Chicagoans silently streamed tears and New Yorkers thronged the streets as Barack Obama delivered his presidential acceptance speech last night but the fervor was also felt in Kogelo, a village in western Kenya and the ancestral homeland of President-elect Obama. I spent a summer near here, surveying avian diversity in maize fields and forest patches and gathering bird mythologies from elders. The Luo people—the tribe of Obama’s father and much of western Kenya—have mixed regard for birds, which can destroy crops, eliminate pests, bring magic or imply death. Here are some of the stories I collected:
Of the 289 whooping cranes brought to central Florida since 1993 under the guidance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only 31 have survived and just nine chicks have hatched in the wild. After meetings last month in which models were presented that pegged the birds’ chances of surviving at less than 50/50, the recovery team made the decision to halt the reintroduction.
The bright, white object ranchers discovered in a field in southeastern Colorado last July fell from the sky and may be the only one of its kind.
It is neither a meteorite nor an extraterrestrial, although it has attracted attention on par with these unearthly items, but a bird, one partially albino golden eagle. By the time the raptor reached Diana Miller, who directs the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo, in Pueblo, Colo., it was near death.
If you head out for a bicycle ride, how many kinds of birds are you likely to spot? If you are teenager Malkolm Boothroyd, the answer is now over 500 species. The boy wonder from the Yukon is ten months through his twelve-month quest, has bicycled way over 10,000 miles through Canada and the U.S., and has identified over 500 species of birds while raising nearly $12,000 for conservation. Now, that is an impressive feat of birding!