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.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Warbler genomes look to be 99.97 percent alike

Date: August 23, 2016
Source: Cornell University

For decades, conservationists have considered blue-winged warblers to be a threat to golden-winged warblers, a species being considered for federal Endangered Species protection. Blue-winged warbler populations have declined 66 percent since 1968, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

The two species are known to frequently interbreed where they co-occur, and scientists have been concerned that the more numerous blue-winged warblers would genetically swamp the rarer golden-wing gene pool.

New research from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program shows that, genetically speaking, blue-winged and golden-winged warblers are almost identical. Scientists behind the research say the main differences between the two species are in feather color and pattern, in some cases just a simple matter of dominant or recessive pairings of gene variants, or alleles.

"We think we have finally pinpointed the proverbial genomic 'needle in the haystack' between these taxa," said study co-author David Toews, adding the findings suggest conservationists should be less concerned with hybridization and primarily focused on preserving habitat for both species. "This is something that conservation practitioners have wanted for a very long time."

The research is published in the September issue of the journal Current Biology. Toews' collaborators include fellow Cornell Lab postdoctoral researcher Scott Taylor, along with partners from Cornell University's Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, the University of California at Riverside and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The team investigated the genetic architecture behind the differences between the two warblers by analyzing the genomes of 10 golden-winged and 10 blue-winged warblers from New York, with birds sampled from the Sterling Forest along the New Jersey border to the St. Lawrence River Valley. Across their analysis of the entire genomes of both species, they found only six regions (or less than .03 percent) that showed strong differences. In other words, blue-winged and golden-winged warblers are 99.97 percent alike genetically.

Biodiversity begins at home: Saving old villages helps save farmland birds

Date: August 17, 2016
Source: British Ecological Society (BES)

Preserving old villages and farm buildings -- and being more creative in designing new rural homes -- could help halt the decline in European farmland bird populations, according to new research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The study, led by Dr Zuzanna Rosin of Adam Mickiewicz University, found that traditional villages in Poland are biodiversity hotspots for farmland birds, whose populations have declined at an alarming rate across Europe over recent decades.

As agriculture becomes ever more intensive, traditional villages will play an increasingly important role in farmland bird conservation, says Rosin, so preserving the variety of farms, homes and building materials is key to conserving farmland birds, whose numbers have fallen dramatically.

According the official State of Europe's Common Birds, between 1980 and 2005 the population of crested larks declined by 95%, corn buntings by 61% and linnets by 54%.

Previous studies have pointed to agricultural intensification, with the resulting loss of habitat, as a major cause of farmland bird declines. But the importance of old farms and villages to bird biodiversity has been little studied until now.

Working in two regions of western and southern Poland, Wielkopolska and Małopolska, the team of ecologists from Poland and Sweden counted the number and species of birds at three spatial scales: single rural property, village and landscape.

They visited 78 homes and farms in 30 villages, and recorded 12,000 individual birds from 135 species, including many species which are declining in Europe. They found that old rural properties had more birds, from more species, than buildings constructed after 1989 and that farmsteads hosted more bird species than homesteads.

They also found that old, traditional villages are biodiversity hotspots for farmland birds, and that the proportion of new homes in a village has a dramatic impact on bird life. They found 20-25 bird species in villages with less than 10% new dwellings, but when new homes made up 40-50% of a village, fewer than 10 bird species remained.

Scientists map migration paths of Arctic breeding birds

Results help identify rapidly disappearing staging and wintering grounds
Date: August 22, 2016
Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

Conservation of intertidal habitat -- 65 percent of which has been lost over the last 50 years -- is critical to the survival of countless birds during migration on the East Asian Australasian Flyway.

In an effort to understand the threats and inform conservation of these areas, scientists from The Institute of Biological Problems of the North (Russian Academy of Sciences) and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) have collaborated to identify vital stopover areas for the dunlin, a shorebird known to migrate up to 7500 km (4700 miles) to reach its destination.

Arctic shorebirds breeding in Chukotka and Alaska depend upon key coastal intertidal sites along their migratory route to find food to supply energy on their flights. Such intertidal habitats are rapidly being lost to human development, resulting in marked declines of all species that have been studied on this flyway. Some, like the spoon-billed sandpiper, are now at critical risk of extinction, while 23 other species are now threatened, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction. Many others are in rapid decline, losing up to 10 percent of their numbers each year. A key driver of these losses is thought to be associated with development projects along the Yellow Sea coastline that convert intertidal mudflats to dry ground.

To better understand the nuanced threats to shorebird species that breed in Chukotka and nearby Alaska, Russian and American scientists have collaborated on a number of studies, including an assessment of nesting densities and factors influencing nest survival on breeding grounds in Russia. Most recently they have charted the migratory movements, timing, and wintering ground locations of a sub-species of dunlin, a relatively common shorebird that breeds in Chukotka.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Cassowary 'Ruthie' relocated after trying to break into elderly man's home

Bird in Queensland’s Innisfail had come to associate people with being fed, says environment department, and decision to relocate it was taken ‘reluctantly’

Australian Associated Press
Monday 22 August 201603.21 BST

Wildlife officers have relocated a young cassowary, known by locals as Ruthie, after it threatened an elderly man and tried to enter his Innisfail home.

It is the second time this month a cassowary has been relocated in north Queensland due to aggressive behaviour.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection said it was first alerted to potential problems with the bird in early August.

Rangers were called to the Coquette Point home last week after reports the bird was behaving aggressively and trying to break into an elderly man’s home.

 “The decision was reluctantly taken to relocate the bird after it was clear it had become accustomed to associate people with being fed,” according to the department.

The cassowary was tranquilised and relocated to a remote area of rainforest, away from human interaction.

EHP has again urged people not to feed or interact with the endangered species.

Scientists plan to bring back extinct bird species

August 21, 2016 | UPDATED 14:20 IST

London, Aug 21 (PTI) Scientists are planning to bring the extinct great auk back from the dead, almost 200 years after the penguin-sized, flightless birds disappeared.

A team of researchers met at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle to discuss reintroducing the flightless marine birds onto the Farne islands off the north-east coast of England.

Until the species final extinction in the middle of the 19th century, great auks ranged across the Atlantic from Northern Europe to Iceland, Canada and the US.

The size of a medium penguin, it lived in the open ocean except for when it waddled ashore for breeding.

African birds show signs of biasness between biological and step off-springs

3 hours ago
Washington D.C., Aug. 24 : A recent biological research has found an African desert-dwelling male bird that favours his biological sons and alienates his step-sons.

Southern Pied Babbler.jpgMartha Nelson, the researcher, said: "Nepotism has likely played a vital role in the evolution of family life in this species."

The species is the southern pied babbler, a black and white bird found in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

These birds live in groups and chicks are raised by both parents as well as other adult birds. The groups can range in size from three to up to 14 birds.

The group's dominant male bird appears to decide which of the subordinate males to tolerate in the group.

Nelson's research shows subordinate male birds spend less time in a group if they are unrelated to the dominant male bird.

These subordinate male birds are essentially pushed out of the group by their stepdads or in some cases their brothers-in-law. They are then forced to join other groups as subordinates or to live alone.

Over the course of five years in the summer, Nelson observed 45 different groups of southern pied babblers in the Kalahari Desert, walking around with the birds at dawn and dusk.

She also relied on data collected by her co-author Amanda Ridley. Together, the researchers analyzed data from 11 years of observation.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Rare bird spotted in Pagham Harbour

Trevor Guy's 'mega' find, a rare aquatic warbler in Pagham Harbour
13:4313:48Friday 19 August 2016
Saxicola rubetra -Belgium -male-8.jpg
Birdwatcher Trevor Guy has spotted a rare bird in Pagham Harbour.

Out hunting for a whinchat to photograph, Trevor was delighted to capture a rare aquatic warbler on camera.

He explained: “I was birdwatching around Pagham Harbour this week and trying to photograph a whinchat, when a bird suddenly appeared on the top of a bush just in front of me.

“Initially, I thought it was the whinchat I had been searching for. It remained for about 30 seconds - just long enough to get a few photographs.

“It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the images on computer that I realised this was no ordinary bird, this was a mega!

“This was a rare aquatic warbler, not only rare in Sussex but also a national rarity.”

Mr Guy says there were only three records of the aquatic warbler in Britain last year and his sighting is the first on record in Sussex since 2011.

“It is a rare breeding bird south of the Baltic and it winters in West Africa,” he added.