As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Critically Endangered hawks thrive following translocation

Species translocation - capturing animals in one place and releasing them in another—is a widely used conservation method for establishing or reestablishing populations of threatened species. However, translocation projects often fail when the transplanted animals fail to thrive in their new home. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications demonstrates how close monitoring of the animals being released into a new area is helping wildlife managers gauge the success of their effort to save the Ridgway’s Hawk of Hispaniola.

Ridgway’s Hawk is a critically endangered raptor endemic to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Since 2009, the Peregrine Fund has translocated 104 nestlings from the species’ stronghold in a national park to a protected resort area called Punta Cana 130 kilometers away. They monitored the birds after their release, tracking their survival and breeding success, as well as collecting the same data on 36–110 breeding pairs per year in the original national park population. Survival rates were high in both locations, and more young hawks began breeding on the resort property, probably because more territories were available due to the birds’ low numbers.


Shock as beautiful protected swan cruelly 'blasted from close range'

X-rays confirmed the bird was "covered in pellets" and left on the cliff-tops near Bempton

Daniel Kemp
13:24, 10 NOV 2017
UPDATED13:26, 10 NOV 2017

A swan has been shot dead close to a popular East Riding bird-watching reserve.

X-rays confirmed the bird, which is a protected species, was “covered in pellets” and had been “blasted from fairly close range”. Killing a swan is a criminal offence

The Whooper swan had just made a 1,000-mile trip from Iceland for the winter, but was found covered in blood after a close-range shooting on a cliff-top near Bempton.

It was found on fields between the RSPB site at Bempton Cliffs and the village of Buckton.

RSPCA inspector and national wildlife officer co-ordinator, Geoff Edmond, said: “I feel outraged that this has happened.

 “These birds come down predominantly from Iceland from October onwards to spend the winter months here. In other words this bird is likely to have flown around a thousand miles to suffer this terrible fate.

Record number of barnacle geese arrive in Dumfries and Galloway

11th November

News & Online Editor

A RECORD number of barnacle geese have arrived at RSPB Scotland's Mersehead reserve in Dumfries and Galloway this autumn – 11,070 – rising from their 2016 peak of 10,035.

RSPB Scotland described the numbers as a 'great sign' that the Solway population of barnacle geese is continuing to recover, after hitting a low point of only around 400 birds just after the Second World War.

Barnacle geese are black and white birds, with a call a bit like a dog barking, which winter at sites around the Solway before returning to their Arctic breeding grounds 2000 miles away in Svalbard in the spring.

Eagle-eyed nature lovers may also spot one or two white geese in with the flock at Mersehead, which are barnacle geese with a condition called leucism. Similar to albinism, these leucistic birds have extremely pale, almost white plumage, but unlike true albino birds, which are extremely rare in the wild, they have black eyes, beaks and legs. Only two leucistic barnacle geese have been seen at Mersehead this autumn, though in previous years up to four have been recorded.

RSPB Scotland warden at Mersehead, Rowena Flavelle, said: “It’s great to see the geese back, and fantastic to see the population doing so well. We always look forward to seeing them on the reserve, and when you hear them coming in, you know that autumn has well and truly arrived.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Captive-reared Critically Endangered vultures soon to be released in Nepal

8 Nov 2017

Conservationists are making great progress in removing vulture-killing drug diclofenac from Nepal, with vulture populations stabilising as a result. Now, in this safer environment, it’s almost time for six captive-reared White-rumped Vultures to venture out into the wild.

South Asian vultures have famously suffered devastating population declines in recent decades. For example, 99.9% of White-rumped Vultures Gyps bengalensis were wiped out between 1992 and 2007. This was due to the use of diclofenac: an anti-inflammatory drug given to reduce pain in livestock, but deadly to vultures that subsequently feed on their carcasses. A ban on veterinary diclofenac in India, Nepal and Pakistan in 2006 and Bangladesh in 2010 has allowed vulture populations to stabilise and possibly start to recover in some areas.

However, five of South Asia’s nine vulture species remain Endangered or Critically Endangered; the misuse of human diclofenac to treat livestock, as well as the use of other vulture-toxic veterinary drugs, continues to threaten some South Asian vulture populations with extinction. BirdLife Partners are changing that, through a combination of advocacy, legislation and education.

Feathers have their own scents, and predators know it

November 13, 2017 by Karl Gruber, Particle

In the holey battle of Aussie bushlands, smelly birds get their feathers ruffled.

Crimson rosellas are colourful and cute parrots, native to eastern and south eastern Australia. They are also very smelly birds.

"They smell like an old jumper, which has been drenched in really cheap and old perfume," says Dr Milla Mihailova, a former doctoral student at Deakin University's Centre for Integrative Ecology.

But their musky smell is not a reminder of an overdue bath (like for some of us).

For crimson rosellas, feather odour is important for their nesting behaviour.

"Feather odour influences how much time females spend at their nest. For example, if a female can smell that a male or the same subspecies has been around, she will arrive back to the nest quicker and stay at the nest for longer," says Milla.

And it is not just about nesting.

Birds of a feather smell together
For these colourful parrots, the smell of their feathers is a way of communication. They can learn all sorts of things from a sniff. Like what kind of individual was around, if it was a male or female or what subspecies or species it was.

Malta in hot water over trapping of protected birds

 Nov 9, 2017

Malta opened its wild bird trapping season in October, disregarding its EU accession promise to outlaw the practice and a pending case at the European Court of Justice.

The tradition of trapping wild songbirds to keep in captivity is deeply rooted in Maltese society. Trappers use live decoys to attract migrating finches, which are highly prized for their song, to their nets.

But the controversial trapping practice has landed Malta in hot water with environmental NGOs and the EU courts. Not only are finches protected under EU law – like all wild birds – but the use of nets is not a permitted method of capture.

After banning the practice in 2009 to respect the EU’s Birds Directive and uphold a promise it made before joining the EU in 2004, Malta backtracked in 2013. Courting favour with trappers, the newly-elected Labour government reopened the trapping season using a derogation supporters say is justified by the small scale of the activity.

“The Birds Directive is designed to allow these culturally important small-scale traditional hunting activities,” said Ludwig Willnegger, secretary-general of the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE).

Thursday, 16 November 2017

This sanctuary in India houses some of the rarest species of migratory birds in winter

The Keetham Bird Sanctuary is the abode of hundreds of wild animals and birds throughout the year.

November 13, 2017 | UPDATED 18:56 IST

The Keetham Bird Sanctuary is one of the very few places left in North India, where the endangered Siberian Cranes come regularly to nest every year.

Spread in 2.25 sq km, the Keetham lake and its surrounding 7.97 sq km sanctuary area is the abode of hundreds of wild animals and birds throughout the year, but the months of October to February are special, as this is the time when migratory birds from far north come to spend the winters at this lake.

However, this year, the prospects of these birds arriving to the lake anytime soon appear bleak, with the weather in Agra still quite warm and the high pollution levels with increased construction activity around the sanctuary also acting as deterrents for the migratory birds. Midway into November, the lake still awaits the arrival of its annual guests and bird-watchers arriving here to see these rare birds, are getting disappointed.