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.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

TV9 News: White Crow Found in Koppal, Karnataka

Bird disease found in Tiverton mosquito pool

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- State environmental officials say a mosquito sample in Tiverton has tested positive for the bird disease known as Highlands J virus.

The Department of Environmental Management said Monday the sample was from mosquitoes trapped on Aug. 13 in the southern part of Tiverton. The species of mosquito that tested positive bites birds.

Highlands J virus is a bird disease that doesn't affect humans, but finding it means conditions are right for the transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses, including West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.

Officials said test results from the remaining 126 mosquito pools from 33 traps set statewide the week of Aug. 13 are negative for both diseases.

No human cases of West Nile or EEE have been reported in Rhode Island yet this year.

14 of North America's most endangered birds

Friday, 30 August 2013

Gull found in Scotland shot with crossbow

INVERNESS, Scotland, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- A kittiwake gull found in Inverness shot with a crossbow was so badly injured it had to be put down, Scottish animal welfare officials said Monday.

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals asked any witnesses to come forward, The Scotsman reported. The bird was the second gull to be shot with a crossbow this year.

Iain Allan, a chief inspector for the SSPCA, said the bird appeared to have been shot in the chest at close range.

"This was a sickening incident which would have caused this bird a great deal of pain and suffering," he said. "We can't be sure where the attack took place as it's likely the gull was still able to fly after being shot."

The bird was discovered Thursday.

In February, a herring gull was found shot in the neck. Like the one found last week it was so badly hurt it was put down.

Sheriff’s: Antelope Valley cockfighting ring disbanded

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said Monday they’ve disbanded an Antelope Valley cockfighting ring involving hundreds of birds but have yet to issue any citations.

A search warrant was served at a ranch-style Juniper Hills home Thursday on the 34200 block of 90th Street East, after an allegation of a cockfighting operation surfaced.

Animal control officers found 279 birds at the location, including nearly 240 who’d had their combs, waddles and rear feathers removed to prepare them for fighting. The remaining 40 birds were hens, which were used for breeding, authorities said.

“One bird obviously wins ... It can be deadly,” said Lt. Keith Lieberman of the Sheriff’s Department Community-Oriented Services (COPS) Bureau. “They have razor blades hooked onto where their spurs are.”

The birds were full-grown and appeared to be in decent health, Lieberman said.

The man who deputies say was raising the birds, Amado Herrera, has not been arrested but is expected to be cited for possession of fighting birds, which is a misdemeanor. Lieberman said he expects a case, which could include other people, to be filed with the District Attorney’s Office this week.

A 20-gauge shotgun, ammunition, razor blades, spurs and medicines were also seized as a result of the search warrant.

Predators and the weather take their pick of bird

The local countryside scene in July is reviewed by John Almond with the help of members and friends of Alnwick and District Natural History Society.

As the breeding season for most bird species drew to a close it was time to assess the success or otherwise this year when the weather has changed from one extreme to another.

The cold, wet spring had a particularly bad effect on butterflies but they seem to have made use of the mostly fine weather in July to get on with mating and laying eggs.

A spotted flycatcher was still nesting near Powburn on July 1.

In Belle Vue Gardens, a song thrush was taking food for young on July 1 and 5, a robin was collecting food for young on July 3, and a juvenile robin was present on July 5.On July 4, blue tits, coal tits, song thrush and blackbird were reported to have nested in Royal Oak Gardens.

There was mixed success for the Long Nanny colony of nesting birds.

On July 4, there were 2,000 pairs of Arctic terns and 18 pairs of little terns.

Predation by a kestrel feeding young was causing problems with the subsequent loss of chicks and even adult birds.

There was only one little tern chick left at the end of the month, a badger being thought to be responsible for the losses.

A ringed plover was present on July 4, but the eight pairs that had attempted to nest were thwarted by black headed gulls.

Fifteen New Species of Amazonian Birds

Aug. 28, 2013 — An international team of researchers coordinated by ornithologist Bret Whitney of the LSU Museum of Natural Science, or LSUMNS, recently published 15 species of birds previously unknown to science. The formal description of these birds has been printed in a special volume of the "Handbook of the Birds of the World" series. Not since 1871 have so many new species of birds been introduced under a single cover.

"Birds are, far and away, the best-known group of vertebrates, so describing a large number of uncataloged species of birds in this day and age is unexpected, to say the least," said Whitney. "But what's so exciting about this presentation of 15 new species from the Amazon all at once is, first, highlighting how little we really know about species diversity in Amazonia, and second, showing how technological advances have given us new toolsets for discovering and comparing naturally occurring, cohesive ('monophyletic') populations with other, closely related populations."

Amazonia is home to far more species of birds -- approximately 1,300 -- and more species per unit area, than any other biome. Technological advances such as satellite imagery, digital recordings of vocalizations, DNA analysis and high-powered computation power have taken the age of discovery to the next level, and were key ingredients in the discovery of these new species. However, such discoveries still depend on exploration of remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, just as they did a century ago, and this sort of fieldwork has been carried out by the LSUMNS every year since the early 1960s.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

RSPB appeals for information after red kite deaths

Published on 20/08/2013 13:13

The RSPB is appealing for information after the death of another red kite in Northern Ireland.

The bird was discovered in the Castlewellan area last Wednesday (14 August) and is the fourth that has been found dead this year.

The conservation charity is asking the public for help in uncovering the cause of the deaths, which represent 30 per cent of the breeding red kite population in the province.

The body of the bird that died last week has been submitted to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute for a post-mortem. However it is strongly suspected that it, and the other birds, fell victim to poison.

Adam McClure, Red Kite Officer for the RSPB, said: “All birds of prey are protected under the law, but unfortunately this doesn’t always mean that they are safe from poison.

“In some cases, they are deliberately targeted as some people incorrectly see them as a threat to their live stock or game birds.

“They may also ingest the poison by eating dead mice or rats that have been killed by rodenticides.

“We do not know what caused the deaths of these four birds as yet and are eagerly awaiting the post-mortem results dating back as far as January. However we suspect that they did not die of natural causes.”

Red kites were once common in Ireland but were persecuted to extinction in the 18th century. In 2008 the RSPB began a reintroduction project that has been successful in encouraging the birds to breed here.

They have since become a rare, but welcome, sighting over the skies of County Down.

However, with only 10 breeding pairs, every death is a blow and may have serious consequences for the fragile population here in Northern Ireland.

Of the four deceased animals, two were breeding males, one was a breeding female and one was a juvenile. Sadly, the female was found dead in the nest where she was incubating two eggs, meaning the chicks inside also perished.

“Alongside landowners in south Down, our funders NIE and RES and local councils Newry and Mourne, Down and Banbridge through Ulster Wildlife Landfill funding, we have worked hard to create a home for red kites in Northern Ireland over the last five years so it is disappointing when we lose any of them, even more so in circumstances like this,” Adam concluded..

Emma Meredith, PSNI wildlife liaison officer, added: “Police take wildlife crime seriously and if it is found that there is a breach in the legislation then they will investigate.

“Currently police have requested tests on the birds reported to identify the cause of death.

“Anyone who suspects a crime and/or has information about the deaths of the birds is asked to contact the Police Service of Northern Ireland on 0845 600 8000 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Information on the safe use of rodenticides is available by calling RSPB NI on 028 9049 1547.

Argentinean dealers arrested for using pigeons to distribute marijuana

Drug dealers in Argentina were allegedly using carrier pigeons to deliver 13-gram packages of marijuana to customers in the region.

Bird-brained drug dealers in Argentina have been busted using carrier pigeons to get their customers high.

A trio of dope sellers in the Lomas de Zamora district of Buenos Aires allegedly tied up to 13 grams of pot around their winged messengers' necks to make around 20 deliveries a day.

Cops rumbled the small-time ring's ruse after stumbling across a lost white dove carrying a small package packed with illegal substances.

"It was released and we were able to follow it," a police spokesman told ABC. "Then it was a question of waiting and following again."

Princess Faces Charges Over Cockfighting Ring

A Romanian princess and her husband, a former US sheriff's deputy, are among several people arrested in connection with an alleged cockfighting ring in Eastern Oregon.

Irina Walker, 60, and John Wesley Walker, 67, are accused of hosting cockfighting derbies and illegal gambling at their ranch outside the small Morrow County town of Irrigon.

The Walkers and four other people from Irrigon and Hermiston were to be arraigned in federal court in Portland on charges of operating an illegal gambling business.

Twelve others from Oregon and Washington face lesser charges of conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act through illegal animal fighting.

They were due to be arraigned in Portland and Yakima, Washington State.

A US indictment said 10 different cockfighting derbies were held at the Walker's ranch between April 2012 and April 2013, bringing in as much as $2,000 (£1,300) a day.

Blades were attached to the birds' legs, spectators were charged admission, and food and drink were sold, the indictment said.

The four others charged with being part of the gambling business are Mario Perez, 62, of Hermiston; David Sanchez, 29, of Irrigon; Jose Luis Virgen Ramirez, 48, of Hermiston; and Aurelia Garcia Mendoza, 33, of Irrigon.

Benefits of a non-lead ammunition program for condors

Aug. 24, 2013 

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is a pioneer in reducing the amount of lead available in the environment to wildlife species that are particularly susceptible to lead toxicity like the California condor. The department has a successful voluntary non-lead program to aid condor recovery and works extensively with a wide range of partners to monitor lead’s impact on wildlife. The Department feels strongly that a voluntary lead ammunition reduction program creates more acceptance and a more lasting behavioral change than a regulatory ban. 

A recent article in the Huffington Post tried to give readers an erroneous impression that the department favors a mandatory lead ammunition ban. To ensure there is no misunderstanding among constituents who may have read the article, the department reiterates that: 

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and Commission are the state’s leaders in the promotion of shooting sports, and we own and operate more public shooting ranges than any other entity in Arizona. We do not and never have supported a ban on lead ammunition or on lead as a component in ammunition. 

The Department pioneered a voluntary non-lead ammunition public education campaign in 2002. In 2005, an on-the-ground non-lead ammo program was introduced for hunt units in the condor’s core range. In 2007, more field communication, incentives for gut pile removal, articles in hunting publications, an educational DVD and a brochure were added to the outreach effort. Today, 80 to 90 percent of hunters in Arizona core condor range take action to voluntarily reduce the amount of lead available to condors. 

When properly informed and educated with science-based evidence about wildlife management issues, including lead, hunters and anglers have historically done the right thing to prevent negative impacts to wildlife and ensure abundant wildlife populations for future generations to enjoy.

The Department has credible and current science that shows that absent chelation, the leading cause of death for condors in the Arizona-Utah population is lead toxicity and that it is having a population-level effect on the species. We are convinced though that a mandatory ban on lead ammunition is not the most effective way to reduce the amount of lead available to condors and that a ban would not yield greater success in condor conservation. In fact, a ban of lead ammunition and fishing tackle could have serious unintended negative consequences for wildlife management and conservation. 

California chose to enact a legislative ban on lead ammunition in the state’s condor range that has been in effect for several years. Currently, condor deaths from lead exposure in California still exceed 50 percent of annual condor mortality. 

The Department has demonstrated that the best way to gain support and promote continued success in condor conservation is to educate and enlist the voluntary support of hunters, who have become a part of Arizona’s solution. Without regulation, voluntary participation in the use of non-lead ammunition grew from 5 percent in 2004 to 73 percent in 2012, with an additional 15 percent removing leaded gut piles from the field in 2012. 

Arizona’s program influenced the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources to adopt a similar non-lead ammunition incentive program in 2010 for areas within Utah that are now being used heavily by condors. Estimated participation rates for their new non-lead ammo program and gut pile removal are at approximately 55 percent for deer and elk hunts in areas where condors range. 

The Center for Biological Diversity and others petitioned the EPA to ban lead ammo in 2010 and again in 2012 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). That petition was denied by the EPA due to specific language in TSCA that prohibited regulating lead bullets and lead-based ammunition. The Department supports the EPA’s position. CBD and others then sued the EPA in federal court, and the judge dismissed that suit in 2013. 

The Department filed a motion in 2012 to intervene in a lawsuit filed in federal court against the Kaibab National Forest by the Center Biological Diversity and others seeking a mandatory ban on hunting with lead ammunition in the Kaibab National Forest. The case was dismissed by the judge. 

The Department has taken action to mitigate lead poisoning when science demonstrates a population-level cause-and-effect relationship. When wildlife mortalities threaten population health and viability, the Department takes positive, proactive and cooperative steps to manage the situation. 

The Department’s programs, activities and events offer great opportunities to educate the public about hunting and shooting sports and different types of ammunition. Information on lead and wildlife is in the Department’s hunting and fishing regulation booklets and related brochures to increase the public’s awareness of the issue. Some of these opportunities and venues to teach the safe, responsible, ethical use of firearms and ammunition include: 

The Arizona Game and Fish Annual Outdoor Expo (38,000 attendees); 
Ten public shooting ranges owned by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission with one more under construction; 
Scholastic Clay Target youth shooting program (More than 1,000 participants); 
Firearms education, firearms safety, and hunter education; 
Mentored hunting camps and hunt clinics; 
Cactus Wren, Desert Roses, Annie Oakley and other new shooter programs; and, 
Shooting Range Development Grant Programs. 

The Arizona Game and Fish Department prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, or disability in its programs and activities. If anyone believes that they have been discriminated against in any of the AGFD’s programs or activities, including employment practices, they may file a complaint with the Deputy Director, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000, (602) 942-3000, or with the Fish and Wildlife Service, 4040 N. Fairfax Dr. Ste. 130, Arlington, VA 22203. Persons with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation or this document in an alternative format by contacting the Deputy Director as listed above. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Hunters have few excuses for not pursuing doves

If you are looking for an excuse not to hunt doves, don’t look to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Its staff has prepared 178 fields in 95 of Missouri’s 114 counties especially for dove hunting. No one in the state is far from a dove field.

Missouri’s dove season runs from Sept. 1 through Nov. 9. The daily limit is 15. In years past, the possession limit was twice the daily limit. This year, however, the Missouri Conservation Commission increased the possession limit to 45.

Mourning doves make up the vast majority of Missouri’s dove harvest, but Eurasian collared doves and white-winged doves also are found in the Show-Me State and are legal during dove season. Missouri residents age 16 through 64 must buy a small game hunting permit to pursue doves. All dove hunters 16 and older must have a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit.

More than 20,000 Missourians hunt doves. Why do so many people pursue such a small bird? Partly because doves are challenging game. They fly at speeds of up to 55 mph and perform aerial maneuvers that would inspire a “top gun’s” envy.

Doves’ popularity also stems from their abundance. When they aren’t humiliating hunters (who average approximately five shots per dove taken), doves are nesting. They start in March and continue well into September, often rearing six clutches in a year. This year’s nesting season got off to a slow start on account of cool weather. On the whole, however, weather has been favorable, and the Conservation Department predicts a strong hatch.

Each year, the Conservation Department plants sunflowers, corn wheat, sorghum and other crops at conservation areas to provide food for doves and other wildlife. These fields typically are treated in the weeks leading up to Sept. 1 to create prime feeding spots for doves. This practice also creates excellent hunting.

Reintroduced white-tailed eagle pair raise chick

Scotland's largest bird of prey, the white-tailed eagle, has bred in the east of the country for the first time in almost 200 years.

BBC Scotland has learned a pair of the birds have raised a male chick, after nesting at a secret location in Fife.

The country's last native white-tailed eagle was shot in Shetland in 1918.

The species only returned to the UK following a reintroduction project in the west of Scotland, which began on the Isle of Rum in 1975.

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse welcomed the news.

"I hope this will be the first of many of this magnificent species, which will eventually spread their territories right across Scotland," he said.

"I'd like to thank all the partners who have played their part in making this exciting and special event happen."

Critical bird habitat in Peru expanded to protect 23 threatened species

Land acquisitions to help protect one of world's rarest birds 
August 2013. Two new key properties have been acquired in northern Peru that will expand Abra Patricia Reserve to over 25,000 acres and help protect habitat for one of the world's rarest birds, the Long-whiskered Owlet, along with 23 other globally threatened species.

Critical habitat
The acquisitions were funded by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and completed by AsociaciĆ³n Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), ABC's partner in Peru. When combined with three other properties purchased by the two groups in January and February 2013, the newly acquired lands total 1,261 acres. The Abra Patricia area is recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as a critical site for both the endangered Long-whiskered Owlet as well as the endangered Ochre-fronted Antpitta.

The Long-whiskered Owlet - discovered in 1976,
The Long-whiskered Owlet, which was only discovered in 1976, is one of the tiniest owls in the world, measuring only five inches tall. The bird's long, wispy facial feathers extend out past its head, creating the appearance of long whiskers.

The reserve at Abra Patricia consists of land privately owned by ECOAN as well as a 40-year conservation concession on forestry lands. When added to the recent acquisitions, the reserve now totals more than 25,000 acres managed by ECOAN for conservation.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

RSPB will go to extreme measures to save birds

But the RSPB has a squad which is more SAS than sedate. Its members will abseil down sheer cliffs, squat in mosquito-infested ditches or race over moorland to the scenes of alleged crimes.

The investigations team is in the front line of fighting wildlife crime and has its hands full. Just try finding a hen harrier in England this summer. The males are sleek, grey masters of the air quartering moorland in pursuit of prey. But this summer they became extinct as breeding birds in England for the first time in 50 years. Yet a government study says the uplands south of the border could support 300 pairs.

Unfortunately the hen harrier's diet includes grouse chicks which makes it a target on some unscrupulous shooting estates. It is not alone. In 2011 the RSPB received 202 reports of birds of prey being killed.

Investigations team member Mark Thomas tells RSPB Birds magazine: "If you look at the list of people convicted for offences against birds of prey since 1990 you'll see that 70 per cent of them work on shooting estates."

But proving who killed a bird of prey on a remote estate is the devil's own job. The team relies on tip-offs, technology and luck.

Report: Puerto Rican parrot makes major comeback

One of the world's most endangered bird species has made a major comeback in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

The counted population of the Puerto Rican parrot fell to just 13 during its darkest days, but researchers said Thursday that nearly 400 parrots are now in captivity and more than 100 being tracked in the wild across the island.

Scientists working in the Rio Abajo Nature Preserve in western Puerto Rico also found a wild nest with eggs, the first discovery of its kind in 42 years.

"This is a huge step," said Gustavo Olivieri, coordinator of the Rio Abajo parrot reintroduction program. "It shows the population can sustain itself."

The eggs did not hatch, but scientists said that is not unusual and they are encouraged that formerly captive parrots were procreating in the wild and building nests.

The birds are the island's only remaining native parrot and one of roughly 30 species of Amazon parrots found in the Americas. They have red foreheads, turquoise feathers under their wings and grow to nearly a foot in length. They are known for their secrecy and usually mate for life, reproducing once a year.

This year, a record 51 baby parrots were born in captivity in the Rio Abajo forest, up from a previous record of 34 born in 2011, said Ricardo Valentin, a biologist with the island's Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The number of parrots born in the wild also increased slightly to a record 15, up from 12 last year, he said.

While the researchers' goal is to release parrots into the wild with temporary radio collars, some are too aggressive or weak and are instead kept captive, Olivieri said.

Scientists estimate that as many as 1 million Puerto Rican parrots lived in pre-colonial times, but their habitat was destroyed by the clearing of forests in the late 1800s to plant citrus, coffee and sugar cane.

Prairie chicken tracked on 1,165-mile journey in Missouri and Iowa

A female prairie chicken wearing a GPS tracking collar surprised and puzzled biologists this summer by traveling 1,165 miles in big circles in southern Iowa and northern Missouri. The hen, labeled Bird No. 112, was trapped in western Nebraska and released on April 4 near the Missouri border, north of Bethany, for a prairie chicken restoration project. Since then, she has avoided fatal dangers such as predators, vehicles, fences and utility lines in a ceaseless journey which has slowed but not stopped.

Rare black grouse making a comeback thanks to warm summer

A RARE breed of bird is making a comeback thanks to this year’s warm summer.

The black grouse, once common across much of England but now confined to the upland moors of Northumberland, County Durham, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, has enjoyed a record-breaking breeding season this year.

Experts say the success is down to the warm, dry conditions in June, which created an abundance of insects for the young chicks.

The annual breeding count has revealed that each hen has produced more than four chicks on average and some were spotted with 10 or 11 young.

Dr Phil Warren, specialist with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust said: "This is all in stark contrast to last year when breeding productivity was appalling and one sample of 35 hens found only raised seven chicks between them.

"Last year it was cold and wet and this year it has been warm and dry. Warm dry conditions mean an abundance of insects such as sawfly larvae which young chicks depend on when they first hatch".

He added: "This bumper breeding is extremely encouraging".

Monday, 26 August 2013

Unusual birds from Belgium arrive at Paradise Park

THREE unusual looking birds have been brought over from Belgium as a new attraction at Paradise Park.

Staff from from Planckendael Zoo near Antwerp, brought the Vulturine Guineafowl, which are usually found in grassland in eastern Africa, to the park in Hayle.

Known for their strange noises, the birds tend to gather in groups and prefer to run rather than fly when they are alarmed.

Curator, David Woolcock, said: “The name of the Vulturine Guineafowl comes from its bald head and neck, which is similar to that of a vulture. They are a striking species with the cobalt blue breast, these three are young and we hope they will breed over the next few years.”

Forest-Interior Birds May Be Benefiting from Harvested Clearings

Aug. 21, 2013 — Efforts to conserve declining populations of forest-interior birds have largely focused on preserving the mature forests where birds breed, but a U.S. Forest Service study suggests that in the weeks leading up to migration, younger forest habitat may be just as important.

In an article published recently in the American Ornithologist Union's publication The Auk, research wildlife biologist Scott Stoleson of the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station suggests that forest regrowth in clearcuts may be vital to birds as they prepare for fall migration.

The study suggests that declines in forest-interior species may be due in part to the increasing maturity and homogenization of forests. Openings created by timber harvesting may increase habitat for some forest interior birds, according to Stoleson. "Humans have really changed the nature of mature forests in the Northeast," Stoleson said. "Natural processes that once created open spaces even within mature forests, such as fire, are largely controlled, diminishing the availability of quality habitat."

Loggers Get the OK to Kill Endangered Spotted Owls

The Endangered Species Act exists to protect biodiversity. It can only work when species listed as endangered are actually afforded the protections guaranteed to them in the Act. Unfortunately these days, even earning classification as an endangered species doesn’t always mean safety from harm.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service approved a plan that would allow Fruit Growers Supply Co. accelerate logging of occupied spotted owl habitat in California’s old growth forests.

The plan to raze trees that have been growing for hundreds of years is appalling enough, but the agencies also granted the company permission to ”take,” that is, harm or kill, more than 80 northern spotted owls living in those woods. This is nearly 50 percent of the total spotted owl population believed to reside in the area.

Owls of all types are vital to forest ecosystems, as they feed on rodents typically considered vermin. “Like its cousins the Mexican and northern spotted owls, the California spotted owl is a bellwether of old-growth forests,” explains The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). This owl’s classic four-note call was once commonly heard throughout the big trees of the Sierra Nevada and Southern California ranges, but logging, sprawl, and invasion by the barred owl…are silencing it.”

CBD is just one of three environmental organizations who filed a lawsuit [pdf] against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service for approving the logging plan last week.

“Fruit Growers’ 50-year plan targets endangered species and the forests that sustain them in the first 10 years in exchange for 40 years of empty promises to do good after the habitat and the species are gone,” said George Sexton, conversation director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, in a press release. “The plan fails rare species and is a big step backwards for healthy forests and rivers in Northern California.”

British conservationists give rare spoon-billed sandpiper a helping hand

One of the world’s rarest birds has had its numbers boosted by a scheme to hand-rear chicks.

Spoon-billed sandpipers have been helped by British conservationists who worked with scientists in the bird’s native Russia where only 100 live in the wild.

They took the eggs from breeding pairs shortly after they were laid to encourage them to have another clutch. The eggs taken from the birds were hand-reared, boosting their numbers by 16.

The birds usually rear 60 young between them before their 8,000km (5,000-mile) annual migration to Burma.

‘The spoon-billed sandpiper needs a lifeline to keep them from going under,’ said Roland Digby, of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

‘Each pair is lucky to get even a single chick as far as fledging. Normally that’s life, but right now the spoon-billed sandpiper needs a lifeline to keep them from going under.’

The spoon-billed sandpiper has been hit by loss of inter-tidal habitat in East Asia as they migrate south from their Russian breeding grounds.

Bird trapping by villagers in their wintering sites in Bangladesh and Burma has also affected numbers.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


BirdLife Malta said it is the government that has been discriminatory – by hand-picking staff for the new Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU).

It was replying to a government answer to a news release it issued, saying that it considers that Joe Lia had too great a conflict of interest to be employed within the WBRU.

“This conflict of interest meant that BirdLife Malta could not remain at the Ornis Committee when proposals for the trapping of song thrush and golden plover were being discussed because Mr Lia was present as the government’s technical expert. BirdLife Malta considers that it was taking an ethical stance when it made its decision to withdraw from Ornis for this agenda item,” BirdLife said

It added that Mr Lia’s listing as the FKNK council member for live-bird trapping on the FKNK website was removed only after the publication of an article that drew attention to the conflict of interest between his role as an FKNK council member and his position as a technical officer at the WBRU.

There has yet to be an official statement by the FKNK and/or Mr Lia confirming his resignation or removal from the FKNK council, BirdLife added.

Penguins Thrived in Antarctica During Little Ice Age

Penguin populations in the Ross Sea of Antarctica spiked during the short cold period called the Little Ice Age, which occurred between A.D.1500 and 1800, new research shows.

The results run contrary to previous studies that found increases in Antarctic penguin populations during warmer climates and decreases during colder climates, suggesting penguin populations living at different latitudes in the Antarctic may respond to climate change differently, scientists said.

"How ecological systems adapt to climate change is a very important and hot topic," said study researchers Liguang Sun and Zhouqing Xie, who are both environmental scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, China. "Our study suggests that it is not simple to answer this question," they told LiveScience in an email.

Rare Peregrine falcon recovering after being shot in wing

Police are investigating after a rare peregrine falcon was shot in Keynsham.

The falcon, which is just a few months old, was found at the side of the road by a passer-by in Queen Charlton earlier this month.

He alerted the Independent Bird Register and it is now recovering in a specially constructed mews at the smallholding of Peter Burden who has been rehabilitating birds of prey for 40 years.

Initially Mr Burden thought the bird had been hit by a car but an X-ray revealed lead pellets in its wing.

Mr Burden, who also breeds chickens, ducks, sheep and rheas, at his home in Portishead said: “I have cared for many birds over the years but this is the first time I have known a peregrine falcon to be shot.

“The falcon suffered soft tissue damage which means it cannot fly. It is making good progress and I am taking it back to the vet next week.”

Mr Burden, 60, who is also chairman of Portishead Town Council, also reported the incident to Bristol Ornithological Club,

Club chairman Ed Drewitt had ringed the bird when it was a chick near Avonmouth on the Severn Estuary early in July and said: “This bird is just a few months old and it’s hard to believe it’s been shot.

“I’ve been studying peregrines in Bristol for 15 years and this is the first instance of one being shot in the city. It is unacceptable behaviour, and a relief the bird is still alive.

“In areas such as northern England we do encounter problems of this kind, with game hunters targeting the birds.

“Whoever shot the bird was a bad shot and fortunately the pellet went into its wing, rather than into the main body.”

He hopes the bird will make a full recovery and will be able to be released into the wild.

Peregrine falcons are a protected species and the incident has been reported to the police and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

A police spokesman said: “We are investigating the incident which is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982,

“Anyone with information should contact Keynsham Police Station on 101.”

Will gull warning signs fly in the east end?

A feathery flap over road kill is poised to turn Eastport Drive into Hamilton's first gull safety zone.

No, you're not being gulled by mischievous wildlife activists.

By next spring, yellow-and-black bird hazard signs topped with flashing lights could greet drivers zipping along the harbour-hugging road. Think school zone warning signs — but for water birds.

City traffic engineers have offered the watch-for-wings signage in response to a gull mortality study last year that revealed hundreds of bird-car collisions near Pier 27, the spring home of a massive colony of ring-billed gulls.

Traffic operations manager Martin White suspects the $4,400 pair of solar-powered signs would be unique in Ontario. The city already posts signs to protect threatened wildlife such as turtles — but in this case, opinions may differ on who is being protected.

"I know some very dedicated people are concerned about the number of birds dying in that location," he said. "I hope this will help, but to be honest I'm more worried about driver safety."

White said the road kill count suggests the growing ring-billed gull colony — 8,300 nesting pairs last year — could pose a hazard for motorists. That's just the population of smaller, common gulls; the pier area is also home to larger herring gulls and cormorants.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

How are birds able to obey the speed limit?

Birds can judge the speed limit of a road, researchers at Cardiff University have discovered.

They found that birds are able to work out the average speed of a road and adjust their flight responses, in order to reduce the chance of crashing.

However this does make birds vulnerable to speeding cars, as they may not realise the vehicles are travelling faster than normal.

Dr Sarah Perkins, who was behind the study, told BBC Radio 5 live's Breakfast: "If you speed, the birds are in that area are adapted to the speed limit not your speed, so you may be more likely to cause wildlife roadkill."

Andean Condors released into wild after poisoning scare

Endangered Condors have been released back into the wild high up in Chile's Andes.

It comes after a poisoning scare in the area which saw more than a dozen of the large birds mysteriously crash to the ground earlier this month.

Denise Hammick reports.

On A Rocky Maine Island, Puffins Are Making A Tenuous Comeback

Rocky, windswept Eastern Egg Rock, about 6 miles off the coast of Maine, was once a haven for a hugely diverse bird population. But in the 1800s, fishermen decimated the birds' ranks — for food and for feathers.

When ornithologist Stephen Kress first visited 40 years ago, the 7-acre island was nearly barren, with only grass and gulls left. Not a puffin in sight. Not even an old puffin bone.

"But it had great habitat because there were great boulders on the island, and I could imagine the puffins standing on top of them," Kress says.

No imagination is needed now. Thanks to a relocation experiment pioneered by Kress and his co-workers in the Audubon Society's Project Puffin, this treeless little island is now kind of a bird tornado.

In peak years, more than 200 of the orange-and black-beaked puffins nest here. Ten other bird species — including the endangered roseate tern — have been tempted into the island habitat, with an assist from handmade burrows, decoys and recorded bird calls. In nesting season, humans are posted to wave off predators such as black-backed gulls and eagles.

Kress heads to a bird blind out on the perimeter of the island. He's surrounded by a whirl of laughing gulls and terns — they're mostly what's heard here since puffins are silent above ground.

State tells AC rescue to surrender disabled turkey vulture

A group of wildlife volunteers hope to convince state officials to allow a disabled turkey vulture to remain at an Arizona City bird sanctuary he has come to know as home.

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials next week plan to confiscate the bird, which was hit by a car in October.

Unable to fly, the bird was hobbling near Arizona 287 when it was found by Pinal Wildlife Rescue volunteers.

“The wing was crooked,” said Betsy Lagos of Pinal Wildlife Rescue.

Each year, dozens of injured birds, mostly owls and hawks, are brought to the PWR facility in Arizona City. Most recover and are released back into the wild within a few months. Last year alone, the organization rehabilitated and released 45 birds.

But sometimes, an animal or bird is found that cannot be released. The turkey vulture found in October is one of those cases. His wing did not heal properly and the bird is now permanently disabled with little chance of surviving if released into the wild, according to Lagos.

“But other than the wing injury the bird is happy and healthy,” Lagos said.

PWR is the only fully functioning wildlife rehabilitation organization in Pinal County. It is licensed for wildlife rehabilitation and education with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Owlets Sleep Like Human Babies

Rock-a-bye owlet, in the treetop …

Baby owls and baby mammals, including humans, sleep in an analogous manner, spending a similar amount of time in an awakelike phase called REM (rapid-eye movement), in which dreams are thought to occur, at least during adulthood, new research suggests.

In both owls and humans, REM sleep decreases with increasing age. Baby humans spend about 50 percent of their snooze time in this REM phase, whereas that figure decreases to less than 25 percent in adults, according to a statement from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. (Applying the REM term to owls, whose eyes are fixed in their heads, may seem a stretch, but researchers use the phrase anyway.)

In the new study, published in July in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, the researchers attached electroencephalograms (EEGs) and movement data loggers to 66 young barn owls to record how much time the animals spent in REM sleep and how much they moved while snoozing. They later removed the EEGs, which measure brain waves, and found that the birds mated normally and didn't appear to have suffered any negative effects from the devices, the statement noted.

Hue of Barn Swallow Breast Feathers Can Influence Their Health

Aug. 21, 2013 — A new study conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder and involving Cornell University shows the outward appearance of female barn swallows, specifically the hue of their chestnut-colored breast feathers, has an influence on their physiological health.

It has been known that in North American barn swallows, both males and females, those with darker ventral feathers have higher reproductive success than those with lighter colors, said Cornell Senior Research Associate Maren Vitousek, who led the new research while a postdoctoral researcher at CU-Boulder. Although there is evidence that breast feather color is significantly influenced by genetics, melanin-based plumage color like that in barn swallows also has been tied to social status and even to circulating testosterone, she said.

The new study showed that both naturally darker barn swallow females and those with artificially darkened breast feathers also had lower levels of oxidative damage, which could ultimately make the birds healthier. Oxidative stress results when the production of harmful metabolites known as free radicals exceeds antioxidant defenses in the birds, which can lead to DNA, protein and fat damage in the birds, said Vitousek.

"Intriguingly, females whose feathers were darkened to resemble 'attractive' birds rapidly adopted the physiological state of darker birds, decreasing their level of oxidative damage," said Vitousek. "These results suggest the appearance of an individual may be an under-appreciated driver of physiological health."