Stewardship, Birds & Conservation in Cruzinha, Portugal

Faith and religious values inform and motivate hopeful action. Intimidating global issues like deforestation, loss of biodiversity and global warming may find practical solutions in the Ivory Tower, but often it takes faith and religious values to motivate manpower.

A Rocha, an international organization of Christian stewardship, responds to the planet’s biodiversity crisis with community-based conservation projects. A Rocha provides faith-inspired persons opportunities to learn and impact conservation.  The world’s great religions have similarly motivated ecological activity for centuries. For instance, Islamic cities typically sport well-designed gardens, as faithful urban planning principles require such spaces for the well-being of the community.

From residential field study centers, A Rocha’s site-based projects  provide opportunities for research, education, and ultimately wider advocacy through education. A Rocha selects sites important to the preservation of biodiversity. The centers, among other thing, monitor important ecological indicators, spearhead conservation and habitat restoration projects, foster public participation in conservation projects, conduct educational outreach. Finally, the centers provide a hands-on demonstration of Christian environmental stewardship values. People arriving as ecotourists live into a new faith experience and are empowered as children of God.

A Rocha arose from faith in a living Creator God who, loving the Creation, entrusted its care to humanity, the meaning of stewardship. Accordingly, A Rocha conducts ecological research, restores endangered habitats, and seeks to educate people of all ages, cultures, faiths, and nationalities about sustainable ecology. Understanding the Creator as ever involved in human affairs and the environment, A Rocha works to build community across cultures, faiths, and international environmental organizations.

The bird conservation project in Cruzinha, Portugal was A Rocha’s inaugural project. An open house for all, regardless of color, gender, religion, profession, or affiliation, the Center is in appearance a house, in practice a place of community and exchange of ideas and faith, in achievements a research and education institute, designed to create a more just and environmentally sustainable planet.

In 1983, Anglican clergyman Peter Harris and his wife Miranda traveled to southern Portugal to establish the center. He published two books about the experience, Under the Bright Wings (Regent College Publishing, 2000), and Kingfisher’s Fire (Monarch, 2008). Peter has indicated his greatest joy in his work at Cruzinha and other A Rocha projects is the “privilege to talk frequently about our Christian approach to conservation with many across a wide range of backgrounds.” Running an international environment sustainability organization is no easy task: Peter’s work includes meeting “with entrepreneurs, investors and conservation leaders, trying to develop ways to create jobs and wealth and improve the environment instead of exploiting it.” Sustainability has to address poverty, and Peter notes that “In poverty relief, business models are beginning to take some of the strain off philanthropy, but as conservationists we are only just beginning to exploit exciting new opportunities.”

Cruzinha center has conducted numerous single species studies, for instance, on the Kentish Plover, charadrius alexandrinus, and the Little Tern, sterna albifrons.  In addition, habitat studies include the Alvor dunes, documentation of habitat destruction along ria de Alvor, which led to victory in a 2012 law suit to protect the estuary from improper development.

Perhaps, as you consider your next holiday, you could investigate educational ecotourism options around the globe, programs like what A Rocha offers to have a transformative lesson in your own ability to exercise stewardship of Creation.

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March 15: Climate Change: Can You #UndoYourPart?

As last issue’s Bird’s Eye View illustrated, birds are “canaries in the coal mine” of climate change: the fact that birds’ “climate envelopes” have moved northward provides current confirmation of global warming hypotheses and underscores the glaring necessity of amending laws to protect ourselves and our planet from increasingly severe impacts.

Face it: climate change/global warming is massive and complex; the cutting edge science is not easy to understand; and to tackle global warming is to admit complicity: civilization runs on fossil fuels, and agriculture, yielding necessary calories, emits considerable amounts of greenhouse gases. Recognition of the magnitude of the problem can trigger apathy rather than inspire action.

Importantly, individuals matter — in countless ways. Individuals can recycle, upgrade the efficiency of homes, demand cleaner modes of transportation, etc. In short, individuals can undertake to reduce their carbon footprints. As members of collectives, they can also hasten the reduction of the collective carbon footprint. Individuals can also engage the political process at various levels, from grassroots demonstrations to advocacy.

CCO Creative Commons

This author made an investigative trip to the monthly meeting of her local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit, nonpartisan climate change advocacy organization with chapters in many countries, to explore accessible means of tackling change. The meeting — in the eighth congressional district of Virginia, in the metropolitan Washington, DC area — consisted of three standardized parts: an introduction and update, a Policy Lesson, and an Advocacy Lesson.

CCL promotes a Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan which would impose a flat fee, increasing over time, to incent transition away from fossil fuels, to simplify business planning, and to obviate market manipulation which could occur under a cap and trade system. In mid-February CCL launched the #undoyourpart campaign with a YouTube video to suggest ways individuals could help.

The Policy Lesson included hard facts about U.S. greenhouse emissions: the United States is the second highest emitter, at 14% of the global total (China leads at 27%), yet the United States has the highest per capita emissions rate in the world, the third highest emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product, and between 1850 and 2011 was responsible for over 25% of gross world emissions.

Greenhouse emissions are calculated as CO2e– carbon dioxide equivalents; greenhouse gases included in the Cap Fee and Dividend proposal include methane (from storage and distribution systems for natural gas), nitrous oxide and sulfur hexafluoride (from industrial activities), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) (substitutions of ozone depleting substances like refrigerants), perfluorocarbons and nitrogen trifluoride (industrial activities).  While 77% of CO2e emissions derive from fossil fuel combustion, significant “sinks” also contribute, such as abandoned coal mines, leakage from natural gas pipelines, the agricultural soil management cycle, and landfills and waste incineration.

While advocacy is not everyone’s cup of tea, visiting your local advocacy organization can provide valuable insight into your political context and your opportunities for influencing it in your own way. For instance, this author learned about Congressional Safe Climate Caucus (Tw)/(FB), a bipartisan caucus established to promote congressional dialogue on climate change: relevant social media accounts may help you stay informed. Partisan student groups join forces now in the bipartisan coalition, Students for Carbon Dividends. Also, at county and state levels, individual participation can be particularly powerful, for instance, in engaging in grassroots political demonstrations such as the March for Science, or approaching influential community leaders, as in CCL’s “Grasstops” advocacy program.


March 1: Heat Flight

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Climate change is radically reshuffling Britain’s birds, with some species disappearing while new migrants are settling.

TheGuardian,com, December 2017

Modern Climate Change projections for bird habitats first appeared in the U.S. in 2014 and each year gain sophistication and accuracy. Both Canada and the UK applied  improved technology and data sets in their reports issued in 2017. And those reports yielded more haunting prognoses for many bird species. These studies are critical to inform and empower citizens and governments together to plan for the conservation of likely future habitats. Governments, conservation organizations, and citizens can together protect adapting bird populations so they do not disappear from the earth.

With a little online research, a person can find local climate change planning organizations in which they can participate and make meaningful and important contributions.

The United States

The Audubon Society  produced the first comprehensive bird and climate change Report, utilizing over 100 years’ worth of standardized data submitted by citizen birdwatchers through the annual North and South American Christmas Bird Counts and  from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey  The study developed a “climate envelope” for each of 588 North American bird species: The “climate envelopes” identified optimum temperatures, rainfall, and other climate characteristics from each specie’s historic habitat. The scientists then mapped the historic climate envelopes onto climate projections, locating species’ probable future habitats to an accuracy of ten square kilometers.

The Audubon Report identified 314 at-risk bird species for North America: 1) 188 climate-threatened bird species likely to lose more than 50% of their current range by 2080 but having some potential to adjust their climate envelopes; and 2) 126 climate-endangered species projected to lose over 50 percent of their current range by 2050 and lacking adaptable climate envelopes. Audubon’s chief scientist, Greg Langham, summarizes the findings as a “punch in the gut”: just nine North American bird species went extinct in the last century, but losing 314 more, “nearly half the remaining bird species“, by century’s end has no parallel. Likely candidates for extinction include the bald eagle, the brown pelican, the burrowing owl, the common loon, the Baltimore Oriole and the Allen’s Hummingbird:

The United Kingdom

Recently the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) issued State of UK Birds (2017). [See this Issue’s TheRoundUp to learn of Instagram’s @martinsbirdwatch’s participation in data collection for this comprehensive study.] The publication stressed the following findings:

  • Climate change drives changes in British bird population numbers and distribution, as birds relocate northward.
  • Migratory birds arrive earlier and lay eggs earlier, e.g., compared to the 1960sswallows arrive fifteen days earlier and breed eleven days earlier.
  • New bird species will likely colonize in Britain as they expand their ranges northward, e.g., the little bittern and night heron, garganey, quail and the little egret.
  • Rising temperatures increase the likelihood of extinction of already rare breeding birds like the dotterel, whimbrel, common scoter, and Slavonian grebe.
  • The British kittiwake population has already declined by 70% since 1986 due to the increasingly scarcity of sandeels, which kittiwakes rely on in the breeding season.

Canada

Nature Canada, Canada’s oldest nature conservation charity, counting 45,000 members and supporters, helps protect over 63 million acres of conservation habitats. A nonprofit affiliated with more than 350 Canadian grass-roots nature organizations, Nature Canada seeks to influence national conservation issues through volunteers, citizen science, networked Canadian conservation organizations, and international participation in such organizations as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and BirdLife International.

The organization offers the following information about Birds and Climate Change in Canada on its website:

  • Egg laying is occurring earlier, on average 6.6 days earlier each decade.
    • The Common Murre breeds 24 days earlier every decade.
    • North American Tree Swallows nest up to nine days earlier than 30 years ago.
  • Migration times are shifting.
    • Spring migrations begin earlier: based on 67 years of data, 27 of 96 Canadian migratory bird species have mostly arrived earlier due to earlier spring warming.
    • Autumn departures are deferred: various species of North American passerine have delayed departure in conjunction with global warming.
  • Birds are required to adapt behavior and don’t always succeed in altered ecosystems.
    • Environmental cues influence bird behaviour. When birds cannot adapt such behaviors to offset changes in their habitats, the entire ecosystem risks increasing dysfunctionality from mismatch of prey and predator.
    • Long-distance migrants are particularly vulnerable to such mismatch. Wood warblers don’t migrate earlier from neotropical wintering grounds so the earlier springs in their northern breeding habitat means they arrive after  food sources are depleted.
  • Populations distributions are changing
    • Bird populations are shifting poleward, or to higher elevations, to stay within ideal temperature ranges.
    • Seven of 35 warbler species have shifted an average of of 65 miles northward in the past 24 years; none has moved south.
  • Global warming disrupts ecosystems
    • An ecosystem may cease to provide the needed food and nesting material and host new parasites, competitors, and predators
    • An anticipated reduction in northern Minnesotan/southern Ontario warbler species means reduced bird predation of forest pests like spruce budworms, altering the vegetation and economy for that region.
  • Extinction risks increase with global warming.
    • Birds with restricted ranges, poor alternative ranges, or small populations are most at risk.
    • Migratory birds, dependent on multiple habitats and sites, also face among the greatest challenges.
    • Arctic birds are losing habitat — from tundra to sea ice — the fastest. Canadian Ivory Gulls, which forage along sea ice, have already declined by over 90% in the past twenty years.

Individuals are not powerless to influence the course of Climate Change’s impact on Birds! The Audubon monthly magazine published articles in 2014 related to the likely meaning of the Study and the impact of climate change. Now available on line, the discussion following the October 2014 article, “A Storm Gathers for North American Birds,” recommends looking into a now-international, non-partisan, grass-roots organization, Citizens Climate Lobby.

This editorialist had hoped to embed herself in Citizens Climate Lobby prior to  this editorial to better evaluate realistically the empowerment toward protecting bird habitat during climate change the organization might offer. This Editorialist has determined that a Part II is in order at some time in the future.


BIRD’S EYE VIEW

21st Century Decline of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

This year the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (“MBTA”, 16 U.S.C. 703-712) celebrates one century of international coordination on bird conservation with Canada. The MBTA is a US public law implementing a US-UK treaty negotiated by the United Kingdom on behalf of Canada. Later, Mexico, Japan and the Soviet Union (now as its successor state, the Russian Federation) joined the treaty, making US efforts multilateral.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, several US bird species became extinct — due to the extensive commercial trade in birds, for meat and feathers. Labrador Ducks, Great Auks, Passenger Pigeons, Carolina Parakeets, and Heath Hens reached extinction. The initial treaty sought to protect other threatened migratory birds from predatory hunting and poaching. Currently the MBTA covers the following migratory birds:

  • Columbidae (pigeons, doves)
  • Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks)
  • Grecidae (cranes)
  • Rathidae (rails, gallinules, coots)
  • Charadriidae (plovers, lapwings)
  • Haematopodidae (oystercatchers)
  • Recirvirostridae (stilts, avocets)
  • Scolopacidae (sandpipers, waders, curlews, shorebirds)

Extinct Birds Slideshow

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According to the US Field and Wildlife Service: “The MBTA provides that it is unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, possess, sell, purchase, barter, import, export, or transport any migratory bird, or any part, nest, or egg or any such bird, unless authorized under a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior.”

By the 1970s, the US Department of Justice began actively seeking compliance from oil, timber, gas, electrical, mining and chemical companies, issuing notices of violations when thousands of bird deaths were deemed “incidental” but where an alteration to business management and infrastructure could better protect the birds.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the tide shifted again in the “incidental deaths” cases. In 2001, in Skokie, IL v. US Army Corps of Eng’rs, 531 US 159 (2001), the city of Skokie wanted to fill abandoned, empty rock quarries with water and use them for solid waste disposal; the US Army Corps of Engineers objected on the basis of incidental deaths to birds covered by the MBTA. The Supreme Court decided in favor of Skokie.

More recently, the Department of Interior issued a legal opinion supporting a further change in Administration policy– as of late December 2017, the Government will no longer issue notices of violations for such “incidental deaths”.

This is a major change and short-sighted. By way of example, the bee population recently dropped precipitously damaging agricultural yields worldwide. We had never foreseen this; we still don’t entirely understand the reasons for the bee’s decline.  Similarly, by permitting migratory bird decline before understanding potential impacts on our world ecosystems, we risk too much in the name of short-run corporate profit-seeking.

BIRD’S EYE VIEW:

FEBRUARY 2: WORLD WETLANDS DAY OBSERVATION

Tomorrow is World Wetlands Day. This year’s theme– Sustainable Urban Wetlands — is worth contemplating: currently half the world population lives in urban settings, but by 2050 that figure will be 66%. Wetlands not only grace our lives with beautiful and fascinating water birds, they perform critical functions that maintain a city’s liveability. For 2018, World Wetlands Day highlights five urban planning strategies which merit reflection and implementation, where appropriate.

Observed world over since 1997, World Wetlands Day commemorates the February 2, 1971 signing of the World Convention on Wetlands in Ramsar, Iran, along the shore of the Caspian Sea.[1] Since 1998, Danone Group Evian Fund for Water has partnered with the Convention’s Secretariat to generate and distribute wetlands educational materials. Government agencies, NGOs, and citizen groups organize activities to raise public awareness of wetlands importance.[2]

Wetlands provide homes to a startling variety of water birds: waterfowl like ducks, geese and swans; grebes, pelicans, and cormorants; ibises and spoonbills; egrets and herons; terns, gulls and shorebirds, or wading birds.[3] In wetlands birds source drinking water and food, breed, nest and rear young, find shelter from weather and predators, and interact. Surface water, soil moisture and the duration and time of flooding determine the appropriateness wetlands for a particular bird species.[4] The American Ornithologists’ Union estimates that of the approximate 1,900 bird species that breed in North America, about 138 are “wetland dependent,” meaning they require access to wetlands during their lifecycle.[5]

Wetlands don’t just harbor birds and migratory flocks. This year’s three World Wetlands Day flyers emphasize three key aspects of wetlands: 1) wetlands are not wastelands but valuable urban resources; 2) investing in wetlands restoration and management can dramatically improve our quality of life; and 3) sustainable urban development integrates wetlands into cityscapes and urban lifestyle. The flyers are available for download and dissemination at http://www.worldwetlandsday.org.

Did you know wetlands absorb flood waters as if they were giant sponges? That wetlands filter drinking water as it seeps into aquifers, absorbing and degrading toxins like pesticides and industrial and human waste? That they protect rivers from harmful run-off, safeguarding the water supply? That they improve air quality in hot arid regions by humidifying and cooling? That as urban recreational areas, they demonstrably reduce stress in city dwellers? Finally, that they generate jobs through the fishing, the plants for weaving, foodstuffs or medicinals, and the tourism they support?[6]

This year the Ramsar Secretariat promotes five wetlands management strategies. First, involve local residents in wetlands planning so they can provide valuable information about how wetlands contribute to their lifestyle and the local economy. For instance, along the Mekong River in Vietnam, local input led to waterway management which facilitated the return of larger fish to the area, which in turn bolstered the local economy.

@CreativeCommons no attribution

Second, include wetlands management in urban planning, developing and enforcing building and disposal codes that protect the public interest in wetlands. In Accra, Ghana, which is located on a coastal plain, modern wetlands management enhanced wetlands moderation of flooding. The establishment of spacious greenways further enhanced wetlands ability to absorb excess water.

Courtesy of WorldWetlandsDay.org

Third, restore wetlands. The London Wetland Centre, an urban wetland reclaimed from former Thames River reservoirs, is now home to over 180 bird species. The Centre adds to tourism, and thus also the local economy, by hosting over 170,000 visitors annually.

Fourth, reduce excessive water consumption and harmful runoff.  Recently gauging its carbon and water footprints, Quito, Ecuador aims for a 68% reduction in the municipal water footprint over fifteen years through the promotion of eco-smart toilets, water-efficient appliances, and water recycling.

Finally, organize community wetlands cleanups. In the Los Angeles suburb of Huntington Beach, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy holds two public service days every month, removing an estimated 10 tons of trash and debris from the wetland site annually.[7]

As your Good Citizen act of the week, consider handing out an informative flyer or two. As a good municipal citizen consider the role of wetlands in your own region and providing input about it to your local government.

[1] http://www.worldwetlandsday.org/about

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wetlands_Day

[3] http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/water/wetlands/plants-and-animals-in-wetlands/birds

[4] https://water.usgs.gov/nwsum/WSP2425/birdhabitat.html

[5] Id.

[6] http://www.worldwetlandsday.org/documents/10184/272657/WWD18_Handouts_eng-1.pdf/ad8ffb3a-7ce1-4558-a66a-1245f4fc0bdc

[7] http://www.worldwetlandsday.org/documents/10184/272657/WWD18_Handouts2_eng-2.pdf/35b9538e-438a-4514-8a79-9be4b5b921a3

Bird’s Eye View – January 15, 2018

On January 4, 2018, the Trump Administration issued a proposed rule for the expansion of offshore drilling in both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  The Audubon Society, in response, issued an Action Alert[1] emphasizing that expanded offshore drilling endangers both shorebirds and seabirds as well as coastal communities whose economies depend on seasonal tourism

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, while in Prince William Sound, Alaska, crashed into Prince William Bligh Reef en route to California, spilling 10.8 million US gallons of crude oil over several days. This was the second largest oil spill in US history. Emergency workers used hot water to disperse the oily cover from the jagged cove-littered shoreline. However, hot water spelled disaster for microbial life in Prince William Sound.

The crude did not disperse and degrade as anticipated. In 2003 a University of North Carolina expedition concluded “species as diverse as sea otters, harlequin ducks and killer whales suffered large, long-term losses and that oiled mussel beds and other tidal shoreline habitats will take an estimated 30 years to recover.”[2]

The wellhead of British Petroleum’s (BP’s) Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out on April 20, 2010 and wasn’t successfully capped until September 19, five months later. This was also known as the Deepwater Horizon spill after the rig in question. Reportedly the capped wellhead still leaked as late as 2012.)  The blowout killed eleven workers on the drilling platform and injured seventeen more.  At an estimated 210 million US gallons, the spill was the largest in history.

The massive ensuing cleanup included the use of nearly 2 million gallons of oil dispersant, yet only 25% of the oil was recovered.  The combination of the leak and use of toxic dispersant caused significant, long-lasting damage to marine and coastal biospheres.  Two years later in 2012-13, cleanup workers removed 3000+ tons of crude residue from Louisiana’s beaches alone. [3]

A study published in Marine Ecology Progress Series and reported by Audubon estimates that over a million birds died during the acute phase of the Deepwater Horizon spill. [4]  A similar study by the Center for Biological Diversity showed that marine mammals, fish, shellfish and reptiles all suffered similarly catastrophic short- and long-term consequences. [5]

The losses due to oil spills are, of course, not limited to birds and other wildlife.  The Macondo spill, unlike the Exxon Valdez spill, demonstrated the extent to which oil spills can decimate local economies.  A 2010 Oxford Economics study estimated that the loss to U.S. Gulf tourism was likely to exceed $22 billion over three years, nearly 25% of the anticipated tourism income for that period. [6]  The ripple effect includes loss of jobs with resultant economic hardships throughout a region heavily dependent on tourism.

As more-easily-accessible sources of offshore oil are depleted, drillers must search for deposits farther from shore in deeper waters and farther beneath the sea floor. This requires the use of emergent and untested technologies. The Exxon Valdez spill shows that human error alone can precipitate devastating spills with long-term consequences.  The vastly larger Macondo spill demonstrates that operating at the cutting edge of drilling technology adds an even less manageable variable.

At a time when we invest heavily in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy – and at a time when  species extinction has reached its highest rate in human history – we owe it to ourselves, our children, our common Earth to scrutinize carefully the cost/benefit ratio of offshore oil drilling.  The future of Earth’s wildlife and humanity may depend on the choices we make today.  If we choose wisely and prudently, we will weigh in the cost of such historic and potentially future ecological disasters.

[1] https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/e_Vm3cJ1d0WzmFBz_TQ2sA2?ms=policy-adv-web-website_nas-engagementcard-20171200_offshore_drilling_alert

[2] From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill#Clean-up_and_environmental_impact: Williamson, David (December 18, 2003). “Exxon Valdez oil spill effects lasting far longer than expected, scientists say”UNC/NewsUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved March 9, 2008.

[3] From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill

[4] From Audubon: http://www.audubon.org/news/more-one-million-birds-died-during-deepwater-horizon-disaster:  Martha Harbison (May 6, 2014)

[5] From the Center for Biological Diversity: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/gulf_oil_spill/a_deadly_toll.html (April, 2011)

[6] From NRDC Issue Paper 15-04-a:  https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/gulfspill-impacts-summary-IP.pdf:  (June, 2015)

 

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BIRD’S EYE VIEW: CLEAN GREEN HOLIDAY SEASON

Tis the Season — green your cleaning! If you have already, you may this year have a cabinet full of cleaners containing so-called essential oils–oils steam-distilled from plants–root, stem, bark, leaves, blossom  or petal.  Perhaps, like more industrial cleaners, you’ve wondered whether they’re bird-safe. The good news is that they are, with the possible important exception of those containing essential oil of Western Red Cedar.

‘Tis the Season — Deck the Halls with aromatic products —  scented candles,  potpourri, sachets, air fresheners, atomizers, etc. –containing essential oils of our favorite holiday scents!

Did you realize some avian vets use aromatherapy as an adjunct to their practice? That means positive health benefits of some therapeutic-grade (i.e., 100% pure) essential oils has some institutional recognition and acceptance: thus, scientific research on therapeutic- grade essential oils has had at least sufficient rigor, reliability, and reproducibility to persuade at least some portion of that scientific, professional community of its usefulness in maintaining avian health.

‘Tis the Season of Resolutions — consider educating yourself on household aromatherapy supportive of your bird’s health: read a book on avian aromatherapy, or join a FaceBook group or other forum on birds and essential oils. (The basic reference works for this article are Angela Nelson’s Aromatherapy for Parrots (2013) and Valerie Worwood’s Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy (1991)).

For starters, lavenderbasil, orange, cinnamon, peppermint, white birch, tea- tree and thyme are several essential oils commonly added to today’s green cleaning products, in part  due to their disinfectant properties (antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and/or anti-viral).  Note, however, that essential oils used in cleaning products are rarely listed as “therapeutic grade” or its equivalent, “100% Pure”! In aromatherapy, therapeutic-grade essential oils of the above plants have medicinal uses; lower grade oils are not for quasi-pharmaceutic, aromatherapy regimens. Diluted, they lend cleansing action with pleasing scent and possible mild influence on mood.

Understandably, manufacturers maintain lower product cost profiles by employing essential oils of less than therapeutic grade in their house cleaning products. Thus, while a household cleaner with certain essential oils may eliminate bacteria in part by virtue of the essential oils’ properties, the cleaner doesn’t have an essential oil concentration likely to produce marked impact on health. In fact, aromatherapy specialists working with birds suggest the same test for household cleaners as that suggested by Sheri in her recent Behavior Issues article: if the products irritate you in any way, they will probably irritate your bird even more and may be unsafe for them.

Questions have been raised whether pine-, cedar– and citronella-based products are safe. Reported incidents may have depended more on impurities from the distillation process rather than the plant essences of the essential oils themselves.  Remember, most products marketed as essential oils are not therapeuticgrade— they are diluted or “extended” with other products which could, in fact, harm a bird. Always check product ingredient lists, and never assume an essential oil is therapeutic grade. Particularly with regard to cedar, manufacturers have historically used thujone in processing Western Red Cedar essential oil; thujone is toxic to birds. Consequently, cedar cleaning products, where you cannot trace the original producer of the essential oil, should not be used.

By way of introduction, common essential oils used in cleaning products are listed below along with their common aromatherapy and medicinal uses, as well as, where known, the most common method of application:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Antibacterial, antiviral; anti-inflammatory; anithistamine; muscle relaxant. Allergies. Water-based diffusion, or oral administration; when diluted can be applied topically.

Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) : Antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral. Avian Bornavirus. Use diffuser.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolium, officinalis): Antiseptic, antifungal, analgesic, relaxant, anti-inflammatory. Uses: Cleaning;  skin inflammation, feather destructive behavior, wound and burn healing; nervousness and anxiety. Can be diffused, or misted or used with a tent. One of the ingredients in the Daily Preening Spray (see below).

Lemon (Citrus limonum): Antiseptic, antibacterial, antiparasitic; antidepressant. Circulatory problems, anxiety, depression, psittacosis, bacterial infections. Often used with birds in a Daily Preening Spray (see below); can also be diffused and given orally.

Peppermint (Mentha piperata): Antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral; anti-inflammatory. Arthritis, respiratory infections, crop stasis, fungal infections. Usually taken orally and not applied topically except to feet; use caution if used in diffuser or mister as can sting the eyes.

Tea-tree (Melaleuca alternifolia): Antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral. Fungal, bacterial, viral infections; cold sores, acne; burns; anti-inflammatory.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral. Infectious disease control; Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, Avian Bornavirus, Psittacocus. Do NOT use in topical applications as it is a “hot” herb which can be painful to eyes and irritating to skin. Should only be orally used in small amounts in food.

White Birch (Betula alba): Disinfectant, antiseptic, antibactieral. Tonic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory (contains salicylic acid and methyl salicylate). Typically applied topically in dilute form as facial tonic.

Angela Nelson’s Daily Preening Spray

20 drops Lavender essential oil, 20 drops Orange essential oil, 20 drops Lemon essential oil; 4 ounces distilled water.

Mix the above in a 4-oz glass spray bottle. Shake before using. Use a couple sprays on bird to encourage and assist healthy preening. Note: the above recipe is for use with therapeutic-grade essential oils.

Some of the common seasonal essential oils are cinnamon [see above], clove, orange, ginger, vanilla, macepine and spruce.

Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata): Analgesic, antiseptic. Toothache, nausea, arthritis, infections.

Orange (Citrus aurantium): Antiseptic, sedative, tonic. Depression, anxiety, nervous conditions, muscle spasms.

Ginger ((Zingiber officinale): Anti-inflammatory. Muscular aches and pains; nausea, motion sickness.

Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia): Antioxidant, sedative, relaxant. Depression, anxiety, tension.

Mace (Myristika fragrans): Antibacterial, tonic. Bacterial infection, generalized weakness.

Pine (Pinus sylvestrus): Decongestant. Respiratory and chest infections, colds, sore throat.

Spruce (Picea): Antioxidant. Vitamin C. Scurvy.

So, now you;re ready to Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock with essential oils, and you want to know where to get them. The good news is there are many small companies which produce quality products sold online or in such health food and whole food stores as you may find in your area.  I personally have frequently used the Plant Therapy, Radha Beauty, and Now (GNC) brands, which are readily available online. Just make sure you are buying 100% pure essential oil– “Accept no substitutes”!!! And Happy Holidays!!!!!

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Bird’s Eye View – from the Caribbean

During Hurricane Irma, Twitter’s @Iguacachic in Puerto Rico worked quickly with government conservation officials to move the 230 Iguaca (Puerto Rican) Parrots in the captive breeding program there to safety in a special hurricane-proof cement bastion.[1] In last issue’s ThRoundup, a picture from @BirdsCaribbean (Tw) highlighted the peril that wild Caribbean parrots like the Sisserou on Dominica face from hurricanes.  When we think of private and government conservation efforts, we too often consider only dangers human civilization and development pose for wildlife, but, as @Iguacachic demonstrated, measures can and must be taken to aid wild populations in the face of natural disasters too.

Photo credit – Tom MacKenzie of US FWS

For bird conservation, the best-conceived plans are those produced through coordination of cooperating organizations – private and governmental entities for bird conservation alongside those for natural resources, climate, land use, and cultural management.[2] A comprehensive conservation program “requires a thoughtful strategy that incorporates conservation tools, restoration and adaptive management practices, monitoring procedures, and educational outreach – in essence, the integration of bird conservation into a variety of human activities and planning processes.”[3] In short, a successful conservation program includes emergency preparedness for natural disasters.

The Puerto Rico parrot (Amazona vittata) stands an impressive twelve inches high and is the only wild parrot in the United States and its territories. First identified by Peter Boddaertt in 1783, the Taino Indians named the parrot “Iguaca” as an onomotapoeic tag for its call.  Under the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FSW) Conservation program in Puerto Rico (conducted in cooperation with Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER)) two captive-bred flocks of Iguaca enrich the two remaining free flocks in the El Yunque and Rio Abajo Commonwealth forests through reintroduction of captive-bred young into the wild.[4] The agencies also maintain specialized, protected nesting structures in the forests to aid in the survival of wild young.

The Iguaca barely survived into this century, but a turnaround came when it was listed as an endangered species in 1967.  Urban development — especially the construction of roads through the wilds — destroyed habitat, and the pet bird trade steadily diminished Iguaca numbers.  ScientificAmerican reported that Iguaca numbers had dwindled to thirteen in 1975.[5] As of 2014, however, approximately 100 captive-bred birds from the Fish & Wildlife/DNER breeding program had been reintroduced into the wild, where they are carefully tracked and monitored. The two captive breeding programs on the island house approximately 230 (FSW) and 175 (DNER) birds.

The special hurricane survival center on Puerto Rico was built in 2007, is constructed of sturdy cement, and has a back-up generator.  Once the birds are moved to the center, humans must, of course, stay with them for care and feeding.

What about the Sisserou parrot, that 19-inch tall bird on the Lesser Antilles island of Dominica, the Amazon Imperialis?  In 2012 it was estimated to have approximately 250-350 birds remaining.  As in the US, conservation plans are made jointly between government agencies and private conservation societies. As it turns out, this species is the least successful in reproduction of all Amazon parrots, and, consequently, the captive breeding programs are even more critical to their survival.[6] Because not all Dominica lands have been brought under wildlife management and protection, and because foreigners do still attempt to hunt the bird, education of the population has been critical to success with these birds.

The more facets of public interest involved in conservation, the healthier the program.  That’s today’s takeaway!

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/2017/10/06/how-230-endangered-parrots-survived-hurricane-irma-665911.html

[2] US Fish & Wildlife Service, Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, and Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Avian Conservation Planning Priorities in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands (2015), at http://acjv.org/documents/PRUSVI_plan.pdf

[3] Id. at p. 307.

[4] https://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es/Parrot.html. For other endangered species conservation efforts in Puerto Rico, see https://www.fws.gov/southeast/puerto-rico/ .

[5] https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/sunday-species-snapshot-puerto-rican-parrot/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_amazon.


Birds Eye View

How will you Identify Your Bird? To Microchip or Not

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If your bird is larger than 100 grams, you may have wondered whether to microchip him or her for identification purposes. A usable technology for over twenty years, micro-chipping has undergone significant development: manufacturers have miniaturized the glass-encapsulated chip, and implantation no longer requires anaesthesia.  Should you look up the procedure on YouTube, you would no doubt run across scary bird surgery videos showing implantation of older, larger microchip capsules, but the truth of the matter is that today chips are implanted with special injection devices: nothing more invasive than subcutaneous insertion of the chip is involved.

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(By HowStuffWorks)

While breeders may employ micro-chipping as a means of tracking genetic and health information, the companion bird owner does so in lieu of banding, for purposes of identification in event of loss, mix-up, or theft.  The “chip” itself is composed of a capacitor, RFID chip, antenna, and the biocompatible glass capsule.  Emission of radio waves by a scanner in appropriate proximity activates the chip, which then transmits the identification number, typically fifteen digits long, encoded in the chip.  It is not a GPS device and it does not admit of tracking an animal’s movement.

Micro-chipping your bird is a relatively safe and reliable alternative to maintaining the banding placed by the breeder for identification, provided the insertion is performed by a qualified avian veterinarian.  Attempted owner insertions can be exceedingly dangerous to the bird.

Reasons to make the switch are several: 1) banding can catch on bird toys, cages, and household furniture and fabrics causing injury– from profuse bleeding even to fractures; 2) debris can build up under a band and cut off circulation to soft tissue, eventually causing gangrene; 3) if the band annoys your bird and he tugs or pecks at it, the band can become a hazard from the bird-induced damage; 4) the identifying numbers may wear off; and 5) the band can readily be removed by an unauthorized person.

Most of the world has followed one of two specific ISO standards. Some have a national database for registering the animals The ISO standard contains fifteen digits, including one digit to identify animal type and three digits to indicate either country code or manufacturer. Both standards specify a radio frequency of transmission of 134.2 kHz.

The United States, however, has not regulated animal microchipping for the most part, at either state or national level. There three frequencies are found: 125, 128 and 134.2 kHz. Thus, for US owners, there exists the possibility that the chip will not be read when attempted due to the scanner not using the frequency of the inserted microchip.  However, it is not unsafe to insert more than one microchip and if you move somewhere where the ISO frequency is used, a second microchip can safely be inserted. Both 125 and 128 kHz microchipping systems are more prevalent in the US than the 134.2 kHz ISO standard.

While some countries have adopted national registers for animal chipping, other countries, like the United States allow a multitude of registry databases. In the US, the vet scans the microchip, and upon obtaining a reading, establishes ownership by consulting petmicrochiplookup.org, which identifies the database of registration.

Birds weighing in excess of about 5.5 kgs are usually microchipped at the back of the neck, while smaller birds receive the microchip subcutaneously in the left pectoral muscle. Several days of transient inflammation are common, but then fibrous tissue develops over the microchip, preventing it from migrating throughout the body.

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(By theworldofafricangreys.weebly.com

After micro-chipping, the owner needs to register the microchip with a database, have the chip scanned annually to test for proper operation, and finally, maintain current information with the registering database.

When weighing whether replacement of your bird’s banding with a microchip is the right course, remember that no one can entirely escape-proof or theft-proof their home to protect their birds. And, a bird is not likely to find his way home again.

Birds Eye View: 

Wind Energy & Policy

As renewable energy reaches new efficiency and extends to greater use, we must recognize that its various sources—like wind energy—may still pose environmental threats  While the rise of wind energy has meant a growth in manufacturing jobs, a decrease in fossil fuel emissions and opportunities for more stabilized farm income in the form of rent, it also means an increased threat to wild bird and bat  populations: not only do the turbines move at speeds upwards of 200 mph, their height (including blade tip) may range between approximately 475 and 640 feet and in the future yet higher (no data available on the lower reach of a blade in motion).  The problem zone for birds extends from about 350 feet and upward. In the US, estimated bird-turbine collisions range between 33,000 and 573,000 per year; deaths from such collisions are estimated at between 134,000 and 327,000 per year, likely to rise to 1.4 million per year by 2030. Songbirds are most impacted.

(Photo by Mother Jones)

In 2014, the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and Wild Animals established an Energy Task Force (ETF) for the UK, Europe, the Mideast and Africa.  This forum brings together environmental, energy industry, and international finance organizations. As Ed Percy of Bird Life International summarizes, the ETF ultimately means “pragmatic solutions for sustainable energy development“ in these regions. The United States lacks such a mechanism for a regular airing and reconciling of renewable energy development issues of such diverse interest groups.

In 2016, the Obama Administration established a wind energy goal of 20% of US energy production by 2030 (a six-fold increase).  Ironically, Red (Republican) states top the achievement charts in wind energy expansion as their geographic locations and agrarian economies provide fertile fields for growth (i.e., Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota and Oklahoma).

Politics of wind energy aside, most experts in the field recognize certain turbine planning guidelines that minimize threats to wild bird populations: 1) build structures away from bird habitats without fragmenting them; 2) build away from migratory routes, particularly nocturnal migratory routes; and, 3) implement “Shutdown on Demand” responsive to coordinated systems of radar, cameras and active observers. Importantly, soaring birds cannot easily alter their flight path or maneuver, and they fly lowest in daytime when searching visually for food.

Clearly, it would benefit both wild bird and human populations to have regular fora in which all concerned interest groups could air their issues and together develop pragmatic solutions, as done under the US Energy Task Force. While that organization plans to globalize, likely a significant portion of US interests would resist implementation of that model. Accordingly, American bird lovers may find their interests best served by playing their usual role in the domestic drama of supporting interest groups that engage in judicial, legislative and policy

Bird’s Eye View:

No, You Can’t Import a Parrot!  Here’s Why:

So you’ve been nosing around on Instagram (where IS your loyalty?!), and you find a gorgeous parrot for sale in Indonesia that you’d love to buy. But you can’t. And you want to know why.

You can’t buy it because the United States has a law – the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA), enacted in 1992 — which helps the world’s nations conserve wild birds by discouraging their circulation in international trade. More specifically, the WBCA, as administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, implements US commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species (CITES) by banning importation of all bird species in Appendices I-III.  Virtually all parrots are included in the ban.

For qualified US breeders (and aviculturist clubs), there are a few exceptions, like the Captive Bird Program (CBP) which with considerable regulatory oversight permits the importation of qualified captive-bred stock for breeding with the purpose of conserving a population or establishing a new population. (See Link 1 below)

Under a second program, captive-bred birds listed at 50 CFR 15.33 (CFR is the Code of Federal Regulations) can be imported with the appropriate permits if it can be demonstrated that 1) they were not captured from the wild; 2) they are not exploited in international trade; and 3) they breed successfully in aviculture throughout the world.  You can see this extensive list at Link 2, below.

International Travel with Your Pet Birb will not be Easy

So now, realizing that federal law impacts the international movement of captive-bred birds, you begin to wonder whether you could take your bird with you on a trip outside US borders and still return.  That depends on the genus and species of your bird.

You must determine whether certain permits apply and obtain them before beginning your travels.  You will also have to reenter through a Designated Port of Entry to have your bird examined for disease, and you will have to give 72-hour advance notice.  IT’S NOT EASY!!! See Link 3 below.

Are the benefits of the complex regulatory scheme worth the cost? That’s a difficult question which no doubt gets different answers when asked in different quarters.  We can point to successful wildlife conservation programs in other countries which have benefited from a ban on US importation of their species of bird. Certainly, we benefit from the inspection of birds for disease when they enter (or reenter) the US. But that doesn’t change the fact that, for the owner of a pet bird, the requirements for travelling internationally with your bird are onerous.

 

Link 1:  http://www.afabirds.org/import_export.shtml

Link 2:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/50/15.33.

Link 3:  https://www.fws.gov/international/travel-and-trade/traveling-with-your-pet-bird.html

 

Bird’s Eye View: Replacing the Clean Power Plan

[Birds Eye View seeks to start a conversation. It does so by drawing a line in the sand, articulating a reasoned argument. Its purpose is to precipitate reflection and measured discourse: it is a rhetorical device to engage you–what stone has the author left un-turned??!!  Write us back in a Letter to the Editor submitted to Birb0bserver@gmail.com.]

Canary in the Coal Mine

Have you had a canary in the coal mine experience?

I have.  I was living in the basement apartment of a Silver Spring, Maryland two-story. The apartment had gas utilities and an installed gas-burning space heater in the bedroom. One day Little Boy Blue and Miss Teal, my two parakeets, stopped singing. In fact, they seemed poorly. And I felt off, too. I insisted the landlord call the gas company to check for leaks. In fact, the company discovered a leak in the installed space heater. I’m grateful to the birds because I wouldn’t have thought to test air quality without them.

Typically, airborne pollutants impact our birb companions—and wild birds—before we notice their impact on us. Wild birds are canaries in the coal mine when it comes to the environment’s air quality. In the United States, the federal government protects air quality under the authority of the Clean Air Act and its associated rules and regulations.

The Obama administration promulgated one rule in particular –the Clean Power Plan — regulating power-plant emissions. Yesterday, September 15 The Hill news organization reported that Trump Administration officials may issue a proposed rule to replace, not just repeal, the Obama Era rule either this month or next month. Generally the Trump Administration has questioned whether humans do in fact contribute to global warming and climate change, and so has sought to implement more industry-friendly rules than the Obama Administration, The Hill suggests the Trump Administration will take a more middle-of-the-road position with regard to power-plant emissions in this forthcoming Proposed Rule

This shift in direction is a positive development for all of us, including wild birds and companion birbs alike. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that over 92% of the earth’s human inhabitants live in air polluted beyond acceptable safety levels. Rest assured, if it’s not safe for us, it’s not safe for our birbs with their smaller, more sensitive lungs!

Air emissions impact birds not only directly in the air they breathe, but also in a grand geo-climatic cycle: as acid rain, the pollutants precipitate out into ground water and the food chain, impacting everything from fertility to immunity.

Let’s keep an eye out for the forthcoming rule, and let’s remember that as members of the public we can provide feedback to the Government through the regulatory comment period through Comments on the appropriately posted Proposed Rule.

Many of you in the community are likely highly knowledgeable on specific matters of air quality, the environment and their impact on birds. We hope you will contribute Letters to the Editor to help educate those of us with lesser knowledge.