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BIRD OF THE WEEK
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Passerina cyanea
POPULATION: 78 million
HABITAT: Shrubby areas such as old fields, hedgerows, and forest edges.
A male Indigo Bunting in breeding plumage is a glorious symphony of shimmering blues, turquoises, and purples. But these beautiful colors are illusory.
Bunting owes its glorious appearance to an optical trick — the diffraction of light through its feathers. In poor lighting, the bunting’s glorious colors disappear and it becomes a plain, dark-colored finch.
But Indigo Buntings are more than a treat for the eyes — this species also helped reveal some important secrets about how birds migrate.
POPULATION: Estimates vary widely, from less than 1 million to more than 5 million.
IUCN STATUS: Vulnerable
HABITAT: Breeds where boreal forest meets wetland. Winters in wooded wetlands.
Rusty Blackbird lost between 85 and 95 percent of its population, making it one of the fastest declining North American landbirds. The only North American blackbird more troubled is the Tricolored Blackbird, a localized and declining bird of West Coast wetlands.
At first blush, the Rusty Blackbird’s growing scarcity makes no sense. After all, much of the bird’s breeding range in the boreal forest is remote and roadless, so human impact seems a less likely factor than in areas with cities and suburbs.
For now, scientists strongly suspect a few factors at play in the bird’s decline:
Climate change, which may cause wetlands to dry up more frequently, and also may throw off peak times for aquatic and other insects, affecting blackbird breeding.
Destruction of wetlands for agriculture in the United States wintering range, combined with degradation of remaining habitat.
A combination of these and other threats, including the poisoning of blackbird flocks and infiltration of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles into degraded habitats, where these birds likely compete with Rusty Blackbirds.
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Icterus graduacauda POPULATION: Fewer than 5,000 in U.S., but most of range is in Mexico. TREND: Decreasing HABITAT: Riparian and live-oak woods.
Formerly known as the Black-headed Oriole, the flashy but furtive Audubon’s Oriole is one of North America’s two yellow-and-black orioles. (The other is Scott’s Oriole, also found in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico.) Audubon’s Oriole, like the Green Jay, is a species sought after by birders visiting Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Although as brightly colored as a Green Jay orPainted Bunting,this large oriole can be a challenge to spot. Bright yellow is often difficult to distinguish amid green foliage, and unlike the more familiarBaltimore Oriole, Audubon’s Oriole tends to remain deep under cover, where it is more often heard than seen.
Approximately 671,000 Rohingya refugees have fled targeted violence and serious human rights violations in Myanmar since August 2017. Many walked for days through the forest to reach safety in Bangladesh.
Six months on, the monsoon season is approaching and the risk of an emergency within the emergency is still looming. UNHCR, the Government of Bangladesh, and partners continue to work around the clock to provide protection and assistance to refugees, while also supporting host populations affected by the influx.