Birds

Study: Songbird That Needs Clean Streams Threatened By Fracking

11 hours ago
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / flickr

The Louisiana waterthrush is one of the first migratory songbirds to appear in our region in the spring.

The Lure Of The Saw-Whet Owl

Apr 19, 2018

The Northern saw-whet owl is the symbolic face of conservation in Pennsylvania. The Wild Resource Conservation Program uses a saw-whet owl as its emblem, and the Commonwealth featured a saw-whet owl on its first specialty state license plate in 1993.

Amy Sisk / WESA

Researchers have a new way of tracking the song sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and other birds that fly about the Laurel Highlands.

Fish, Birds And Mussels Get Their Own Business Plan In Pennsylvania

Apr 12, 2018

A new conservation strategy is underway in Western Pennsylvania. The Western Pennsylvania Business Plan for Restoration of Healthy Forests and Freshwater Habitat prioritizes funding for projects that focus on key species in important ecosystems to ultimately restore healthy forests and freshwater habitat in the region. The plan was developed with numerous conservation groups headed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Can This Bird Survive Climate Change? The Answer Could Be In Its DNA

Mar 15, 2018
Mary Corporan Dunn / Flickr

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 and the Bird Genoscape Project.

Why I'm Addicted To Bird Nestcams (And You Should Be Too)

Mar 8, 2018
Peter Bell

*This story was originally published April 22, 2016. 

Ah, Spring! The time of year when we’re glued to our computers and cell phones watching live webcams pointed at the nests of celebrity birds of prey. We’re totally absorbed as they hatch eggs and raise their downy babies.

Visitors From Asia Flock To Snow Geese Spectacle In Pennsylvania

Mar 5, 2018
Elaine Thompson / AP

It's 6:30 a.m. at Willow Point, a peninsula in the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and though it's foggy and not yet light, about 75 people are already clustered together listening to an estimated 135,000 snow geese psyching themselves into a take-off.

Hunched over expensive cameras mounted on tripods and holding up cell phones to capture the roar, it's hard not to notice that more than half the onlookers are Asian-Americans or visitors from China.

Rebecca Weaver / via Pennsylvania Game Commission

Two bald eagles with their talons locked were rescued from a Pennsylvania river.

Pennsylvania Game Commission says in a Wednesday Facebook post a woman and her 11-year-old daughter saw the two mature, male eagles floating along the banks of the Susquehanna River near Bloomsburg and contacted police.

How Pipelines Are Changing The Dynamics Of PA Forests

Feb 8, 2018
Courtesy of Lillie Langolis

Some migratory birds need the deep, dark cover of Pennsylvania’s forests to breed. But natural gas development has cut into their habitat. 

Industry Gets A Pass On Accidental Bird Deaths

Jan 25, 2018
Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Labratory

This year, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act turns 100. It protects more than 1,000 species of birds from a host of threats, including disruption of nesting sites and illegal trade. 

Kelly Colgan Azar / Flickr

Every winter, a group of avian enthusiasts collect data on local bird populations for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. The Christmas Bird Count is the oldest citizen science project in the world, and it is returning to Pittsburgh on Dec. 30.

The information gives experts some insight into how climate change and habitat loss affect some bird species.

"We can go back from a year-to-year basis and make some observations on what's happening with various bird populations," said Chris Kubiak, education director or the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Turns Out Birds Like To Eat Local, Too

Dec 21, 2017
Mark Duncan / AP

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.

 

Desiree Narango is the lead author. She’s a research fellow at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and a PhD candidate at the University of Delaware.

“From the chickadee’s perspective, it’s as if a non-native plant isn’t even there at all because they almost never forage in them,” she says.

National Aviary

The National Aviary has launched a new nest cam trained on two African penguin eggs expected to hatch later this month.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Two green-winged macaws fly over the audience in the National Aviary's free-flight theater, then land on separate agility courses. A race ensues between the feathered siblings, Ben and Betsy, to see who can complete the system of ropes and pulleys first. Betsy wins this time, and the crowd goes wild.

This is one of a number of bird intelligence tests featured in "Bird Brains," the current interactive show at the Aviary.

Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center via Facebook

A Pennsylvania wildlife center says a 30-year-old bald eagle that was being treated for lead poisoning has died less than two weeks after two other eagles died of the same cause.

The Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Saegertown announced the bird's death on Facebook on Sunday.

The bird was captured Aug. 13 after it allowed people to get unusually close. Blood tests confirmed lead poisoning.

Climate Change Forces Local Birds To Breed Sooner

Jul 7, 2017
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.