Population Ecology of Some Warblers of Northeastern Coniferous Forests #ESA100 notable papers
Feb02

Population Ecology of Some Warblers of Northeastern Coniferous Forests #ESA100 notable papers

Sixty years ago Robert MacArthur ventured into spruce woods in Maine and Vermont to study five species of warblers

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Birth control for Bremen’s cats

As spring days are punctuated with the chirps and trills of bird song, a recent article in the Guardian seems especially timely.  The northern German city of Bremen plans to take action to curtail its burgeoning population of free–roaming cats, estimated to be at least 1,000 strong. Whether feral or domestic—cats take a significant toll on birds and many other small wild animals.  A U.S. Fish & Wildlife fact sheet on bird mortality puts the figure at several 100 million a year in the United States. The German city of Bremen is concerned about both its local songbirds, such as the Sedge warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) as well as the spread of disease.  Under the proposed new law, all stray cats would be neutered and any pet owner found to have their cat roaming out of doors would be required to pay neutering fees.  Supporters hope that if the law passes in Bremen it will spark similar laws across Germany.  Public official Undine Kurth said in the Guardian article: “It would help a lot if the federal ministry of agriculture would initiate a debate on the wretched situation.” Recent population estimates in the United States put cat ownership in this country at 93.6 million.  Domestic cats (Felis catus) are not native to North America; European colonists brought them here several centuries ago.  Yet unlike our view of dogs, which must be leashed and cleaned up after, many Americans continue to feel that their cats should be allowed to roam free.  And while cat owners may feed their felines gourmet cat food, this does not curb cats’ natural instinct to hunt and kill small prey. Multiple states, veterinary organizations, and bird conservation groups all encourage voluntary steps by cat owners to keep their cats leashed or indoors.  State Departments of Natural Resources offer information on the impact of cats on native wildlife, the American Veterinary Medical Association encourages owners of domestic cats in urban and suburban areas to keep them indoors, and the American Bird Conservancy has a handy brochure of tips to keep an indoor cat happy.   Many of these organizations point out that in addition to helping native wildlife, cat owners who keep their pets indoors also protect them from disease, cars, and predators such as coyotes. Meanwhile, back in Germany, according to the Guardian article, a few other German towns, such as that of Paderborn, introduced castration of stray cats several years ago.  All residents are required to tattoo or implant their cats with a microchip.  And those who give their cats the boot get socked with a steep fine. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7955467@N03/3488673676          ...

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Zebra finches practice singing for the ladies

The male zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) learns to sing in private before performing for a female audience, according to Satoshi Kojima and Allison J. Doupe from the University of California, San Francisco. In addition, juvenile male finches seem to step up the quality of their singing, despite their immaturity, when in the presence of potential mates. As described in the blog Talking Science, part of National Public Radio’s Science Friday Initiative, “Male finches, by the time they are sexually mature, typically know two different forms of song: undirected, which is performed in isolation, and directed, which is performed for a female audience. Young males learn undirected song first, which characteristically sounds immature and is of variable quality. As adults, they become experts in directed song, a talent they refine specifically for the purpose of courting females.” As the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, the juveniles, when performing for females, seemed to focus on the best parts of the songs that they practiced in private. Kara Rogers wrote in Talking Science, “The discovery reveals that the undirected song of young male finches disguises the actual extent of the birds’ song-learning capabilities…” In other words, despite their inexperience, immature male finches were able to sing at the level of mature finches in the appropriate social conditions: When there was a chance to  mate. Read about the zebra finch genome in Nature or take the songbird call challenge at enature.com. Photo Credit: Patricia van...

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From the Community: the wisdom of birds, felines and spores

Tim Birkhead explains what song bird research can contribute to human health, Surprising Science describes the evolution of a feline’s roar (or meow), a Geophysical Research Letters study assesses the world’s dwindling groundwater supply, Nature News interviews Gabriela Chavarria—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s top science adviser—and Chris Palmer’s book reveals faking in nature videos. Here are stories in ecology from the last week in September.

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From the Community: street lamps, traffic lights and nuclear energy

Songbirds become disoriented by street lamps, plants adapt to the conditions near Chernobyl, a newly discovered spider spins gigantic webs with the strongest known biological material in the world, traffic light experiment shows promise of reducing emissions and easing traffic congestion and researchers discuss the Daily Show with Jon Stewart as an outlet for communication science to the public. Here are some of the latest stories in ecology for the second to last week in September.

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