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, 18 September 2019

Injured seagull photographed with arrow embedded in head in Elgin

A seagull has been photographed with an arrow embedded in its head in Elgin.

The injured bird is said to still be flying around, after it was spotted at the Moray town's Cooper Park on Tuesday.

It was photographed by Lesley Morrison, who told the BBC Scotland news website: "It was normal looking, until it turned around. Then it flew off."

The Scottish SPCA said the incident was "very concerning", and warned it was a criminal offence.

Keen nature photographer Mrs Morrison said: "I have always got the camera just in case.

"It was there for ages walking about, pecking away. Then I saw this sold-looking arrow - it was well-embedded.

"It seemed perfect if it did not have this in its head. It must have missed the important organs."
'Protected by law'

Scottish SPCA animal rescue officer Aimee Findlay, appealing for information about the incident, said: "We have received a report of a gull with an arrow through its head in Elgin. The gull is still able to fly so we haven't been able to contain it.

"We are very concerned for its wellbeing and are keen to treat it as soon as possible to prevent infection and further injury and suffering.

"In July, we investigated a report of a gull with an arrow through its body in Ross-shire.

"This is very concerning. We want to make it clear that gulls, like all birds, are protected by law and it is a criminal offence to deliberately injure or kill a gull."

Global warming makes it harder for birds to mate, study finds

SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

New research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and University of Porto (CIBIO-InBIO) shows how global warming could reduce the mating activity and success of grassland birds.

The study examined the threatened grassland bird Tetrax tetrax, or little bustard, classified as a vulnerable species in Europe, in order to test how rising temperatures could affect future behavior.

The males spend most of their time in April and May trying to attract females in a breeding gathering known as a lek. In leks, to get noticed, males stand upright, puff up their necks, and making a call that sounds like a 'snort." They also use this display to defend their territory from competing breeding males.

The international team of researchers—from the UK, Kenya, Portugal, Spain and Brazil—found that high temperatures reduced this snort-call display behavior. If temperatures become too hot, birds may have to choose between mating and sheltering or resting to save their energy and protect themselves from the heat.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the findings show that during the mating season little bustard display behavior is significantly related to temperature, the time of the day—something referred to as circadian rhythms—and what stage of the mating season it is. The average temperature during the day also affects how much birds display and again as temperatures increase, display rates reduce.

March of the multiple penguin genomes

SEPTEMBER 18, 2019

by GigaScience

The Penguin Genome Consortium sequences all living penguin species genomes to understand the evolution of life on the ice

Published today in the open-access journal GigaScience is an article that presents the first effort to capture the entirety of the genomic landscape of all living penguin species. The Penguin Genome Consortium —bringing together researchers from China, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, the UK, the US, France and Germany— has produced 19 high-coverage penguin genome sequences that, together with two previously published genomes, encompass all surviving penguin species. This extensive study provides an unparalleled amount of information that covers an entire biological order, which will promote research in a wide variety of areas from evolution to the impact of human activities and environmental changes.

Penguins are a diverse order of species that span the Southern hemisphere, ranging from the Galápagos Islands on the equator, to the oceanic temperate forests of New Zealand, to the rocky coastlines of the sub-Antarctic islands, finally reaching the sea-ice around Antarctica. This iconic bird group have transitioned from flying seabirds to powerful, flightless marine divers. With their specialized skin and feathers and an enhanced thermoregulation system they are able to inhabit environments from the extreme cold Antarctic sea ice to the tropical Galápagos Islands.

Scientists discover one of world's oldest bird species at Waipara, New Zealand

SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

The ancestor of some of the largest flying birds ever has been found in Waipara, North Canterbury.

Bony-toothed birds (Pelagornithids), an ancient family of huge seafaring birds, were thought to have evolved in the Northern Hemisphere—but that theory has been upended by the discovery of the family's oldest, but smallest member in New Zealand.

At 62 million-years-old, the newly-discovered Protodontopteryx ruthae, is one of the oldest named bird species in the world. It lived in New Zealand soon after the dinosaurs died out.

While its descendants were some of the biggest flying birds ever, with wingspans of more than 5 meters, Protodontopteryx ruthae was only the size of an average gull. Like other members of its family, the seabird had bony, tooth-like projections on the edge of its beak.

The seabird fossil was identified by the same team that recently announced the discovery of a 1.6 meter-high giant penguin from the same site.

Amateur paleontologist Leigh Love found the partial Protodontopteryx skeleton last year at the Waipara Greensand fossil site. The bird was named Protodontopteryx ruthae after Love's wife Ruth. Love wanted to thank her for tolerating his decades-long passion for paleontology.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Survival of the chickest: the unlikely battle of the urban brush turkey

Australian researchers are trying to understand how the birds, which receive no parental care, survive against all odds in big cities

Mon 9 Sep 2019 05.39 BST Last modified on Mon 9 Sep 2019 05.40 BST

The chicks are considered “hors d’oeuvres” of the bird world and now Sydney scientists need public help trying to understand how brush turkeys survive against the odds in urban environments.

Brush turkeys’ six-month breeding season kicked off in July and a team of researchers from the University of Sydney and Taronga Zoo have put out a call for community sightings of nesting mounds, breeding activities and chick hatchings across New South Wales and Queensland.

John Martin, an honorary associate at the University of Sydney, said the birds use an ancient nesting method of laying eggs in mounds and the heat of decomposing vegetation incubates them ahead of hatching.

Similar to sea turtles, the chicks receive no parental care, Martin said.

“If you think about the urban environment with cats, dogs, foxes, roads, birds of prey, snakes, not to mention kids, it seems unlikely that they would be an urban survivor,” he told Guardian Australia.

Conservation of a Central American region is critical for migrating birds

Date: September 12, 2019
Source: Oxford University Press USA

Many of North America's migratory birds are declining, but the mysteries about when and how birds migrate must to be solved to effectively protect them. A new paper in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, published by Oxford University Press, identifies a previously overlooked area that is critical for conservation: the region between southern Mexico and Guatemala where songbirds fuel up for a grueling flight across the Gulf of Mexico.

Migration is a dangerous time for birds, especially during flights over large bodies of water. Many birds migrate directly across the Gulf of Mexico, requiring over 600 miles of sustained flight. The details of how the survivors manage this feat of endurance have been murky, especially for species like warblers, whose small size prevented researchers from tracking their full migration routes until recently.

Researchers used light-weight geolocators to identify migration strategies for the vulnerable and declining Golden-winged Warbler, finding 80% of individuals spent a week in southern Mexico and Guatemala to feed and build up reserves for the flight over the Gulf of Mexico in spring migration. The importance of this stopover region was previously unknown for this species, and it needs conservation given the rapid conversion of natural habitats to pasture and farmland.

While most Golden-winged Warblers stopped in this region, not all did. Some that overwintered in northern Central America were able to make the trans-Gulf flight directly from their overwintering grounds without the stopover. "This is an important finding," says Dr. Ruth Bennett of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, "because birds that migrated directly across the Gulf were able to shave a week off their total migration time. These birds may experience a selective advantage in the spring." That is because male Golden-winged Warblers race north in spring migration to establish breeding territories. Results from the study suggest the spring period requires more energy and poses a greater risk of predation and starvation, while fall migration allows for more flexibility to minimize energy costs and avoid risks.

Controversial insecticides shown to threaten survival of wild birds

Date: September 12, 2019
Source: University of Saskatchewan

New research at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) shows how the world's most widely used insecticides could be partly responsible for a dramatic decline in songbird populations.

A study published in the journal Science on Sept. 13 is the first experiment to track the effects of a neonicotinoid pesticide on birds in the wild.

The study found that white-crowned sparrows who consumed small doses of an insecticide called imidacloprid suffered weight loss and delays to their migration -- effects that could severely harm the birds' chances of surviving and reproducing.

"We saw these effects using doses well within the range of what a bird could realistically consume in the wild -- equivalent to eating just a few treated seeds," said Margaret Eng, a post-doctoral fellow in the USask Toxicology Centre and lead author on the study.

Eng's collaborators on the research were biologist Bridget Stutchbury of York University and Christy Morrissey, an ecotoxicologist in the USask College of Arts and Science and the School of Environment and Sustainability.