Monday, October 03, 2005

News From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Where do you go for news about birds? One great place is The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, of course. It's easy to subscribe to their emailed newsletter. More about how to contact them in a minute.

It was a pleasure to hear some good news about endangered birds in the online newsletter:

Far from a backyard visitor, the Attwater's Prairie Chicken is critically endangered. To make matters worse 20 of the last 40 remaining birds live in Texas City, TX at the Texas City Prairie Reserve. The worst part has to do with Hurricane Rita. The Reserve Manager, Brandon Crawford, was out of state at a conference during the recent bad weather and rushed back with 1-gallon ziplock body bags in hand expecting to find the pairie chickens killed by the hurricane. But what he found was all 11 radio-collared birds giving off live signals. He was in shock ... pleasantly shocked to be sure, especially since 7 of the collared birds had been released a little over a month before. The death toll of released birds is highest in the first month. He feels that the uncollared birds may have fared just as well. Hope so.

A graduate student, Rebecca Safran, doing research at the Cornell Lab discovered some intriguing facts about Barn Swallows (see photo above). Here is what she discovered. After Barn Swallows pair up for the season the females constantly judge their mates by their looks. The females evidently prefer their mates to have breast and belly feathers more reddish in color. Through DNA testing, Ms. Safran found that females mated to males with paler feathers were more likely to secretly copulate with another male. Hmmmmm!

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the place to keep up to date on the latest information about the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker which was believed to be extinct. You can even hear a Monday Night Seminar Series that includes information about this bird ... as well as a lot of other information. The seminar is presented by Tim Gallagher, Editor-in-Chief of the Lab's Living Bird magazine. The seminar is available through the Lab's Website if you have a broadband Internet connection.

If you are a backyard bird feeder and enthusiast you might be interested in the 18th annual
Project Feeder Watch. This year's event begins in just a few weeks. Project Feeder Watch is an annual survey of birds that visit feeders in the winter. I'm going to participate this year ... perhaps you'll consider signing up, too. Anyone can join and become a "citizen scientist" for a few weeks. It is a lot of fun and contributes important statistics to the real scientists at the Lab. To learn more about this event or to register U.S. residents can call the Lab toll free at (800) 843-2473. In Canada contact Canada Bird Studies toll free at (888) 448-2473. In return for your $15 participation fee ($12 for Lab members, $35 for Canadian residents) you'll receive the Feeder Watcher's Handbook, a colorful poster of the most common feeder birds, a calendar, complete instructions on how to file your reports, the new Feeder Watcher's Year in Review, and a subscription to the Lab's newsletter
If you aren't a member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and would like to learn more you'll find a link to the Lab's website on the Birdwatchin'.com Resource page. The Lab's link is found under Wild Bird Organizations/Clubs. Don't miss the other good resources at

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