Tag Archives: wild life

Bullfinches mate for life, researchers confirm

A new study confirms what was long-time assumed about bullfinches: they keep the same partner throughout their lives.

A male (left) and a female (right) bullfinch. Source: Pixabay / Oldiefan.

Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) are small birds commonly found in the temperate areas in Europe and Asia. They are usually resident (non-migratory) birds, but some of the northern populations do move towards the warmer south during the winter.

However, recent years weren’t rosy for the bullfinches. Their large numbers and love of flower buds turned against them. They started to be viewed as pests during the 1970s, leading to a licensed control of the species. Even though this didn’t have an important impact on the birds’ populations, bullfinches suffered a decline due to the loss of arable weeds and intensification of agriculture.

Professor Olav Hogstadt banded 165 birds, comprised of 63 adults and 102 young birds. Hogstadt’s birds were migratory, making their monitoring much more difficult. He used a small feeder to lure and tag the bullfinches. Most birds were isolated individuals, though a small flock was also observed.

He discovered three pairs that stayed together for one winter, three that stayed together through two winters, and one pair that stayed together through three winters. He thus concluded that pair fidelity was true among bullfinches, confirming a long-standing assumption.

Why do these finches have such a romantic approach to life?

Actually, the answer is pretty logical. Having the same mate allows these birds to spare the energy of finding a new one each beginning of mating season. In this way, the frenzy of reproduction can be prolonged, and the little bullfinches saved the heartbreak of rejection — and the efforts associated with mating rituals.

Young male bullfinch awaiting his love.
Source: Pixabay/Oldiefan

“It’s a little embarrassing to tell people that it’s taken a quarter century of ‘research’ to confirm something that ‘everyone has known’ for several decades. On the other hand, it shows that if an assumption is repeated often enough, it’ll eventually become a reality,” Hogstad says.

Professor Hogstad from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) published the paper “Pair fidelity of wintering Bullfinches; observations over 24 years” in the journal Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskabs Skrifter. Vol. 2016.

VICKSBURG, MS - MAY 10: A home is surrounded by floodwater May 10, 2011 in Vicksburg, MS. (Scott Olson - GETTY IMAGES)

Mississippi flood leads to hoards of animal refugees

VICKSBURG, MS - MAY 10: A home is surrounded by floodwater May 10, 2011 in Vicksburg, MS. (Scott Olson - GETTY IMAGES)

VICKSBURG, MS – MAY 10: A home is surrounded by floodwater May 10, 2011 in Vicksburg, MS.

Late this Monday, the Mississippi crested in at 47.8 feet (14.5 meters), just less than a foot below the city’s record, set in 1937. As the river reaches nearby city neighborhoods and Shelby County suburbs, nature has “put the pin back in the grenade,” said county spokesperson Steve Shular.

Floods are really nasty, but for the local fauna everything’s gone for a turn to the worst, as the waters are forcing them to leave their natural habitat and look for shelter elsewhere – some less lucky get drowned in the process.

“We’re starting to see some issues, especially with the snakes,” Shular explained. “We’ve definitely seen a lot of snakes, like water moccasins [picture]”—venomous pit vipers with potentially fatal bites that are also called.

Yes, those are venomous pit vipers (commonly know as cottonmouths) which could potentially fatally bit a person, and as swollen rivers start reaching up near homes and neighborhoods, things start going really crazy.

“We want to make sure people understand that the rules have changed,” Shular said.

“When that water gets into a neighborhood, snakes are going to be searching for shelter and food in homes or sheds or wherever they can slither into.”

Poisonous snakes exodus

The sudden influx of snakes in residential ares could prove to be devastating for the already thinning number of snakes in the Mississippi area, simply because people kill them on sight usually when they see them in their backyards.

It’s not just snakes either, countless rabbits, turkeys, deer, and other animals have been forced to flee—or perish.

“We’ve seen photos of herds of deer on levees trying to get away from the waters and heard from the Army Corps of Engineers that they’ve seen deer drowned during the flood,” according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Jereme Odom.

“One of our wildlife managers even spotted deer and coyotes”—natural enemies—”standing on the same levee together,” he said.

While most animals will survive the Mississippi River flood, for some their habitats could take years to return to normal. The local wild turkey is one of the most hardly hit species by the floods in the area. The wild turkey is nesting in this time of year, and as a result many of those nests have been lost to or displaced by floods – countless new hatched birds might not survive.

“Animals will be displaced for so long that, when the water does recede, it will take a while to get back to their original habitats,” he said. “Some may be established elsewhere or displaced so far away that they never get back.”

Neighboring residents are advised to wait for Mississippi levels to decrease

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is advising people, whenever possible, to simply wait for animals to return to their normal habitats. Floods come and go, and eventually the Mississippi water level should dampen.

“Animals that appear to be in need of rescue should be left alone,” Chad Harden, a big game coordinator with the agency, said in a May 6 statement.

“They are under stress, but their natural survival instincts will help them cope with the situation until things get back to normal. The animals could pose a real danger to someone who might try to rescue them.”

For his part, Tennessee wildlife officer Odom is taking the long view.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen major floods. It goes all the way back to Noah, and the animals are still here,” he said. “The main thing is what humans will do to let them come back.”

Story via National Geographic