This Week's

International News

BSCís Caribbean 

National News

Bald-headed Blue Jays?

Loons Susceptible to 
West Nile

Regional News

Eagle Tracker Update

Lesser Scaup Prepare 
for Fall Migration

Hooded Warblers Up 
in 2005

Mute Swan and Scaup 
Research Presented at 
Kansas Conference



Fall is coming.  
Now is the time to clean your feeders 
and join Project FeederWatch.


16 September 2005 
Download a Printable PDF Version  



BSCís Caribbean Connections

15 September 2005 - Every year, Bird Studies Canada (BSC) provides special month-long training for three Latin Americans at Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO). This year's crop arrived last weekend and will stay until 8 October. They are Freddy Santana from Cuba; Manuel Calderon from Puerto Rico; and Rafael Lorenzo from Dominican Republic. All three are graduates from the two-week training course led by Bird Studies Canada in Jamaica last winter. They are now receiving advanced training to become trainers in their home countries. This year's program is being conducted in partnership with BirdLife International, and is supported by a grant from the United Nations Environment Program - Global Environment Facility (UNEP-GEF).
  As part of the larger UNEP-GEF project in the Caribbean, two of BSC's senior staff (Jon McCracken and Denis Lepage) recently returned from a week-long meeting with the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB). Held in Guadeloupe, the meeting was attended by over 100 ornithologists from around the Caribbean, U.S., and Great Britain. There were many very interesting papers, sessions, and workshops, including topics on bird monitoring programs, waterbird conservation initiatives, species at risk projects, and the impact of hurricanes and volcanoes on the region's bird life. A new Caribbean Birds Monitoring working group was established at the meeting, co-chaired by Steven Latta (Point Reyes Bird Observatory) and Jon McCracken (BSC). Among other activities, the Society publishes The Journal of Caribbean Ornithology. For more information about SCSCB, click here, and for more information about the BirdLife Caribbean Program, click here.

Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada are the Canadian partner in BirdLife International.


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Bald-headed Blue Jays?

Photo: Peter Herrington

14 September 2005 - At Bird Studies Canada, one of the signs of changing seasons is the type of bird questions we get from our members and the public. Recently, we have been receiving concerned calls about follically-challenged birds. While most of the calls are about Blue Jays, other baldies include Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, and various sparrows.
  So what's up with these bald birds? Several explanations have been proposed, with the two main ones being a severe case of feather mites and an unusual moult pattern. Wild birds normally carry small numbers of feather mites - tiny arthropods (related to ticks and spiders) specialized to feed on bird feathers. Birds must regularly groom their feathers to remove these mites and other parasites. While birds can groom most feathers with their bills, they can't reach their head feathers. Mite populations on head feathers can build up to the point where the feather is totally destroyed and/or has been pulled out by the bird scratching at its head.
  Adult Blue Jays and other songbirds normally replace all of their feathers in late summer/early fall following the breeding season. This moult is usually done gradually over a period of a few weeks, with feathers being shed and replaced in a regular, staggered pattern so that at no point is the bird naked or flightless. However, there is evidence that some individual birds will drop most or all of their head feathers all at once - resulting in temporary baldness. This atypical moult may be due to stress or malnutrition in a particular year, but some captive birds have been reported to follow this same pattern of going totally bald each year even though they are well fed and healthy. So it does look like some individual birds may indeed be "follically challenged" - at least on a seasonal basis. Whatever the cause, the good news is that this condition is normally short-term, with a new set of head feathers growing in within a few weeks. For more information on bald birds, click here.

Loons Susceptible to West Nile

30 August 2005 - An entire family of Common Loons has died after being infected with the West Nile virus on Sandy Lake near Zimmerman, Minnesota in early August, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
  According to Carrol Henderson, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor, local homeowners had placed an artificial nesting platform to attract nesting loons and were thrilled when a pair of loons nested for the first time on Sandy Lake. The loons raised two chicks that were nearly full grown by early August. On 6 August, the loons were acting and swimming in a listless, disoriented manner. A concerned lake resident who took a boat out to check on the loons found them swimming in small circles. One loon was unable to right itself in the water. Three of the four loons died within a five-hour period. On 10 August, the fourth loon was acting listless and was found dead the next day. The four loons were turned over to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program for laboratory analysis. DNR Pathologist Joe Marcino analyzed two of the dead loons and reported they had died of West Nile virus. Henderson noted this is the first time that loons have been documented to die from West Nile virus in Minnesota.
  The Canadian Lakes Loon Survey (CLLS) is now receiving completed surveys from participants for the 2005 season and will be monitoring these reports for unusual deaths. If Canadians come across a dead or dying loon, they should contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre. Contact details are available by clicking here and downloading the Loon Mortality Survey reporting form.

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Eagle Tracker Update

15 September 2005 - Itís mid-September, do you know where your eagles are? This yearís satellite-tagged eaglets (Ranger, Tilson, Terawatt, Regal, Dominion, Bonnie, and Clyde) are dispersing from their nesting sites and can be followed online at Eagle Tracker. Tilson, sponsored by TD-Friends of the Environment chapter (Tilsonburg/Delhi chapter), is the most adventuresome, leaving Long Point Bay for a more urban experience in Bay City, Michigan. Dominion (sponsored by TD-Friends of the Environment, London Chapter) and Regal (sponsored by D. Rawlinson and other community partners) have remained close to their nests, where volunteers have spotted them perching and flying. Unfortunately, contact has been lost with two of this yearís tagged eaglets. Terawatt (sponsored by Ontario Power Generation) and Ranger (sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited) appear to have damaged their transmitter equipment. Both birds are likely still alive and Ranger has been spotted since transmissions ceased. Bonnie and Clyde are still spending time up in the James Bay area, and Olivia (hatched in 2004) has made her way back to the Bruce Peninsula. Olivia spent last September and October in the same area. To learn more about these birds, click here.
  To report sightings of juvenile Bald Eagles in the Great Lakes region, or for more information, contact Bald Eagle biologist, Dawn Laing, at For sightings, please note the date, location, and whether or not a backpack or antenna was visible on the bird.

Lesser Scaup Prepare for Fall Migration

15 September 2005 - Of the six Lesser Scaup fitted with satellite transmitters this spring, Henrietta appears to be the most energetic traveler. After leaving the Great Lakes in the spring, Henrietta migrated all the way to Whitehorse in the Yukon. She spent about 45 days there before heading back several hundred kilometers along her spring migratory route to Alberta in late July. Since then, Henrietta has been using an area within just a few kilometers of where she spent time during her spring migration. CB is also showing movement since her spring migration to northern Ontario where she remained for over two months between the communities of Fort Severn and Peawanuck on the Hudson Bay shoreline. Around 4 August, CB moved about 50 kilometres inland where she remains currently. Mussel Muncher ended her spring migration in central Manitoba about 150 kilometres northwest of Lake Winnipeg, but she too has made a few movements throughout the summer and currently has taken up residence at Cross Lake, Manitoba. After these birds moult their flight feathers, they will be prepared to begin the next trek of their annual journey. Be sure to keep a watchful eye on Scaup Tracker as the fall migration begins in earnest to see where these birds go next. For more information on scaup research and other programs of Long Point Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Fund, click here.

Hooded Warblers Up in 2005

13 September 2005 - Over the past summer, Bird Studies Canada headed up two field projects focusing on Hooded Warblers breeding in Norfolk County forests in southern Ontario. The Hooded Warbler is listed as Threatened in Canada and Ontario because the small Canadian population of this area-sensitive forest landbird is almost exclusively limited to the highly fragmented Carolinian Forest Zone of southwestern Ontario.
  BSC field crews located 67 territories and 76 active nests at the large St. Williams Forest site, plus an additional 50 territories and 39 nests at 16 smaller woodlots in the vicinity. This is an all-time population high for Hooded Warblers at the 1200 ha St. Williams Forest site (recently designated as a provincial Conservation Reserve) where BSC has being collecting data on Hooded Warbler population size, productivity, nest characteristics, and habitat relationships since 1999.
  The second research project is examining the effects of forest patch size and landscape connectivity on the presence and productivity of Hooded Warblers. This project is a continuation of graduate research by Stephanie Melles, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto. Initial comparisons with results from previous years indicate that Hooded Warbler productivity at these sites in 2005 was about average. (The field staff also noted that daytime temperatures, humidity levels, mosquito densities, and Northern Goshawk attacks were all well above average throughout the field season!)
  The Hooded Warbler research is being carried out in partnership with the Hooded Warbler/Acadian Flycatcher Recovery Team, with support from Environment Canada Ontario Region's Species at Risk program. This year's record-setting field crew included Rosalind Ford, Benoit Gendreau, Audrey Heagy, Tara Innes, Brad McLeod, Stephanie Melles, and David Okines.

Mute Swan and Scaup Research Presented at Kansas Conference

13 September 2005 - Dr. Scott Petrie, Research Director of the Long Point Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Fund (LPWWRF), recently attended the Western Regional Panel and Mississippi River Basin Panel Joint Meeting held in Wichita, Kansas, 7-9 September 2005. Scott presented LPWWRFís latest research results on Mute Swan population dynamics and the acquisition of contaminants by scaup on the lower Great Lakes.

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