Of Easter eggs and Piping Plovers

I saw a disturbing news item today. It said that Americans spend well over one BILLION dollars each year on Easter candy. Now I enjoy a good jelly bean as much as the next person, but imagine what could happen if everyone took the money they would spend on Easter candy and applied it to wildlife conservation. Imagine what one billion dollars could do for those species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. (The current budget provides an average of a few thousand dollars per species for recovery efforts.) Imagine how much critical habitat could be purchased and protected with one billion dollars.

I wrote a check to The Nature Conservancy last week. As I said, I enjoy a good jelly bean, but I would much prefer to see a Piping Plover, Kirtland’s Warbler, Whooping Crane, San Francisco Garter Snake, Fender’s Blue Butterfly………

Happy Easter

Sick Siskins

This has been a good winter for Pine Siskins at the feeders. Unfortunately, when you have large flocks of siskins, it is not uncommon to find sick individuals. These birds are susceptible to both respiratory and eye diseases, both of which can be transmitted to other birds through close contact. It is important to keep your feeders clean and remove debris from underneath on a regular basis. If you see more than a few sick birds, take the feeders down for a couple of weeks so the birds will disperse.

In this photo, the sick individual stands out by being much more “fluffy” than the other birds. Sick birds will also be lethargic, sometimes going to sleep at the feeder.

Banded Chickadee

While birding at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in north Portland on January 31, I found a Black-capped Chickadee wearing four leg bands. Her right leg held two blue bands, while the left had a blue band over a silver band. A request for information to the Oregon birding email list produced a quick response from the bander, Phil Gaddis. I learned that this bird was a female that had been banded on April 27, 2007, just a few yards from the spot where I found her.

I was lucky that the researcher who banded this bird happened to be on the Oregon birds email list. But there is a website where you can report banded or color-marked birds. The Patuxant Wildlife Research Center keeps records of all federally licensed bird banding operations. If you have the bird in hand and can read the numbers on a metal band, that is the easiest and fastest way to find out about that individual bird. But you can also report color-marked birds, such as my chickadee, and the staff at Patuxant will probably be able to track down the researcher that is using those color codes.

So keep your eyes open for marked birds. If you find a dead bird, check for a leg band. The information is vital for bird research, and it is fun to find out where your bird has been.