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.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Every dead bird analysed by RSPB contained a ‘lunchbox full of plastic’

 June 11, 2018, 6:42 am

The study has caused some concern.

Two tonnes of plastic have been found in the stomachs of fulmar birds around the North Sea.

Helen Moncrieff, Shetland manager at RSPB Scotland, said every single dead bird they analysed as part of a study contained a “lunchbox full of plastic”.

She was speaking ahead of a summit in Oban next week on tackling marine litter, which will be hosted by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

Scotland is home to a third of the European Union’s breeding seabirds, with the islands having traditionally hosted huge colonies.

However, concerns about the impact of plastic pollution are growing, and climate change has been blamed for a catastrophic collapse in seabird numbers.

Speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, Ms Momcrieff said: “The mallies (fulmars), there is a long-term study going on in the north Atlantic and the North Sea particularly, with a whole lot of countries involved.

“Every month we go out and we check, do a beach bird survey, and any fulmar or mallie we find intact we take it, stick it in the freezer and then the stomach contents are analysed later on.
“What we find is there’s plastic in every single mallie’s belly.

“It’s like having a lunchbox full of plastic in your stomach. We calculated that there’s around two tonnes of plastic in fulmar bellies alone.”


Missing bird who flies Adelaide-Arctic route spotted in China

HE was gone for three years — but not forgotten. South Australians feared their favourite feathered friend had perished after he dropped off the radar until this photo emerged.
The AdvertiserJUNE 19, 201810:27PM

HE’S back! Go-Go Godwit, South Australia’s premier frequent flyer, has been sighted in China after fans feared he may have flown into the sunset.

The male Bar-tailed godwit regularly spends summer at Thompson Beach, north of Adelaide, where he was tagged by volunteers in 2012 and leaves in autumn on an incredible journey north to breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle.

The annual migratory journey these birds take from Adelaide to the Arctic via China involves a round trip of around 26,000km.

Given that godwits can live for up to 30 years, a bird could fly up to 800,000km in migratory journeys during its life, about the same as a return trip to the moon.

Go-Go, more formally known as AKK due to the identification tag on his leg, was last seen in China in 2015 when The Advertiser reported his progress.

Since then he fell off the radar, leading to fears he had died or been killed.

However. after three years missing in action the plucky traveller has been spotted at Nanpu on Bohai Bay in China where wildlife photographer Adrian Boyle took a mobile phone photo through a telescope to confirm his unique yellow tag.

The reappearance of the long-distance local has overjoyed local shorebird watchers who are well aware of the toll exhaustion, hunting and habitat loss takes on the thousands of birds who leave each year from Gulf St Vincent beaches on their epic flight.

Adrian Boyle, originally from Millicent, has been a regular visitor to Bohai Bay to count and scan the mudflats for flagged birds. He is part of the Global Flyway Network, a partnership between researchers worldwide devoted to the long term study of long distance migrating shorebirds.

ODFW declines murrelet listing change

Seabird to remain a threatened species

The population of marbled murrelets, a seabird listed as a threatened species, is considered to be faring well enough to avoid the “endangered” species status.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) in February initially voted to list the bird as endangered, but the chair of the board was absent. Upon his return this week, the board voted 4-2 against “up-listing” the bird.

State Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, was the last to speak at the ODFW meeting this week in opposition to the uplisting.

“It appears that the Oregon population may now be fluctuating around a new, lower baseline,” a January ODFW status report reads. “Based on this monitoring program, the Oregon population was estimated at 10,975 birds in 2015 and was likely somewhere between 8,188 and 13,762 birds. The fairly wide confidence limits for these population estimates reflect the challenges of monitoring a highly mobile seabird that is sparsely distributed.”

Rare black Kookaburra bird photographed for first time in Western Australia

June 8, 2018
SYDNEY — One of Australia’s rarest birds, the “black kookaburra,” has been photographed for the first time in Western Australia, local media reported on Friday.

The iconic Australian laughing bird naturally has white, brown and blue feathers. Experts believed the black kookaburra captured by an anonymous amateur photographer is likely the result of a highly unusual genetic mutation.

“What we know is that some mutations in birds can upset the production of pigments and result in excessive production of melanin, which is the very dark pigment,” West Australia Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions ornithologist Allan Burbidge said.

While there has been a handful of sightings on the east coast of the country, the photograph, taken 300 km south of Perth on a property near the township of Manjimup, is believed to be the first recorded West Australia sighting in almost seven decades.

Monday, 18 June 2018

For flickers, looks can be deceiving

Date:  June 6, 2018
Source:  American Ornithological Society Publications Office

The North American woodpeckers known as "flickers" stand out for their distinctive wing and tail feathers of bright reds or yellows, and for their rampant interbreeding where these birds of different colors meet in the Great Plains. Despite the obvious visual differences between the Red-shafted Flicker of the west and the Yellow-shafted Flicker of the east, scientists have never before found genetic differences between them. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances uses data from thousands of regions across the genome to distinguish these birds molecularly for the first time.

Stepfanie Aguillon and her colleagues at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology explored patterns across the genomes of these birds and find them to be incredibly similar at the molecular level. In spite of the strong similarity, they still have the ability to distinguish the western Red-shafted Flickers from the eastern Yellow-shafted Flickers for the first time through the use of new genomic methods. Genomic technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that genetic sequence differences that were undetectable in the 1980s using (then) cutting-edge methods are now readily apparent using next-generation sequencing techniques.

Aromatic herbs lead to better parenting in starlings

Date:  June 6, 2018
Source:  North Carolina State University

For European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), the presence of aromatic herbs in the nest leads to some improved parenting behaviors, according to a new study. Specifically, birds whose nests incorporate herbs along with dried grasses were more likely to attend their nests, exhibited better incubation behavior for their eggs, and became active earlier in the day.

For the study, researchers replaced 36 natural starling nests in nest boxes with artificially made nests. Each nest retained the female's clutch of eggs. Half of the artificial nests included dry grass and a combination of herbs commonly found in starling nests. The other half of the nests had only dry grass. The herbs included were yarrow, or milfoil, (Achillea millefolium); hogweed (Heracleum spondyleum); cow parsley (Anthriscus silvestris); black elder (Sambucus niger); goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria); and willow (Salix alba).

For disappearing Bicknell's thrushes, statistical models are lifesavers

Date:  June 6, 2018
Source:  American Ornithological Society Publications Office

Bicknell's thrush has been identified as a globally vulnerable Nearctic-Neotropical migratory bird in need of serious conservation efforts. Males and females use different habitats in winter, with females preferring middle elevation forests that are more vulnerable to human disturbance than the higher, more remote forests used by males. A new study identifies key habitat for females in the remaining fragmented montane wet forests of the Dominican Republic.