Birds

Powdermill Nature Reserve

Several species of birds that call southwestern Pennsylvania home are breeding as much as three weeks sooner than they did 50 years ago.

If the shift continues, bird populations could begin to decline, according to Powdermill Nature Reserve Avian Research Coordinator Luke DeGroote.

Researchers at the facility in Westmoreland County, run by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, have been capturing and banding birds since 1961 and have seen a shift, which DeGroote links to climate change.

Dick Daniels / Carolina Birds

The Highland Park Bridge is noisy—traffic speeds by as barges pass through the nearby lock and a train rattles underneath. But in the past few years, a new, natural sound has joined the orchestra of automobiles and industry: gulls. To be more specific: Herring gulls.

Kassia Janesch / National Aviary

Ever wonder what it’s like to experience flying the way a bird does?

It’s possible – sort of – with the National Aviary’s new virtual reality exhibit. It lets visitors get a feel for what it would be like to flap their wings through the sky.

While lying on a moveable platform, the user stretches out their arms across a mechanical wingspan, which they can flap during virtual flight. After an Aviary employee secures the headset and headphones, you’re off and soaring over New York City. 

For Smart, Social Crows, Pennsylvania Is A Warm Winter Oasis

Dec 6, 2016
Tim Spouge / Flickr

 

The large flocks of crows in our region now are primarily migrants from more northerly locations that are here to spend the winter. The number of roosting crows tends to build up steadily through November and December. These large winter roosts were historically in rural areas. But over time, as crows adapted to people, they moved their winter roosts into urban areas. Here they benefit from the warmth of the city. They are attracted to well-lit areas, which may enhance their ability to detect approaching predators. Their roosts can number in the hundreds of thousands of birds.

Why Some Birds May Be Planning An Extended Stay This Fall

Oct 27, 2016
Thomas James Caldwell / Flickr

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says 2016’s trend of record-breaking temperatures has continued into the fall. And that unseasonably warm weather may be changing the timing for birds heading out of our region for their fall migrations.

David Sibley / Facebook

Ornithologist David Sibley is a celebrity when it comes to all things birds. He’s written several books documenting his findings throughout the U.S. including the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior and The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Mr. Sibley is coming to the Steel City as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture summer series and joins us to talk about his career writing about birds.

Martin Pettitt / Flickr

Experts will join new and experienced bird watchers expecting to identify 80 species and 29,000 individual kinds of birds in the Pittsburgh region during a one-day count.

The birds will be documented during the annual “Christmas Bird Count.”

 “There is no estimation whatsoever,” said Brian Shema, operations director at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. “People are physically counting those birds. We do not take any estimates of anything. What we miss, we miss. And what we count, we document.”

Flickr user the yellowrider

For many, pigeons are pests. Woody Allen called them “rats with wings” in the 1980 film Stardust Memories.

And according to Rebecca Reid with the animal advocacy group Humane Options Pittsburgh, that’s how the state and federal governments see them as well. Pigeons, or rock doves, are one of just three species not protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Credit Mary Birdsong / Presque Isle Audubon

Next week, the Allegheny Front radio program on 90.5 WESA begins Climate Chronicles, a year-long series about the impacts of climate change on our region.

Senior Reporter Julie Grant starts the series with a look at the biggest movement of snowy owls in 50 years, and what it might say about climate change.

She said she started looking at the big white birds, popularized by a character in Harry Potter called Hedwig, because of some unusual sightings.

Get your binoculars ready, because the 114th annual Christmas bird count is set for Dec. 28 in Pittsburgh.

Before 1900, the Christmas “Side Hunt” was a popular American tradition where participants competed to see who could shoot and kill the most fowl. In opposition to the practice, ornithologist Frank Chapman created the Christmas Bird Census.

In its first year, 27 bird watchers from cities such as Toronto and Pacific Grove, California tallied about 90 bird species.