From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1994:

The November issue of ANIMAL
PEOPLE summarized reports that several
endangered songbirds in California are in
trouble because immigrant cowbirds lay
their eggs in the songbirds’ nests. The fast-
hatching cowbirds destroy the unhatched
songbird eggs. That theory was sunk, how-
ever, at a recent conference on cowbird
ecology held in Austin, Texas. Wrote Bob
Holmes in Science magazine: “Cowbirds
feed in open grassy areas but dump many of
their eggs in songbird nests in woodlands.

Thus the cowbirds thrive where open spaces
dot the forest. New subdivisions and indus-
trial parks create just that kind of environ-
ment,” while destroying songbird habitat.
There is little evidence that cowbird popula-
tions have grown since 1966, nor is there
any evidence that they thrive anywhere at
the expense of songbirds. Said Stephen
Laymon of the Kern River Research Center
in Weldon, California, “If preservation of
songbirds was made a national policy with
resources in line with those that go into duck
and deer management, I think you could see
a real difference.” Killing cowbirds, confer-
ees agreed, won’t help songbirds at all.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
director Mollie Beattie says the long
expected downlisting of the American bald
eagle from “endangered” to “threatened” is
likely to come early this year. As a
Congressional battle over renewing the
Endangered Species Act looms, “We are
putting a tremendous emphasis on delisting,”
Beattie added––both to show that the ESA
works in enabling species to recover, and to
reduce points of conflict between species
protection and economic interests.
Jack Ward Thomas, the veteran
U.S. Forest Service biologist who led
President Bill Clinton’s advisory team on
spotted owl recovery, was named chief of
the Forest Service on December 1. Days
later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
moved in accordance with Clinton’s spotted
owl recovery plan to ease barriers to old
growth logging on private land. The
USFWS admitted this might cut spotted owl
numbers, but has admitted undercounting
the owls in older estimates, and argues that
the owls are starting to move out from the
dwindling old growth to colonize second
growth. Besides, said Assistant Interior
Secretary George Frampton, who formerly
fought old growth logging as president of
the Wilderness Society, “The vast majority
of suitable owl habitat is on federal land.”
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit
on December 9 announced a deal that will
allow California builders to build high prior-
ity projects on the least essential 5% of the
coastal sage scrub habitat of the endangered
California gnatcatcher, in exchange for con-
cessions to protect more valuable habitat.
A 10-boat navy deployed to scare
feces-dropping aquatic birds away from
New York City’s Kensico reservoir has cut
the resident population from over 3,000
birds to 100 gulls and 10 Canada geese.
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