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.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Birds avoid crossing roads to prevent predation

Why didn't the bird cross the road? Because it was afraid of predators and venturing into another bird's territory

Date:  July 19, 2017
Source: Frontiers

Summary: It was once believed that roads posed no problem to birds because of their ability to fly. A new study finds that they can find these human-made structures problematic, especially small, forest-dwelling species. Their hesitance to cross roads could restrict their positive effects on the natural environment, such as seed dispersal, pollination and insect control.

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Ravens can plan ahead, similar to humans and great apes

Date: July 13, 2017
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Summary: Despite previous research that indicates such behaviors are unique to humans and great apes, a new study shows that ravens, too, can plan ahead for different types of events , and further, that they are willing to forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Even tiny amounts of oil could doom seabirds


Jul. 5, 2017 , 6:00 PM

Some of the most devastating pictures after big oil spills are of seabirds coated in black sludge. But a new study reveals that even a small amount of oil could cause major damage to bird populations like the western sandpiper. Just a smudge on their wingtips and tails makes it much harder for them to fly than normal birds, researchers have found, which could prevent them from reaching their breeding grounds in time.

The findings are significant because they suggest that even minor oil spills can have a big impact, says Christy Morrissey, avian ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, who was not involved in the research. “There are ongoing small oil spills around the world that continue to affect shoreline habitats,” she says. “They don’t necessarily make the news, but still they’re happening.”

For years, scientists have been trying to estimate how small amounts of oil would affect bird flight, and in 2013, a team of ecologists at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, set out to find out. The researchers used western sandpipers, one of 93 shorebird species that saw their numbers decline after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For months following the 1-million-metric-ton-spill, it was common to find birds on the beach with lightly oiled feathers, says ornithologist and study lead author Ivan Maggini. “We figured that just having oil on wings’ feathers might affect their main function, which is flight.”


Emperor penguins may disappear by the end of this century


By Lakshmi SupriyaJul. 7, 2017 , 10:30 AM

Emperor penguins are known for braving the harsh Antarctic winters, but they might not be able to brave the harsh realities of climate change. That’s the finding of a new study, which suggests that by the end of this century, the world’s largest penguins may be no more. Previous research suggested that rapidly warming air and sea temperatures—which melt sea ice—might cause their numbers to plummet by as much as 19% by 2100. But a new model looks at other factors, including how individual penguins deal with climate change by migrating to places with optimal sea ice coverage. In their model of potential penguin migrations, researchers looked at how far penguins typically go and what factors figure in their decisions. They used data previously collected from Pointe GĂ©ologie in Antarctica along with satellite images of penguin colonies that revealed information about their traveling and foraging behavior. The model projects that for the next 2 decades, populations will remain stable, and may even increase slightly as the penguins move to locations that are more habitable. After 2050, it all goes downhill. Although the rate of population decline may vary, by the year 2100 almost all emperor penguins may be gone, the researchers write in an upcoming issue of Biological Conservation. That’s because climate change will have rendered all their habitats inhospitable by then. Gaining endangered status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the scientists say, may be one way of arresting what might otherwise be their final march.


Monday, 17 July 2017

UK and Irish seabirds search area size of Spain for food

7 July 2017

By New Scientist staff and Press Association


Satellite-tracking of hundreds of British and Irish seabirds has revealed new insights into where species search for food at sea.

The study, which tracked and modelled behaviour of kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and guillemots, could help assess potential impacts from offshore wind farms and other activities and where protected areas of the seas should be.

Lightweight GPS tags were fitted to more than 1,300 adult birds from 29 different colonies around the UK and Ireland, to track where they went once they left their breeding colonies to catch fish at sea.

The data was used to create a computer model for each species to predict important areas at sea for other colonies where no tracking took place, estimating where birds travelled from some 5,500 breeding sites.

Results reveal the extensive areas of sea the four seabird species use – at least 1.5 million square kilometres, an area three times the size of Spain.

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Birds become immune to influenza


Date:  June 30, 2017
Source:  Lund University

Summary:  An influenza infection in birds gives a good protection against other subtypes of the virus, like a natural vaccination, according to a new study.

An influenza infection in birds gives a good protection against other subtypes of the virus, like a natural vaccination, according to a new study.

Water birds, in particular mallards, are often carriers of low-pathogenic influenza A virus. Researchers previously believed that birds infected by one variant of the virus could not benefit from it by building up immunity against other virus subtypes. However, the recent study concludes that mallards infected with a low-pathogenic virus build up significant immunity and resistance to other variants of the same virus.

"It was previously thought that the birds were not particularly good at protecting themselves against subsequent infections, but in fact they manage quite well," says Neus Latorre-Margalef, a biologist at Lund University.


Birds' migration genes are conditioned by geography


Date:  July 6, 2017
Source:  Lund University

Summary:  The genetic make-up of a willow warbler determines where it will migrate when winter comes. Studies of willow warblers in Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States show that “migration genes” differ -- depending on where the birds breed in the summer. The willow warblers that breed in southern Sweden migrate to West Africa, while those in northern Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States fly to southern or eastern Africa.