years.

A key feature in biodiversity are animals that move long distances, Wikelski explains. “They connect habitats in the most diverse areas across the globe.” Because humans have changed so much of Earth’s habitats, long-distance migrants are often the most endangered species. Songbirds in particular, many of which travel between continents every year, have suffered heavy losses as a group. In Europe alone, more than a quarter of songbirds have disappeared over the last 30 years; 380 million songbirds are lost every year.

As part of a year of activities to support birds and their habitats, National Geographic, BirdLife International, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the National Audubon Society are convening an event featuring two expert panels to explore how technology is expanding our understanding of migration and how creative new solutions are advancing conservation and policy. Watch Thursday’s live stream of the discussions.

Something wrong in the environment

“Similar to the old miners working in dangerous coal mines deep under the earth, we can now use ‘canaries in the coal mine,’ that is migrating songbirds on the global level to alert us to problems of life-threatening biodiversity loss,” Wikelski notes. “The general demise of songbirds should be indicative for all of us that something is wrong in the environment. However, it is often unclear what this ‘something’ is, because we do not yet have the capacity to understand where, when and why individual songbirds die. That is, we do not yet understand where the threats for biodiversity come from throughout the entire migration range of songbirds.”

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Wikelski and his team started studying songbird migration some years ago by tagging common cuckoos with satellite-tracking tags to monitor their patterns from northern Europe into Africa. It was found that European cuckoos migrate through eastern Africa to Angola, winter there, and migrate back through the Congo, western Africa, the Sahara, Italy and  back to central Europe. “But while we have learned a lot about the general patterns, timing and dangers of some good migration through these studies, it is still unclear how common cuckoos across their entire range are migrating, how they are navigating to apparently the same wintering areas, and especially how young cuckoos (or other migrating species) learn to migrate and navigate as they have never seen any of their parents,” Wikelski explains.

How the public can help

Wikelski’s latest project to fill important gaps in understanding of global songbird migration engages the public in conservation efforts by following birds virtually.

The main goal is twofold: “First, we want to understand the diversity of movement and migration patterns across the entire range of one songbird species,” Wikelski explains. This has never been achieved before. “Second, we want the public to participate in the global migration of enigmatic species to understand the dangers and joys of global movements. Because of the GPS accuracy of tracking tags, we can showcase exactly which tree or bush the birds are resting in and even alert local residents that birds from many thousand kilometers away have arrived in their neighborhood to rest or winter.”

The enigma of how young cuckoos learn to migrate

“Scientifically, the most exciting objective is to understand how young cuckoos develop the continental migration routes without ever seeing their parents,” Wikelski says. “This includes questions of navigation, orientation, habitat selection and imprinting, predation avoidance, food-searching, use of air space and winds, as well as interactions with other species in diverse species assemblages during breeding, migration and wintering.

“As an additional benefit for the global public, we will showcase cuckoos as ambassadors for the conditions of life across three continents,” Wikelski adds. “Cuckoos are often located in the vicinity of humans, but only if the local habitat is conducive for breeding and production of other songbird species. Therefore, cuckoo locations will indicate excellent biodiversity conditions across their entire range.”

Bird Genoscape Project

The National Geographic live event also featured the work of the Bird Genoscape Project, which harnesses genomics to conserve migratory birds. More than 50 percent of North America’s migratory bird species are estimated to be declining, and without coordinated conservation efforts many species face extinction, says Kristen Ruegg, National Geographic Society grantee and co-director of the Bird Genoscope Project.

“For migratory birds, knowledge of connections between breeding, wintering and migratory stop-over areas is essential for the development of effective conservation strategies, but such information has historically been difficult to attain,” Ruegg says. “To address these challenges, the Bird Genoscape Project uses the latest genomic methods to: 1) map the migratory routes of North American birds using DNA from feathers and 2) predict the impacts of future climate change on the ability of populations to adapt. Combined with other life history data, this fine-grained information enables conservation scientists to target limited resources to the places in the annual cycle where they are most needed.

“We are currently constructing population-specific flyway maps and mapping climate adaptation in 14 species of migratory birds, ranging from endangered to common, with plans to expand our efforts to additional species of concern over the next decade.

“Working with conservation groups and decision makers such as the National Audubon Society, Federal and State agencies, and renewable energy companies, our goal is to translate our results into action to help stem migratory bird declines. In my presentation, I describe recent discoveries that we have made from mapping population specific migratory routes and climate adaptation in the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and how they are helping guide to conservation efforts.”

Year of the Bird is a 12-month public campaign initiated by National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, BirdLife International, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, along with more than 175 supporting organizations from across the birding and conservation communities. The Year of the Bird aims to celebrate the beauty and importance of birds and nature, and to inspire people around the world to take action to help them. As we mark the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, pivotal U.S. legislation signed in 1918, we recognize birds as a symbol of nature’s interconnectedness and look to the next hundred years of caring for the planet we share.

The migration event, titled “Taking Flight: Bird Migration and Conservation Across Hemispheres,” helps to kick off the Year of the Bird by focusing on the challenges and solutions for conservation policy through the lens of birds.

Migrations and Tech panel:

  • Andrew Farnsworth – Research Associate, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Martin Wikelski – NGS Fellow
  • Gary Langham – VP and Chief Scientist, National Audubon Society
  • Kristen Ruegg, NGS grantee – Bird Genoscape project

Conservation in Action panel:

  • Amanda Rodewald – Conservation Science Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • David Yarnold – President and CEO, National Audubon Society
  • Jonathan Baillie, Chief Scientist and SVP for Science and Exploration, NGS
  • Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International

Moderator (for both):

  • Laura Helmuth – Health, Science and Environment Editor at The Washington Post

    Painting of various migratory songbirds whose numbers are declining. Illustration by H. Douglas Pratt.

Originally posted 2018-02-15 04:56:39.

The Best of the Top 25: Part 2

This week we continue our flash back on some of the best Top 25 photographs of the last year. Of the thousands of pictures submitted and the hundreds selected for the Top 25 blogs, these are considered the best of the best! Thank you to all the photographers who have submitted pictures over the last year. Your pictures allows us to a tell a story about the wonderful birdlife that exists on our planet. Keep up the good work!

To recap even more of our Top 25 images you can visit our youtube channel. You can find even more bird photography highlights on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages!

This beautiful Anna’s Hummingbird can be found on the west coast of North America (Sutapa Karmakar)The pet trade is one of the factors driving Bali Mynas to extinction (Arun Samak)The Black-throated Trogon can be found in the humid forests of South America. This one was photographed in Panama by Owen DeutschIn winter Brown-headed Gulls can be found on the coastlines of India and south-east Asia. Here they associate with fishing vessels, eating any scraps from the ship (Mukesh Mishra)The Brown-hooded Kingfisher of southern Africa rarely fishes, in fact they eat mainly insects (Rodnick Clifton Biljon)A Handsome Burchell’s Starling photographed in Botswana by Owen DeutschThe Collared Kingfisher is widespread across south-east Asia. Taxonomists have divided the species into 50 different sub-species! Although the species as a whole is widespread some of the sub-species have very small populations which are threatened (Kishore Debnath)The Common Kingfisher eats mainly fish and insects. Several times a day they will regurgitate a pellet with the indigestible remains of their prey (Kuntal Das)The Daurain Redstart was previously known to only breed in China, Mongolia and Russia. Recently a new breeding population was discovered in Japan (Vinayak Joshi)The Demoiselle Crane breeds aross central Eurasia. Those from the west of the breeding range then migrate to Africa for the winter and the others migrate to India (Anirban Roychowdhury)An endangered Egyptian Vulture photographed in Haryana, India by Vishal MonakarThe Eurasian Jay is a woodland species, they collect acorns and bury them to eat later. However they store far more than they need and many of them will start to grow into oak trees (Asim Haldar)The breeding success of European Bee-eaters is strongly linked to weather conditions. A study in Germany found breeding success to be twice as good in warm, dry years, compared to wet and cold years (Carlo Galliani)This European Starling is in fresh plumage, once the feathers start the wear, the pale spots become less visible (Donald Bauman)Male Great Bustards are known to eat poisonous blister beetles in the mating season. These contain cantharidin, a known aphrodisiac. It is suspected that this helps makes the males more willing to court females (Lennart Hessel)A yellow morph of the Green-winged Pytilia photographed in Kimberley, South Africa. Normally the face would be red in this species (Brian Culver)Between 1985 and 2004 the population of Grey Crowned-cranes halved, they are now considered endangered (Wasif Yaqeen)A striking portrait of an Indian Eagle-owl (Prasad Sonawane)The Northern Long-eared Owl has excellent hearing, it is thought that they locate their prey mainly from sound (Zafer Tekin)A male Calliope Hummingbird showing his colourful display feathers (Jola Charlton)A Mountain Bulbul photographed in the Himalayas by Vishal MonakarA pair of Atlantic Puffins on Skomer Island, Wales (Suranjan Mukherjee)Even thought Steppe Eagles are endangered, they are still one of the most common large eagles in the world (Tauseef Zafer)Violet-backed Starlings are important dispersers of mistletoes. They eat the fruit and then regurgitate the seed which then grows into a new plant (Shantharam Holla)The White-throated Bee-eater breeds along the edges of the Saharan desert, before wintering in central Africa (Caroline Muchekehu)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

The Best of the Top 25: Part 1

Originally posted 2018-05-17 16:44:59.

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