About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bird Poop Helps Save the World!

While I enjoy the antics of the starling babies that have invaded my feeder, I can’t help but notice the large amount of what I call “thank you for a good meal” droppings. So after my daily feeder maintenance I come in and to my surprise, read an article about how bird droppings are helping scientists save the world!

Actually ecologists believe Emperor penguin populations are a useful climate change indicator due to the birds' reliance on sea ice. However because of their remote location it was hard to track their movements. Even using standard satellite imaging it was impossible to track the penguins themselves because they are too small. Yet the penguins which spend eight months on sea ice to raise a family do leave behind evidence of that stay; lots of evidence. Stretches of excrement-stained ice are so large that they are visible from space. It has also helped scientists locate 10 new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) penguin ecologist, Dr Phil Trathan, said: "Now we know exactly where the penguins are, the next step will be to count each colony so we can get a much better picture of population size. Using satellite images combined with counts of penguin numbers puts us in a much better position to monitor future population changes over time."

The Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a world leader in research into global environmental issues. It is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council. More information about the work of the Survey can be found at: http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/

Side note: Why are there so many starlings at the feeder this year? Starlings usually change their diet in the spring and summer to consist mainly of insects but I believe the spring has been so cold in mid-Michigan this year that the insects haven’t hatched in their usual numbers. So the starlings as well as many other insect eaters have been supplementing their diet at the birdfeeders. Click on The Safflower Solution if you want to deter starlings at your feeder.

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