Restless Muse on Migrating Birds

Aristotle was a brilliant philosopher and observer of nature. He pioneered the study of zoology, but he was utterly clueless about bird migration. The seasonal appearance and disappearance of the birds in his native Greece perplexed him. Similar appearing species must be “transmuted” into each other across seasons, he reasoned, to explain the disappearance of […]

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A Kettle of Vultures in a Poisonous Mix

Increasingly today, East Africa is one of the few places one is likely to have the visceral experience of witnessing vultures crowded over newly found carrion, competing to quickly and efficiently render it to a few large bones and fur. Sadly it is precisely this astonishing ability to fly with ease across seasons and countries, […]

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Let me tell you about the birds, bees and neonicotinoids

The “Birds and the Bees” is an irritating song from the 1960s built upon the dreaded sex education discussion parents once had with their kids (well… not my parents). Apart from vaguely libidinal suggestions, the song hints at the connectedness of life and how we are all part of a larger whole. I can’t get […]

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‘Tis the Season to Be Owlly

It’s that time of year. You better watch out! There is a dramatic movement from the Far North this winter coming from the land of reindeer and caribou. The whiteness of the character is its most striking feature. When it arrives, it often alights atop roofs and its uncharted movements have been known to disrupt […]

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Is Extinction Forever? Or Is the Passenger Pigeon Waiting in the Wings?

John James Audubon “was struck with amazement” at the darkened skies caused by the birds. The man who would become famous as an artist of nature was, not surprisingly, himself a naturalist. Yet his efforts to document the flock’s numbers were futile. “The birds poured in in countless multitudes,” Audubon would write. “The air was […]

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Three Strikes You’re out in the Old… Great… Plains!

The first strike against the Great Plains in recorded times was the decimation of the American bison in the 19th Century. The second strike was not from a pitch, but rather the plow and the resulting widespread conversion of native grasslands to crops. The third strike, being delivered now, is the massive drilling and fracking […]

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Bird’s Eye View of the Changing Climate

“The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever! The faint silvery warblings heard over the partially bare and moist fields from the bluebird, the song sparrow, and the red-wing, as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they fell! What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions, and […]

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Which Way Will This Bird Flu Fly?

Are you neurotic about all things zoonotic? Perhaps you should be. A new strain of bird flu, H7N9, has recently emerged and has killed more than 30 people in China to date. There are concerns that this flu may mutate into a form that can be transmitted through human-to-human contact, risking its transformation into a […]

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In East Africa: Empty Skies by Steve Zack

Mpala Research Centre, Kenya – I am back in East Africa for the first extended time since completing my graduate research 30 years ago. It’s a hugely exciting time to be working with our staff in shaping larger conservation efforts with vultures, flamingos, and African Grey Parrots. Between office and field visits, I witnessed for […]

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Domestic Cats and Billions of Birds

The old adage about taking the cat out of the wild, but not the wild out of the cat now has a number associated with it. That number is 2.4 billion. That staggering number is the median estimate of birds in the United States killed each year by domestic cats. Fluffy, Ginger, Tabitha, etc. Many […]

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