Birds are always making headlines, from conservation news to rare bird sightings to sensational stories with birds in unusual situations. This list highlights the most popular bird news stories of 2010, or you can tune in to my daily bird news blog to keep up with all the latest bird happenings.
A Calgary neighborhood learned just how aggressive Swainson's hawks can be when a nesting hawk targeted a postal carrier and prevented mail delivery for several weeks in September. The hawk was believed to recognize the carrier's face and determine her to be a threat because of her delivery pattern. That pattern interfered with the hawk's nesting area, and it defended its territory.
Luxury cruise ships attract a wide variety of passengers, and one of the most luxurious ships in the world – Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas – attracted a burrowing owl to its miniature golf course in September. Burrowing owls are often found on south Florida's golf courses, but the owl on the ship was safely removed and relocated to a more appropriate habitat.
Many cities have trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs to control feral cat populations, but because feral cats kill thousands of birds annually, many birders oppose these programs. Over time, TNR programs can be effective to reduce the numbers of feral cats, though newly stray cats undermine that effectiveness. All in all, these programs are highly controversial among birders and cat lovers.
Zoos are regarded as a safe place for wildlife, but in April a Kansas zoo euthanized four baby screech owls even though a local rehabilitator was willing to take in the birds. While the zoo did act within its rights, a public outcry about the incident raised awareness of how zoos and wildlife rehabilitators need to work together for the best interests of the animals they both serve.
Bald eagles' mating flights are spectacular, when both birds of prey lock talons in midair and plummet together, but in April one mating flight went horribly awry when the pair of birds crashed into the ground in Alaska. The male eagle did not survive the impact and the female was gravely injured, but successfully recovered and was released into the wild in August.
Canada geese are often considered nuisance birds, and in many urban areas they are culled to control their numbers. Some cities have opted to donate the culled geese to local food banks, though no one is required to accept goose meat if they prefer not to. While culling itself can be controversial, there is good support for keeping the meat from going to waste through these donations.
California condors are critically endangered, and lead poisoning from discarded hunting ammunition is a continuing threat to these powerful birds. Because they feed on carrion, these scavengers frequently ingest bullets embedded in dead animals, and over time, suffer from lead poisoning. Different groups are seeking to ban lead-based ammunition to protect the condors.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and its devastating oil spill is one of the hottest wildlife stories of 2010, and one of the most controversial aspects of the spill's effects has been the idea that heavily oiled birds would be better off humanely euthanized than subjected to stressful and expensive rehabilitation. Birders are split on the issue, but many agree that more study is needed.
Captive breeding programs in India have seen fantastic success with critically endangered long-billed vultures, and three healthy chicks were hatched in 2010. Two other vulture species – slender-billed vultures and white-rumped vultures – were also successfully bred in captivity. It is hoped that the success of these captive breeding programs can help the wild vulture populations grow.
A $620 million wetland restoration project in Florida is nearing completion, and 12,000 acres of habitat is now available to ducks, wading birds and other species. The project began in 1999 and is scheduled for completion in 2013, but even three years before it is finished, more than 300 bird species have been recorded in the area.