Toilet Vent Screens Save Birds

owl toiletA vault toilet is a more or less a permanent porta-potty, used in places without running water. Many state and federal agencies are fond of them. I’m fairly certain that I’ve used one in a National Forest recently.

The problem is small, cavity nesting birds. They see that pipe, think it’s a cavity, slide down into the pit and are unable to get out. At particular risk are western screech and northern saw whet owls, says a recent USDA blog post.

Recently, the Forest Service’s Wings Across America gave an award to the Teton Raptor Center for its Poo-Poo Project. According to the project’s website: “In 2010, Teton Raptor Center initiated a community driven project to install 100 screens on the ventilation pipes of toilets throughout Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests.”

Problem solved. Are the vault toilet vents in your state capped?

The Poo Poo project sells the screened vent caps for about $30 each, including hardware and shipping and handling. They offer a bulk rate too. The order form is here.

Here’s the US Forest Service blog post.
Here’s the Poo Poo Project website.

Photo: This is what an owl stuck in a vault toilet looks like. USDA Forest Service photo.

Two Bird Flaps

Bald_EagleAs we reported on the return of snowy owls to the US last week, another part of the story was unfolding. According to news reports, one of the snowies flew into the engine of an airplane and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered airport personnel to shoot any other snowy owls on sight. Two of the owls were shot on Dec. 7.

Read the news reports here:Mother Nature Network (most detailed)
Business Insider
NY Daily News

An uproar ensued, with objections lodged by NYC Audubon and Change.org. The owls will now be trapped and moved away from the airport.
Read the update in The New York Times, here

Snowy owls aren’t the only raptors gaining attention from their possible deaths this week. Last week the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced new regulations that would extend wind farm’s golden and bald eagle take permits for another 30 years. The original permits were for five years. Among the conservation groups protesting the new regulation are the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.

Read the Los Angeles Times story on the controversy here.
Read the US Fish and Wildlife Service press release here.
An Associated Press article in the Seattle Times.

Photo: Bald eagle, Dave Menke, USFWS

Golden Eagles’ Slow Decline at Migration Site

golden eagle usfwsThe Montana Audubon Society reports that the number of golden eagles migrating along Montana’s Bridger Mountains has declined 35 to 40 percent over the last 20 years, according to an article in the Great Falls Tribune.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, golden eagle numbers in the West are stable, the article says. But the persistent decline in numbers of golden eagles counted each year during a raptor migration watch has the state Audubon group concerned.

The raptor count started in 1992, when 1,579 golden eagles were counted. This year the number was 1,131. While the general trend has been a decline, the numbers did spike in 1999 when 1,870 golden eagles were spotted. The survey takes into account bad weather and resident birds.

Read more about the golden eagle situation at the Bridger Mountains in the Great Falls Tribune, here.

Photo: Golden eagle by Donna Dewhurst, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Burying Beetles and Goshawks Up

goshawk-259x300Here’s some good news for a Monday morning.

– Wildlife biologists with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have discovered Northern Goshawks successfully breeding in the State for the first time since 2006. Read the Maryland Department of Natural Resources press release, here.

– A second wild American burying beetle population now calls Nantucket, Massachusetts home, thanks to a successful captive breeding and reintroduction program, which began in 1996 at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Read this Endangered Species Act Success Story on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website, here. Lots of photos.

Photo: Can I tell you how lucky you are that I went with the goshawk and not the burying beetle grubs? Courtesy of the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources.

Vultures As Pollution Sentinels

Turkey_VultureResearchers from the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania have been studying vultures throughout the New World to see if they are effective sentinels for environmental pollutants, such as lead.

The theory, says an Associated Press article that ran in the Havasu News (AZ), is with their ability to eat and digest biological toxins, vultures may be accumulating man-made toxins as well. Testing them for toxins may reveal hot spots that can then be investigated.

A Hawk Mountain Sanctuary blog reveals that they have been at this for ten years. The big news today is that they have expanded the study in to Arizona. The hope is that information from the tough vultures will provide more information on the lead poisoning that is killing the already federally endangered California condors.

Read the Associated Press article here.
Read the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary “Vulture Chronicles” blog here.

Photo: Turkey vulture, by Lee Karney, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

California Bites the Bullet

condor_ScottFrierCalifornia banned lead ammunition within the range of the endangered California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) in 2008. Now environmental groups are moving to take the ban statewide to protect the condor and other large scavenging birds such as bald eagles from lead poisoning. The National Rifle Association protests.

An article in the San Jose Mercury News reports the NRA saying that because copper bullets cost $40 a box and don’t fly as true, while lead bullets cost $20 a box, the ban is equivalent to a ban on hunting, and that the groups’ ultimate goal is to ban guns. (The article also quotes an Audubon spokesman saying that of course the group does not oppose either hunting nor guns.)

An article in the British newspaper The Guardian links to a recent Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences paper detailing the condors’ vulnerability to lead poisoning from ammunition. It seems the condors are such effective scavengers that even if only one percent of the carcasses or gut piles contain lead ammunition, 30 to 50 percent of the condors will feed from one of them.

Read the San Jose Mercury News article here.
Read The Guardian article here.
Find the PNAS abstract here. (Fee or subscription needed for full access.)

Photo: California condor by Scott Frier, courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department

Global Owl Project

burrowing owlsWhen I saw that The New York Times had published an article on the Global Owl Project, I put that news at the top of my list. A new global effort to study owls that was robust enough to attract the attention of the Gray Lady is something you would want to know about, I thought.

The article itself is more of a round-up of cool owl facts. That’s interesting enough, I suppose. But really, it included almost nothing on the Global Owl Project.

Read The New York Times article here.

But what about the Global Owl Project? A glance at its website shows that it has been around for several years. In fact, the site says that the project was supposed to last five years and wrap up in 2008. Six papers on owls were published under its aegis. (Including a recently-uploaded report on how to build artificial burrows for burrowing owls, which looks helpful.)

Get info on the project from its briefing paper (here).

Photo: Burrowing owls by Lee Karney, used courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Great Gray Owl Study in Wyoming

great gray owlIt seems to be Wyoming week here at State Wildlife News. I hope you’ll forgive one more Wyoming story: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department are partnering with Craighead Beringia South, a non-profit research institute (yeah, them again) to study great gray owls in the Teton/Jackson Hole region, an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide says.

“Great grays are probably the least-studied species of raptor in North America,” says Bryan Bedrosian, a researcher with Craighead Beringia South, in the article.

Up to 12 owls will be fitted with GPS backpacks for the study, which will evaluate a US Forest Service project that will clear brush and remove dead trees in the region.

Read the Jackson Hole News and Guide article here (on the Craighead Beringia South website).

Photo: Great gray owl in Oregon, by Don Virgovic, courtesy US Forest Service

Two Golden Eagles Killed; One Was In Study

golden eagle usfwsThree golden eagles were recently caught in snare traps in Montana. Two of the eagles were killed, and one of the dead eagles was part of a research project by Craighead Beringia South, a wildlife research and education institute based in Kelly, Wyoming.

The Jackson Hole Daily reports that the dead eagle was one of six golden eagles wearing a GPS backpack since 2010 in a project designed to study golden eagle migration corridors.

An article in the Ravalli Republic says that one of the golden eagles was found dead, the other had to be euthanized and the third is being rehabilitated. The article also notes that golden eagles have been in sharp decline in the region.

Read the Jackson Hole Daily article here.
Read the Ravalli Republic article here.

Photo: Golden eagle in Alaska, by Donna Dewhurst, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Raptor-Killing Poison Ban Starts Soon in Canada

Bald_EaglePotent second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs; aka, rat poisons) kill birds, particularly raptors in the United States and Canada. Canada will ban sales of these poisons on January 1, while in the U.S. talk of banning consumers from using the poisons has been around for a while, but never seems to be enacted.

“In a study of more than 130 dead birds of prey found in and around Vancouver, Canada, ‘virtually 100%’ of the owls and a large proportion of the hawks had residues of at least one second-generation AR in their livers,” said a news story in the journal Nature last month.

The Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre blog illustrates just how tough it can be to diagnose AR poisoning in raptors. A toxics screen of the bird’s liver may be the only sign that AR poisoning was the cause of death, the blog says.

Read the Nature article, here.
Read the CCWHC blog post, here.

We’ve covered this subject before. Read one of our previous posts, here.

Photo: bald eagle by Dave Menke, USFWS