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birds

Demand to kill cormorants grows in Great Lakes

12 hours ago
Cormorant drying its wings on the wreck of the Francisco Morazan off South Manitou Island.
Sam Corden

There are renewed calls to kill cormorants in the Great Lakes. There are far fewer of these migratory birds left in the region after years of lethal control. But anglers and some congressmen say there are still too many and they eat too many fish. Conflict with these waterbirds is longstanding in coastal communtities where fishing is important and the birds nest by the hundreds or even thousands.

In 2004, there were almost 1,800 double-crested cormorant nests on Goose Island, a strip of land in northern Lake Huron about 500 feet wide and less than a mile long.

The Kirtland's warbler
National Audobon Society

Amidst concern about animal species on the verge of extinction, we wanted to look at some success stories: species that were highly endangered, but whose populations are now making a comeback in Michigan.

The Kirtland's warbler is one of those species. Fifty years ago, the songbird was nearly extinct. Today, it has an estimated population of around 5,000.

northern cardinal
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


Malaria is incredibly common across the world in mammals, birds, and reptiles. So it's not surprising that birds in Michigan, just like birds elsewhere, suffer from a variety of malaria-causing parasites. 

What is surprising is just how many blood parasites you find in birds with malaria. 

A new study published in the journal Parasitology Research discovered a far greater range of blood parasites than expected in birds tested in southwest Michigan. 

Juliet Berger and other birders look through their binoculars at a warbler.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Mornings in Michigan is our series about morning routines and rituals around our state. This time of year, some people get up early to see migrating birds arriving in Michigan. Mike Kielb and his wife sometimes get up at 4 a.m.

A snapshot of BirdCast's migration forecast.
Kyle Horton

People who study birds are now using radar to make maps that can forecast migration at night. They say these maps could help by reducing the number of birds that collide with buildings and wind turbines.

sandhill crane
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Right now, it’s illegal in the state of Michigan to hunt the sandhill crane, the state’s largest and oldest bird. But a proposal to hunt the species within the state is gaining traction and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says if the state of Michigan asks, it will grant permission to hunt the bird. Michigan would join 15 other states that currently allow sandhill crane hunting. In these states, hunting requires both a state and federal license.

Donna Dewhurst / USFWS

A new study in the journal Science finds there are genetic differences in yellow warblers that live in different parts of the U.S. and Canada, and some of those populations seem to be more genetically vulnerable to climate change than others.

Rachael Bay is the lead author of the study, at the University of California-Davis.

“We did some genome sequencing and we found a bunch of genes that seem to be associated with whether yellow warblers live in warmer or drier or hotter or colder areas," she says.

pine grosbeak in tree with berries
Don Henise / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the rest of us are snuggled up with hot cocoa this holiday season, Michigan birders have been heading out in the snow and cold for the annual Christmas bird count.

"The first Christmas bird count actually did happen on Christmas back in 1900,” says Rachelle Roake, conservation science coordinator for Michigan Audubon.

Snowy owls have descended on the Great Lakes region and northeastern U.S. in huge numbers in recent weeks, to the delight of birdwatchers.

The mass migration we’re seeing this winter is what’s known as an irruption.

"For snowies, that's usually largely influenced by whether or not they had a really good breeding year,” said Rachelle Roake, a conservation scientist at Michigan Audubon.

And snowy owl breeding is influenced by how much food those snowy owls have access to during the breeding season.

D. Tallamy, courtesy of Desiree Narango

Native plants are better for birds than non-native plants.

That’s the main finding of a study on chickadees and the caterpillars they eat.

Courtesy of Chris Wysocki

Firearm deer season starts today and thousands of hunters are heading out with their rifles. But around this time of year, there's a tiny group of Michiganders heading out with birds instead.

picture of a peregrine falcon
Flickpicpete / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The pesticide DDT was responsible for wiping out large populations of top predator birds in Michigan and across the country. One of the most well known was the bald eagle whose eggs, thinned by the pesticide, cracked during incubation.

DDT was banned in the 1970s and raptors — with some help from wildlife biologists — started to make a comeback.

Birds breeding early to catch up to climate change

May 11, 2017
Courtesy of Powdermill Nature Reserve

 

New research shows that in order for some early birds to catch the worm, they have to breed sooner in the spring.

 

Luke DeGroote is the avian research coordinator at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and he runs the bird banding program at the museum's Powdermill Nature Reserve.

 

Right now, he’s in the thick of spring migration.

 

“It’s sort of a bit like fishing, in a way. We put out our nets to see what we catch,” he says.

David Lobbig / Courtesy of Jenny Chipault

In the last few weeks, roughly 600 birds have died along the shore of Lake Michigan. They washed up on the beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with more dead birds reported on beaches in the Upper Peninsula.

Researchers found that cardinals might be helping to shield people from West Nile virus in some regions of the country.
USFWS

Robins are considered "super-spreaders" of West Nile virus. They’re especially good at passing the virus to mosquitoes, and mosquitoes, of course, can then pass it to us.

It turns out a different bird species – cardinals – might be shielding people from getting the virus in some parts of the country.

The Canada warbler is declining throughout its range in the U.S.
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Some kinds of birds are doing better in our changing climate, and others are declining. These changes are happening in similar ways in both the U.S. and Europe.

Those are the findings of a new study in the journal Science.

Phil Stephens is a senior lecturer in ecology at Durham University in the UK, and he’s a lead author of the study. 

Stephens and an international team of researchers studied data on more than 500 common species of birds over a 30 year period (1980-2010) in both Europe and the U.S.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering a free curriculum to teachers as part of a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty.

  The U.S. signed the treaty with Great Britain in 1916. The British were acting on behalf of Canada. Similar agreements were reached shortly thereafter with Japan, Russia and Mexico. All are designed to protect birds that migrate across international borders.

The American Goldfinch
Rodney Campbell

You might be aware that the Great Lakes region is a major migratory bird flyway.

What you might not know is that hundreds of millions of those birds will crash into windows and die.

Sarah Reding is part of a movement that’s trying to help reduce that problem. Reding is the vice president of conservation at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Diane McAllister

People who identify birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count logged a record 5,090 species this winter. That’s just about half the bird species in the world.

It’s part of a huge data collection effort each winter. It’s run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, and also Bird Studies Canada.

Rodney Campbell / User: Flickr

Michigan Radio's M I Curious project is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

In December, longtime Ann Arbor resident Ellen Rusten asked this question:

"It seems to me that there are fewer chickadees in Ann Arbor than there were 40 years ago. Is that true and, if so, why?"

Lynette Smith

Many birds leave Michigan for warmer weather. But what birds stay here and tough it out with us in the frigid weather?

Macklin Smith, a University of Michigan professor emeritus of English and a veteran bird watcher, tells us which birds we can expect to hear during the colder months.

Common loon is one of the climate endangered species in Michigan.
User: jackanapes / Flickr

 

A recent report from the National Audubon Society points to troubling times ahead for our bird population.

Climate change could make some huge changes for birds in North America: About half of our 650 species would be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find totally new places to live or become extinct – all of this in just the next 65 years.

Jonathan Lutz is the executive director of the Michigan Audubon Society. He says in Michigan, about 50 species are vulnerable to the changing climate.

Dea Armstrong

Like most of us, Dea Armstrong has only seen birds from the ground. Today, she’s going to fly with them.

Armstrong is Ann Arbor’s city ornithologist, and watching birds from a hot air balloon is on her bucket list. I got a chance to tag along to find out what we’d see from the air.

“I’m so excited to see what it’ll be like to look from above and down. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to recognize the birds, of course, but it’ll be just so different,” she says.

Tiia Monto / Wikimedia Commons

The common tern used to nest in great numbers in the lower Great Lakes region, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. But in recent decades, common tern nests and their brown speckled eggs have largely disappeared from the region. 

Wikipedia.org

If you grew up in Michigan, chances are when you thought of the very first signs of spring you thought of crocuses and robins. 

But have you noticed that in recent years, something has changed– that robins are pretty much with us all through the winter?

Why has this happened, and do we have any reason to worry about robins in this exceptionally harsh winter?

Julie Craves, director of the Rouge River Bird Observatory in Dearborn, joined us. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Maslowski/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Imagine walking down a picturesque beach along Lake Michigan, and stumbling upon the carcasses of dead birds. That’s a very real and unpleasant problem along Lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie. (It’s not as big of an issue in Lake Superior because of the lake’s colder water temperatures.)

Loons and other deep-diving birds are suffering from a disease called avian botulism. It’s form of food poisoning that kills wild birds in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Mark Godfrey / The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has purchased an uninhabited island in northern Lake Michigan that provides a crucial stopover spot for migratory birds.

St. Martin Island is part of a chain that runs between Wisconsin's Door Peninsula and Michigan's Garden Peninsula.

Millions of sparrows, warblers and other birds stop on the chain to take a break and feed before continuing their migration. According to a release issued by the group today:

Go on an "owl prowl"

Nov 24, 2013
Michigan DNR website

The Department of Natural Resources is putting on a series of guided night time walks in different state parks and recreation areas, with the goal of trying to spot owls.

They're called "owl prowls." (Just try and say that five times, fast.)

Events are scheduled in Livingston, Wayne, Oakland, Clinton, Lenawee, Jackson and Bay Counties. You can find more information here at the DNR's website.

The events are free and the organizers suggest that you pre-register.

Allen Chartier / Great Lakes Hummernet

With the chill in the air now, you might guess that most hummingbirds would have ditched Michigan for a more tropical place.

The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the bird you’re most likely to see in Michigan, and it has flown south, for the most part.

But Allen Chartier still wants you to keep an eye out on your backyard feeders.

He studies hummingbirds and he’s the project director for Great Lakes Hummernet.

“The chances that what you’re looking at is a Ruby-throat is about 50/50, because there are western species that start showing up.”

He says you might get a chance to see a Rufous hummingbird.

“I kind of think of these little birds as each one has certain superpowers, and the Ruby-throat’s superpower is that it’s the smallest bird that can fly across the Gulf of Mexico nonstop. Now the Rufous hummingbird’s superpower is that it’s very cold tolerant. So there are many of these birds that have stayed around in Michigan and Ohio until January and then they move on.”

He says the males are a reddish-brown color with a glowing orange throat and a white breast. But the females look a lot like Ruby-throats.

So if you see one, take a picture of it and e-mail to Chartier. He says he’ll identify the bird and use your sighting in his research.

Here’s his e-mail address: amazilia3 at gmail.com

Female red-bellied woodpecker.
@maia bird / Cornell

Red-bellied woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches, to be specific.

Scientists say the two bird species thrived when the emerald ash borer moved in. The invasive insect wiped out tens of millions of ash trees around the region.

The researchers compared four bird populations in the outbreak’s epicenter in southeastern Michigan (near the Detroit Metro Airport), to the populations outside just of the epicenter and with five other cities in the region (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh).

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