Friday, January 25, 2008

Countdown to...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There *WAS* A Snowy Owl, But The USDA Killed It!!!

Turns out we were misreading the USDA "Kill List" a bit, the most recent numbers available are from 2006, not just 2005.

One thing that stood out to us was the Snowy Owl killed in Virginia in 2005. We thought that might have been the famous Dulles Snowy (supposedly a first Virginia state record), but we Googled a bit and that bird was in 2006. But when we looked at the 2006 Kill List, there is again a Snowy Owl listed as having been killed in Virginia. About the only reason (we're not saying it is a good reason) you could give for killing a Snowy Owl would be to prevent an aircraft strike. So this brings up two pertinent questions:

1) How many Snowy Owls are in Virginia annually? If the Kill List is correct, the Dulled bird was not the first record in the Commonwealth (we know there are some old records but the 2006 bird was said (ibcorrectly?) by many to have been a state-first); and here's the $64,000 question:

2) Did the USDA kill the famous 2006 Dulles Snowy Owl???

It should be pretty easy to answer the second question. Virginia birders/bloggers, just go to the USDA Wildlife Services web site, find the FOIA contact info (it's on there, even though the buttons didn't work for us, you may have to mail your request in) and request any and all information, documents, correspondence, etc. relating to the killing of a Snowy Owl in Virginia in 2006. (Throw in 2005 and 2007 for good measure.) That is a pretty specific request that should easy to respond to.

And let us know the response, or of they give you any problems with your request.

If that works, we will be recommending that all of our readers look at the Kill List and send an FOIA request regarding birds that were killed in their own states.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Kill List 2005

OK, here is a *real* conservation alert.

We have talked (again and again) about how the City of Chicago is using its henchmen at the USDA to exterminate the various gull colonies in the Chicago area. As part of that Gull Extermination Program, the, the USDA's Division of Wildlife Killing have tagged a bunch of gulls. They have asked for birders to report the locations of those tagged gulls, and birders, being good-hearted but sadly gullible, have been dutifully reporting those gulls as they move south for the winter. Here is a good example of how birders and wildlife lovers are trying to do the right thing, without realizing that the info they are submitting will probably be used to kill birds. These well-meaning birders don't know the real story, so...we're going to tell them!!!

What role does the entity which tagged these gulls -- technically the Wildlife Services division of the USDA, but we'll call it by a more accurrate title, the Wildlife Killing Division -- in conserving or protecting birds?


Their one and only purpose is to scare away and literally kill birds (and other wildlife) that they consider to be a nuisance. Oh, they use lots of euphamisms like "property damage control," "protecting property," and (amazingly) "protecting wildlife," but basically what they do is help people kill stuff.

Now, in some contexts, like killing exotics in Hawaii, Wildlife Services might actually be helping wildlife. And you can certainly make an argument that, under very limited circumstances, scaring away or even killing birds might be necessary to save lives, for example, at an airfield where bird strikes are a real problem.

But the devil is in the details, and we ran across this blog post today that "details the details" that were revealed when the USDA was forced to publish its "Kill List" for past years, up to and including 2005.

So, exactly *what* did Wildlife Services, the entity responsible for this gull "survey," do in 2005?

They killed more than 1.5 million birds.

Yes, you read it right, they killed 1,500,000 birds in the last year for which data is available.

How many birders know that this is even happening? Now, while many of those 1.5 million birds are blackbirds and starlings, a lot of them are not. Again, the devil is in the details. Take a look at that link, and you'll see that in the year 2005, the USDA's Wildlife Killing Division killed a lot of gulls. More than 16,000 gulls, including:

1,807 Herring Gulls
3,267 Ring-billed Gulls
6,272 Laughing Gulls
3,221 dangerous Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Those totals include 635 Ring-billed Gulls and 45 Herring Gulls that were killed right here in Illinois.

What else did the USDA kill in 2005?

Cunning and dangerous birds such as:

American Avocet
Brewer's Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow Bittern
Black-necked Stilt
Long-Billed Curlew
Barrow's Goldeneye
Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle
Snowy Egret
Northern Flicker
Pied-billed Grebe
Ruffed Grouse
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Harrier
Swainson's Hawk
Black-crowned Ngiht-heron
Stellar's Jay
American Kestrel
Western Kingbird
Horned Lark
Purple Martin
Northern Mockingbird
Nighthawk (apparently they couldn't even be bothered to identify what they killed)
Short-eared Owl
Snowy Owl
Barn Owl (397!, most in Hawaii)
Brown Pelican
Semi-p Plover
Common Snipe
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Tree Swallow
Violet-Green Swallow
Black Tern
Gila Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Greater Yellowlegs

You can check the USDA site and see the same type of info for prior years.

We have to ask: exactly what could cause you to kill an American Avocet? Or a Western Kingbird?

And exactly where (and why) did they kill a Snowy Owl in Virginia in 2005?

More to come...

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Dear Friends;

We have had quite a few complaints lately about the site not being updated. Actually, they haven't really been complaints, more like statements: "The site hasn't been updated lately." Or even compliments: "The site hasn't been updated lately. (Thank God!)"

So, while we have been away losing all of our money in the Czech Republic and Manchester on our question to master the Japanese language, we decided that we needed to come back with a bang. Something big. Something important. Something serious and conservation-minded. We've seen other birding web sites do "action alerts" for critical conservation issues, and that's what we have here for you today. Please feel free to distribute this ACTION ALERT to any other birders, birding web site, homeless people, or prostitutes you see in the next 72 hours:



Recently, a group (flock? covey?) of rare Long-eared Owls has been "discovered" in a park on Chicago's near South Side, in an area known as the South Loop.

However, inconsiderate birders, dog-walkers, mailmen, and sanitation workers have been harassing these poor birds. Today, while standing vigil over the owls, we witnessed a serious altercation between a birder and a photographer over where they could stand on the sidewalk. This incident culminated in the the birder running the photographer over with his car, and a group of schoolchildren dragging the birder out of his car and stabbing him to death. This will probably be on all of the national news networks tonight. Anyway, this sort of thing has to stop, and we have the perfect solution:

We hereby call on the Wisconsin Humane Society to capture these poor, defenseless, homeless owls and deposit them at the nearby Brookfield Zoo where they will lead a comfortable life in the Green-breasted Mango exhibit. We also propose that Jim Stevenson be placed into this same exhibit, for his own safety from the cat-loving crowd.

The time to act is NOW!!!

Please contact Stuart Strahl at the Brookfield Zoo and Migrant Bird Sanctuary/Petting Zoo with this important BINAC CONSERVATION ACTION ALERT!!!

(For further information, please contact the City of Chicago's Long-eared Owl Protection Unit at

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year--now get into your cage!!!

According to a post on IBET, our old pal, the illegally captured and transported Green-breasted Mango, was just released into one of the Brookfield Zoo's aviaries. See photos at: