An important food source in the fall for ducks


In the fall, birds will maximize food resources that are readily available in order to prepare for winter and migration.   Many birds rely on fruit that has high energy gains when converted to stored body fat that is used when food is scarce and during long distance flights. It is important for ornithologists to know what these food resources are so that measures can be taken to insure that these resources are protected.

As an ornithologist, I am constantly making observations on birds during the year.  One day as I was sitting in a park in Waterloo, Ontario I watched the number of ducks that were swimming in the river nearby, and walking around the same area on land.

What struck me as interesting, was that when the apples were falling from the tree, the ducks (mostly mallards) would run to the fallen apples and start feeding on them; I had not encountered this before and so I made a video of what I was seeing.  I also noticed a number of apples falling about the same time and so I investigated further.  What caused the fallen apples was a squirrel that would go up the apple  tree, biting into some of the apples and then releasing them.  The ducks would hurry over to the fallen apples and start feeding on them.

There is not a lot of information in the literature about this squirrel-duck-apple cycle and  if the apple is an important food source for mallard ducks in the fall.  I will be investigating this further, and I would like to know if anyone has made similar observations.  If so, what apple varieties are they feeding on?


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Spring brings migrating warbler identification tips

Cornell Lab eNews

Watch our new video, “Birding Warblers”   Spring is here! As the days lengthen, millions of warblers, each weighing less than half an ounce, are traveling northward. The anticipation builds as bird watchers check the forecasts and wonder what new species they’ll see each day. To help celebrate the imminent arrival of spring migrants, Jessie Barry and Chris Wood from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology share their warbler-watching tips with you in a new video, “Birding Warblers.”   Join Chris and Jessie on a warbler treasure hunt as they explain how they scan for motion, focus on a single species at a time, and anticipate which species come through at different times in spring. Watch now.   To hear the songs of nearly 50 North American warblers, visit our wood-warbler page on All About Birds.

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Gardening map program

This link provides information on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website about planting and organizing your yard to benefit birds.  It’s a great tool to use and will help you to prepare for spring, which hopefully will be soon!


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How to tell a Raven from a Crow

Here’s How to Tell a Crow From a Raven, Blindfolded

Crows and ravens look almost alike, and with ravens expanding their range of late, telling the difference is a growing challenge.  Dr. Kevin McGowan has studied crows for 30 years. Learn to tell a caw from a croak, and these big black birds will confuse you nevermoreWhat If They’re Silent? See our Crows vs. Ravens page for McGowan’s visual ID tips.
Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate a raven from a crow.

This researcher tells you how.

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Bird brains and light sensitivity – a new study

Please click on the link to read the latest research in the area of bird brains and light sensitivity.


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Birding website to check out


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Birding Festivals in North America

Birding Festivals are a great way to meet up with other birders and to see many birds in their own habitat or during migration.  I will post updates monthly on the many birding festivals that are hosted in Canada, the US and other countries as they become available.

Spring break is in March so you may want to attend one of these festivals and introduce your kids to the wonderful world of birds!

Both links to these birding websites will help you plan for attending the birding festivals that are listed.

I will post Canadian Festivals for the month of March and April separately.

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Article on Dinosaur brains wired for flight

An interesting article on Live Science website discusses how scientists view different parts of the dinosaur brain that was wired for flight.

Follow this link for more information:

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ABC news release

New Study Finds Population of Threatened Marbled Murrelet Down Almost 30 Percent in Last Ten Years

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, Email click here

Marbled Murrelet by Thomas Hamer

(Washington, D.C., December 21, 2012) Federal conservation efforts haven’t come close to reversing or even halting the decline of the Marbled Murrelet, a seabird that nests in old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. That’s the conclusion of a major new peer-reviewed study of the status of the Marbled Murrelet, which was prepared by scientists from the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife and Crescent Research, a private research firm.

The study, published in the international research journal The Condor, found that Marbled Murrelet numbers in five different study areas fell sharply between 2001 and 2010, from a total count of roughly 22,200 to a total count of roughly 16,700. The five study areas encompass all but one of the Marbled Murrelet conservation zones identified in the federal Marbled Murrelet Recovery Plan.

“This study confirms the fears that many conservationists have held for years,” said Steve Holmer, Senior Policy Analyst for American Bird Conservancy.  “By showing that the Marbled Murrelet is still in sharp decline, the study emphasizes the need for stronger, more aggressive conservation measures.”

Marbled Murrelets nest in tall trees found in forests in Washington, Oregon and California.  The authors of the study cite the loss of nesting habitat as a major cause of the murrelet’s decline over the past century; they add that it still may be a contributing factor, thanks to major fires,  logging and big wind storms.

Other changes cited as potentially important ranged from increased nest predation to reductions in the quality and availability of marine creatures eaten by the birds. Increased nest predation seems to be associated with the presence of more crows and ravens, which in turn is linked to growing human settlements and the presence of campgrounds.

This study was published on the heels of a  court ruling that stopped timber sales and logging in three state-owned Oregon forests that are home to Marbled Murrelets. Federal District Court Judge Ann Aiken recently granted an injunction that prevents the state from proceeding on 11 timber sales, plus any other logging in occupied murrelet nest sites in the Elliot, Clatsop and Tillamook state forests. The ruling stops logging in murrelet habitat until the resolution of a case filed by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon Society. Those groups are asserting that the state’s logging practices are harming the federally-protected seabird.

The Marbled Murrelet was  Federally listed in 1992 as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a designation that requires Federal agencies to carry out conservation programs for each listed species and ensure that any actions the agency funds, authorizes, or carries out are not likely to jeopardize the survival of the species, or to adversely modify species designated critical habitat.


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A Journal of the Human Environment

ISSN 0044-7447


DOI 10.1007/s13280-012-0361-7

Lead-Free Hunting Rifle Ammunition:

Product Availability, Price, Effectiveness,

and Role in Global Wildlife Conservation

Vernon George Thomas


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