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A long-winged flier, the sooty tern, wanders tropical oceans, nesting on remote islands. Photo by Percita/Flickr

Exploring Nature: Vulnerable Species

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Around the Hays County area, this will be remembered by many as the year of the robin. This plucky thrush showed up in great flocks and did a fine job of ushering in a new bird year.

I also discovered there are several folks around here who have hummingbirds on their property on a year-round basis. I usually don’t have hummers before mid-March.

And, thanks to Martha Knies, I learned about a species completely new to me – the bumblebee bat. I had seen a bumblebee hummingbird in Cuba, but a bumblebee bat – never heard of such a thing.

Well, it turns out this little vulnerable bat species hangs out in western Thailand, southeast of Burma. It prefers limestone caves along rivers and is usually reddish brown or gray in color.

Groups of 100 to 500 bats gather together and sleep all day and fly around at night. They catch insects on the wing, especially small flies.

Hard to imagine a bat about the size of a postage stamp, but these little rascals seem to thrive in their chosen environment.

Also doing well these days are the sooty terns living on Teuaua Island in French Polynesia. Non-native rats were brought in by sailors and had almost wiped out all the terns, eating both their eggs and chicks. Thankfully, a successful trapping program got rid of the rats and the birds are now thriving, with numbers up to about 90,000.

It takes hard work to protect birds, especially birds on isolated islands who have developed for years in a predator-free environment. Since humans are the ones who usually invade these islands, it is only fitting they try to repair any damage they may cause.

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