Swift return to Argyll

Swifts are slightly larger than swallows and have an all dark plumage with only a short forked tail. They feed on flying insects and spend most of their life in the air (including when they sleep), usually coming down to earth to breed. They are fast fliers often chasing one another over buildings when they give a screeching call.

Swifts arrive back in Argyll in early May and breed in some of the towns, villages and other buildings in Argyll. They spend around three months in Argyll, departing in early-mid August, to their wintering grounds in Africa.

Zahl der von Insekten lebenden Vögel sinkt

Ob Bachstelze (Motacilla alba), Wiesenpieper (Anthus pratensis) oder Rauchschwalbe (Hirundo rustica): Die Zahl der von Insekten lebenden Vögel ist in den vergangenen 25 Jahren europaweit deutlich zurückgegangen. Laut einer im Fachjournal Conservation Biology veröffentlichten Studie sank sie durchschnittlich um 13 Prozent. Rund die Hälfte aller Vogelarten in Europa ernährt sich von Insekten. Noch erschreckendere Zahlen hatte vor zwei Monaten die Naturschutzorganisation Nabu (Naturschutzbund Deutschland) unter Verweis auf eine Zählung des European Bird Census Council genannt.

Systemic pesticide concerns extend beyond the bees

In the summer of 2010, Henk Tennekes from Experimental Toxicology Services Nederland at Zutphen warned that the accumulation of neonicotinoids in the environment would not only decimate useful insects but also have a knock-on effect on other species, including birds (Curr. Biol. (2011) 21, R137–R139). At the time, Tennekes did not find much support for his views and went on to publish his warnings as a book — The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making.

A flap over barn swallows raises larger concerns about a bird in decline

The swallows are among a species of bird known as aerial insectivores, which feed on insects while flying. Their numbers have dwindled in recent decades, which ornithologists attribute to increased use of pesticides. In New England, barn swallows have declined by more than 50 percent since the 1980s, ornithologists say.

Century-Old Records Show Bird Species Have Seriously Declined in Mojave Desert

The Mojave occupies nearly 50,000 square miles, mostly in southeastern California and Nevada, and it’s considered to be North America’s driest desert. Desert birds help pollinate flowers and disperse seeds, control insect outbreaks, and keep rodent populations in check. They also fill the silence with the sound of their calls. As UC Berkeley ecologist Steven Beissinger puts it: “A desert without birds is half empty. A desert without birds is a quiet place.”

North American birds declined by 29% since 1970

A recent study concludes that the birds of Canada and the United States have taken a substantial hit in the last 49 years. Researchers from several institutions in the U.S. and Canada, including the American Bird Conservancy, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and Environment and Climate Change Canada, joined forces for the study.

Zwaluw legt het loodje

De jonge zwaluwen in Groningen en het Lauwersmeergebied sterven bij bosjes. Bovendien zijn tal van zwaluwnesten leeg gebleven dit voorjaar. Ecoloog Jan Doevendans maakt zich grote zorgen. Volgens hem verhongeren de zwaluwen door de massale insectensterfte. ,,75 procent van de insecten is verdwenen, wat de inzet is van de teloorgang van de zwaluw.’’

Canada’s grassland birds have plummeted in number since the 1970s

The North American Bird Conservation Initiative in Canada released the second State of Canada’s Birds report last week. The report, a joint project of Environment Canada and numerous government and conservation organizations, looks at the status of Canada’s bird populations going back to 1970.The study found that shorebirds, grassland birds, and aerial insectivores were in rapid decline across Canada, with numbers down 40, 57, and 59 per cent since 1970.

Bird populations under stress

At least 314 species of American birds are expected to lose 50 per cent or more of their range by the end of the century, and have been listed by the Audubon Society as endangered. A United Nations science report says 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of going extinct. Most at risk are sea birds and grasslands birds, experts say. Birds known as aerial insectivores, like swifts (Apus apus) and nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) , are at risk because the insects they depend on are getting harder to find.

We did not get our act together in time, and are travelling down another DDT precipice

A Dutch researcher, H Tennekes has made the case that neonicotinoids, a special group of insecticides, are causing a catastrophe in the insect world, which is having a knock-on effect for many of our birds. These chemicals were introduced in the 1990’s and it wasn’t long afterwards that beekeepers noticed massive declines in bee numbers (Colony Collapse Disorder). France banned the use of one of these chemicals on sun flower seed in 1999, and Germany and Italy have banned two types on maize.