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.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Bird blizzard: More than a million snow geese blot out the sky as they make epic journey to Arctic tundra

More than a million snow geese take flight over the skies of Missouri - creating the illusion of a blizzard - in these awe-inspiring pictures.

The spectacle was captured in Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge as the birds began their annual summer migration back to the Arctic tundra found in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska.

Groups of birds numbering between 100 and 1,000 make the journey together alongside others, their swooping mass blotting out large swathes of sky.

Photographer Doug French, from Nebraska, captured the jaw-dropping scenes earlier this year.

He said: 'This flock of more than one million geese were seen leaving the refuge early in the morning at sun rise.

'At times more than 100,000 geese would erupt from the lake in a solid white and black wall of geese and the sound of their wing beats would drown out everything else.

'You could not see through these giant walls of geese.'


Protected Areas Provide African Birds With Stepping Stones to Survival

June 20, 2013 — The protected area network in Tanzania is playing a vital role in the survival of savannah bird species as they move west in response to climate and environmental changes, according to new research led by the University of York.

Using data on savannah birds from the Tanzanian Bird Atlas project -- which has documented Tanzanian bird distributions over recent decades -- the researchers found that they are using protected areas as stepping stones as they move to areas further west where dry seasons are getting longer, with movements of up to 300km noted.

Much debate has centred on the effectiveness of the current protected area network to protect biodiversity in the face of climate and environmental changes.

However, the new study, which is published in Ecology Letters, not only provides the first evidence of climate-driven shifts for an African bird community, but suggests that continued maintenance of existing protected areas -- which include national parks and game reserves -- remains an appropriate response to the challenge of climate and environmental changes.

Parent-Raised Rare Birds are First in this Century

Created on Friday, 28 June 2013 16:33 Written by IVN

San Diego, California - Two `alalā (also known as Hawaiian crows) at the San Diego Zoo Global's Keauhou Bird Conservation Center represent the first chicks of this critically endangered species to be successfully raised by a parent in more than 25 years. 

Hatched on 30th April and 1st May 2013 on the Big Island of Hawai`i, the chicks have passed an important survival marker - fledging. Newly feathered and beginning to fly, the birds represent a species that is extinct in the wild and is being managed through a collaborative effort as the Hawai`i Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP).

For just over six weeks, the chicks were cared for by their mother, enabling them to rapidly develop from small, naked, blind nestlings into fully-feathered youngsters, almost the size of an adult. On 13th June 2013, both chicks took the bold step of jumping out of their nest.

"It has been nerve-racking watching these chicks on camera. We had no idea whether Po Mahina would be a good mother. Fortunately her maternal instincts kicked in straight away and we are absolutely delighted that the chicks have successfully fledged," said Rosanna Leighton, Research Coordinator at KBCC. "We also have another female raising a chick a few weeks younger, still in the nest."

The last `alala were recorded in their Hawaiian forest natural habitat in 2002 where they were threatened by habitat destruction, introduced predators and avian disease. The HEBCP has been working with the species in captivity since 1993, bringing the population from a low of only 20 individuals to more than 110. Until this year artificial incubation and hand-rearing were used as a strategy to maximize breeding success.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Gulls face the guns to prevent air strikes

More than 1,000 seagulls in part of the Ribble Estuary are to be culled to prevent crashes involving BAE Systems aircraft.

Controversial plans to reduce numbers in colonies of herring gulls, black-backed and lesser black-backed gulls have been given the go-ahead by the Environment Secretary.

But the order, by Owen Paterson, has been slammed by bird protection group RSPB.

The charity says it is not against a cull of the birds on Banks Marsh for safety reasons, but is concerned about how Defra has taken its decision and its implications for the UK’s wildlife.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director said: “Although we recognise the air safety risk, we believe the secretary of state’s conclusion is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of wildlife protection. We strongly disagree with his interpretation that it is acceptable to lose up to a quarter of a protected site’s breeding bird population without it damaging the conservation value of that site. This sets a very worrying precedent.”

Bird strikes have brought down aircraft worldwide and with fast jets such as the Typhoon being flown from Warton there were fears a serious accident could happen.

The RSPB accepted that BAE had tried non-lethal means of solving the problem but numbers had grown.

A BAE spokesman said: “The population at the Ribble Estuary presents a risk of birdstrike to aircraft operating from Warton airfield. BAE Systems has sought to reduce this risk. Following a public inquiry, and a decision by the Secretary of State we were given consent to cull up to 475 pairs of herring gulls on Banks Marsh which we have now undertaken.”

São Miguel Scops Owl Was Wiped out After Arrival of Humans in the Azores

June 27, 2013 — On São Miguel Island in the Azores, there used to exist a small, nocturnal bird of prey, related to the European scops owl, named Otus frutuosoi, which was very probably driven to extinction with the arrival of the first settlers in the 15th century. An international study, in which Spanish researchers participated, has for the first time identified fossils of this species endemic to the island.

On 28 August 2011 researchers Juan Carlos Rando, from the University of La Laguna (Tenerife), and Josep Antoni Alcover from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Mallorca unearthed some small fossil bones buried not far below the ground of the Água de Pau cave (São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal).

Two years later, an article published by the journal Zootaxa has revealed that the remains found belong to an extinct species of scops owl which has been given the name Otus frutuosoi in honour of the 16th-century Azorean historian Gaspar Frutuoso.

Carbon dating the fossils indicates that they are from 1,970 years ago. The hypothesis entertained by the researchers is that the arrival of human beings to the archipelago in the 15th century changed its ecosystem and caused the extinction of the species.

Rare albino jackdaw killed by other birds

A rare albino jackdaw has been killed by other black-feathered jackdaws in the gardens of an historic house in Carmarthenshire. The bird, called Gwyn, was the first ever seen at Aberglasney Gardens.

But Gwyn - whose name means "white" in Welsh - may have been attacked by other birds because of his colour.He was found on a path in the grounds of Aberglasney Gardens by staff.

Head gardener Joseph Atkin said: "Apparently, it is quite common for other birds to turn on albinos like this - but it was just very unfortunate. I don't think Gwyn was very strong anyway because of being a fledgling albino."

Horrified birdwatchers see rare white-throated needletail fly into wind turbine

Hundreds of twitchers travelled the length of the country to see the “bird of the century” – only for it to fly into a wind turbine and die.

Bird-spotters were ecstatic about the first UK sighting of the rare white-throated needletail since 1991.

But their excitement soon turned to horror when it hit the 120ft structure’s rotating blades.

James Hanlon and three pals drove 17 hours through the night to see the black and white swift on the Isle of Harris, one of Scotland’s Western Isles.

He said: “I was watching it through my binoculars from about 200 metres away.

“One minute it was flying in spectacular fashion. I followed it and then watched as it flew into one of the blades of the wind turbine and vanished.

“My heart jumped into my mouth. We dashed over to see if it had been killed and sadly found its body on the ground. It was heartbreaking.”

Friday, 28 June 2013

UAE releases 93 endangered falcons into the wild in Kazakhstan

The UAE, under the Shaikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme (SZFRP), has released 93 endangered falcons this year in Kazakhstan. This takes the number of the bird of the culturally emblematic birds released into their natural habitat in the wild, since the programme started in 1995, to 1,554, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) said in a statement.

The programme, under the patronage of the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is now in its 19th successive year and indications are that the numbers of falcons in the wild are growing as a result of the work being done by Abu Dhabi to restore a bird crucial to local heritage, the statement said.

The first falcon release programme, under the directives of late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan, was launched in Pakistan’s Balochistan province with 100 birds of prey, all tagged for identification and tracking. After another release again in Balochistan, the third was launched in Pakistan’s Northern Area of Gilgit-Baltistan and then a large number of releases in Central Asia, particularly the Kazakh region.

This year’s release carried out from May 16-18 included a total number of 46 Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) and 47 Saker falcons (Falco cherrug) in Kurchum, Eastern Kazakhstan for the fifth consecutive year.

Rare avocets delay roadwork closures

MOTORISTS have protected birds to thank for avoiding a full summer of roadworks, after avocets were found nesting alongside the A13.

Two dozen pairs of the protected species were found by National Grid engineers, who were hoping to carry out £30million of repairs to overhead cables and pylons along 24 miles from Rayleigh to Tilbury.

The proposed work meant drivers would have had to contend with temporary lane and road closures on the A127, A130 and A13 throughout the summer, but the work has been put back until the end of July, so the birds are not disturbed during the nesting season.

Work was scheduled to start in May, but was rescheduled following the discovery.

Project manager Graham Livings said: “National Grid has a vital job to do connecting people to their energy supplies. However, we always try to do our vital work as sensitively as possible, doing all we canto minimise any impact on local communities and the environment.

“Our ecologists work closely with local community stakeholders, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to ensure we don’t have any adverse impact on the local environment.

“Avocets are a very rare bird and, after discussions with the RSPB, we decided the best thing to do would be to postpone this section of the work".

Black-tailed godwit chicks born at WWT Welney

Black-tailed godwit chicks born at WWT Welney. Courtesy of WWRare wader chicks thrill visitors to WWT Welney Wetland Centre

June 2013. Black-tailed godwit chicks are some of the rarest young birds in the country. These chicks hatched on the Ouse washes at WWT Welney Wetland Centre this spring, and they are the only ones in the whole of Norfolk and amongst just a handful throughout the UK. 

5 pairs of black-tailed godwits at Welney
Up to five pairs of black-tailed godwits have nested at WWT Welney Wetland Centre in recent years. These birds rely on very specific wetland conditions provided by sites like the Ouse washes and Lady Fen.

Steve Wiltshire, Warden for WWT Welney Wetland Centre, says: ‘Providing the ideal habitat for these birds is incredibly challenging, so it is nice to see the hard work of the whole team rewarded. The adult black-tailed godwits are long-legged birds with a long beak and a brick-orange plumage making them quite an attractive-looking bird. The smaller chicks look like little balls of fluff following the parents around'

‘The adults make a distinctive alarm call if a bird of prey like a harrier should fly over, they make this call to make the other bird and chicks aware of the potential danger. This also helps our visitors pin-point where they are.'

Dr Nigel Russell, Lead Conservation Advisor for Natural England, says: ‘News that 3 black-tailed godwit chicks have successfully hatched on the WWT reserve this year is a real fillet to all those concerned with the unique wildlife of the Ouse Washes. Keeping the washes in tip top condition to suit this scarce breeding bird requires long-term, targeted management to an established recipe, management supported by a new, ten year Higher Level Stewardship agreement between WWT and Natural England'

‘Our shared goal is to benefit the specialist wildlife for which this corner of Norfolk is nationally and internationally important, so news that godwits have had breeding success in 2013 marks a very welcome start to the agreement.'

Visitors are able to see these beautiful chicks from the hides with the aid of binoculars or scopes. Binoculars can be hired from the centre, so visitors do not need to worry if they don't have their own. WWT Welney Wetland Centre is open 9.30am - 5pm daily through the summer.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Rarely spotted albino jackdaw at Aberglasney Gardens

A rarely spotted albino jackdaw has been sighted at heritage gardens in Carmarthenshire.

The pure white visitor was snapped at the weekend by the head gardener at Aberglasney Gardens, Llangathen, who at first thought it was a dove.

The RSPB says albinism only occurs when a bird inherits the gene from both parents.

Survival rates for albino jackdaws, normally black, tend to be lower and so they are only rarely seen.

Head gardener Joseph Atkins at Aberglasney said: "I was quite taken aback by the pure white bird which at first I thought was a dove.

"When I realised that it was in fact an albino jackdaw I quickly took a picture on my mobile. I've certainly never seen one before."

The RSPB website states albinism describes birds in which "some or all of the normal pigmentation is missing".

It is most often inherited, but can be caused by other factors such as poor nutrition or shock.

Uncertainty Over the Benefits of Feeding Birds in Winter

June 24, 2013 — Wild bird populations are generally thought to benefit from being given additional food in winter but our understanding of the effects of such food provision is incomplete.

The results of a new study, carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), has found that feeding wild blue tits in winter resulted in less successful breeding during the following spring.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that woodland blue tits that were provided with fat balls as a supplementary food during the winter months went on to produce chicks that were smaller, of lower body weight and which had lower survival than the chicks of birds that did not receive any additional food.

Dr Jon Blount from Biosciences at the University of Exeter who led the research said: "Our research questions the benefits of feeding wild birds over winter. Although the precise reasons why fed populations subsequently have reduced reproductive success are unclear, it would be valuable to assess whether birds would benefit from being fed all year round rather than only in winter. More research is needed to determine exactly what level of additional food provisioning, and at what times of year, would truly benefit wild bird populations."

Hiding in plain sight: New species of bird discovered in capital city

Cambodian tailorbird hiding in plain site
June 2013. A team of scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International, and other groups have discovered a new species of bird with distinct plumage and a loud call living not in some remote jungle, but in a capital city of 1.5 million people.

Cambodian tailorbird
Called the Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), the previously undescribed species was found in Cambodia's urbanized capitol Phnom Penh and several other locations just outside of the city including a construction site. It is one of only two bird species found solely in Cambodia. The other, the Cambodian laughing thrush, is restricted to the remote Cardamom Mountains.
Ashish John/WCS

Lives in and around Phnom Penh
The wren-sized gray bird with a rufous cap and black throat lives in dense humid lowland scrub in Phnom Penh and other sites on the surrounding floodplain. Its scientific name, ‘chaktomuk', is an old Khmer word meaning four-faces, perfectly describing where the bird is found: the area centred in Phnom Penh where the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac Rivers come together.

Near threatened
Only tiny fragments of floodplain scrub remain in Phnom Penh, but larger areas persist just outside the city limits where the Cambodian Tailorbird is abundant. The authors say that the bird's habitat is declining and recommend that the species is classified as Near Threatened under the IUCN's Red List. Agricultural and urban expansion could further affect the bird and its habitat. However, the bird occurs in Baray Bengal Florican Conservation Area, where WCS is working with local communities and the Forestry Administration to protect the Bengal florican and other threatened birds.

This same dense habitat is what kept the bird hidden for so long. Lead author Simon Mahood of WCS began investigating the new species when co-author Ashish John, also of WCS, took photographs of what was first thought to be a similar, coastal species of tailorbird at a construction site on the edge of Phnom Penh. The bird in the photographs initially defied identification. Further investigation revealed that it was an entirely unknown species.

"The modern discovery of an un-described bird species within the limits of a large populous city - not to mention 30 minutes from my home - is extraordinary," said Mahood. "The discovery indicates that new species of birds may still be found in familiar and unexpected locations."

The last two decades have seen a sharp increase in the number of new bird species emerging from Indochina, mostly due to exploration of remote areas. Newly described birds include various babbler species from isolated mountains in Vietnam, the bizarre bare-faced bulbul from Lao PDR and the Mekong wagtail, first described in 2001 by WCS and other partners.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Robot bird flies like a real one and could soon be conducting video surveillance for the army

The 'Robo Raven' is a lightweight advanced robot that can fly like a bird
It has been developed by searchers at the University of Maryland and received funding from the U.S. Army
Has the potential to be used as a drone for reconnaissance and surveillance

PUBLISHED: 23:48, 21 June 2013 | UPDATED: 23:55, 21 June 2013

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a breakthrough in engineering technology that allows a robot to successfully achieve the complex aerobatic maneuvers of a bird.

The artificial bird is destined to have a military or surveillance purpose, the UMD Robotics Center, which sits within the University of Maryland, has received funding from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

The robot bird has the potential to become a more advanced type of drone, it includes a tiny video camera and could be used for reconnaissance and surveillance.

'Robo Raven' is much quieter than the helicopter or propeller, so it could get much closer to an adversary without revealing its presence.

It is made out of carbon fiber, 3D-printed lightweight thermal-resistant plastic, Mylar foil and foam and weighs less than a can of soda.

Cruel face of mother nature as puffin destroys own egg

Thursday 13 June 2013

SHOCKED birdwatchers were given a glimpse of the sometimes cruel face of nature when a mother puffin, featured on an online webcam, destroyed its own egg.

Viewers of Puffincam link on Shetland were treated to the grisly show on Saturday when the camera monitoring a nest at Sumburgh Head picked up the scenes.

Experts at the RSPB suspect the mother bird realised its egg had failed.

It is the second time puffin watchers have been dis-appointed, following a fatal attack by an adult puffin on a young chick featured on the webcam last year. Helen Moncrieff, RSPB warden on Shetland, said: "It's a sad day when you see the puffin egg has failed. It's a natural thing some eggs fail but the cause could be linked to food shortage. We know seabirds generally are finding it more difficult to source fish out at sea."

Andy Steven, from Promote Shetland, said that watching nature "up close and personal" can sometimes be "harsh".

He said: "The parent, probably realising the egg had failed, broke the egg and then tried to remove it from the nest. We also witnessed strange behaviour, similar to last year, when the nest was occupied by two puffins bringing in nesting material again. We are not sure if this is the original pair, however, after a few hours, the nest was empty again and con-tinues to looks like its been abandoned."

Woodland species under serious threat

Published on 23/06/2013 06:00

WOODLAND species such as the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Willow Tit are in danger of vanishing from our countryside according to alarming new research.

The RSPB State of Nature report reveals how 60 per cent of the UK’s woodland species have decreased. A further 34 per cent have decreased strongly over recent decades.

The Willow Tit was once widespread across the country but numbers have plummeted over the last three decades and recorded sightings in Sussex have all but stopped. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is is also rare sight in the county.

In the late 1980s Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were recorded in 175 areas across Sussex or 16.4 per cent of the county. In 2011, they were recorded in just 49 areas or 2.7 per cent of Sussex.

The report also revealed that of 262 woodland flowering plants assessed, 30 are on the national endangered Red List. Butterflies have declined by 43 per cent since 1990.

The declines of most woodland species are linked to changes in the structure of woodlands, due to increased grazing pressure by deer, changes to management practices and woodland ageing.

Samantha Stokes, RSPB South East spokeswoman, said: “Our scientists are trying desperately to establish why these birds are vanishing from so many sites. Knowing the distribution of the species will give the best chance of hanging on to these endearing birds. Please report their sighting to the Sussex Ornithological Society at The more information we can gather the better chance we have of stopping further declines.”

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Man spared jail after conning zoos and then selling exotic birds

A FORMER bird sanctuary boss, who lied about running a rare breeding programme so he could sell exotic species to the highest bidder, has escaped a jail sentence.

Keith Beaven made almost £7,000 by convincing zoos and animal sanctuaries — including Paignton Zoo — to lend him rare and endangered birds of prey, which he then sold.

His scheme ended when he sold the sanctuary but continued to use its name in his scam.

During the trial, the court heard how Beaven conned Paignton Zoo into loaning him a Ural owl.

Prosecutor Brendan Moorehouse said Beaven sold the birds while the owner of the National Birds of Prey Centre.

He said: "His callous scheme raked in thousands of pounds as he used the once reputable name to get animals on loan from other centres.

"He had learned a way of making money, using his knowledge of the framework, the rules and regulations of the management of these endangered animals."

Beaven, 68, was found guilty of three counts of theft and three counts of fraud, as well as selling an endangered species, all related to majestic birds of prey.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and another count of theft at Gloucester Crown Court last month.

Judge William Hart sentenced him to 40 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to pay £16,000 in fines and costs.

He told Beaven: "Your conduct represents a gross betrayal of the trust and manipulation of the trust based on the system of inter-zoo transport.

"Your conduct represents blatant dishonesty.

"It is clear you felt you had to dispose of your stock when you were no longer operating the National Birds of Prey Centre.

"When you saw an opportunity to make a profit from the sale of birds you found it impossible to resist.

"You did it really because you could."

He added: "The greatest punishment for you of all is that, at the age of 68, you have lost your reputation for honesty and decency."

Paignton Zoo spokesman Phil Knowling said: "We would have preferred a stronger message in terms of custody, rather than a suspended sentence.

"The whole system of conservation breeding relies on trust and cooperation.

"You get that the world over. It just takes one bad apple to break the trust down. We work around the world and don't have any problems. We donate and loan animals for the benefit of the future of species."

Nevin Hunter, head of unit for the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: "Paignton Zoo were oblivious to his intentions and the subsequent sale."

Taiwan honored for preserving black-faced spoonbill

Toronto, June 23 (CNA) In recognition of its efforts to preserve the black-faced spoonbill, an endangered bird species, Taiwan received the "International Conservation Achievement Award" from BirdLife International in Ottawa, Canada Saturday.

BirdLife International is a UK-based global partnership of conservation organizations that strives to save birds and their habitats.

The 2013 Conservation Achievement Awards were awarded at a ceremony during BirdLife's World Conference, held from June 17 through 22 in Ottawa, Canada.

BirdLife's Conservation Achievement Awards are presented to individuals or institutions, including governments, trusts, foundations and companies, that have made especially significant contributions towards delivering a specific conservation action for a priority species, site or habitat within BirdLife's Strategy, according to the organization's official website.

The awards were presented on Saturday by BirdLife's Honorary President, Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan, to Chen Yen-ling, an official from Taiwan's Council of Agriculture, and Huang Kuang-ying, an official of Taijiang National Park Headquarters.

Every level of the Taiwanese government is dedicated to conservation, Chen said in the acceptance speech, noting that the government has established 89 conservation reserves, occupying 19.21 percent of the country's land.

In addition, Taiwan is preserving the black-faced spoonbill through education about conservation, research, and creating more wetlands, Chen added.

Combe Haven wildlife is ‘suffering terrible cruelty’

Published on 23/06/2013 06:00

A WILDLIFE expert claims animals and birds living in Combe Haven in the path of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road are ‘suffering terrible cruelty’.

Don Wise, who has more than 50 years of experience in wildlife conservation and was the very first Ranger at Hastings Country Park, says the construction work is destroying more and more of the creatures’ habitat.

He said: “I saw signs of badgers desperately seeking food because their normal foraging fields had been destroyed.

“I saw unbelievably poor arrangements for protecting the great crested newt with fencing badly constructed and misplaced.

“I saw foraging fields for snipe drastically cut in size since the start of the nesting season.”

Lapwings, a farmland bird which has suffered significant declines recently and is now Red Listed, the highest category of conservation importance, were of particular concern to Don, who lives close to Combe Haven.

He said: “I saw construction teams working far too close to the lapwings, preventing the birds from using their correct foraging grounds.

“It is simply ridiculous that Jacobs, the county council’s ecologists in the valley, and the construction companies, hold back from destroying the lapwing nests, then deny the birds the opportunity to feed.

“In my opinion, the way the birds were flying was an indication that they were distressed.

“To me, the birds were jinking about as if their chicks were in danger.”

He said he had raised his concerns with Jacobs, which had promised to get back to him to discuss his concerns.

But he said no one from the company has got back to him about the matter.

Don added: “I’m certain that this will be the last of the lapwings that we’ll see in the Combe Haven.

“In building this Link road through this wildlife oasis, a wildlife tragedy is unfolding.

“That’s the truth of it and the county council is responsible.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “In the planning process for the Link Road scheme we carried out extensive surveys and drew up an environmental management plan in consultation with Natural England.

“All the ecological work we are carrying out, including the trapping and moving of great crested newts, is in accordance with strict guidelines laid down under the licences we hold for working with protected species.

“We have also erected screening to minimise the disruption to ground nesting birds.

“We welcome feedback from residents and will be happy to listen to Mr Wise’s concerns.”

Monday, 24 June 2013

Avian Salmonella blamed for Billings bird deaths

BILLINGS - An unusual number of dead birds have been found in Billings area yards with bird feeders this spring.

Nearly all of the birds are red crossbills, a species of finch that normally feeds on conifer tree seeds.

Wildlife disease specialists at the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin concluded that the deaths are due to avian salmonella, a naturally occurring bacterium, possibly originating from contaminated food. Salmonella spreads among birds through their feces.

Since mid-May, dead birds have been reported around at least eight bird feeders in the Billings and Laurel areas.

One resident had 50 dead birds so far, and it is likely that other die-offs went unreported.

If dead birds are found, the National Wildlife Health Center recommends cleaning bird feeders thoroughly with a solution of warm water and 10 percent bleach, then rinsing and air drying them.

Feeding should not be restarted for two or three weeks to encourage birds to disperse and forage naturally.
An even better solution, the center said, is to not feed birds at all during the warmer months.

Any time birds are concentrated unnaturally, it hastens the spread of diseases such as salmonella.

During the summer months, the birds don't really need our help.

While most of the dead birds have been red crossbills, which are especially susceptible to salmonella, other species also can be affected and may either die or serve as carriers of the bacteria for several weeks.

The NWHC also notes that the salmonella strain usually found in birds may cause illness in people, but that the risk can be minimized by wearing rubber gloves when handling dead birds or feeders or cleaning bird droppings off decks and other surfaces.

The NWHC also says it's a good idea to discourage pets from picking up bird carcasses.

One tough old bird rules the parking lot

No harm, no fowl, say admirers of McNugget, the rooster who shares a downtown Issaquah parking lot with Your Espresso and Staples stores.

Seattle Times staff reporter

He’s not exactly a wild creature, but he’s too independent to be considered a farm animal or a pet.

He’s a free-range kind of guy.

Since the bantam rooster known as McNugget first showed up in a downtown Issaquah parking lot 11 years ago, he’s stuck around and brought smiles to shoppers and passers-by.

Michelle Schneider, owner of the Your Espresso stand on Front Street North, was terrified when the black-feathered bird suddenly appeared one day at her window.

After calming down, she learned he had escaped from a customer of the nearby Grange Supply store. A Grange employee captured him, but he escaped again, and at that point, attempts to catch and return him to his owner ended.

McNugget, who was named in a poll of Your Espresso customers, hasn’t left since.

He sleeps in a maple tree next to the espresso stand and splits his days between the coffee shop, a Staples office-supply store and Issaquah Creek.

Baristas and a neighbor feed him chicken feed and mealworms. Customers and other admirers bring him treats.

When he’s hungry, he flies up to a serving window.

“If I say, ‘Down!’ ” — Schneider snaps her fingers — “he gets down. He’s like a dog.”

Issaquah’s land-use code prohibits keeping roosters in residential areas, but there’s no prohibition in the commercially zoned parking lot where McNugget roosts.

Charming though he can be, the rooster does have a cantankerous streak, known on occasion to attack people in wheelchairs and on bicycles and motorcycles. And — since being clamped in the jaws of a pit bull — he refuses to be intimidated by curious canines.

Kristin Parshall, a Fall City animal-rights advocate who gave McNugget a doghouse, isn’t happy that he lives with no other protection against cold weather or predators. “If he was a white fluffy dog,” she says, “people would not be OK with it, but because he’s a chicken he’s devalued.”

A King County Regional Animal Services supervisor found no records of complaints about McNugget from 2009 on, and Issaquah has received no requests for a ban on roosters downtown.

“There are people on occasion who find him to be a nuisance,” said Mayor Ava Frisinger. “But I think most people, to the extent they notice McNugget, are happy to see McNugget.”

He’s become a senior citizen. Chickens often die by the time they’re 8, and rarely live beyond 15, said Michelle Boman, a chicken owner and operations manager of the Grange Supply.

As a “flock animal,” Boman said, McNugget seems to have adopted the neighborhood pigeons as his flock.

On one recent afternoon, the rooster was on the grass outside the shop when barista Candice Mercado called out to him just as Issaquah resident Pat McGrath got out of a car and threw him some Ritz crackers.

“If they’re good enough for me, they’re probably good enough for him,” said McGrath. “He’s an independent chap, so he’s a good ad for freedom.”

Jene Kramer, owner of The Boarding House restaurant at Gilman Village, smiles when she sees the rooster peering in fascination at Staples’ reflective-glass windows.

“I just think he is in love with himself,” Kramer says. “He’s handsome and he’s hilarious.”

Perhaps his biggest fan is Schneider: “Oh, yeah, I love the little guy. He makes my day.”

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or

Protected red kite found in woods 'did not die of natural causes'

A protected red kite found dead in Aberdeenshire hatched three chicks last year, RSPB Scotland said.

The bird of prey's carcass was discovered by a walker in woodland near Aboyne on April 6.

A post-mortem examination showed that the bird did not die of natural causes.

PC Mike Whyte, Police Scotland's local wildlife crime liaison officer, said inquiries have so far failed to identify a suspect.

"We are appealing to the public for information that may assist us in our inquiries," he said.

Known as Red/Blue 44 after the colour combination and number on its wing-tags, the female kite was three years old and fledged from a nest in Perthshire in 2010. It had bred successfully in 2012, raising three chicks, only a few miles from where it was found dead.

Ian Thomson, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, said the red kite is still rare in Scotland, despite a reintroduction programme that has been running for the past 24 years.

"It is one of our most spectacular and unmistakable birds of prey, with its main diet being carrion, insects or small mammals," he said.

"It is unforgivable that someone could deliberately target such a fantastic bird, and I ask anyone who may be able to assist in bringing the perpetrator to justice to contact the police."

Jenny Lennon, RSPB Scotland red kite project officer for north-east Scotland, said the team is "deeply saddened" by the death, the first known case of illegal killing in the area since the project began six years ago.

"This female was of great importance to our young population with only a handful of our 20 or so breeding pairs on Deeside itself," she said.

"We hope the three 2012 offspring of red/blue 44 will thrive in Aberdeenshire and contribute further to the Scottish red kite population".

Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

MSU scientists discover cause of endangered bird species

By Derek Kim | Published 06/16/13 9:08pm

That tuna you ate for lunch is causing a significant environmental shift thousands of miles away.

A new study conducted by MSU scientists, along with help from the Smithsonian Institution and eight other organizations, has found evidence that the effects of open-ocean fishing is changing the foraging habits of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel.

“The fact that the Hawaiian Petrel has moved almost a whole trophic level down means that what they are eating now is estimated to be … around one-seventieth of what they ate before,” said Anne Wiley, MSU alumna and current Smithsonian postdoctoral researcher. “It’s a huge reduction in the average size of their prey.”

The Hawaiian Petrel is a dark gray-brown and white seabird that is known for its strong flying ability. Petrels can be found from the Equator to the most northern latitudes of the Western Hemisphere.

During her study, she examined isotope data from modern Hawaiian Petrels and bones from subfossils as old as 4,000 years to see how feeding habits have changed throughout the centuries. Older samples had consistently high nitrogen isotope ratios, which indicated a diet of large prey high on the food chain. In contrast, samples from less than a century ago — which is when industrial fishing began — had low ratios, indicating that they fed on smaller prey such as fish and squid.

City Slicker or Country Bumpkin: City-Life Changes Blackbird Personalities

June 19, 2013 — The origins of a young animal might have a significant impact on its behaviour later on in life. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, have been able to demonstrate in hand-reared blackbirds that urban-born individuals are less curious and more cautious about new objects than their country counterparts. This study sheds light on an interesting debate on whether personality differences between rural and urban birds are behavioural adjustments to urban environments, or if there is an underlying evolutionary basis to the existence of different personalities in urban habitats.

It's something pet owners have always known: animals have personalities too. More than 100 species have so far been identified by scientists where individuals consistently follow distinct behavioural strategies and behave in similar ways in a variety of situations. Scientists believe that such differences may also be important in adapting to new habitats.

Urbanization has considerably changed the living conditions of many wild animals. Animals living in urban areas need to cope with new anthropogenically-altered living conditions. A textbook example is the European blackbird (Turdus merula). Historically a forest-dweller, the blackbird is now one of the most common bird species found in our cities. In these new habitats, the blackbird has changed its behaviour in many ways: urban blackbirds migrate less in the winter, breed earlier, and live in higher densities than their forest conspecifics.

New Details About H7N9 Influenza Infections That Suddenly Appeared in China

June 19, 2013 — Researchers with the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have revealed new information about the latest strain of type A influenza, known as H7N9, in a report in the journal PLOS Currents: Outbreaks.

Since June 7, 132 confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 have been reported in China and 37 people have died, according to the World Health Organization. It is the first time human infection with the avian influenza H7N9 subtype has been detected, and researchers fear that this strain may have pandemic potential.

The possibility of an animal source of the infection is being investigated, as is the possibility of person-to-person transmission.

However, most people who contracted the disease reported having contact with live birds in a bird market prior to infection. Researchers at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory found that younger women generally have the most contact with poultry, but it is older men who are experiencing the most infections.

The findings suggest that there is something unique about older men that makes them particularly susceptible to H7N9. Their greater risk of infection is not just because they tend to spend more time exposed to an avian source.

Researchers quickly compiled the data using a variety of available sources to discover risk factors, which could aid in containing the spread of H7N9.