The BIRDLINE, by ARMAS HILL
With the Red List, and Cranes in Texas and Pennsylvania and More
Armas Hill has presented the "Birdline", originally from
Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for over 3 decades, and on the radio
in Delaware for about 10 years.
List & Photo Gallery of North American Birds, in 6 Parts
List & Photo Gallery of North American Mammals
for November 8, 2011:
This is the last chance to take a Peek at the Beaks and
to participate in the quiz, if you wish, naming the birds in the 50
illustrations. To date, 52 people have participated. Link: http://www.focusonnature.com/BeaksPhotoFeature.htm
Another link, if you'd like to look at some previous Birdlines (&
Now, some of the recent bird news of note:
SELASPHORUS HUMMINGBIRDS have been in both eastern and western
Pennsylvania. Two, this past week, in Northampton County in
eastern PA, and in western PA one in Allegheny County, and one
in Venango County. The Allegheny County bird was banded. All 4 of these
hummingbirds appear to be RUFOUS.
A probable SELASPHORUS HUMMINGBIRD was found in Bucks County,
Pennsylvania, at Peace Valley, today.
In Maryland, a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD has recently been
in Anne Arundel County.
In western North America, where RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS normally are,
they nest in the summer as far north as Alaska.
An EARED GREBE (more normally in western North America) was this past week
at the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge in New York City.
In the US, most WHITE-WINGED DOVES are in the Southwest. This week one has
been in Cape May, New Jersey.
The TRUMPETER SWAN is a species that in the early 20th Century was on
the brink. It has been making a comeback, mostly, where it has been more
commonly, in the West.
But in the East, there were TRUMPETER SWANS, this past week, in New
York State. With 9 at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, and
4, also upstate, at the Upper & Lower Lakes Wildlife Management
Area, 2 adults and 2 juveniles.
A few GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE have been in the East. At the Montezuma
NWR in New York (as was a ROSS' GOOSE), and as many as 15 GREATER
WHITE-FRONTED GEESE at once, just over a week ago, in Maryland.
A BARNACLE GOOSE was with CANADA GEESE, this past week, in
Massachusetts, in West Newbury. A PACIFIC LOON has been at
Plum Island, Massachusetts.
LARK SPARROWS have been in Maine and Rhode Island.
A CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was seen on November 5 & 6 in Delaware at
the Brandywine Creek State Park. Another CLAY-COLORED SPARROW has recently
been at a feeder in Somerset, Pennsylvania.
NORTHERN SHRIKES have come south to a number of places lately, in western
Pennsylvania, in upstate New York at the
Montezuma NWR and in Onondaga County. Also, 2 in Northampton, Massachusetts,
and 1 in Charlestown, Rhode Island.
But in Delaware, it has not been a NORTHERN SHRIKE late,
but instead a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, near Milford, from November 5 until at
least today, November 8.
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES are rare in the eastern United States.
Some of the birds seen lately in Erie, Pennsylvania, by
Lake Erie, have been: RED-NECKED GREBES on November 4,5,6 and today,
November 8, five of them, and 2 female HARLEQUIN DUCKS on November 4,
a PURPLE SANDPIPER on November 6 and 270 SNOW BUNTINGS that day as
In Maryland, 4 RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were seen on
November 6 at the Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area in Charles County,
1 adult and 3 immatures.
SNOWY OWLS have been seen, this past week, at a few places
in Maine. EVENING GROSBEAKS at Lake Placid, New
York. And SNOW BUNTINGS, widely, at least as far south as Maryland.
Last month, here, NORTHERN WHEATEARS were referred to in places such as Pennsylvania,
New York, New Hampshire, and Newfoundland.
There were NORTHERN WHEATEARS at some other places this fall as
well. In the East, 2 of them at Prince Edward Island in
Canada, and in the West, there were two in California and
one in Oregon.
In California, at the Malibu Lagoon on September 23, and in Mendocino
County on October 2. In Oregon, one was briefly in Curry County on
Some OSPREY have still been in the Northeast US, this
past week, at various places, including some in New Jersey.
Last time, there was recent information here about migrating
OSPREY, already in the Caribbean and northern
South America. We've been asked to include a link to the map
tracking their travel. Here's that link:
Here's another story relating to the OSPREY, or "FISH HAWK" -
the story also relating to the MENHADEN, often called the "most
important fish in the sea".
In the area of Mobjack Bay, in Virginia,
in 1971, during a study of OSPREYS in that region,
done by a graduate student at the College of William and Mary, it was
found that OSPREY PAIRS were producing chicks at a rate well below
what was needed to maintain the population.
The pesticide DDT was in use at that time. The DDT made the birds'
eggshells too thin to be viable. One 1 in 4 eggs hatched.
But, of the chicks that hatched, nearly 8 in 10 survived to fledge.
Of course, subsequently, DDT was banned. And by the early
1980s, OSPREY PAIRS were producing more than twice as
many chicks as in the early 1970s. The
population of the species was growing.
However, by 2006, OSPREY PRODUCTIVITY in the Mobjack
Bay area had declined again back to levels not seen since the DDT
Another graduate student studied the species again, and found that 9 of
every 10 eggs hatched, but only 4 of every 10 chicks survived to fledge.
The chicks were hatching, but they were starving in the nests.
Back during the 1970s, adult OSPREY were delivering near 3
times more fish to nestlings than in 2006.
In the 1980s, during the time of highest
productivity, more than 70 per cent of the fish delivered
to nests were MENHADEN.
By 2006, however, MENHADEN represented less than
27 per cent of the diet. None of the other fish species in the
OSPREY'S diet are equivalent to MENHADEN in energy content. So, the adults
were providing fewer fish to their chicks, and the fish were of poorer
At the Salisbury University, in Maryland,
this evening, November 8, there's a talk being given about the
CERULEAN WARBLER, presented by author Katie Fallon.
If you miss that talk tonight (and chances are now that you will), it will
be given again at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania,
on Saturday, November 12, at 4pm. Free
to the public.
Katie Falon is the author of "Cerulean Blues: A
Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird".
Cerulean Blues describes the plight of the CERULEAN WARBLER as it
struggles to survive in ever-shrinking suitable habitat. It is the fastest
declining warbler species in the United States. 3 per cent of its total
population has been lost each year since 1966.
That means that there are now 80 per cent fewer CERULEAN WARBLERS that
there were 40 years ago, and their numbers continue to drop, due to factors
such including deforestation.
The CERULEAN WARBLER is one of the birds now classified by Birdlife
International as a "threatened species". Within
that broad category, there are the further classifications of: critically
endangered, endangered, and vulnerable. The
CERULEAN WARBLER is "vulnerable".
Birdlife International is based in the United Kingdom,
and is actively involved with birds throughout the world.
The total number of bird species in the world,
according to Birdlife International, is 10,027.
Of that number, 1,253 are
With 189 species critically endangered, 372
species endangered, and 679 species vulnerable.
843 species are categorized as
132 species have gone extinct. And 4
others have become "extinct in the wild".
Adding together the species that are "threatened",
"near-threatened", and extinct, the total is 2,232
birds, out of the 10,027 species.
These figures are from the latest "Red List",
put out each each year by Birdlife International.
In the Red List for 2011, 59 species of birds
moved from one category to another. Interestingly, there were
no such changes of categories for any birds in the United States.
Close to the US, however, there was a change. For the BAHAMA ORIOLE,
Icterus northropi, the situation has worsened. It has gone from
being Endangered to Critically Endangered.
The BAHAMA ORIOLE, now, continues only on one island in the Bahamas, Andros
Island. There are less than 250 birds. It has become extinct on Abaco
It and the ORIOLES in Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and
Cuba, were formerly part of the GREATER ANTILLEAN ORIOLE, and
prior to that part of the BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE.
Incidentally, there is a "new bird" now on the ledger for the
Bahamas: the BAHAMA WARBLER, that was, previously, a race of
the YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER.
Relating back to the United States, in the 2011
State of the Birds Report issued by the US government,
there is an assessment of birds on public lands and waters. Such public
(or government owned) habitats are said to support at least half of the
US distributions of more than 300 bird species.
More than 1,000 bird species inhabit the US
including Hawaii, of which 251 have
classifications of federally threatened, endangered, or of conservation
And here's some good news!
The WHOOPING CRANE in Texas is one of the threatened
species that lives in the US on government land, in the Aransas
National Wildlife Refuge.
We are anxious to learn about their return there for the winter, and how
many this year there are. The flock size could be a record !
In August of this year, a record of about 37 WHOOPING
CRANE chicks fledged from 75 nests in the Wood Buffalo
National Park in Canada.
12 juvenile WHOOPING CRANES were captured there in August,
bringing the total number of radioed birds to 23.
That, itself, is more than what the total WHOOPING
CRANE POPULATION was back in the 1950s, when from 14
to 20 or so birds were dutifully reported on by the Chicago
Looking back, but more recently, a year ago, the size of the 2010-2011
winter flock at Aransas was 283 birds. And
that was a record.
Prior to that:
There were 263 birds in the 2009-2010
winter flock at Aransas.
270 in 2008-2009, 266 in 2007-2008, 237
in 2006-2007, and 220 in 2005-2006.
Returning to this year:
10 captive-raised WHOOPING CRANES were released in February 2011 in
Louisiana, where a non-migratory flock had resided
until 1950. Seven of those birds were alive seven months later.
Unfortunately, this year, no chicks were fledged in the
wild, reintroduced WHOOPING CRANE flocks in Florida or Wisconsin.
Problems were with incubation behavior in Florida and nest abandonment
The captive WHOOPING CRANE flocks had good production in 2011. 17 chicks
were raised in captivity for the non-migratory flock in Louisiana, and
18 chicks are headed for Wisconsin.
Including the juvenile cranes expected to be reintroduced this fall,
flock sizes are estimated at 278 for the Aransas-Wood
Buffalo flock, 115 for the Wisconsin to Florida flock, 20
nonmigratory birds in Florida, and 24 in Louisiana. With
162 cranes in captivity, that total of WHOOPING CRANES
is 599 birds.
The WHOOPING CRANE has been the rarest of the world's
15 species of cranes. The other American crane, the SANDHILL CRANE is
the world's most common crane. And the SANDHILL CRANE
also has an interesting story, that follows now.
A single SANDHILL CRANE has been, for a while, in eastern Pennsylvania,
north of Easton. It continued there this week, at Green Pond.
That bird is just 1 of 650,000
SANDHILL CRANES. That's the global population. It breeds
in North America and west into Siberia. It winters
south to Mexico. There is a resident population in the
Caribbean, in Cuba.
The SANDILL CRANE, in recent years, has been becoming more common in eastern
North America. Over the years, SANDHILL CRANES in Pennsylvania
have been few and far between, until lately.
The SANDHILL CRANE population in the Great Lakes Area was
reduced, back in the 1930s, to about only 300 birds, including 25 to 30
breeding pairs in and around Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.
Today, there are about 50,000 SANDHILL CRANES breeding in the Great
And there's been an expansion into Pennsylvania, with
dispersals and movements of birds as far east as New York,
New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine.
In 1993, a pair was observed in western Pennsylvania
doing courtship behavior. The 2 birds disappeared for a while, but the
next time they were seen in the area, they had a juvenile bird with
Since that 1993 breeding, the species has been a recurring nester in
Pennsylvania, in mostly in the northwestern part of the state.
The species has established itself in the nesting season, and it has
been wintering for about 20 years in increased numbers in mostly
western Pennsylvania, but also in the eastern part of the state.
Just to the north, in New Yok State, this past
week, there were 13 SANDHILL CRANES at the Montezuma National Wildlife
Lastly, a note about SANDHILL CRANES in southern New Jersey:
Swedesboro, in that area, was settled by Swedes in the 1600s. When Peter
Kalm traveled there in 1748-49, he noted CRANES passing there
during migration. They usually alighted, but remained only a short time,
and in comparatively limited numbers.
But he was assured by an old colonist, then over 90 years of age, that
in his youth (around 1670), CRANES came in large numbers. They were
referred to as the "Brown Cranes". They were, of course,
Armas Hill has presented the Birdline, originally from
Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for decades (3), and on the
radio in Delaware for years (10).
The Birdline (and the Natureline) are
affiliates of Focus On Nature Tours.
The Red-crowned Crane is the second rarest crane
in the world, with two populations, one in Japan, and
one in Manchuria, that don't mix.
In Japan, they are on the northernmost Japanese island
of Hokkaido, where they are resident.
In the 1920s, the total Japanese population was only
about 20 individuals. Now, there are about
We see the stately Red-crowned, or Japanese,
Cranes during our FONT Japan tours.
There are some nice photos of them, and lots of information, in the FONT