Curious Creatures in Zoology by John Ashton, The Perfect Library

By John Ashton, The Perfect Library

"Curious Creatures in Zoology" from John Ashton. English author (1834–1911).

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A red-tailed hawk uses the power poles to hunt the grass for voles and mice; I suspect a nest nearby. I tally eighteen species in a morning survey. Most of what I count are birds that live here year-round; it is too early for many migrants to have returned. Yet I am surprised to not have encountered an early-arriving warbler such as the Louisiana waterthrush; the only warbler I tally is the common resident yellow-rumped warbler. Perhaps these woods are too dissected, sprayed with insecticides, and groomed to provide insects and solitude for migrants facing the unusual dryness of a mild winter and early spring bloom.

It requires us to track worldwide changes and guard against the loss of a region’s distinctive life. House sparrows, European starlings, mallards, Canada geese, and rock pigeons—that fab five—live in nearly every city around the world. Within a continent, the number of birds held in common among cities is greater than the tally of cosmopolitans in less developed settings, such as forests or grasslands. This is the start of the homogenization process. By creating cities that birds view as similar—offering the same foods, plants, and arrangements of buildings and parks—we are starting to erase the diversity that we can celebrate.

So my dad was at least partially correct. Some animals do move and find new homes in the pieces of paradise that remain around our developments. We never saw the wrens that owned territories in forest reserves or established neighborhoods move like those in construction zones. In both places, Pacific wrens are real homebodies. Our precise comparisons of sixteen mapped territories suggested that forest and neighborhood wrens move only half as far, about one football field’s length (250–340 feet), as do wrens in active developments.

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