The Air and Some of the Most Amazing Bird Aviators

The Air and Some of the Most Amazing Bird Aviators

There are many warnings about pollution, the climate crisis, and all that we humans are doing to harm the environment. These warnings are well-deserved, because the dangers are real.

Common swift, Wikipedia Commons, N. Camillieri. These birds can stay in the air for as long as 10 months at a time.

However, so many dire warnings can be discouraging. Isn’t anything getting better? Yes, some things are. Take a look at the following from Science Daily: “U.S. pollution regulations meant to protect humans from dirty air are also saving birds. So concludes a new continent wide study published today in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Study authors found that improved air quality under a federal program to reduce ozone pollution may have averted the loss of 1.5 billion birds during the past 40 years. That’s nearly 20 percent of birdlife in the United States today. The study was conducted by scientists at Cornell University and the University of Oregon.

Mallard, Wikipedia commons
Mallards can fly as high as 21,000 feet

“Our research shows that the benefits of environmental regulation have likely been underestimated,” says Ivan Rudik, a lead author and Ruth and William Morgan Assistant Professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “Reducing pollution has positive impacts in unexpected places and provides an additional policy lever for conservation efforts.”

It’s not just the regulations, of course. By reducing our consumption of fossil fuels, by wearing clothes that keep us warm or cool, depending on the season so that we don’t need to use heating or air-conditioning, we are keeping the air cleaner.

Wind farm in Germany

What about wind turbines? Are they good or bad for birds? Well, it’s true some birds die from wind turbines, they are killed much more often by pollution, building, and, alas, cats.

There are some birds safe from cats, such as the albatross, too large and too far away. From Wikipedia on the albatross: “Albatrosses are the most efficient travelers of all vertebrates on the planet. They expend zero energy soaring hundreds of miles over the ocean each day using dynamic soaring and slope soaring. They have a tendon in each shoulder locking their wings fully-extended, so once aloft and soaring across a fair breeze they never need to flap their wings. Like some vultures they hunt by smell, sensitive to the odor of carrion and other biological processes.”

Short-tailed albatross, Wikipedia Commons. On the ground in order to breed.

Rüppell’s vulture (Gyps rueppelli), also called Rüppell’s griffon vulture, named after Eduard Rüppell, is a large bird of prey, mainly native to the Sahel region and East Africa. The current population of 22,000 is decreasing due to loss of habitat, incidental poisoning, and other factors.[2] Known also as Rüppell’s griffon, Rueppell’s griffon, Rüppell’s griffin vulture, Rueppell’s vulture and other variants, it is not to be confused with a different species, the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus).[3] Rüppell’s vulture is considered to be the highest-flying bird, with confirmed evidence of a flight at an altitude of 11,300 m (37,000 ft) above sea level.

Rüppell’s vulture, Wikipedia commons

These birds are brightening up the skies that we have made a little cleaner for them. Of course, I must include a photo of an Alpine chough, the highest flying corvid, a cousin to my crows.

Alpine chough, Wikipedia commons, taken by Jim Higham in Switzerland

On sunny days, through the dark green needles, Sol could see clouds in the blue, blue sky. “How high can you fly, Father? As high as those clouds?” Father laughed, and said he could not, although some species of birds could fly that high. Like the alpine chough, a type of corvid that lived in faraway mountains.Hunters of the Feather