Peruvian boobies have the advantage as solitary hunters

Just off the coast of Peru, the Humboldt Current produces one of the most productive marine ecosystems on the planet. Humans and animals alike have based their livelihood on the abundance of marine life that results from the deep, nutrient-rich waters of this coastal upwelling. Seabirds, which gather in massive groups off the coast to prey on schools of fish, have been completely sustained, until recently: Anchovy decline from overfishing and El Nino’s warmer waters have led to a major drop in seabird populations. One resilient bird, however, has held steady due to its solitary hunting style.

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The plight of Hawaiian birds

Just last week, two Hawaiian bird species from the island of Kaua’i and their respective habitats were put on the endangered species list along with a Hawaiian fly and 45 types of Hawaiian plants. However, while the action signifies movement from the Obama Administration toward protecting at-risk species and their habitats, the listing does not come a second too soon: Recent research shows U.S. birds, especially in Hawaii, are in great peril.

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So you want to be a conservationist? Think of the community

When we consider all the conservation challenges facing our world and society, we know that communicating effectively to the community is not only helpful but necessary. However, many inspiring projects in various conservation areas have failed to succeed—not because the scientific background was not there or because the financial resources were unavailable—but because the community’s support was not entirely there. One of the elements to a successful conservation project is a strong connection to the community, especially during the early stages of project planning.

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The phrenologist’s guide to ecological competence

Since Darwin, scientists have been theorizing as to why there is variation in brain size between species and individuals. Does a larger brain, in say humans, indicate advanced cognitive abilities and complex language processing? Or is a smaller brain, such as the Olive-backed thrush’s, adapted to weigh less to accommodate lengthy flights?

In psychology, the field of phrenology has generally been dissolved, and with it, the idea that variations in brain size could indicate differences in intelligence, creativity or personality between humans. In the field of biology, however, scientists are discovering that brain variation across species might actually be linked to ecological competence. In this case, ecological competence describes the efficiency of a species to engage in ecological processes—such as flexible foraging abilities or advanced spatial memory for migration.

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From the Community: Pika population sees a boost, birds not spreading West Nile and five women honored for their role as environmentalists

Pika found to be flourishing in the Sierra Nevada region, bird migration patterns suggest mosquitoes are to blame for spreading West Nile and mice courtship rituals could shed light on autism. Here are news stories and studies on ecological science from the first week in March.

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Can birds affect tree growth?

Growing conditions, such as water and nutrient supply, are the major determinates of tree growth, but insectivorous birds can also play an important role, say scientists in a study published in the January issue of Ecology. Under the right conditions, birds contribute to whole tree growth by preying on herbaceous arthropods, such as leafhoppers, caterpillars and grasshoppers…

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Laser-imaging bird habitats

A paper out in the October issue of Ecological Applications puts forth a new use for light detection and ranging technology, or LiDAR: the prediction of bird habitats. LiDAR technology uses laser imaging techniques to develop maps of forest vegetation structure by sending laser beams from aircrafts that fly over a study area. In this case, the scientists sampled the Cosumnes River Preserve in central California.  They then can use...

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The state of the union’s birds

A comprehensive analysis of the current condition of birds in the U.S. was released yesterday by The Nature Conservancy, USGS, the Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and many other non-profit groups. Dubbed The State of the Birds, the document reports that of the nation’s approximately 800 bird species, 67 are federally listed as endangered, 184 are of conservation concern and many others are declining due to...

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