|How can I get rid of the
messy pigeons roosting on my house?
Brian Dover, Kearny, New Jersey
At the risk of offending fans of Columba livia, take heart in
knowing that you’re not alone in wanting to evict your winged housemates.
Their unhygienic habits make them a homeowner’s nightmare. From a public-health
standpoint, they’re anathema. Lisa Simpson put it accurately during an
episode of The Simpsons: Mr. Pigeon is "swimming with disease"–being associated
with more than 50 maladies. The single most serious pest bird in the United
States, this oft-maligned species is responsible for at least $1 billion
a year in damages. Call them what you will–gutter birds, park
Where can I find origins of birds’ names, like Haliaeetus, the bald eagle’s genus?
Thomas A. Webster, Tucson, Arizona
Lovers of etymology and ornithology would do well to consult The Dictionary
of American Bird Names, by Ernest A.Choate, which contains nomenclatorial
tidbits about every feathered species in North America. The booby, for
example, got its derogatory moniker because it showed no fear of the people
who christened it and who, according to the book, "quite correctly deemed
any living thing that trusted them foolish." In the biographical appendix,
you’ll learn that Charles Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon and father
of American systematic ornithology, immortalized his wife, Zenaide, by
Could a one-eyed frog I found outside my house be a sign of environmental problems nearby?
Jean Aaron, Goldens Bridge, New York
Don’t leap to conclusions: in any population, some individuals will
inevitably be born with abnormalities. The cyclops on your property could
very well have been one of these genetic bloopers. On the other hand, you
might be onto something: Since 1995 frog deformities have become alarmingly
more common. Reports from 45 states have documented thousands of cases
of bizarre malformations–from extra limbs to misplaced eyes–prompting the
formation of a multiagency task force to try to figure out what’s going
on. Suspected culprits include trematodes, pond-dwelling parasites that
disrupt tadpole development; chemical contaminants polluting the waterways;
and increased ultraviolet radiation from the thinning of the ozone layer.
While scientists work to unravel the mystery, frogs have emerged as poster
children for environmental degradation. Considered
By Carolyn Shea
© 2000 NASI
Illustrations by Jonathan Carlson
Baffled by Nature? Ask Audubon!