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Study: Birds have highly developed weather ‘radar’

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Study offers new insight into long-distance avian migration.

‘We think that these behaviors represent a previously unknown cognitive ability …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some migrating birds may be able to sense weather patterns on a hemispheric scale, helping them optimally time their nonstop transoceanic flights.

Bar-tailed godwits, the ultra-marathon champions of migration, breed in Alaska and spend winters in New Zealand and a recent U.S. Geological Survey-led study suggests that these birds can sense broad weather patterns.

Careful monitoring of the birds suggest they time their departure  to match the best possible atmospheric wind conditions possible within a two-week window. Remarkably, not only were the conditions optimal for take-off, but they almost always provided the best possible conditions for the birds’ entire flights, as far as 7,000 miles in eight days between Alaska and New Zealand.

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How does global warming affects bird migration?

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Broad-tailed hummingbirds may have a hard time finding food during the short breeding season as temperatures in the Colorado Rocky Mountains continue to warm steadily. bberwyn photo.

Earlier nesting and breeding observed in some species

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Some birds are nesting and hatching earlier because of steadily increasing global temperatures, and that may be driving earlier migration in some species according to scientists with the University of East Anglia.

Changes in migration timing has already been linked with a biological disconnect between some species and their primary food sources, for example hummingbirds that fly to the southern Rocky Mountains, as well as purple martins that fly from South America to eastern North America. Both species arrival is increasingly out of synch with key food sources.

“We have known that birds are migrating earlier and earlier each year … particularly those that migrate over shorter distances,” said Lead researcher Dr. Jenny Gill from UEA’s school of Biological Sciences. “But the reason why has puzzled bird experts for years. It’s a particularly important question because the species which are not migrating earlier are declining in numbers.” Continue reading

Colorado: Conservation easement on 15,000-acre Moffat County ranch to protect critical big game winter range

Pronghorn antelope foraging in sagebrush habitat near Gunnison Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

GOCO, feds and state pitch in on major conservation deal

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new conservation easement on the 15,000-acre Tuttle Ranch in Moffat County will help protect important wildlife habitat and winter range while allowing ranching operations to continue.

The ranch encompasses sagebrush steppe, foothills grassland and pinyon-juniper woodlands, with habitat for greater sage-grouse and critical winter range for elk, mule deer and pronghorn.

The conservation easement was purchased from the RSH Land Company LLC, with a combination of funds from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado. Continue reading

Orcas swim 5,000 miles for warm-water ‘spa treatment’

Transient killer whales near Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

NOAA researchers document unusual long-distance killer whale migration

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Killer whales from Antarctic waters may be making long-distance treks to warmer water as a type of marine mammal spa treatment, shedding skin that’s covered with diatoms and algae.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers tagged a dozen killer whales in Antarctic waters and tracked five that showed consistent movement to subtropical waters.

Some of the orcas made the 5,000-mile round trip to southern Brazil in just 42 days, returning to Antarctica immediately. The researchers, who published their findings in the science journal Biology Letters, This was the first long distance migration ever reported for killer whales. Continue reading

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