Tag: birds

People Keep Shooting Long-Billed Curlews in Southwest Idaho

People Keep Shooting Long-Billed Curlews in Southwest Idaho

A female Long-billed Curlew found shot on Idaho’s Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in June 2018. (Photo: Stephanie Coates)

Long-Billed Curlews aren’t shy about taking wing to fend off threats to their nests in the rangelands of Idaho. “They will get up and above a raptor and steeply dive, and their flight can be almost falcon-like,” says Jay Carlisle, research director of the Intermountain Bird Observatory. “It’s awe-inspiring.”

But the curlews’ spectacular aerial “mobbing” displays are growing rarer in southwest Idaho, once the densest nesting ground for the birds in the United States. Surveys suggest their overall numbers have dropped by 92 percent in the region over the last 40 years. And based on available data, the biggest threat is poaching: recreational shooters who are illegally killing the birds at an alarming rate, particularly around Boise and the surrounding Treasure Valley region.

“People Keep Shooting Long-Billed Curlews in Southwest Idaho”

Audubon, June 28, 2018

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The BLM Just Sold More Leases on the Pawnee — and Environmentalists Say That’s for the Birds

The BLM Just Sold More Leases on the Pawnee — and Environmentalists Say That’s for the Birds

An oil rig on the Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado (Photo via US Forest Service)

An hour’s drive northeast of Denver and encompassing an area twice the size of the city, the Pawnee National Grassland’s whopping diversity of songbirds and raptors has earned the area a reputation as a birder’s paradise. Some people drive hundreds of miles and fly in from around the world each summer to view mountain plovers and burrowing owls, lark buntings and McCowns’s longspurs.

But in recent years, birders have begun spotting a whole other family of beasts nesting in the Pawnee. Oil and gas drilling has skyrocketed in the area over the past decade, part of a nationwide industry boom that has tapped underground shale formations up and down Colorado’s Front Range. Just as he tracks the birds he sees, Gary Lefko notes the pump jacks and well pads that have sprung up on the grassland. On some outings, he has seen dozens of tall blue flames from flare stacks, burning off unused methane and glowing in the half dark in and around the Pawnee. Along state highway 14, which runs through the grassland, Lefko and his wife count the tank batteries — silos that store oil — and other industry equipment that keeps filling in pieces of the prairie. “There’s more every time,” Lefko says.

Amid the massive grassland, the industry impacts may not seem like much. The Pawnee still mostly looks like an empty, undeveloped canvas of greens and browns. But each new well pad and scraped patch of ground and every truck that rumbles along and kicks up dust from the dirt roads affects this subtly beautiful ecosystem. The piecemeal energy development destroys bird and wildlife habitat and alters the shortgrass prairie in ways that even scientists don’t fully understand. Some compare the impacts to death by a thousand cuts for the flora and fauna of grasslands already in decline.

“The BLM Just Sold More Leases on the Pawnee — and Environmentalists Say That’s for the Birds”

Westword, July 28, 2015

Flight Risk

Flight Risk

The following article appears in the Autumn 2010 issue of Nature Conservancy Magazine

Up in the Air

Climate Change Compounds Threats to Birds

Red knots in Delaware Bay, New Jersey (Photo: NJ DEP)

Each spring the red knot, a shorebird with a rust-colored belly, transects the globe, flying from the southern tip of South America to the northern reaches of the Arctic. Midway through this flight, the birds lay over at the Delaware Bay, where they refuel by gorging on tens of thousands of horseshoe crab eggs.

In the 1990s, this age-old migration ran into trouble when red knot populations began crashing. Evidence pointed largely to shellfish overharvesting, but recent observations by birders and researchers have revealed an additional threat from climate change: Warmer temperatures are prompting the horseshoe crabs to lay their eggs earlier in the year, meaning less food for the migratory birds when they arrive at the bay.

These findings and other research about the impact of climate change on birds are the focus of the 2010 State of the Birds report, issued by scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy, federal agencies and other organizations. The group’s 2009 report found that roughly one-third of bird species in the United States are endangered or are in serious decline.

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