Thursday, September 2, 2010

San Diego Zoo on Birds, Some of Which are - What Else? - Endangered

"Animal Bytes: Birds"
San Diego Zoo

"What is a bird?

"Birds are vertebrates, with a backbone and skeleton, although some of the bones are hollow to keep the bird light. Their forelimbs have the same bones as the human arm, but they are highly modified to form the structure for wings. Some of the bones in the wrist and fingers are fused together for extra strength.

"Fancy feathers

"Like mammals, birds are endothermic, but they are the only animals that have feathers. Feathers are made of keratin. Each feather has a stiff, hollow center shaft with hundreds of side branches called barbs. Each barb has two rows of side branches called barbules. This structure allows air to gather in the feathers, making them lightweight and keeping the bird's body heat from escaping...."

It's a pretty good introduction to birds - and yes, some birds are endangered.

Like the San Clemente loggerhead shrike and some other birds in Hawaii. Which the San Diego Zoo is helping. They've got a managed breeding program for the San Clemente loggerhead shrike, and they've been doing pretty much the same thing for some of the Hawaiian birds.

Some of what's on the page seems terribly obvious: Like "What is a bird?" Think about it, though: The San Diego Zoo's mission is to be "...a conservation, education, and recreation organization dedicated to the reproduction, protection, and exhibition of animals, plants, and their habitats...."

Not everybody's been around for the half-century that the Lemming's logged on planet Earth - and defining what you're talking about makes good sense, from a teaching point of view.

As for making the island safe for the San Clemente loggerhead shrike, and helping them survive? Provided that it doesn't mean pushing people off the other Channel Islands, I don't see the harm in it. (Avalon, on Catalina Island, north of San Clemente Island, was evacuated back in 2007: but the folks moved back after the fire was out. NPR (May 11, 2007))

The San Clemente Island bird project is a collaborative thing with the U. S. Navy, by the way.

And maybe it's a good idea to keep San Clemente loggerhead shrike around. According to the San Diego Zoo, the birds eat mice and lizards.

Finally, it may be noteworthy that pigeons, sparrows, and crows don't seem to make the 'endangered species' lists.

It could be done, though.

Given a little imagination and creative analysis of the birds' DNA, the pigeons residing within a kilometer of Kansas City, Missouri's Washington Square Park could be called a distinct species (I suggest "Kansas City T-Bone Pigeons") - but that's another topic.

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