For the Birds Radio Program: Birds in the News

Original Air Date: March 3, 2005

Dying finches at feeders, Sandhill Crane and Snow Goose migration in Nebraska, and the appearance of a bird only ever seen before in 1947 in the Himalayas are in the news.

Duration: 4′02″


Birds in the News

There’s been lots of interesting news about birds lately. On the sad news front, a disturbing number of people in northern Minnesota have been finding dead and dying redpolls and goldfinches at their feeders. Like all sick birds, these have their feathers fluffed up and seem very lethargic. It’s a good idea if you find sick or dead birds in your yard to thoroughly clean your feeders with household bleach, and to close down your feeding station for a week or two to help break up flocks that may have birds infected with any contagious diseases. I’m trying to keep track of birds that people are finding sick or dead, with data about what kinds of seeds were being fed from what kinds of feeders, and who the seed suppliers are, so if you discover a sick bird, please let me know.

Paul Tebbel, Director of the Rowe Sanctuary and Iain Nicolson Audubon Center, writes with an update on this year’s Sandhill Crane migration:

‘’This is a migration season for the records. On Feb 15, I heard my first cranes but didn’t see any for several days. The river is open and the fields are clear which is at least 2-3 weeks early. Then the snow geese showed up. Not many at first, but by the 24th, their numbers had grown to the point of seeing tens of thousands along many bridge segments of the Platte. With the Rainwater Basin wetlands mostly empty because of the drought, the geese are staying on the river - along with the already present mallards and Canada geese.

‘’The cranes started arriving in earnest about the 18th. I use my eight mile drive to the sanctuary as a way of gauging numbers and didn’t see any on the 19, 20 or 21st. But on the 22nd, I probably passed 2,500. Same again on the 23rd. And from what I could tell by listening, there is a fair number using the sanctuary as a night roost (they come in so late, you can’t really see them). Anyway, this is a remarkable number of cranes for late February and if the weather stays mild and we don’t get any major snowstorms, I expect to see the crane migration peak occur right around March 15-18.’‘

You can get links to the Rowe Sanctuary and information about enjoying this year’s crane migration on the web at the transcript of today’s program, at

Finally, in the best news of all, one of the rarest birds–perhaps THE rarest bird–on the planet was rediscovered in the Himalayas in November, by Benjamin King of the American Museum of Natural History and Julian P. Donahue, retired curator of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, during an expedition into the Mishmi Hills in Arunachal Pradesh in India, at an altitude of about 8,000 feet. The Rusty-throated Wren-Babbler was called in when the ornithologists played tapes of bird songs and suddenly this extraordinary bird responded. ‘’It took an hour of chasing this elusive bird before we could see enough to convince ourselves,’’ Donahue said. The only previous evidence of the species had been a dead bird found in 1947 during an expedition led by S. Dillon Ripley, head of the Smithsonian Institution. A photo of the elusive and tiny bird, taken by Julian Donahue, is shown along with several news links on my birderblog, and on today’s program transcript.