Birds

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1994:

Hard-pressed sturgeon, sharks, and
rays got a break courtesy of the birds in May when
the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
closed a popular fishing road to protect the nests of
threatened snowy plovers. Killed mainly for kicks,
not eating, the sturgeon, sharks, and rays are less
protected than the plovers but perhaps in greater
jeopardy of extinction because of their rapid deple-
tion and slow reproductive rate.
Oregon State University professor
Morrie Craig has received an award from the
American Racing Pigeon Union for developing a
way to test guano to detect the use of performance-
altering drugs. Doping has lately become a prob-
lem in pigeon racing, as the top prizes in interna-
tional competition have soared above $200,000.

The British Ornithology Union is revis-
ing its records after learning that Colonel Richard
Meinertzhagen, one of the world’s most prolific
bird collectors, routinely misidentified birds killed
abroad as having been killed in the British Isles;
stole birds from other collections and relabeled
them as his own discoveries; and altered remains to
credit himself with finding new subspecies.
Meinhertzhagen left his collection to the BOU in
1967. It is displayed by the National Museum of
History, along with a second Meinertzhagen col-
lection of more than half a million lice, fleas, and
mites. A decorated veteran of World War I,
Meinhertzhagen is perhaps best remembered neither
for his collections, nor his wartime exploits, but
for escaping punishment after beating a groom to
death with a polo mallet because the man allegedly
mistreated Meinhertzhagen’s ponies.
Larry Penny, environmental protec-
tion director for East Hampton, New York, is
photographing every known piping plover in the
area, trying to discover characteristics that will
enable researchers to identify individual birds with-
out banding them––a risky method with small birds.
Hoping to restore the Siberian crane
population, which has nearly vanished from
Siberia, the International Crane Foundation of
Baraboo, Wisconsin, on May 1 sent 10 Siberian
crane eggs to the Oka State Biosphere Reserve,
southeast of Moscow, to form the start of a Russian
captive breeding program.
Hong Kong imported 17.5 million edi-
ble swiftlet nests in 1991, the latest year for which
figures are available, and prices have soared since.
The nests are considered a health tonic. World
Wildlife Fund trade monitoring program director
Jorgen Thomson warned on May 18 that the grow-
ing demand for swiftlet nests may jeopardize the
species, a cliffdweller native to Southeast Asia.
U.S. district judge Stanley Sporkin on
May 4 removed the California gnatcatcher from
the federal threatened species list, ruling that the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not adequately
document the relationship between California gnat-
catchers and other gnatcatchers living in Mexico.
Saying the documentation exists, and simply hadn’t
been turned over to the court, Interior Secretary
Bruce Babbitt on May 12 asked the judge to let the
gnatcatcher remain on the threatened species pend-
ing presentation of the data..
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