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.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Nevada Critic: US Plan to Save Bird Strikes 'Death Blow'

A plan by the federal government to protect a wild bird about the size of a chicken in the western United States has brought strong attacks from critics, including ranchers, energy developers, and public officials.

"It's a death blow," Jeff Williams, a commissioner in Elko County, Nev., told The Elko Daily Free Press. “In the rest of the state, it’s a horrible situation ... In Elko County, it’s the whole county. It’s everything we’ve got. It’s recreation, it’s mining, it’s oil, it’s agriculture." 

Feathers were the exception rather than the rule for dinosaurs

Survey of dinosaur family tree finds that most had scaly skin like reptiles.

Birds evolved from dinosaurs, and dinosaur fossils are often covered with impressions of feathers, which made some palaeontologists speculate whether feathers were a common trait that appeared early in their history. Now a team analysing feathers on the overall dinosaur family tree argues this is taking things too far.

Palaeontologists have known for about two decades that theropods, the dinosaur group that contained the likes of Tyrannosaurus andVelociraptor and from which modern birds evolved, were covered in feathery structures from early on in their history.

By contrast, the ornithischian lineage — which contained animals such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus — and the huge, long-necked dinosaurs in the sauropod lineage were considered to be scaly, similar to modern reptiles. Indeed, all evidence pointed in this direction until the discovery, beginning in 20021, 2, of a few ornithischians with filament-like structures in their skin. This led to speculation that feather-like structures were an ancestral trait for all dinosaur groups.

Birds outsmart wasps to feed young

( —A species of bird found in Central and South America is able to supply its young with a steady diet of wasp larvae, evading stings from defending workers by using physical, not chemical tactics as previously thought, Simon Fraser University biologists have found.

The team, led by SFU biological sciences student Sean McCann, spent months at a field station in South America observing the behaviour of the Red-Throated Caracaras, which preys on social wasps despite the wasps' often fierce defense of their nests. Their findings are published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Researchers had previously thought that the birds must produce powerful wasp-repellant chemicals that allow them to take nests without getting stung, but the hypothesis has never been tested," says McCann.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Bird survey at Palamu Tiger Reserve throws up two new species

DALTONGANJ: The three-day bird survey, which concluded on Wednesday, threw up quite a few surprises for the officials of Palamu Tiger Reserve(PTR). Led by veteran ornithologist Prof S Subramaniya of Kerala and Satya Prakash of Hazaribag, the team toured the Maoist-affected tiger reserve throwing caution to the wind.

This was the first-ever survey of its kind to be conducted in PTR. Neha Sinha, advocacy officer with Bombay Natural History Society, Prabhat Thakur, S Subramaniya, Raju Kasamde and Satya Prakash were part of the team that conducted the survey.

Wild Birds Should Fly Free: National Bird Day Puts Our Winged Friends on Center Stage

What does a caged parakeet in Connecticut have in common with a scarlet macaw flying freely in Costa Rica? They are both at risk.

The exotic bird trade remains complex, and related statistics are staggering. The number of "pet" birds in the United States is estimated to be between 8 and 40 million, and is mostly exotic birds, such as parrots and cockatiels. With a parrot's average lifespan running 75 years, these birds will spend agonizing decades in captivity, and will likely outlive many of their owners.

Sunday, January 5, 2014 marks the 13th Annual National Bird Day: a day to recognize the threats facing birds, both in captivity and in the wild. This celebration, launched in 2002 by Born Free USA in coordination with the Avian Welfare Coalition, is a reminder of the plight of our winged friends. It's a day to shine a spotlight on issues critical to the protection and survival of all birds.

New chicks complete avian love story

It could be a fairytale. Two lovers meet, settle down and start a family.
Except it's the love story of two rare birds who found a home and have now welcomed at least two new additions to their family.
Two rare Australasian crested grebes who shacked up on Lake Te Anau weeks ago have now had chicks.

Department of Conservation ranger Carol Gardner built a home raft for the pair earlier in the season, when they were in search of somewhere to settle down and start a family.

The chicks, born a fortnight ago, were the best Christmas present she could ask for, she said.

"It's very exciting. It just makes you feel really good."

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Bird is the word: Four swans a-surfing

Surfin’ birds! Birds do the darndest things.
A group of black swans have been filmed surfing off a beach on Australia’s Gold Coast, to the astonishment swimmers.

Turbine company hire bird expert

A full-time ornithologist is to be employed to monitor winter bird movements around the wind turbine test site at Hunterston.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) will employ the naturalist to ensure there are no negative impacts on the environment surrounding the site.

The sand and mudflats at Hunterston are an important wintering area for a variety of shorebirds, and birdwatchers fear many species may be scared away by the ongoing work.

Gannet chick-eating championships provoke anger from wildlife lovers

The first “world championship” for eating pickled baby gannets, known as “guga”, has sparked new calls for a total ban on the Hebridean tradition of hunting chicks by clubbing them with sticks.

The inaugural world guga-eating contest takes place tonight at Ness Football Club on the Isle of Lewis. Its social club is staging the competition despite opposition from animal rights campaigners, who claim the hunting method is cruel. Twenty contestants will race to eat half a gannet chick with a side dish of potatoes in the quickest time.

The birds are hunted on Sula Sgeir, a rocky, uninhabited islet 40 miles north of Lewis. It takes the first part of its name from the old Norse word for gannet, and residents of Ness district are awarded a special licence to cull 2,000 gannets each year. It is the only place in Britain that hunting seabirds is still allowed after a ban was introduced in 1954.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Victoria Crowned Pigeon Hatches at Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami has announced its first successful hatching of a Victoria Crowned Pigeon! The single chick hatched on November 30 after being artificially incubated in the zoo’s brooder building for 28 days. 

Victoria Crowned Pigeons are the world’s largest living pigeons, reaching a length of nearly 30 inches (76.2 cm) and weighing close to five pounds (2.27 kg). They are one of the closest living relatives of the now extinct Dodo bird. Found in the lowland forests of New Guinea and portions of Indonesia, these stunning birds are classified as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Species' Red List. Main threats are deforestation for logging as well as by hunting for food and their ornate feathers. These birds are found in small flocks on the forest floor foraging for seeds, fruit and snails. Distinguished by their ornate fan of crest feathers and deep red eyes, adults are mainly blue in color with accents of deep burgundy and small highlights of white. 

Pelicans found with pouches slashed in Keys

BIG PINE KEY, Fla. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the deaths of several brown pelicans found with their pouches slashed in the Florida Keys.

Florida Keys Wildlife Refuge Director Maya Totman said Friday that 10 pelicans have been found dead.

The birds are being found with the large pouches they use to catch food almost entirely cut through. The pelicans are left unable to hunt and swallow their food, leaving them to starve to death slowly.

"With the way the cuts are done, fish slide out of the pouch and the bird can't eat. It gets weaker and weaker and dies," Totman tells The Key West Citizen ( )

Eagle has landed but whose is it?

Eagle-eyed Warwick resident Ruggy Singh spotted this bird of prey perched on a porch in Sydenham and helped to have it returned to its owner.
eagle owl (Wikipedia)

Mr Singh took photos of the bird when it landed near his father’s house in Saint Brides Close last Thursday and he also contacted the RSPB.
He was told it was able to hunt animals the size of a Labrador due to its sharp talons and impressive flying power.

It was later caught by a falconer, who contacted staff at Arden Falconry at Hatton Adventure Farm to see if they could care for the owl until the owner was found.

Hatton’s Danielle Shearsby from Leamington, who collected the owl, said: “The bird was healthy and it had obviously been trained, but it didn’t have any ownership rings on it.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Killing of snowy owls at New York's Kennedy Airport prompts suit against federal agencies by Friends of Animals advocacy group

An animal-advocacy group is suing federal agencies to make sure that the killing of snowy owls at Kennedy Airport — a practice that was stopped after being exposed by the Daily News — never resumes.

Friends of Animals has filed suit against the Agriculture Department, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Post reported.

The lawyer representing the group said he wants to make sure the Port Authority can’t just start shooting the majestic white birds again.

“The fact that they stopped the shooting doesn’t make this a moot point,” he said.

Read more:

Killer fat threat to wild birds

The RSPB is urging people not to put the leftover contents of their Christmas dinner roasting tins outside for the birds.

Many people wrongly believe that cooked turkey fat is as beneficial to birds as lard and suet but it is dangerous for several reasons.

It remains soft even when cooled, meaning it could smear onto birds’ feathers and ruin their water-proofing and insulating qualities.

For more information on better bird feeding options, visit

13 bald eagles found dead since Dec. 1; causes of deaths remain unknown

SALT LAKE CITY — More than 12 bald eagles have died in Utah since the beginning of December, and wildlife experts don’t know why.

“We've never had this many birds come in, of one species, coming in as quickly and in this short of time span and having them all die,” said DaLyn Erickson-Marthaler, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah.

Since Dec. 1, at least 13 majestic bald eagles have died. The latest, a 1-year-old female, died Saturday, Dec. 21. She was discovered last week near Centerville by a jogger and was brought to the rehabilitation center in Ogden.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Rare bittern spotted at Cors Dyfi nature reserve

BitternOne of Britain's rarest birds has been caught on camera at a Powys wildlife reserve.

The bittern was spotted at Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Cors Dyfi nature reserve near Machynlleth.
It is one of 52 species on the RSPB Red List of the UK's most threatened birds which also includes the cuckoo and the skylark.

Images of the bittern were taken by a stealth camera installed by the trust in reed beds a year ago.

Emyr Evans, Dyfi 360 and Osprey Project Manager for the trust, said the images show how well the bittern camouflages itself in reed beds.

Dinosaurs could be brought back by 'de-evolving' living birds

A British biochemist suggests that the genetic qualities of today’s birds may be the key to bringing back the gigantic “terrible lizards” that ruled the planet during the Mesozoic era.

Dr Alison Woollard believes that it may be possible to reconstruct dinosaur genomes by altering the DNA of modern birds.

Reconstruction through deconstruction
“We know that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, as proven by an unbroken line of fossils which tracks the evolution of the lineage from creatures such as the velociraptor or T-Rex through to the birds flying around today,” says Dr Woollard, who hails from the Department of Biochemistry at Oxford University.

Anger over shot rare bird

23 December 2013 10:04

Cyprus is facing international     embarrassment after a rare bird, last spotted on the island in 1979, was shot and killed by poachers, a conservation group has said. 

Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly, BirdLife Cyprus spokesperson Tassos Shialis said the local bird watching community is still in shock over the illegal shooting of a Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) within the UN controlled buffer zone near Yeri in Nicosia. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Humans responsible for 269 million annual bird deaths in Canada alone

Canadian scientists publish first-ever human-related bird mortality estimates

December 2013: Scientists with federal government ministry Environment Canada have found that human-related activities destroy roughly 269 million birds and two million bird nests in Canada each year.

Over the past four years, a team of 20 Environment Canada scientists conducted extensive analyses that enabled them to release the first-ever estimates of annual bird mortality from human-related sources.

“Because birds are excellent indicators of biodiversity, the newly-released articles from Environment Canada highlight areas where broader biodiversity may be impacted,” said Dr George Finney, President of Bird Studies Canada. “These results provide a crucial first step toward understanding the relative importance of bird mortality factors, and will inform future research directions, conservation actions and policy decisions.”

Some 99 percent of human-related bird deaths are caused by feral and pet cats, and collisions with buildings, vehicles, and electricity transmission and distribution lines. Cats appear to kill as many birds as all other sources combined. Feral and pet cats are believed to kill more than 100 million birds per year in Canada. An estimated 60 percent of those are killed by feral cats. Bird species that nest or feed on or near the ground are particularly vulnerable to cat predation.

“We are deeply troubled by the disquieting research published today on the number of birds killed every year in Canada due to human-related activities,” said Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “Fortunately, there are concrete and sensible ways that people and governments can prevent the needless death of birds, especially now during the migratory season.”

Rare bird prompts RSPB to step up objections

A wood sandpiper. A NATURE charity has stepped up its opposition to a huge new wind farm earmarked near Strathy by highlighting the threat it claims the venture would have on one of the area’s rare but not popularly highlighted birds.

Objections from ornithologists to SSE’s 47 turbine proposal on a forested area 12 kilometres south of the village in the heart of the Flow Country have centred on species such as golden eagle, hen harrier, merlin and golden plover.

In its latest broadside against the developers, RSPB Scotland has focused on the damage the wind farm could do to the wood sandpiper.

And the conservation charity has accused SSE of failing to properly assess the importance the site has for the species, of which there are reckoned to be fewer than 30 breeding pairs in the UK.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Rare, Black-faced Spoonbills spotted in Candaba swamp

The birds were supposed to be in Hong Kong or the Chinese mainland. But here they were in Candaba, Pampanga, their long black spoon-shaped bills unmistakaeable, as well as their faces covered in black skin instead of avian feathers: the Black-faced Spoonbills. Two of them. 

Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) members Linda Gocon and Brian Ellis spotted the two Black-faced Spoonbills in Candaba on December 19, as they were showing around a group of expatriate missionaries the birds of Candaba. They noticed two larger birds that were mixed among a faraway flock of smaller Black-winged Stilts. Here, unmistakeably, were the Spoonbills.

We can't just sit back and accept decline of these birds

Written byRay Collier

THERE are always reports coming out about birds – mainly associated with doom and gloom and their decline.

These include ones that we have been used to in some numbers such as the starlings and the lapwings.

After all, the starlings are around in huge numbers as the media keeps showing us, with the birds’ amazing roosts.

The lapwing used to breed in almost every field and their spring flight display was always something to look forward to.

With all the doom and gloom one tends to just accept it as though there is nothing we can do about it.

However, the latest report for 2013 should snap us out of this, especially as one newspaper headline said "Scotland’s favourite birds are in freefall".

Chennaiites on a drive to save bird habitats

It's that time of the year when city's bird lovers set out for long walks in the cool morning weather, carrying their binoculars and cameras.

Interestingly, these bird enthusiasts are also taking steps to spread awareness about conservation of bird habitats, inculcate interest among Chennaiites to identify different bird species in the city and also explain how we can avoid dwindling of bird species in Chennai. 

A bird enthusiast, Gayathree Krishna, claims that Chennai has a good range of habitats. "Guindy National Park and Theosophical Society are known for their forest habitats. Whereas, marshes are seen at Pallikaranai and seashore habitats are prominent at Muttukadu and Adyar Estuary," she says, "On a drive down the ECR, one will find rollers and bee eaters perching on wires."

Monday, 23 December 2013

Some Birds Become 'Maiden Aunts' to Defend Relatives' Chicks against Cuckoos

Birds know that there is safety in numbers, which is why some choose against laying eggs and instead become 'maiden aunts' to protect their relatives' chicks against cuckoos, a new study from Australia reported.

The study, conducted by biologists at the Australian National University and their colleagues at the University of Melbourne, found that birds have evolved co-operative breeding to protect their chicks against parasite birds such as cuckoos.

In about nine percent of bird species, some choose to take care of relatives' chicks instead of producing their own brood, according to Dr Naomi Langmore of the ANU Research School of Biology. Biologists often found it hard to explain such behavior.

Kiwi dog attack sparks warning

An adult female kiwi is fighting for its life after being attacked by a fox terrier in the Coromandel.

The dog had been tagging along with a hunting party last week when it attacked the bird, giving it bite wounds to its back and cloaca, as well as severe bruising.

One of the hunters took the bird, now nicknamed Jo, to a vet, and it has since been shifted to Auckland Zoo.

"This kiwi is not out of the woods yet. Our key area of concern is the severity of tissue damage that may be present internally, which we're reassessing," said zoo vet An Pas.

Department of Conservation ranger Christine Friis says the attack is a reminder that any dog of any size can attack and kill a kiwi.

Read more:

Headless Birds Found in San Francisco Believed to be Part of an Animal Sacrifice

Here's your disturbing news of the day: Some headless birds were found near Lake Merced, wrapped in red-and-black sheets and bundled in candles and plants in what appears to be some kind of animal sacrifice.

According to KTVU, workmen stumbled upon the decapitated birds in broad daylight yesterday morning near a frontage road that crews use to work on the gully and fences near the lake.

"Extremely unusual for this to be out here -- we're not even sure what it is," Sgt. Russell Gordon told KTVU.

But over at Animal Care & Control, officers know exactly what it is.

The sheets wrapped around the Chukar partridges were also marked with symbols, leading experts on this grisly topic to believe someone was holding an animal sacrifice ceremony.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

UK bases in Cyprus 'are bird-trapping hotspots'

UK sovereign base areas (SBAs) in Cyprus have become illegal bird-trapping "hotspots", according to research.

The RSPB and BirdLife Cyprus have been monitoring songbird-trapping operations on the island since 2002.

BirdLife Cyprus told BBC News that, in that time, the scale of bird-trapping had increased by 54%.

Although it is widespread, the charity said that some of the largest trapping operations were on UK soil.

These take place on the two British SBAs in Cyprus, at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, sites covering about 100 sq miles that are British sovereign territory and within which the UK maintains a permanent military presence.

Martin Hellicar from BirdLife Cyprus explained that in Dhekelia - in the south-east of the island - organised criminal gangs created "labyrinths" of acacia trees, irrigating the plantations and cutting corridors through them in order to set up long mist nets.

Detailing The Evolution Of Plumage Patterns In Male, Female Birds

Gerard LeBlond for – Your Universe Online

Waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans belong to the order Anseriformes. Game birds such as pheasants, partridges, hens and turkeys are known as the order Galliformes. The birds belonging to both of these orders are recognized not only for their meat, but also for the elegant display of their plumage.

Some members within the orders show differences between male and female, known as sexual dimorphism. Such as with the mallard, the male and female plumage is so different that for years they were thought to be a separate species altogether. However, in some species, various members of the same order show little difference between the two sexes.

Thanh-Lan Gluckman, a Cambridge PhD candidate, has researched this phenomenon and published her findings in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. She notes the similarities and differences in the plumage of almost 300 members of both orders – focusing mainly on the patterning between male and female instead of the color.

Emerald Ash Borer May Have Met Its Match

Dec. 18, 2013 — Woodpeckers find emerald ash borers a handy food source and may slow the spread of this noxious pest, even ultimately controlling it, suggest researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their findings are published online in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

"We found we have a native predator that is able to detect and respond to this new rich food resource," said Charles Flower, UIC postdoctoral research associate in biology and first author of the study.

Since the emerald ash borer was first found feeding on trees in southeastern Michigan in 2002, this Asian invader has been responsible for the death of 30 million trees in the northeastern U.S. and Canada. In Chicago, where the emerald ash borer is already destroying trees, 17 percent of the street trees are ash -- 85,000 trees, with an estimated 300,000 more ash trees on private property.

Murder most fowl in a leafy inner suburb

Doris, the all white peahen.Suburbia can be pitiless and today we have to report the sad news of the violent death in Narrabundah of the most famous of our city's suburban peahens. The all-white bird was last mentioned in this peacock-appreciative column (with this photograph) in March.

Meanwhile, in happier news, as Canberra loses one famous fowl it gains another in the form of a painted portrait of Robert, a kind of Phar Lap of poultry, just acquired by the National Museum of Australia. More of the immortalised Robert in a moment.

But for now, back to the deceased peahen. ''This morning peering out the window,'' our distressed Narrabundah correspondent reports, ''we discovered to our horror that the famous white Narrabundah peacock - attracting special attention in the neighbourhood because of its rarity - was lying [mangled] on our lawn.''

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Babies Abound at Penguin Colony Found by Poop

A recent visit to a remote Antarctic emperor penguin colony found thousands of fuzzy penguin chicks, meaning the colony is even bigger than previously thought.

A team from Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station estimates there are 15,000 penguins living in four groups at the colony, on East Antarctica's Princess Ragnhild Coast. The team counted the number of chicks demanding regurgitated meals from their parents to gauge the total colony size, because the adults were off fishing for food.

State of Jordan’s birds report published

December 2013: Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has published a report on the status of the country’s avifauna. The publication, entitled the State of Jordan’s Birds, provides a detailed assessment of current bird populations, the threats they face, and the conservation actions that are being put in place to safeguard them.

Despite its relatively small size, Jordan has a rich biodiversity that includes over 430 bird species. Situated on a major migration route that connects Europe and Asia with the African continent, passage migrants constitute nearly 80 percent of the country’s avifauna.

Peckish pigeons pose threat to sprout crops

It is an essential part of the annual Christmas dinner, if also one of Britons' least favourite vegetables. But the much-maligned sprout is under surprise attack this year on the eve of the festive season – from hordes of hungry wood pigeons.

Last year the British-grown sprout fell victim to floods and a sustained cold and wet summer, which wreaked havoc on crops and reduced planned volumes by at least a fifth.

This year growing conditions have been better, sprout quality is said to be very good and the yield is expected to be up 10-15%. But sprout farmers are facing an increasing threat to their livelihoods from starving wood pigeons.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Extinct Giant Moa Bird Loses Weight, Strength, in New Study

The extinct giant moa — one of the tallest birds that ever lived — may not have been as massive and strong-boned as previously thought, according to new research.

The scientific name of the giant moa — Dinornis robustus — translates to "robust strange bird," and the species was the largest of at least nine moa bird species that roamed New Zealand's jungles and shrublands for thousands of years, until going extinct about 500 years ago, likely due to overhunting.

Endangered whooping cranes coming to Vermilion

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A new group of 11 young whooping cranes is scheduled to arrive in Vermilion Parish next month in an ongoing project to re-establish the endangered birds in the south Louisiana marshes where they once thrived.

Since the project began in February 2011, 40 of the rare birds have been released at the state's 71,000-acre White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area, and 23 are alive.

Farmers help halt 89 per cent Peewit dip

Farmers along Lough Foyle are working with a local RSPB officer to help halt the decline of the Lapwing, local populations of which have decreased by 89 per cent since 1987.

The RSPB’s Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP), began in 2011, and local farmers have been taking advice from their local Project Officer to tackle many of the problems which have caused such drastic declines of the ‘Peewit.’

Nearly £1.5 million has been given to HELP from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG IVA Programme, which is delivered locally by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The project will run until August 2014 operating in the few remaining hot spots for these birds in Northern Ireland.

Court grounds PETA lawsuit over bird protections

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made what a judge called "some strong arguments," but ultimately failed in a bid to force the Agriculture Department to start protecting the nation's birds.

In a 21-page decision, U.S. District Court James Boasberg dismissed a PETA complaint that had sought to compel the Agriculture Department to start enforcing Animal Welfare Act amendments adopted in 2002. At the same time, the judge offers some tough words aimed at USDA.

"With surprising regularity," Boasberg wrote, "the agency has repeatedly set, missed, and then rescheduled deadlines for the publication of proposed bird-specific regulations."


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Rare bird eggs taken from beach

Eggs have been taken from a critically endangered shorebird's nest on the South Coast.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has expressed concern after the eggs were removed from a critically endangered shorebird nest on Inyadda Beach earlier this month.

Hooded Plovers and other endangered shorebirds are attempting to breed all along the NSW coast at present. The eggs were taken from Inyadda Beach, between Sussex Inlet and Mollymook.

Important court ruling on the mining industry and hen harrier and golden plover habitat in Scotland

December 2013: In a landmark ruling for environmental protection, the Scottish Courts recently ruled that liquidators of collapsed coal companies cannot just abandon polluted mine sites in order to protect funds for their creditors.

Two sites in particular, Grievehill and Powharnal in the Muirkirk and North Lowther Upland of East Ayrshire have been giving cause for concern, said Alexa Morrison, Climate and Energy Policy Officer for RSPB Scotland. “These are areas of international importance and are specially protected. For hen harriers, short-eared owls, merlin, peregrines and golden plovers there is a loss of foraging habitat and disturbance to breeding areas. We’ve seen from past sites that proper restoration of the land hasn’t happened, and we haven’t seen the level of habitat enhancement that we have hoped for.”

Illegal bird trap user caught on camera

A part-time game keeper from Herefordshire has been caught and fined for setting an illegal trap designed to harm birds of prey.

Wayne Edward Priday was ordered to pay more than £500 for using a pole trap - a device with a powerful spring placed on top of a post or pole where birds of prey are likely to perch.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Phuket News: New Zealand's kiwi probably started out an Aussie: study

WELLINGTON: In a finding likely to be a bitter blow for many New Zealanders, researchers have found the country's iconic kiwi bird probably descended from an ancestor that flew in from Australia.

Palaeontologist Trevor Worthy of Adelaide's Flinders University said fossilised remains suggested the flightless bird did not evolve from the extinct giant moa, as has long been assumed.
Instead, he said an ancestor of the kiwi dating back 20 million years discovered in the South Island was more closely related to another giant flightless bird, the emu, which is still common in Australia.

Worthy, himself an expatriate New Zealander, said it appeared the fossilised South Island bird and the emu evolved from a common ancestor, which originated in Australia but also spread to New Zealand.

State approves wind farm despite bird threats

Final approval must come from federal level

Threats to birds didn't stop state regulators from approving an energy-producing wind farm — with towering, whirling blades — planned for Palm Beach County sugar cane fields.

The Sugarland Wind proposal calls for building at least 114 wind-catching, Statue of Liberty-sized turbines that would be spread across 13,000 acres of farmland in western Palm Beach County.

Golden Eagle spotted at Desert National Park

JAISALMER: There's good news for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. The Golden Eagle, generally found in the Himalayan region, for the first time has been spotted at the Desert National Park (DNP).

Generally found in cold regions, spotting these birds in the desert is surprising. Devendra Bhardwaj, deputy director, DNP, said "two Golden Eagles were spotted in D block of Sudasari enclosure in the park".

He said possibly these birds must have forgotten their track and come here. The plumage of the birds show they are juvenile, Bhardwaj added.

Savvy bar-tailed godwit equipped for climate challenge

The bird world's long-distance champion is probably savvy enough to cope with climate change, researchers believe.

The bar-tailed godwit makes the biggest no-stop migration, flying 11,000km from Alaska to New Zealand every autumn.

It relies on the right type of winds to make this epic journey - winds that computer models indicate could become less favourable in the future.

But scientists say the godwit's ability to judge weather conditions means it should rise to the challenge.

Huddle Up: the Surprising Physics of Penguin Movements

When male emperor penguins face the minus-58-degrees-Fahrenheit (minus 50 degrees Celsius), 120-mph (200 km/h) winds of Antarctic winters, the birds rely on their neighbors' bodies to keep themselves — and the eggs that they protecin a pouch near their feet — alive and warm.

Maintaining a massive huddle of thousands of penguins may sound fairly simple, but sticking together in a pack so large turns out to be quite complicated: When one penguin moves a single step, the rest must also move to accommodate the open space and stay warm. In this particular species of penguin, males play the unusual gender role of incubating eggs, so it is especially crucial that they maintain warmth during cold winters. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

New breeding sites found for Asia's rarest bunting

Discovery prompts optimism over Rufous-backed bunting’s survival

December 2013: Three previously unknown breeding sites of Asia’s rarest bunting have been discovered by a team from the Beijing Bird Watching Society working with BirdLife’s China Programme.

The Rufous-backed bunting (Emberiza jankowskii), also known as Jankowski’s bunting, has declined drastically because of conversion of its habitat to farmland, and it is now known only from a restricted area in north-east China.

“These discoveries are very encouraging. When new sites are found we must work with the local government and landowners to protect them,” said Vivian Fu, Assistant Manager of the China Programme.”

In April and May this year, breeding buntings were found at six sites, including three new ones, in the Xing’an League of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. At least 70 birds were identified, mostly singing males. At one previously known site near the Ke’erqin (Horqin) National Nature Reserve, the population had doubled to 41 birds since 2011 after the area was fenced to prevent livestock trampling in the breeding season.

Battle to save barn owl after freak weather kills thousands

Ornithologists say 2013 will be viewed as the worst year ever recorded for one of Britain's favourite farmland birds.

They fear that there are now fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs of barn owls in England, following four years of extreme weather that have resulted in the population of the protected bird declining by more than three-quarters. In a typical year, conservationists estimate, Britain should be home to as many as 4,000 pairs of the birds.

Fears about the decline in the barn owl population have been growing for many years. The birds were a common sight on farmland in Britain a century ago, but numbers had declined by 70% by the early 1980s, according to some reports. Over this summer, the trust warned that the owl was facing a "catastrophe" and now, following an end-of-year assessment, the true scale of the birds' plight has been revealed.

Pesky pigeons gone from Scottish Parliament

SCOTLAND’S parliament is finally free from its pigeon plague after a nine year battle with the birds.

The pesky birds have been peppering the £414m building in Edinburgh with poo since it opened in 2004.

And in 2009, concerned officials called for help from pest control firm NBC to help combat the problem.

As part of a £40,000 annual contract, birds of prey have been flown around the building twice a week in a bid to scare off the feathery fiends.

And now it appears to have worked with the no pigeons currently nesting on the site and the number of bird sightings have dropped by 50%.

Harris hawks and peregrine falcons have won the war against pigeons at Holyrood after scaring the critters away.

Discovery offers Ecuador Amazon parrot 11th hour hope

Ecuador Amazon parrot (Image: Chester Zoo)A South American parrot has been reclassified as a species in its own right, which could help save the bird from becoming extinct in the wild.

Until now, the Ecuador Amazon parrot was considered to be part of a group not seen as a conservation priority.
It is estimated that only 600 of the birds remain in the wild, which need two habitats - mangroves and dry forests - in order to survive.

The reclassification was based on years of work by a researcher at Chester Zoo.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Threatened Listing Proposal Not Enough to Conserve Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Aggressive Habitat Protection, Ending Threats from Tower Collisions and Pesticides Urgently Needed

(WASHINGTON, DC) - American Bird Conservancy (ABC), one of the nation's leading bird conservation groups, says that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to list the western population of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act falls short of providing the necessary protections for the imperiled bird species whose numbers have plummeted in recent decades.

The ABC assertions are contained in a December 2 letter to FWS available here.

Bird Hunting Rears its Head in Chilika

Even as avian visitors throng Chilika lagoon in thousands, hunting of the migratory birds has reared its ugly head. The wildlife authorities on Sunday detected the first case of poaching and arrested a person from Balipatpur.

The Tangi Range of Chilika Wildlife Division seized a dead Open Bill Stork from Nimai Mandal, a local villager. A snare and net were also recovered from his possession. Balipatpur is located near Bhushandapur where the birds roost in large numbers.

This year, about 1.70 lakh birds have already converged at Chilika. Of them, 1.3 lakh are in the 16-sq km Nalabana Sanctuary. Currently, wigeons are in the majority.

Elderly California Gull set for release back into wild

SAN JOSE, Calif. — 

A 28-year-old California Gull considered one of the oldest in North America was set to be released back into the wild Friday after several months of intense rehabilitation, wildlife officials said.

Ashley Kinney, animal care supervisor at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, said the bird was found lying on the ground by a Santa Clara resident back in August.

Illegal bird deaths continue to rise in UK, RSPB report shows

Eurasian buzzard (Buteo buteo), strung up on farm fence in ScotlandUplands losing birds of prey as buzzards, sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons are shot dead or poisoned

Cases of the illegal persecution of British birds are continuing to rise, according to the latest figures from the RSPB.
The Birdcrime report, published on Friday, shows there were 208 reports of the shooting and destruction of birds of prey in 2012, including confirmed shootings of 15 buzzards, five sparrowhawks and four peregrine falcons.

In the same year there were more than 70 reported poisoning incidents including nine buzzards and seven red kites, the report found. But the numbers of poisoning incidents has fallen in recent years, with 101 reports in 2011, 128 in 2010 and 153 in 2009.