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What's Happening

Black-capped Vireo Delisting

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the successful recovery of the Black-capped Vireo, thus removing the species from Endangered Species list protection. Thirty years ago, the population was down to about 350 individuals. Today, however, there are more than 14,000 birds estimated across the bird’s breeding range in Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico. No longer will this species be listed among those considered Endangered and Threatened.

The vireo was Federally-listed in 1987, primarily due to the impacts of habitat loss and nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds. The USFWS concluded that the primary threats to the Black-capped Vireo have been reduced or adequately managed, and vireo populations are now expected to be viable in the future.  Birding Community E-bulletin

Kirtland’s Warbler Proposal

The USFWS is proposing to remove this species from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection. The Kirtland’s Warbler has traditionally nested in young jack pine forests in central Michigan, and has recently spread to parts of Wisconsin and Ontario. Still, this warbler has one of the most geographically restricted breeding distributions of any bird in the continental United States. The current Kirtland’s Warbler population is now estimated to be over 4,600 individuals, actually more than double the recovery goal. In fact, the warbler’s population has exceeded recovery goals for the past 16 years.

We now know that the warbler’s population had declined primarily for two reasons: loss of nesting habitat and brood parasitism caused by the spread of Brown-headed Cowbirds which significantly reduced their nesting success. After ESA listing, the first Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Plan was crafted, involving multiple partners and outlining steps to increase the population of the warbler. The management of jack pine areas (involving the regular replanting of the trees in appropriate sandy soil) was essential, as was the control of Brown-headed Cowbirds. 

Multiple partners have been crucial to the warbler’s recovery. “Without a doubt, this bird’s recovery is the result of cooperation among states, local residents, federal agencies, and conservation groups. This dedicated conservation community is committed to addressing the needs of the Kirtland’s Warbler into the future,” said Tom Melius, Midwest Regional Director for the USFWS. Before making a final decision, the USFWS must gather and analyze public comments and any new information. Publication of the proposed rule opened a 90-day public comment period, which closed July 11. 

Facing Extinction: Some Examples

It’s interesting to view some predictions made by BirdLife last month. The organization reviewed a number of species that were once considered quite common and widespread but whose numbers are now plummeting. They looked at seven of these species last month, and some of them might surprise you. For the full listing, see  → BirdLifeSurprises. Among the seven they include three that occur in North America:

  • Snowy Owl – Experiencing a rapid decline, most likely driven by climate change. Disruptions to snowmelt and snow cover can affect the availability and distribution of prey.
  • Atlantic Puffin – Regional overfishing and climate change have created serious food shortages.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake – Rising sea temperatures are driving catastrophic declines in plankton populations, with an impact to the rest of the food chain, including fish. Plastics at sea (consumed by the kittiwakes) may be another threat.

The ESA Is Also Endangered

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been the strongest legal protection for wildlife since it was enacted in 1973. The success of the law is confirmed by the delisting of recovered species such as the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon which probably would have been lost forever without the ESA’s protection. There are still many species whose survival depends on continued listing as endangered or threatened. The effects of climate change will likely imperil many more species as described above. Ongoing Congressional attempts to “modernize” the law are poorly disguised attempts to weaken the law. Audubon is one of many organizations that will continue efforts to maintain the ESA.

Email notices sent 3-7 days in advance - Monthly field trips sometimes miss good birding opportunities. To take advantage of great weather, when birds or butterflies abound, we started "Spur-of -the-moment Field Trips."
A notice is emailed to SWNMA members 3-7 days in advance, indicating where and when to meet and the destination. Watch for email, especially during migration season.
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Book Review

Common Birds of Southwest New Mexico
Where and when to find them

By Tony B. Godfrey

This handy book is the first in a series by Certified Interpretive Guide and park technician at City of Rocks State Park, Tony Godfrey. The guide describes ten convenient locations that provide a glimpse at the diversity of birding spots in this region – from desert to mountain to lakeside. Visitors to Southwest NM will find useful the directions to each location and the facilities they offer. A nice feature for tourists and locals is the guide to the common birds you can find at each location based on the season.

 The highlight of the book is the excellent photographs. If you have seen any of Tony’s presentations at our meetings, you know that he is an outstanding photographer. The book includes photos of 157 species with a brief description of the habitat you might find them in and when and where to look.

This book is not meant to replace a comprehensive field guide for identifying birds, but it could become a valuable addition to your bird book library and would also be a great gift to entice visitors to enjoy the birds of our region. A parallel volume titled Butterflies and Dragonflies of Southwest New Mexico is also likely to be just as beautiful and useful.  Information on obtaining both is available at City of Rocks State Park or by visiting, FieldAndSiteGuides.com.

28th ABA Checklist Committee Report

. . . a hummingbird with two verified north American records, will be acceptable as being “countable” on your North American ABA area list. The Amethyst-throated hummingbird (Lampornis amethystinus) normally resides in Mexico and Honduras. It will be placed on the list between Plain-capped Starthroat and Blue-throated hummingbirds.

The Pine flycatcher (Emidonax affinis) was found in 2016 in the Santa Rita mountains in Arizona, where it unsuccessfully attempted to nest with a Cordilleran flycatcher. It will be placed between Dusky and Pacific-slope flyctchers on the ABA list.

There is also a “split” from the Red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). This newly separated crossbill is called Cassia crossbill (L. sinesciuris). It is recognized as being endemic to the South Hills and Albion mountains of Idaho. Its large bill has resulted from co-evolution with thicker pine cone seeds, mediated by a lack of red squirrels in the region. The scientific name sinesciuris translates to “without squirrels.” It will follow Red crossbill on the ABA list. 

Magnificent no more!

The Magnificent hummingbird was named in honor of the Duke of Rivoli, after it was described in the 1920s - the Anna’s hummingbird is named after his wife, the Duchess of Rivoli. It remained “Rivoli’s hummingbird” until the mid-1980s when it was re-named Magnificent. This most recent Supplement has split Magnificent hummingbird into the Rivoli’s and Talamanca hummingbird (the latter is found in Costa Rica)...

This split separates birds of southern Central America from those of Mexico, the U.S., and northern Middle America. Rivoli’s hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) is found in pine–oak woodlands from the southwestern U.S. south to northern Nicaragua; adult males have a peridot-colored (yellow-green) throat and blackish underparts. Talamanca hummingbird (Eugenes spectabilis) is found in cloudforest and high oak forests of Costa Rica and western Panama; adult males have a turquoise- or teal-colored throat and dark green underparts. The latter was originally named “Admirable hummingbird” by Robert Ridgway, but his suggestion was unheeded. Instead, Eugenes spectabilis has been named for the Talamanca Mountains of eastern Costa Rica. This split raises the not particularly serious question of what to call a Berylline X Magnificent hybrid, which birders had playfully dubbed “Beryificent Hummingbird”. Berivoli’s? Riviline?  Photo: naturespicsonline.com