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 8 July 2020

New study shows iconic golden eagle was once common throughout Wales

JULY 1, 2020

A new study has shown that golden and white-tailed eagles were widespread and common throughout historic Wales.

Scientists looked at their historical distribution as part of their bid to bring the species, which became regionally extinct in the early-1800s, back to the Welsh countryside.

During their research they gained fascinating insights by looking at archeological, fossil and observational records—and even Welsh place names.

The study also includes the earliest evidence of golden eagles existing in Wales in the Devensian period—the final glacial period in Britain—about 20,000 years ago.

Sophie-lee Williams, 28, who manages the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project as part her Ph.D. at Cardiff University, said: "One of the first challenges for our project was to gather evidence of the past distribution of both eagle species to prove they were once historically native to Wales. In other parts of Britain there's a wealth of data—but in Wales there is a real lack of historical record so we had to be creative. Our research has shown, without doubt, that both species were widespread and common across Wales prior to the 18th Century. We hope this opens up new optimism about restoring these magnificent species to Wales in the near future."

The researchers gathered 151 historic records for eagles across every county in Wales—81 for golden eagles and 70 for white-tailed eagles.

Finn’s weaver faces a risk of extinction

by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi on 23 June 2020

The Finn’s weaver, a lesser-known weaver bird species, currently listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, is in fact at the risk of extinction, according to the Bombay Natural History Society.

The bird prefers the Terai grasslands, found widely in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, but the landscape in these states has undergone changes due to conversion for agriculture and development.

The Uttar Pradesh forest department has initiated a Finn’s weaver conservation and breeding programme in the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Finn’s weaver (Ploceus megarhynchus) is listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. However, the bird is at the risk of extinction, alerts the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) a wildlife research organisation in India that is looking to update the bird’s IUCN listing.

According to BNHS director Deepak Apte, the status of the bird is extremely precarious with real threat of extinction. “We have released a species recovery plan and are trying our best to list the species in the IUCN Red List as a Critically Endangered species. We are also working closely with respective state governments where the species is found, as well as with the government of India,” Apte told Mongabay-India via email.

Mountain meadow restoration can bring birds back

JUNE 25, 2020

by Point Blue Conservation Science

In a new study led by scientists at Point Blue Conservation Science and in collaboration with The Institute for Bird Populations, authors evaluated the successes of mountain meadow restorations by analyzing eight years of bird data collected by field biologists. The authors concluded that, when "pond and plug" and similar techniques were followed, the number of birds of many species increased over time as habitat conditions improved.

The paper, published in Restoration Ecology, may prove of particular value to restoration practitioners, many of whom rely on peer-reviewed scientific journal articles to guide their work.

"This paper is the culmination of many years of work monitoring meadows. And it definitely increases the amount of evidence we have that one of the most commonly used approaches is having the effects we want," says Brent Campos, a lead author of the study.

Cont ..

Sunday 5 July 2020

Survey estimates much higher Alberta bird populations than thought


There may be many, many more songbirds in Alberta forests than previously thought, say University of Alberta scientists who have come up with a new way of counting them.

But researchers say that while the new counts may be good news – some estimates are more than 10 times higher – they don’t change the overall declining trend of the province’s boreal songbirds.

“Our estimates just highlight that our understanding is incomplete,” said Peter Solymos, whose paper was recently published in The Condor, the journal of the American Ornithological Society. “We need to understand the limitations.”

Bird populations across the continent have been in decline for years. A paper last fall estimated populations have dropped by three billion overall since the 1970s.

Numbers have been estimated for years using data from the Breeding Bird Survey, which uses a standard, consistent method across North America.

Solymos said that survey uses assumptions and techniques that may distort Alberta results. It sends counters out along prescribed roads, stopping at regular distances and counting birds heard and seen within a certain time. Those raw numbers are adjusted to account for factors such as birds singing more at some times of day than others.

Solymos said that may work in southern Alberta and the United States, where roads go almost everywhere. But northern Alberta is full of roadless bush. Roadside counts bias results in favour of roadside habitat.

“Roads are usually built in upland environments and go through upland vegetation. (As well), you get the disturbed habitat along the road.

“You get a nonrandom sample. You have to go into the bush.”

Solymos took the bird survey data and combined it with dozens of off-road bird surveys done over the years for forestry companies and agencies such as the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute.

Out of 81 bird species, Solymos came up with significantly higher estimates for 45 of them. Four species – crows, goldfinches and two types of sparrow – came in lower, and the rest were comparable.

Solymos came up with populations estimates that are, on average, 3.7 times higher.

Some differences are huge. The Breeding Bird Survey puts 70,000 blackpoll warblers in Alberta; Solymos reckons 1.3 million.

Jeff Wells, head of boreal conservation for the Audubon Society, calls Solymos’s work significant.

“It may show that there are more birds in the intact boreal than we thought, which is good news. It means we still have lots of chances to keep them that way.”

France reprimanded over controversial bird hunting practices


Paris has ignored a letter of formal notice sent by the European Commission in July last year, which calls on French authorities to stop illegal bird hunting.

The French government even doubled down in May by publishing a decree, which maintains controversial bird hunting techniques that are prohibited at EU level.

Vivian Loonela, EU Commission spokesperson on the environment, says the infringement case was still open.

“The Commission is aware of the publication of this new decree and will consider this new element in the follow up of the case,” she told EURACTIV in emailed comments.

“The Commission is requesting France to ban non-selective hunting practices, such as glue and nets, which are not in line with the requirements of this Birds Directive,” Loonela said.
While EU countries “may derogate from certain provisions of the directive,” they may only do so “under strict conditions that are not fulfilled in this case,” Loonela explained.

The controversial hunting techniques are decried by the Ligue de protections des oiseaux (LPO), a French conservation NGO affiliated to BirdLife International.

According to conservationists, the French law is illegal because it allows hunting bird species that are in bad conservation state. It also allows the hunting of migratory birds and maintains traditional hunting practices like birdliming, which are “not selective and harms species”.

When it comes to bird hunting, France is an EU outlier, says Yves Verilhac, who represents BirdLife International in France.

“64 species can be hunted in France, contrary to Netherlands which authorises only 2. The average in the EU is 30 species, making France the most lenient country towards hunters,” he claims.

The list of species authorised for hunting in France also includes migratory birds like the greylag goose, whose hunting is “illegal” because it prevent them from flying further North than France, says Verilhac.

In Brussels, the European Commission appeared to back this argument. Loonela said the EU executive “pays particular attention to the compliance of hunting practices in France because 20 of the 64 huntable species are not in favourable conservation status.”

The Commission has opened a new procedure “asking France to step up protection of the Turtle dove as hunting contributes to the decline of this species,” Loonela said.

For bird protection NGOs, the most controversial is undoubtedly traditional hunting techniques like birdliming and nets, which “are not selective” and harm protected species.


Experiment shows it is possible for fish to migrate via ingestion by birds

JUNE 23, 2020 REPORT
by Bob Yirka ,
A team of researchers from the Danube Research Institute and the National Agricultural Research and Innovation Centre, both in Hungary, and Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Spain reports that is it possible for fish eggs to survive the trip through the bird digestive tract and subsequently to hatch. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their experiments with birds and fish eggs and what they found.
Fish have been found swimming in extremely isolated lakes over the years, raising the question of how they got there. Prior research has shown that most such fish are related to fish in other less isolated areas, which suggests that fish in isolated places must have somehow migrated there. Scientists have suggested that the most obvious explanation for such migration is fish eggs being consumed by birds who carry them in their digestive tracts and then deposit them in a new locale when they defecate. Surprisingly, no one has thought to test this theory until now.

Friday 3 July 2020

Dawn song of the male great tit attracts other males rather than females

JUNE 23, 2020

Female great tits (Parus major) stay clear of territories with better singing males while competing males are attracted to the territories with better singers. This unexpected conclusion was reached by researchers of Wageningen University & Research in collaboration with the Netherlands Instituut for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). This conclusion is diametrically opposed to the current assumption that male birds use their song to impress females and repel males to stay away from their territory.
Previous research showed that songbirds often cheat on their partners. One would thus expect male birds to use their song to lure any close-by females. But nature tells a different story, the research team discovered.
"Our knowledge to date on the daily behavior between males and females is largely based on knowledge under lab condition because it is so difficult to follow a songbird for a long time," professor Marc Naguib explains. "We know what colors are prefered by the females, and what songs they prefer if they exhibit an immediate reaction. But how they show territorial behavior and respond to males in the open field was hitherto almost unknown."
Dawn song attracts male competition
Ph.D. researcher Nina Bircher and her co-authors expected that the most enthusiastic singers would attract the most female interest. This appeared completely false. The male great tits with the most extensive repertoire that started singing the earliest and showed the most persistence attracted fewer females. Male great tits, however, entered their singing competitor's territory, captivated by the performance, the researchers write in the scientific journal Behavioral Ecology.
The reason for this behavior remains a mystery. Naguib: "Males may enter the competitor's territory to check out why the competitor is better than they are, or why he may be more suited to produce offspring." Whatever the reasons, the discovery sheds new light on the complexity of songbirds social and communication network.
The prevailing assumption that the female great tit would more frequently enter a different territory when she is fertile is thus not supported. The premise is she would visit other territories specifically for extra-pair mating. In reality, however, this research shows that she enters territories other than her own once she has laid eggs in an effort to find food for her young.