Birds make the news every day, from rare bird sightings to conservation issues to wacky situations and unusual happenings in the avian world. The past 12 months have been filled with a wide variety of bird news, and these stories highlight the hottest, most controversial and most sensational bird news stories of 2011 covering a wide range of bird species.
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Fotobirder has more than 400 species on his life list, and he's been a serious birder for more than 20 years. His father-in-law introduced him to the joys of both birds and bird photography, and he was hooked when he saw his first bald eagle. He recommends studying birds carefully to get as much information about them as possible before trying to identify them - the more you know about the bird, the easier it will be to get an accurate identification.
A bald eagle has been found beheaded in Louisiana, but authorities are baffled as to why. The eagle's wing and tail feathers were intact, as were its talons - typical prizes that might be harvested for black market trade. The bird was most likely shot around the end of March, and its body was found April 3.
Residents in Queensland, Australia have been warned about the possible emergence of killer birds - southern cassowaries - from their normally elusive rainforest range. Recent floods and Cyclone Yasi have destroyed many of the birds' nests and they have been seen wandering greater distances for undamaged food sources, primarily fruit crops.
Nearly a dozen birds have died at a Colorado Springs gas station, yet the station owner is not doing anything about it. A local resident noticed one bird stuck in the station's metal awning. Firefighters helped free that bird, but though the resident offered to pay for metal mesh to be installed to prevent additional birds from getting stuck, the station owner refused.
The stronger bird of a pair of conjoined robins found in Utah this summer has been released. The bird required extensive therapy and medical care to recover from the ordeal of being joined to its sibling with a piece of twine that bound their wings together as they grew. The smaller bird needed part of its wing amputated when the birds were separated, but it has a happy home at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, where it will likely become the center's mascot.
6. Ducks to Die
Despite offers of sanctuary without cost to the city, the muscovy ducks of Ocala City, Florida, have been sentenced to poisoning. The city had two offers to remove the ducks - one from the Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary and the other from the All Creatures Sanctuary - at little or no cost to the city, but instead the city council voted to spend $8,400 to have the ducks poisoned. The poison will sedate the birds, at which time they will be collected and euthanized in gas chambers.
The bright red plumage of the northern cardinal is instantly recognizable, but in recent weeks sightings of rare yellow cardinals have been exciting birders in Kentucky, where two of the rare birds began visiting local feeders in late January. The drastic color variation is caused by a genetic mutation that causes the birds to metabolize their food differently, resulting in yellow plumage instead of the classic red.
Penguins don't usually need protection from the cold, but a movement to provide knitted sweaters for little blue penguins in New Zealand is more important than keeping warm. The knitting shop Skeinz put out a call for the sweaters, and hundreds have been donated thus far to help protect the birds oiled in the recent spill east of North Island.
Flocks of birds have been falling dead from the sky in recent weeks, and different media outlets have dubbed the mass bird die-offs as an "aflockalypse." Similar die-offs of different scales and affecting different species occur far more often than most people realize, and many are never reported. The birds may not be noticed, the numbers may not be as high or the media may not be having as slow a news day, but no matter what the reason, there is little to be concerned about with these types of incidents.
10. Snowing Owls
Already this winter is looking fantastic for birders, thanks to snow reported in Oregon, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and many other areas - snowy owls, that is. An irruption of snowy owls is spreading south into the United States, bringing these stately birds far from their traditional northern territories.