migratory-birds
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migratory birds

A new project called Lights Out Philly is aimed at preventing bird building collisions during spring and fall migrations. Tyler Sprague / Getty Images

On the morning of October 2, Stephen Maciejewski, an Audubon Pennsylvania volunteer, expected to tally a few dead birds in Philadelphia during their peak migration season. But instead, he found hundreds of dead birds, CNN reported.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Jacob Carter

On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that it will be rescinding secretarial order 3369, which sidelined scientific research and its use in the agency's decisions. Put in place by the previous administration, the secretarial order restricted decisionmakers at the DOI from using scientific studies that did not make all data publicly available.

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waterlust.com / @tulasendlesssummer_sierra .

Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.

Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in 2002 that up to two million birds were killed in oil pits every year. Pedro Ramirez, Jr / USFWS

By Jacob Carter

Since 1918 the federal government has implemented its authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to hold industries accountable for the death of birds due to their operations. Such operations include the spraying of insecticides that poison birds, maintaining oil pits that can lead to drowning, or contact with infrastructure such as wind turbines that can cause death on impact.

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By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

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Pexels

By Brett Wilkins

Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.

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Western tanager. Dennis Morrison

By Jane Kirchner

Right now, more than a 150 species of birds are on their way northward from tropical wintering grounds to take advantage of emerging insects, budding plants and an abundance of nesting locations. While larger birds tend to travel during daylight hours, songbirds and smaller species fly at night and will stop off and stick around for a day to eat and build up fat stores before continuing their journey. The best time to see and hear them in your yard is the first two hours after the sun rises!

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Anjo Kan / Shutterstock

Energy companies and other businesses are no longer liable for accidentally killing migratory birds, the Trump administration announced Friday in a decision hailed by industry insiders.

A legal memo by the U.S. Interior Department reverses a longstanding agency practice and last-minute ruling released by the Obama administration in January 2017. The Obama-era policy meant that oil, gas, wind and solar operators could face prosecution for accidentally killing birds.

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For some people, spring means tax time; for others it brings thoughts of Easter or Passover. For me, the best thing about spring is that it is time for the spring bird migration, the best time of the year to see certain species. It’s also a time to reflect on what a tremendous accomplishment migration is, and how fraught with peril it is for far too many birds.

The average songbird may only weigh about half an ounce, and burns a tremendous amount of energy during migration. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

While some species of birds remain in the same area year-round, most of our songbird species are “neotropical migrants”—meaning that they breed in the U.S. or Canada, but winter in the warmer climes of the Gulf Coast, or even farther into Central and South America. The month of May, when many of the birds return north, is a particularly good time to be a birdwatcher, for a couple of reasons: first, it is an opportunity to see birds that aren’t present most of the year.

Certain warbler species, for instance, breed only in New England and Canada, so many Americans only have a fleeting chance at a glimpse of these species. Also, migration routes tend to be concentrated into “flyways,” with certain spots being “hotspots” where birds reliably congregate to eat and rest up for the next leg of the journey. A good outing during migration can thus turn up a lot more birds than during the breeding season, when species and individuals tend to be more dispersed.

Birds that undertake migration face triple-whammy of threats: Not only do they need quality habitats in both their wintering and breeding ranges, but they also need to survive the trip, which can be thousands of miles in length and full of dangers along the way. Collisions with buildings kill several hundred million birds each year, and other structures, like communication towers and wind turbines, can also be deadly. Feral and free-ranging cats may kill even more songbirds than collisions do. And the evidence is mounting that climate change is playing an increasingly important role in bird declines. Sea level rise is damaging coasts and wetlands that are important feeding grounds. Increased droughts and fires are damaging forest and shrubland habitats.

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And more subtle, but perhaps even more important changes are happening as well, having to do with the timing of important food sources, particularly the emergence of insects. The average songbird may only weigh about half an ounce, and burns a tremendous amount of energy during migration and breeding, making it especially critical that their arrival at stopovers and breeding sites be timed to match food availability.

As climate change throws seasons out of whack, some of these critical timings are getting thrown off—a phenomena known as “phenologic mismatch.” Researchers in Europe have found that phenologic mismatches are an increasingly important cause of bird declines. And in the U.S., birds are actually altering their migration timing to match changing weather conditions—a good strategy, but one that puts them at risk of missing out on major insect emergences.

Get out there this spring and see some birds. While you’re at it, help them survive their migration by keeping your cat indoors, limiting the use of pesticides and other chemicals in your yard, making windows and glass doors more bird-friendly, and providing backyard habitat like sources of water, cover and food.

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