Urban wildlife

Last week, I talked about leaving room for wildlife through our gardening practices. This week, here’s a link to a story about the attraction wildlife has to urban spaces, and if they’re predators, this might be uncomfortable for us. For Nighthawks and urban rooftops, this might be a necessity, as their other habitats are eliminated.

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Yard work and wildlife

Having a hard time keeping up with the neighbors? Feeling judged because your yard doesn’t evoke that Astro turf perfection? Have no fear! Letting your yard go is good for biodiversity. Check this link out.

The Impacts of vandalism

At least Nighthawks have crypsis on their side.

Awhile back, Pacific Rim Conservation posted this story about the disturbing death of albatrosses.  I would like to think that this could never happen again, but sadly, I have seen vandalism of rooftop nighthawk nest sites.  Now that we are nearing July 4th, I feel it’s important to explain that it is damaging to throw fireworks at rooftop nighthawk nests.  Sometimes people harass wildlife because they are bored and think they can get away with it.  I want to share the wonder of bird nests, and events like these induce me to keep these nests cryptic. But, instead I keep writing about nighthawks. They deserve it.

Birding Without Lists

Nighthawks just being interesting.

I’m an ornithologist who often finds herself apologizing for not being a birder, at least not in the way most people expect. I’m often more interested in watching a single bird, no matter how mundane its species is, doing something interesting. Now this writer has articulated this point of view so clearly. Huzzah!

The Importance of Bird Banding

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1-month-old Common Nighthawk Chick from Brookman Hall, USD

One day in the lab, there was a knock at the door.  A child held out a nighthawk chick to me.  He said his family had found it in the parking lot.  I checked for a band, and it turned out to be a 1-month old chick I had banded 2 weeks prior on a university rooftop.  It had since fledged and was, presumably, trying to use the gravel parking lot for camouflage and a staging place to be fed by its parents. I fed it some sugar water, and gave it some quiet time in a darkened room to recover from its rescue.  Later that day, I was able to return it to the roof. When I checked on it again the next day, it flew away from me very successfully.  Without a band I would not have known where the bird was from.

There are so many reasons researchers band birds.  Mark-recapture studies can tell us the rate at which bird survive from season to season.  The MAPS program has a system of bird banding stations that collects migrating and resident bird data at regular intervals.  Nest success studies can determine whether birds are returning to the same nest site every year or whether they nest at the same location where they were hatched.

The Value of Ecosystem Services

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The crowd at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

Biologists can sometimes put an actual dollar value on biodiversity, whether it’s the assistance aerial insectivores, like bats, nighthawks, swallows and swifts, can provide in pest control or whether it’s the vultures that cleanse our ecosystems of pathogens or whether it’s in tourism dollars.  Here’s one example the Washington Post published on the value of tourism at these biodiversity hotspots. Last year, the National Park Service proposed a hike in entry fees at a some of its more popular parks to help defray the maintenance costs of increased numbers of visitors.