Media Tip Sheet

Contact: Sue Haig
Telephone: (541) 750-7482
Cell phone: (541) 760-9151

Alternate contact: Ellen Paul
Telephone: (301) 986-8568
Cell phone: (301) 514-2279 (on site only)

3 July 2008

Reporters’ tipsheet

Who: The annual meetings of the American Ornithologists’ Union, Cooper Ornithological Society, and Society of Canadian Ornithologists

What: The very latest research about birds, presented at “PDX08” – press will have: complete access to all scientific sessions, scheduled interviews, and two press sessions

When: August 5-8, 2008

Where: Portland Hilton, Portland Oregon


Day of the Condor

Date: Wednesday August 6
Time: Noon
Location: To be announced

The California Condor, once extinct in the wild, is back. Or is it? After lawsuits and decades-long, laborious captive breeding and release programs, about 150 birds fly free, and some chicks have been hatched in the wild. Would this population persist without intensive human intervention? This report – the first independent assessment, by a blue-ribbon panel of ornithologists – considers all aspects of the effort to save the California Condor and evaluates its prospects for the future.

Climate change

Date: Thursday August 7
Time: 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Location: Ballroom

Terry Root, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment and a member of the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, studies the impact of global climate change on wildlife. Her work predicts the tearing apart of biological communities as the ranges of plants and animals shift at different rates and over different distances. With a warming trend predicted to be three times the magnitude of warming over the past century, bird species that depend on the distribution of specific plants, which won’t be able to move to new ranges quickly and that may disappear entirely, or could themselves disappear, leading to a cascade of effects on other species, including those in predator-prey or competitive relationships.

Trouble in Paradise:  Genetics, Disease, and Conservation of Hawaiian Birds

Date: Tuesday August 5
Time: 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Location: Ballroom

Hawaii’s fascinating birds are disappearing fast. From the astonishing honeycreepers to the large, flightless waterfowl, these birds are fighting extinction. Most species are already gone.  Others are down to a handful of individuals. Amazingly, some hang on, despite decades of battling introduced predators, introduced disease, and habitat destruction.  Dr. Robert Fleischer, Head of the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics, National Zoological Park and National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution will explain how tools such as DNA analysis can help us to understand these problems, and to manage and conserve the few species that remain.  He recommends that rapid action - perhaps including even risky approaches - is needed to save Hawaii’s birds.

Wind energy and birds: will birds pay the price for clean, renewable energy?

Date: Friday August 8
Time: 2 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Location: Broadway I & II

Wind energy is growing exponentially in many parts of North America.  This rapid increase in wind power may affect birds, and possibly even entire populations of birds.  Speakers in this symposium will review: the state-of-the-science of research into wind’s potential impacts to wildlife and habitats; highlight ongoing research in the areas of mortality, displacement, and radar studies; and identify steps at the provincial, federal, and state levels to address the impacts.

Birds in the agricultural heartland

Date: Thursday August 7
Time: 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Location: Galleria South

America’s prairies are nearly gone, and the grassland birds that need this habitat to survive are barely hanging on.  We need the corn, soybeans, sunflower seeds, and other crops to feed ourselves and hay to feed to livestock. Cattle grazing also impacts bird habitat. The floods in the Midwest will likely result in the use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands elsewhere to grow crops. Drought elsewhere has already prompted the Department of Agriculture to allow farmers to cut hay on the CRP lands. And in a fire-averse nation, burning grasslands to prevent shrubs from taking over is discouraged. Can grassland birds persist?

Cats …

Date: Tuesday August 5
Time: 10 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Location: Galleria North

Of the myriad problems challenging our wild bird populations, none is easier to fix than is predation by free-roaming pet cats and feral cats. Only human indifference or resistance allows this problem to persist. In this symposium, speakers will look at some promising approaches to resolving the debate between advocates for free-roaming and feral cats and those worried about the impacts those cats have on wild birds. One talk will focus on an unlikely alliance between the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and the Audubon Society of Portland. Removing feral cats from islands is a must; cat predation has been documented to increase mortality 10-fold! Be sure to catch a special presentation on the legal dimensions of the problem, set to attorney Pamela Jo Hartley’s  toe-tapping Feral Cat Blues!

Keeping our eyes – and ears - on the birdie

Date (Radio-tracking and other technologies): Tuesday August 5
Time: 10 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Location: Pavilion West

Date (Radar, night calls): Wednesday August 6
Time: 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Location: Pavilion East

Date (Stable isotopes and trace elements): Friday August 8
Time: 10 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Location: Broadway I & II

More than ever before, technology aids our understanding of wildlife. Old technology with new uses and new, “how-cool-is-that”gizmos allow ornithologists to follow birds day-by-day, all around the world. Radio transmitters, satellite telemetry, and microprocessors all contribute to the global effort to track avian influenza and predict outbreaks.  By measuring tiny amounts of trace elements and chemical isotopes in birds’ feathers, we can even find their distant wintering homes, thousands of miles from the place where they breed. And knowing where birds breed, winter, and migrate helps to identify the places we need to protect if we want to be sure we will have birds in the future. Tracking birds even helps us to understand how they learn their songs, where they find their food, and how they migrate. Among the many astonishing feats of migration revealed by satellite telemetry: Bar-tailed Godwits make nonstop flights that last up to 10 days and cover distances approaching 12,000 km!