Open Spaces : birds

Meet the Species: The ‘I‘iwi

Have you ever heard of the ‘i‘iwi?  If you’re from Hawai’i, chances are you have. 

It’s a bright, scarlet bird with black wings, and has a sickle-shaped bill that helps it sip nectar from long, tubular flowers.

i'i'wiPhoto: Jack Jeffrey/USFWS

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Everything You Need to Know About This Weekend's Federal Duck Stamp Contest

This Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28, and Oct. 29, we’re holding the nation’s oldest government-sponsored art contest and the most prestigious wildlife art competition - the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. The winner will see his or her art made into the 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp, which will raise millions of dollars for conservation.

Last Year's Winning Stamp from James Hautman

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Looking Back: Spotlight on Ira Gabrielson

Every so often it's good to look into the past to revisit the people who got us where we are today. Looking Back is a new series on the people who helped shape the National Wildlife Refuge System. The series is based on "A Look Back," a regular column written by Karen Leggett, from the Refuge System Branch of Communications, which appears in each issue of the Refuge Update newsletter.

“When I learned there were actually jobs where people were paid for studying birds and mammals, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

-Ira Gabrielson

Ira Noel Gabrielson devoted his life not only to studying animals but also to protecting them and conserving their habitats. Born in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, “Dr. Gabe” began working with the Bureau of Biological Survey in 1915.  

He replaced J.N “Ding” Darling as director of the Survey in 1935, and when the Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940, Gabrielson became its first director.  Six years later, he left the Service to head the Wildlife Management Institute and later helped to organize and preside over the World Wildlife Fund.

Gabrielson releasing a duck

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Take a Photo Tour

If you didn't know, every region has a Flickr page with some great imagery - so does our National Digital Library (along with lots of other cool things).  Here's a quick photo tour of our regions. Enjoy!

These Mexican spotted owls, listed as threatened, rest in a canyon in Utah, in the Mountain Prairie Region. Rock walls with caves, ledges, and other areas provide protected nest and roost sites. 

Mexican Spotted OwlsPhoto Credit: Amie Smith

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Putting a Stamp on Conservation

The Federal Duck Stamp.  To be honest, before I started working here, I really didn’t know much about it.  Maybe you’re like me, and you don’t know there’s a national art contest to create the new Duck Stamp each year.   If you’re an artist, you may want to consider creating something for the contest.  While time might be running a little thin to submit something this year (entries must be postmarked by midnight on August 15th), maybe you’ll consider entering next year.

2011 Duck StampCurrent Duck Stamp, Artist: James Hautman

What’s the purpose of the Duck Stamp, though?  Of course art contests can be fun, but here’s what it is all about.  Aside from being required for hunting waterfowl, the Duck Stamp serves as a very important conservation tool.  Ninety-eight cents of every dollar generated from Duck Stamps goes directly to buy or lease wetlands for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System, making the Duck Stamp one of the best dollar-for-dollar investments in the future of America’s wetlands.

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Late Season Waterfowl Hunting Seasons: Quick Facts about the Proposal

Earlier today, we announced the proposed hunting season lengths for the 2011-2012 late waterfowl seasons.  After partnering with state biologists from each of the four flyways, we’ve come up with a regulatory framework which includes things like hunting length for waterfowl, season dates, and bag limits. 

 Pintail Duck Drake

Here are some key points about the proposal:

- Season lengths vary based on flyways

  • 60 days for Atlantic and Mississippi flyways
  • 74 days for Central Flyway, 23 additional days in High Plains areas
  • 107 days for Pacific Flyway

- A full season on pintails with a two bird daily bag limit nationwide

- A full season on canvasbacks with a one bird daily bag limit

- States select their season within the final framework that establish the earliest season beginning and latest ending date, maximum season length and bag limits

If you’re looking for detailed information about your state, the news release does a great job summarizing each Flyway, including states within each flyway, and full duck and geese seasons and limits.   If you’re looking for information on early-season migratory bird hunting, you can find that here

What are your thoughts about the proposal?  Start a conversation and talk to each other about what you do or don't like, and what changes you might make.  Just remember, while we here at Open Spaces love to hear from you, if you want your ideas to count, you'll need to formally submit your comment once it's published in the Federal Register in mid-August.  Information on when and how you can submit those comments can be found on the Migratory Birds Program page.

Endangered Species Spotlight: the Kirtland's Warbler

Kirtland's warbler singing a song on a Jack Pine in our Midwest Region.  Find more photos here.

As the principal federal partner responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA), we take the lead in recovering and conserving our nation's imperiled species; this includes winged fellows like the Kirtland's warbler, the subject of today's Endangered Species Spotlight. Our endangered species program regularly features profiles on these amazing creatures.  You can find the full stories on the Endangered Species site.

If you’re from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, there’s a chance you’ve seen the bright yellow belly or heard the sweet songs of the endangered Kirtland’s warbler. Their song is high pitched but soothing, a pulsating chirp that can faintly echo through the forest on a quiet day.

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Teddy Roosevelt and the History of the National Wildlife Refuge System

Today, there are 553 refuges across the country, with at least one in every state, providing safety to more than 250 threatened or endangered plants and animals.  Have you ever wondered how we got there?

President Roosevelt, known for his love of nature and wildlife established Pelican Island as our first national refuge in 1903.  Though he didn’t know it at the time, Roosevelt had set the nation on the path to building the largest national Refuge System in the world. 

Throughout his presidency, refuges were established around the country, and by the time he left office in 1909, he had declared 53 refuges in 17 states and three territories.

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Alaska: Across the Wildest State, Climate Change Threatens Many Species and Habitats

A momma polar bear stands with baby bears flanking her on either side

An Alaska polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Melting sea ice has made the polar bear a symbol of climate change impact. Photo: Susanne Miller, USFWS. Download.

Mutlimedia iconAudio: Interview with Alaska Native Elder Christina Westlake

Video: Polar Bear Research on the Chukchi Sea

With an area of more than 375 million acres extending 2,000 miles from east to west and 1,100 miles from north to south, Alaska dwarfs other states. The northernmost state is also unmatched in its range of climates and habitats — and nearly all are feeling impacts from climate change. 

During the last half-century, Alaska has seen some of the most rapid warming on earth, with temperatures rising 1 to almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit across its climate regions and ecosystems. By the year 2100, the average annual temperature of Alaska’s North Slope is projected to rise another 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

 “One big difference between Alaska and the Lower 48 is that here we’re dealing with impacts that have already occurred, not just forecasts of change,” says John Morton, Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist at Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “And because Alaska hasn’t undergone widespread landscape change from non-climate stressors such as agriculture and development, the impacts of climate change aren’t masked as they are elsewhere.”

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Arkansas: Warming Trends Changing the Hunt for Waterfowl

Birds in flight at Bald Knob

Pintail and wigeon ducks on the move at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Arkansas. Photo credit: Jim Daniel.

A 2005 newspaper article gave Dr. James Bednarz the idea to look for a possible link between climate change and duck migration.

In the article, someone suggested climate change was already reducing duck hunting opportunities in Arkansas, a state known for its premier waterfowl hunting.

“I thought it was pretty farfetched,” Bednarz recalled recently.

But the hypothesis presented an interesting research project. After diving into 50 years worth of duck data, Bednarz, a professor of Wildlife Ecology at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, says he’s now convinced climate change -- including warmer temperatures, more ice-free days and changes in precipitation -- is causing fewer ducks to migrate south for the winter.

“The analysis definitely demonstrates that change is happening right now,” Bednarz said. “If [climate change] continues, waterfowl hunting in places where we’ve traditionally done it will seriously diminish. I think it will be a big cost to our heritage and our wildlife.”

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Last updated: June 21, 2012