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, 31 May 2013

Scottish Bean goose population given helping hand by Forestry Commission Scotland

Landscape partners work together in conservation effort
May 2013. Scotland's only population of a rare arctic goose will be better protected in future thanks to the purchase of a site in North Lanarkshire by Forestry Commission Scotland.

The Commission has bought a 90ha area of land that lies between its 176ha site at Fannyside Muir, near Cumbernauld, and the nearby Fannyside Loch.

The newly acquired site - which includes a substantial area of deep peat bog - forms part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area designated by Scottish Ministers under the EU Birds Directive. The site is the regular over-wintering ground of Scotland's only flock of taiga bean geese which numbers over 200 birds and represents more than half of the UK wintering population.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for the Environment & Climate Change said: "Deep peat bogs are vitally important habitats and also play an important role as carbon sinks, locking up large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) that would, if released, contribute to climate change.

200 Bean geese
"The wider area is also very important for over 200 Bean Geese that fly here every autumn to escape the worst of the Scandinavian winter. Forestry Commission Scotland can now incorporate this important site and the deep peat bog it contains into their management plan and can also work with the other landscape partners in the area - SNH, SWT and RSPB Scotland - to make sure that the mosaic of habitats is protected and improved for these birds and for other animal, plant and insect species in the area."

Maintain as peat bog
There are no plans to plant trees on the site - or to extract peat - which means that approximately 25,000t carbon (equivalent to >90,000tCo2) will remain locked up in the deep peat soils present on the site.

Bean geese in UK
Bean Geese are a species of European Conservation Concern. They breed in north Scandinavia, north Russia and north Asia but overwinter at this north Lanarkshire site and one other site in Britain. Bean Geese are an RSPB Amber conservation priority.

Little John rules the roost as the world’s biggest cockerel

When it comes to the question of who is the world’s biggest cockerel, Little John rules the roost.

He stands an impressive 66cm (26in) tall and terrifies small children on his owner Jeremy Goldsmith’s Mountfitchet Castle estate.

The secret to the huge bird’s size is a craving for popcorn.

He also helps himself to crisps and sandwiches from visitors to the 4ha (10-acre) grounds in Stansted, Essex.

Mr Goldsmith, 45, said: ‘Little John looks massive compared to the other cockerels and chickens we have on the estate.

‘I think he has grown so big just because he is treated well and you don’t get more free range then here.’

Mr Goldsmith is confident Little John is a world-beater because he reared the previous titleholder, Melvin, who was 60cm (24in) tall.

A Guinness spokesman said: ‘If that measurement is verified then Little John would take the Guinness World Records title for tallest cockerel.’

Brahmas are an Asiatic breed of chicken that originated from China and were known as ‘Shanghai’ birds.

Barn Owl Project to help preserve endangered birds

In Thailand, people believe that barn owls will bring them bad luck. Let's say if the bird is resting on the roof of someone's house, it is believed that death is brought there at their door step. Someone will die.

However, a group of Thais today are trying to change such superstitions, for they say that barn owls are in fact quite useful in helping farmers catch and kill rats and mice on their farms.

Such help is obvious in oil palm plantation and rice paddy fields. Usually, a barn owl catches and eats one or two rats every day, making a big dent on the rat population at 350-700 rats annually.

Having the birds in your farm then becomes a very good thing, but due to the Thai belief and ratsbane and other poisons used on farms, the number of barn owls has dropped dramatically almost to the point of extinction.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

DoC endangered bird teams to merge

The Department of Conservation is to merge the teams that protect two of the country's most endangered birds.

The Kakapo and Takahe recovery teams will start working together in September, once the department's restructuring plans are finalised.

DOC says it is a sensible, practical way to share knowledge and resources to support the recovery of both species.

The department's director of delivery review, Barry Hanson says merger will allow teams to share scientific and technical expertise and benefit both kakapo and takahe species.

"The synergies of the two programmes are such that I would describe having them work in one team as an improvement rather than as a step back."

But Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell says the department and the Conservation Minister have backtracked on a promise to ensure restructuring would not affect endangered species.

"Particularly with the kakapo team, we were told the science component would not be reduced, but this is showing that it is. It's being diluted because those people, those positions, are going to have to now cover two quite demanding species."

Move over Usain! Feathered Bolt sells for $400,000 after only 1 year in priciest pigeon sale

BRUSSELS — Flying high above Europe’s economic crisis, a local lightning-fast pigeon called Bolt became the world’s most expensive racing bird when his Belgian breeder sold it for 310,000 euros ($400,000) to a Chinese businessman.

One-year-old Bolt, named after the Jamaican Olympic superstar sprinter Usain Bolt, and with an outstanding pedigree of proven champions to match, was the latest Belgian-bred pigeon to claim record prices. Yet the sums paid surprised anyone involved in the sport, auction house Pipa said. The previous record for a sale of a single bird stood at 250,000 euros ($322,000) from January 2012.

“I was stunned by the prices offered, “ Pipa CEO Nikolaas Gyselbrecht said Tuesday.

Novel Disease in Songbirds Demonstrates Evolution in the Blink of an Eye

May 28, 2013 — A novel disease in songbirds has rapidly evolved to become more harmful to its host on at least two separate occasions in just two decades, according to a new study. The research provides a real-life model to help understand how diseases that threaten humans can be expected to change in virulence as they emerge.

"Everybody who’s had the flu has probably wondered at some point, 'Why do I feel so bad?'" said Dana Hawley of Virginia Tech, the lead author of the study to be published in PLOS Biology on May 28, 2013. "That’s what we’re studying: Why do pathogens cause harm to the very hosts they depend on? And why are some life-threatening, while others only give you the sniffles?"

Disease virulence is something of a paradox. In order to spread, viruses and bacteria have to reproduce in great numbers. But as their numbers increase inside a host’s body, the host gets more and more ill. So a highly virulent disease runs the risk of killing or debilitating its hosts before they get a chance to pass the bug along. It finds the right balance through evolution, and the new study shows it can happen in just a few years.

Lydd Airport extension decision prompts legal challenge from RSPB

High stakes
May 2013. The RSPB has issued a legal challenge to the Government's decision to allow the expansion of Lydd Airport in Kent. The proposals - which will damage the nearby protected wildlife area of Dungeness - was given the go ahead in April by Eric Pickles, the communities and local government secretary, and Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary.

‘Dungeness is one of the most important wildlife sites in the world'

Chris Corrigan, RSPB South East Regional Director, said: "Dungeness is one of the most important wildlife sites in the world; it is protected at global, European and UK levels. It is home to species found hardly anywhere else in the UK. It is also a crossroads for migrating birds stopping off on their epic global journeys.

"The RSPB has been protecting birds and the wildlife of Dungeness for over a century - our commitment to the area is deep and profound. Over recent years, our concerns about the impact of expanding nearby Lydd Airport led to the need to argue our case at a Public Inquiry. The inspector found in favour of the Airport's proposals - and his report was completely endorsed in the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and for Transport's Decision. We are profoundly concerned about this decision as it seems perverse.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pa. to protect endangered birds on Susquehanna

By Myles Snyder - email


The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced it will take steps to protect two of the state's endangered birds with a limited culling of double-crested cormorants, a species that has been increasingly dominating a nesting area on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg.

Culling was first used in 2006, and was used again in 2011 and 2012, to protect a colony of great egrets and black-crowned night-herons on Wade Island.

Dan Brauning, supervisor of the Game Commission's Wildlife Diversity Section, said Wade Island is home to the state's largest nesting colony night-herons and great egrets.

Cormorants, which were at one time rare in Pennsylvania, have been increasing rapidly in their numbers, and their abundance has led to increased conflicts other birds, their food supply, and vegetation.

A Game Commission survey conducted earlier this month showed that great egret nests decreased slightly from 185 to 181, and night-heron nests dropped from 67 to 48, compared to May 2012.

Brauning said the current number of night-heron nests is the second-lowest in 28 years of nest surveys on Wade Island.

He said extreme care will be taken so that the nesting of endangered species on the three-acre island is not disturbed, and the culling efforts will be stopped immediately if there is a perceived threat to egrets or herons.

Pelicans used as target practice in WA

WILDLIFE officers believe pelicans are being used as target practice, after two birds were found shot with arrows in separate incidents in Western Australia.

WA's Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) is appealing for information from the public following the shocking attacks on the pelicans over the past week near Mandurah.

Last Monday, an adult pelican was found at Soldiers Cove, near the Mandurah estuary bridge, with a target arrow through its chest.

A volunteer retrieved the bird, which had to be put down because of severe internal injuries.

Less than a week later, an adult pelican was shot through both wings with a hunting arrow at nearby Samphire Cove. Another volunteer retrieved this bird, which is being rehabilitated.

DEC wildlife officer Cameron Craigie said the attacks were being investigated by DEC, WA Police and RSPCA.

"Using animals like pelicans for target practice or hunting is something that is not only illegal, it is inhumane and cruel," Mr Craigie said.

"The pelican shot on Sunday is extremely lucky to have survived as the arrow has not caused significant damage to any bones or vital organs."

A maximum penalty of $4,000 applies for injuring or killing pelicans in WA.

Anyone with information about the attacks can contact DEC's Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Big bird rescued from NY canal

NEW YORK — Police say a big bird — possibly an emu — has been rescued from a Long Island canal.

Suffolk County police used ropes Monday to pull the bird out of the water in Copiague (KOH'-payg).

According to Newsday ( ), initial police reports said a 200-pound ostrich was running "northbound on East Riviera." Then the bird went into the drink.

The soggy creature was eventually returned to its owner in Lindenhurst.

Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk County SPCA says it is legal to own an emu — though town regulations might vary.

Information from: Newsday,

UPDATE:  The emu has since died. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The dawn chorus is dying out as bird numbers decrease

ANYONE awakened by bird song this morning should cherish the moment.

For the dawn chorus, inspiration of poets and composers down the years, is losing its virtuoso performers.

While town birds are increasing the decibels to compete with urban noise, the countryside is slipping slowly towards an eerie silence.

Many of the iconic birds whose mating calls ring out across woodlands and open fields during early May are vanishing at an alarming rate.

The sounds of the cuckoo, nightingale and turtle dove are enshrined in British folklore, but as bird lovers rise today to celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day, there are fears that there will be fewer birds of fewer types and fewer songs with each passing year.

The recently released State of the UK’s Birds report reveals that the populations of both summer migrants and many resident species have declined over recent years.

Cuckoos and nightingales have declined by 62 per cent and 52 per cent respectively since the Nineties, while there are a startling 93 per cent fewer turtle doves since the Seventies. Other key choristers such as the willow warbler, skylark and dunnock are also disappearing.

Bird Lovers Sue to Save Dying Swallows

Netting designed to keep the birds out of a bridge in Petaluma has instead been attracting -- and trapping -- the protected species.

By Karina Ioffee, Patch Editor

After watching swallows die en masse in Petaluma, bird lovers are fighting back.

Conservation and animal protection groups filed a lawsuit last week against the state and federal transportation agencies for failing to remove netting under the Highway 101 bridge they blame for killing more than 100 birds over the past month. 

The groups include Native Songbird Care, a Sebastopol-based nonprofit, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Madrone, Marin and Golden Gate Audubon societies. 

The netting was placed under the bridge earlier this spring to prevent cliff swallows from nesting there. The birds are federally protected and construction work cannot occur if they are found under a bridge, a favor nesting site for cliff swallows. The netting was placed in preparation for the Sonoma-Marin Narrows project.   

Instead of avoiding the spot, the birds continued to gather under the bridge, get entangled and die, according to the plaintiffs. The site is only accessible from the Petaluma River, although it can be seen from Petaluma Boulevard South. 

“Incompetence and indifference by Caltrans is killing swallows that have just travelled 6,000 miles to return to a traditional nesting site, which the agency should have known about,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. 

Caltrans could not be immediately reached. In early May, the agency said it had closed the gaps in the netting that were causing cliff swallows to get tangled and said biologists were inspecting work sites at the Petaluma River Bridge and the State Route 116 interchange. 

Cliff swallows are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Conservation activists say Caltrans should remove the netting completely and add Teflon coating to the side of the bridge to prevent the birds from landing there. 

The lawsuit was filed by the Cotati-based Animal Legal Defense Fund in federal court in the Northern District of California. The Washington, D.C. law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal is assisting in the lawsuit.

How bird song could help save species

Thursday, 23 May, 2013 - 10:27

Translocation - or moving animals to safer places - is a vital tool for saving species from extinction. Many factors influence the success of these new populations, including habitat quality, predators, capture and release techniques, the number and sex of individuals, and their genetic diversity. Now new research, the first of its kind, published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology suggests bird song could also be important.

Ecologists from the University of Waikato and Lincoln University studied the North Island kokako, an iconic bird with a haunting, organ-like song. Once widespread in the North Island, loss of habitat by deforestation and predation by rats, possums and stoats decimated the population. By 1999, fewer than 400 pairs remained, and between 2001 and 2007, several pairs were moved from Te Urewera National Park to two other reserves: Boundary Stream Mainland Island and Ngapukeriki.

To find out how moving the kokako has affected their song, the researchers made hundreds of recordings in the three populations and analysed differences in song using sonograms. They then used playback experiments to discover how birds from one population reacted to another populations' song.

They found the songs of translocated birds had diverged substantially from the source population, becoming less diverse with shorter and higher-pitched elements. According to Dr Laura Molles from Lincoln University, who supported PhD student and lead author, Sandra Valderrama from the University of Waikato: "Not only how kokako sing in translocated populations, but also what they sing differs from kokako in the source population."

The greatest changes were found in the population that had been translocated for longest, indicating the songs may become more different over time. But despite the divergence between each population's song, the playback experiments showed that the birds could not yet tell them apart.

"The songs diverge because birds such as kokako learn their songs from parents, siblings and neighbours. As translocation usually involves only a small number of indivuals, they will take with them only a small portion of all the song elements in the larger source population. Subsequent variation in small populations will depend on that subset of songs and will then differ from the larger song pool in the source population," Dr Molles explains.

The study has important implications for conservation. Although in this study the kokako populations have not been separated for long enough to cause song incompatibility, it will occur in time, the authors say. Once that happens, releasing additional birds into these populations could be problematic because song incompatibility could make interbreeding diffficult.

Unacceptable': Buzzard nests and eggs destroyed to increase pheasant shoots

THE destruction of nests and eggs of protected birds buzzards that was licensed by a Government agency has been criticised as 'unacceptable' by the RSPB today.

Published: Thu, May 23, 2013

Government agency Natural England issue the first ever license to destroy four buzzard nests to prevent the protected birds preying on young pheasants at shoot.

The shoot owners, who said buzzards were damaging their business , were given permission to destroy the eggs and nests between April 23 and May 8.

The license was uncovered through the Environmental Information Regulations, which is equivalent to a a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Martin Harper, conservation director at the RSPB, criticed the lethal control of buzzards claiming it was 'unjustified' and 'unacceptable'.

He said: "Most of us celebrate the fact that buzzards are now regularly seen soaring in our skies. They are a conservation success story but we cannot take their return for granted.

The shoot owners said buzzards were damaging their business

I think that it is wrong for Natural England to issue buzzard control licences to protect commercial interests

Martin Harper from the RSPB: "I think that it is wrong for Natural England to issue buzzard control licences to protect commercial interests.

"It is wrong that there has been no public scrutiny of these decisions and it is wrong that we only heard of these decisions after the nests may have been destroyed."

The RSPB said buzzards, who are recovering from declines caused by persecution, accounted for one to two per cent of pheasant losses from shoots.

They added that there were other non-lethal ways to protect shoots from birds of prey.

Natural England claim that species could cause problems in isolated cases.

In a statement the government agency said: "The buzzard population in the locality remains particularly high and concentrated and we are confident that the local conservation status will not be adversely impacted by the destruction of this small number of nests."

Monday, 27 May 2013

Are bird spikes a humane way to deal with problem pigeons? Read more:

CTV Ottawa 
Published Friday, May 24, 2013 6:41PM EDT 
Last Updated Friday, May 24, 2013 6:54PM EDT

It was not a good day for Rachel Belway. The Ottawa woman arrived at her Somerset Street office to find more than one dead or injured bird around the building.

One, an injured pigeon, was bleeding and appeared to have a damaged wing. Belway believes that newly-installed bird spikes are to blame.

Bird spikes are a series of long, sharp wires jutting up from surfaces on which birds like to land and possibly nest. They are legal, common in many cities, and often recommended as a humane way to deter problem birds. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources recommends them as one of many ways to deal with problem pigeons.

But Belway thinks the pigeon flew into the spikes and became injured. “I think it's animal cruelty. I don't see how they're less special than any other bird" she says.

It’s a possible scenario, says one pest control expert. Birds fly into things all the time. Another bird specialist says the spikes might not even be the problem. "There's a lot of things that can hurt pigeons, especially downtown. It could have hit a window. It could have been hit by a car" says Mae Goguen of the Ottawa Wild Bird Care Centre.

But the pigeon wasn’t the only bird tragedy for Rachel Belway. On another side of the building, away from the spikes, she found three dead young birds on the sidewalk. She believes they had been knocked out of a nearby nest. If that’s true, it could be illegal. "If a nest has eggs, at that point it becomes illegal to move them” says Goguen.

There’s nothing Rachel Belway can do about the baby birds. But she maintains the bird spikes will do more harm than good. She wants them removed.

Hawai'i May Face Federal Prosecution Over Bird and Other Wildlife Deaths

Light pollution from certain street lights causing fatal attraction.

(WASHINGTON DC) - The Federal Government has warned the State of Hawai'i that it should either enter a plea agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) or face criminal prosecution, including possible jail time, in connection with the deaths of a large number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and other wildlife caused by the continued use of certain street lights that are attracting the wildlife and ultimately causing their deaths.

According to a January 2013 state government memo from Deputy Attorney General Laura Kim, on December 20, 2012, the DOJ notified the Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) of a multi-year investigation of DOT lights that are causing unlawful take (killing) of birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), as well as turtle and moth species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Although DOJ stated that the investigation is statewide, the priority is on Oahu where DOJ claims a considerable number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, which are protected by the MBTA, have been injured by DOT lights.

According to media reports in the Honolulu Civil Beat, since 2007, the DOT has required all new lighting projects to use full cutoff lens fixtures, which help reduce light pollution. These shielded lights protect certain seabirds that can become disoriented when flying, leading to their injury or death.

The state has installed roughly 1,800 of these lights along highways, Ala Moana Boulevard, and other roads. There are approximately 11,000 lights under DOT’s jurisdiction, according to DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter.

$3K reward offered for killing of rare whooping crane in Red River Parish

NEW ORLEANS — A hunter in northwest Louisiana has shot and killed one of the first whooping cranes brought to Louisiana in an attempt to re-establish the highly endangered species in the state.

State and federal authorities are offering a $3,000 reward for information about whoever killed one of the world’s rarest birds. There are only about 600 alive.

One clue is that a somewhat unusual cartridge was used to shoot the 3-year-old female crane.

Gabe Giffin, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement division spokesman, says the National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., analyzed a plastic fragment found in the bullet’s track. He says scientists believe it came from a .264-caliber or 6.5mm bullet with a polymer tip.

“That’s not the only thing we’re hoping on. But we can hopefully get some information on our tip hotline because of that,” he said Monday.

About 412 whooping cranes live in the wild and about 200 in captivity. This one was among 10 released in March 2011, when federal and state authorities began trying to build a self-sustaining flock in southwest Louisiana. Forty have been released in all. Twenty-five are still alive.

“The shooting of this whooping crane is an insult to all law abiding hunters. We ask the public to please share any information that will lead us to the shooter,” said Luis Santiago, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent in charge for the Southeast Region.

Giffin said the plastic fragment was found during necropsy at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.

Scientists in Madison are still trying to learn the cause of a younger whooper’s death in May, said Robert Love, administrator of Wildlife and Fisheries’ coastal and nongame resources division. That bird was emaciated but apparently died of natural causes, he said. It was in a group of three; when it didn’t move on with the other two, biologists went looking for it.

Based on data from the older bird’s GPS tracker, investigators believe it was shot between April 10 and April 14. The body was found April 16, about two miles northwest of Loggy Bayou in Red River Parish — the spot where the last GPS transmission was made April 14. The last movements tracked were nearby on April 10.

First osprey chicks appearing across the country

Worrying incident as nest robber is disturbed
May 2013. Osprey chicks have been appearing across the UK in the last week, and, amazingly, more osprey eggs too. We think the first chicks to hatch were, as usual, in north Wales, at the Glaslyn Osprey project. Amazingly, just a few miles down the road, the Cors Dyfi ospreys have laid their first egg of the season and it's one of the latest eggs ever laid by an osprey in the UK. Plentiful chicks have hatched in Rutland and more are on the way, but, worryingly, it appears that an egg collector tried to rob an osprey nest on the Threave Estate in Scotland.

At least 6 chicks have already hatched at Rutland Water, the spiritual home of ospreys in England, and there are two more nests yet to produce. More about Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

Lake District
A Pair of ospreys have nested again in the Lake District, and eggs have been laid.

Loch of the Lowes - Remarkable ‘Lady' lays 4 eggs!
The veteran osprey, known as ‘Lady' has laid 4 eggs this year. She didn't lay her first until later than usual, and there were concerns that perhaps she was infertile, but she has confounded everyone by laying 4 eggs. Read how to see the ospreys at the Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve

Boat of Garten - 4 eggs
The regular pair at the Boat of Garten are also incubating 4 eggs. More about Loch Garten

Tweed Valley ospreys - First Scottish chick
A pair of ospreys in the Tweed Valley have hatched what is believed to be the first Scottish Osprey chick of the year, and have two more eggs as well.

Threave ospreys - Egg collector scared off!
Unbelievable as it is in this day and age, it appears that an egg collector was disturbed whilst trying to raid the osprey nest on the Threave Estate. A man in tree climbing gear was disturbed by a member of the public near the nest - Read more

Osprey egg snatch thwarted on Threave Estate
Threave Estate provides a safe haven for many species of birds, mammals and insects. The estate covers some 1500 acres and contains a wide range of habitats, including farmland, woodland, marshes and a two mile stretch of the River Dee. Osprey nest watch now in place
May 2013. Countryside Rangers from conservation charity, the National Trust for Scotland are keeping a 24 hour watch on the Threave Estate's ospreys after a suspected attempt to steal the nesting birds' eggs.
On the evening of Monday 20 May, a member of the public who happened to be in the area spotted a man in full climbing gear and rig making for the ospreys' tree top nesting platforms. After a shouted challenge the man ran away. Later, fresh vehicle tracks were found in the vicinity. The incident was reported to the police.

Ospreys have nested here since 2007
The site has been host to ospreys each year since 2007, when the Trust's countryside staff, in conjunction with arboriculturalist Ciril Ostroznik, first erected nesting platforms as part of a conservation project. Success came in 2009 when eggs were laid and successfully hatched.

Although located on private land, the platforms are viewed from the National Trust for Scotland's Threave Estate near Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway.

Tom Hall, the Trust's Osprey Ranger for Threave said: "This was a close shave. Thanks to the vigilance and initiative of a member of the public the ospreys' nest has been left undisturbed. Loss of the eggs would have been a disaster for osprey conservation - a raid on the nest may have discouraged breeding pairs from returning to Threave in the future.

Osprey watch to keep them safe
"Thanks to the warped and selfish minds of people who collect rare birds' eggs, there is a thriving black market and this is probably what led to this contemptible attempt to reach the nesting platform. Having notified the police, we have arranged a rota of staff and volunteers to keep a constant watch on the nest over the next two to three weeks until such time as the eggs hatch. If anyone makes another attempt to raid the nest, they will be caught."

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Conservation agency approved cull of endangered birds, documents show

Natural England licensed cull of tens of thousands of lesser black-backed gulls on one of England's largest shooting estates

Tens of thousands of endangered birds have been shot, trapped and poisoned on one of England's largest shooting estates with the approval of the government agency responsible for protecting the species, a Guardian investigation has found.

The government has licensed an annual cull of lesser black-backed gullson the Abbeystead estate on the Bowland Fells in Lancashire for decades, officially to stop water pollution. However, some experts believe the culling was also partly to protect grouse shooting interests.

The regulator Natural England now admits that, since a government-led bird conservation review occurred in 2001, "confusion" over the legal protection status of the species has allowed the culling to continue, despite its population crashing in recent years.

Chris Packham, the BBC Springwatch presenter and naturalist, has described the situation as a "travesty" and the RSPB is now calling for an urgent review.

The 23,500-acre Abbeystead estate was bought in 1980 by a trust "on behalf" of the Duke of Westminster, one of the UK's richest landowners. The duke's Grosvenor Estate manages the Abbeystead estate, which hosts pheasant and grouse shoots.

The estate was first allowed to cull the gulls in the 1970s on the grounds that droppings were polluting the watercourse. The licence to cull was last renewed by NE in 1999. But a former Abbeystead gull surveyor has admitted that the culling has been conducted, in part, to protect the "economy of the shooting estates". The species is known to eat grouse eggs.

Bird-Flavored Ice Cream Available In Parakeet, Cockatiel, Sparrow Flavors

Mint chocolate chirp?

Not quite.

Torimi Cafe in Japan, known for serving up tea and homemade ice cream while allowing customers to sit among birds, hatched up a new gimmick: pet bird-flavored ice cream.

The cafe debuted its Java Sparrow, Parakeet, and Cockatiel flavors at a department store's small bird expo last week, according to Rocket News 24.

Don't worry -- the desserts just imitate a bird's flavor. No fowl play.

But what can tasters expect?

We're not sure. The business' flavor descriptions leave us even more befuddled than we were when we first heard of bird-flavored ice cream.

Cockatiel, for example, contains honey-apple, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds, and tastes as if "you're sleeping with your mouth open and your cockatiel runs over your face and gets its leg in your mouth."

Thanks for that imagery, Torimi Cafe.

While most companies are steering clear of bird-flavored anything, weird ice cream variations pop up all the time. In Brazil, one beer brand introduced beer-flavored ice cream, asking customers, "Shall we go to the bar to have an ice cream?"

Precious penguins needing better protection

12:56 PM Sunday May 19, 2013 

Extending a ban on set net fishing around the Otago Peninsula will stem the deaths of one of the rarest penguin species in the world, the native yellow-eyed penguin, Forest and Bird says. 

An international review published in the Journal of Biological Conservation by BirdLife International found 400,000 birds worldwide died annually from recreational and commercial set nets. 

But the umbrella group for commercial fishers says those figures are exaggerated and any ban around Otago would put a serious financial dent in the industry. 

Forest and Bird seabird advocate Karen Baird said there were less than 600 pairs of yellow-eyed penguins left on mainland New Zealand, with about 150 of those living on the Otago Peninsula.

Danville Man Finds Birds Nest in Unusual Place

Danville, VA -- Some resilient birds have found a home in a very strange and dangerous place. 

In Dennis Haley's backyard, you just hear the sounds of birds chirping. And those birds need a little extra help. Luckily, as a Danville police officer, helping comes as a natural instinct for Haley. 

"It was very incessant chirping. You could tell they were hungry," he said. 

When Haley heard lost baby birds calling for assistance, he couldn't help but come to their rescue. 

"We made the bug mush and I've got a pair of forceps that I used to feed them," said Haley. 

But how did those birds just sitting in their nest get so turned-around? Well, their home drove off. 

"It was a surprise," said Haley. 

Haley took his Jeep to work Thursday like any other day, then made a stop at Food Lion. 

"I was in the parking lot, putting the groceries in the back of the Jeep. I heard a lot of chirping and started looking around. And it took a second or two, but I found them in the rear wheel well of the Jeep," said Haley.

The REAL Angry Birds: Extinct relation of the pigeon was 'built for fighting'


PUBLISHED: 17:24, 24 May 2013 | UPDATED: 17:26, 24 May 2013 

· Researchers from London's Natural History Museum have discovered that the small 'musket ball' knobs found on the wings of the now extinct solitaire bird were used for fighting 

· It is thought that the knobs were a result of fighting and the Mauritian birds then evolved so the knobs developed naturally 

· The solitaires became extinct at the end of the 1700s but were genetically similar to modern-day pigeons 

A now extinct giant flightless pigeon from Mauritius used its small but deadly wings to fight off competitors and communicate with mates, according to new research published this week. 

Researchers from the Natural History Museum in London studied fossils of the solitaire, officially known as Pezophaps solitaria, and in particular the unique ‘musket ball’ structure on the bird’s wing. 

They discovered that the birds used the circular nodes as a way of fighting with other birds and fending off prey. 

Writing in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, ornithologist Julian Hume from the Natural History Museum said: ‘We know from detailed historical notes from eighteenth-century sailors that the birds were aggressive. 

'They also describe a musket-ball-like bony growth on the wings, which was originally thought to be the result of injury. 

When we compared the wings of solitaire fossils from the caves of Rodrigues, an outer island of Mauritius, to modern birds we found that these growths were largest in adult males. 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Dove builds nest in Southend traffic lights

A dove has built its nest in front of the red traffic light at a roundabout in Essex. 

The bird moved into its new home at Cuckoo Corner in Southend, despite the lights having anti-bird spikes fitted. 

The RSPB said the collared dove was facing traffic coming from Priory Crescent and the light would provide heat. 

Frank Varga, RSPB officer, said: "It's happy and using the deterrent to support its nest, so well done." 

The roundabout is also fed by Manor's Way, Victoria Road and Prince Avenue and has 21 traffic lights. 

The RSPB said the collared dove is used to nesting on cliffs 

"This is a perfect area with plenty of grassland including Priory Park nearby as a resource for food," Mr Varga said. 

"From its origins in Turkey the collared dove has colonised the whole of Europe since the 1930s and my guess is she saw this spot and managed to move the spikes slightly to build the nest. 

"In the wild, these birds live on cliffs so it's replacing the noise of all the other birds with the noise of traffic." 

It is thought the dove moved in a fortnight ago.

Mum and Dad Dinosaurs Shared the Work

May 15, 2013 — A study into the brooding behaviour of birds has revealed their dinosaur ancestors shared the load when it came to incubation of eggs. 

Research into the incubation behaviour of birds suggests the type of parental care carried out by their long extinct ancestors. 

The study aimed to test the hypothesis that data from extant birds could be used to predict the incubation behaviour of Theropods, the group of carnivorous dinosaurs from which birds descended. 

The paper, out today in Biology Letters, was co-authored by Dr Charles Deeming and Dr Marcello Ruta from the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences and Dr Geoff Birchard from George Mason University, Virginia. 

By taking into account factors known to affect egg and clutch size in living bird species, the authors -- who started their investigation last summer at the University of Lincoln's Riseholme campus -- found that shared incubation was the ancestral incubation behaviour. Previously it had been claimed that only male Theropod dinosaurs incubated the eggs. 

Dr Deeming said: "In 2009 a study in the journal Science suggested that it was males of the small carnivorous dinosaurs Troodon and Oviraptor that incubated their eggs. Irrespective of whether you accept the idea of Theropod dinosaurs sitting on eggs like birds or not, the analysis raised some concerns that we wanted to address. We decided to repeat the study with a larger data set and a better understanding of bird biology because other palaeontologists were starting to use the original results in Science in order to predict the incubation behaviour of other dinosaur species. Our analysis of the relationship between female body mass and clutch mass was interesting in its own right but also showed that it was not possible to conclude anything about incubation in extinct distant relatives of the birds."

Bird pest 'disaster' warning

AN incursion of Indian myna birds into Tasmania would be an "environmental disaster", says BirdLife Tasmania. 

Sightings of the bird – a serious pest on mainland Australia – have been reported in Devonport and Hobart near the Domain and slipyards. 

"The introduction and establishment of the myna is an ecological disaster," Birdlife Tasmania convenor Eric Woehler said. 

"This is a high priority, red-alert species and alarm bells would be ringing in State Government agencies. 

"They're an aggressive bird. They literally displace native birds. They gather in big flocks, they're very noisy and aggressive. 

"Where you have Indian mynas you don't have native birds. 

"They will chase other birds out, kill the chicks of other birds and eat their eggs." 

Over the past decade sightings had been made in the north, especially Devonport and its port area, and in those cases government officers have killed the birds and destroyed eggs. 

Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Invasive Species Branch manager Craig Elliott said staff were continuing surveillance in the Hobart Regatta grounds area after a report last month of three birds. 

"The sighting has not been confirmed and the ISB is keen to hear from anyone who may have seen what they believe to be an Indian myna," Mr Elliott said.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Hunter warned of bird massacre

The slaughter embarrassed even the most hard-headed of hunters. More than 800 abandoned duck carcasses that shooters did not bother to pick up. At least 150 endangered ducks killed, many among Australia's rarest. And other dead birds - hawk-like whistling kites and black swans - that look nothing like ducks. 

''It's terrible. It's absolutely disgraceful,'' said one of the state's leading duck-hunting advocates, Rod Drew, about the March shootings at the Box Flat private wetland near Boort, in the state's north-west. 

The public, including everyone in Game Victoria, is disgusted by what happened and we don't condone it in any way. Any suggestion that we, myself included, failed to do our job, I totally refute that. 

But a Fairfax Media investigation can reveal that the shooting spree - the likes of which Victorian authorities have not seen since the early 1990s - could have been prevented. Days before the incident, government officials were tipped off by a concerned hunter with a warning. 

This hunter, acting as an informant, told a Department of Sustainability and Environment official that Box Flat should be watched on the duck season opening weekend. Only a year before, in an incident never reported, trigger-happy shooters had gone to the remote wetland and shot birds indiscriminately. 

The shooters had ''shot the shit out of the joint, shot everything that moved'', the informant told the department. There was talk, the hunter added, that it would happen again.