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.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Spotted eagles tracked from Germany on migration to Africa

In order not to disclose the exact breeding sites of rare eagles in Germany, the routes on the map are only shown from the Polish border. Courtesy of NABU

Spotted eagles fitetd with satellite transmitters

September 2013. Twelve Spotted eagles, fitted with GPS transmitters in Germany, are being tracked on their migration to Africa.

Only about 100 pairs of rare Spotted eagles breed in Germany, and this number is declining every year. For years Germany's Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) has been fighting to save the last habitats of this elusive bird of prey; buying the land where they breed and protecting its feeding areas. Nevertheless they are threatened whilst on migration, particularly by hunters, and many young birds die before they mature and return to their German breeding grounds.

To investigate the migratory behaviour, the 30 gram backpack transmitters were mounted on the back of the spotted eagles; they report regularly the exact position, altitude and speed of the eagles.

BTO cuckoos all south of the Sahara

With all the BTO Cuckoos south of the Sahara, it is now expected that they will slowly make their way to the Congo Rainforest, where they will spend the winter months.

Expected all the cuckoos will head to Congo Rainforest
September 2013. With all the BTO Cuckoos south of the Sahara, it is now expected that they will slowly make their way to the Congo Rainforest, where they will spend the winter months. 

Livingstone, Chris and Ken are the first Cuckoos to begin heading in this direction, catching up Sussex and Nick who have been in Central African Republic (CAR) and Cameroon, respectively, for several weeks.

Livingstone is currently the furthest south after his recent movements. From Chad, he travelled across the corner of Cameroon, continuing into the CAR by 19 September.

Ken has moved over 975km (600 miles) south-east in the last 10 days, from Nigeria into the Central African Republic (CAR). By the afternoon of 22 September was in the Ouham region in the north-west. Sussex the Cuckoo is also in this area and signals received from Ken's tag this morning show that he is now only 50km (30 miles) from Sussex's location.

Chris is also moving south and heading directly towards the region where both Sussex and Ken are currently located. From the Guera region of Chad he travelled south, pausing briefly from the 18 September until at least early evening of 23 September. A single poor quality transmission showed that he has continued south and is now 50km from the border with the Central African Republic (CAR).

Colonizing Songbirds Lost Sense of Syntax

Sep. 26, 2013 — As one species of European songbird island-hopped to colonize mid-Atlantic archipelagoes over the course of a half million years, their songs lost their sense of syntax.

Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) on the furthest island of their dispersal, Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, still sing the same notes, but with a much less structured pattern from one bird to the next, sort of like an island of Charlie Parkers.

"A chaffinch from mainland Europe always sounds like a chaffinch from mainland Europe," said biologist Robert F. Lachlan who completed the 15-year study of chaffinch song structure during a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke University. But on Gran Canaria, it's much harder for a human to pick them out by hearing alone, he said.

Lachlan recorded the songs of 723 males in 12 different populations across the European mainland, the Azores and the Canary Islands and compared them computationally. Subunits of the songs, which he calls syllables, differed slightly between populations, but the sequencing of the syllables -- the syntax -- was progressively less predictable the further the birds got out on the chain of colonization.

The work appears Oct. 7 in the journal Current Biology. It was funded by the Dutch Science Foundation and Duke University.

Syntactical structure was lost in a step-wise fashion that matches the known dispersal of the species across these islands. At the end of the island chain, "the syntax isn't just changing, it's disappearing," Lachlan said. "It's not about changing the rules, it's about losing them."

Trap pine martens to protect capercaillie, say gamekeepers

Pine martens should be trapped and relocated away from capercaillie breeding areas, the Scottish Gamekeeper's Association has said.

The organisation said removing the predator would help to halt a decline in numbers of the rare bird.

The SGA's suggestion of trialling the trapping and transfer of pine martens is not supported by RSPB Scotland or Scottish Natural Heritage.

The mammals are legally protected and the subject of conservation work.

Foxes, crows and birds of prey also hunt capercaillie.

Bad weather, loss of habitat and collisions with deer fences have also been blamed for deaths of the birds.

The SGA said not enough was being done to control pine martens and capercaillie were "doomed" to extinction if measures were not taken.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Feds agree to decide on bird status in 4 years

BY LISA RATHKE, ASSOCIATED PRESS : SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 : Updated: September 24, 2013 2:17pm

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A national environmental group said Tuesday it had reached a settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over endangered species status for a rare songbird, giving the federal agency four years to decide whether Bicknell's thrush should be protected.

The Center for Biological Diversity says climate change threatens to destroy the habitat of the sparrow-sized bird, which nests on mountaintops in northern New England, the Adirondacks and eastern Canada. The group sued the Fish and Wildlife Service when it did not meet a legally mandated 2012 deadline to decide if it should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Mollie Matteson, the center's Northeast representative based in Richmond, Vt., called Monday's agreement a "ray of hope."

"Time is growing short for the thrush and its vulnerable habitat," she said.

Meagan Racey, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast region in Hadley, Mass., said the agency hasn't seen a settlement agreement and therefore can't comment.

The center had petitioned the federal agency seeking protective status for bird, and maintained that the agency was required by law to issue a decision one year after finding that the bird was being considered for endangered species status.

The federal agency completed a 90-day review in August 2012 and found that the habitat of the Bicknell's thrush faces threats from climate change and forestry, energy, and recreational development such as ski areas.

Concern over plunge in Dunnet Head guillemot numbers

Written byGordon Calder

THE number of common guillemots at Dunnet Head has fallen by 45 per cent in the past 13 years.

That is the dramatic finding in a count which has been conducted by RSPB Scotland. It shows the number of gulliemots on the cliffs at Dunnet has dropped from 8,980 to just 4,880 since 2000 – a reduction of 45 per cent

Other species such as razorbills, puffins and kittiwakes are also struggling to cope with increasing challenges, including a lack of food and the effects of climate change.

The end-of-season counts which were carried out by the RSPB reveal similar drops in places such as Orkney and Ailsa Craig in the outer Firth of Clyde.

Common gulliemot numbers at Noup Cliffs in Orkney have gone down by 41 per cent while the figure at Ailsa Craig shows a decline of more than 27 per cent.

The downward trend has led to the RSPB warning some of Scotland’s seabird colonies could become extinct unless action is taken. The charity has called on the Scottish Government to act to protect the birds.

It argues that species like common guillemots, razorbills and puffins are struggling to find sand eels as they move northwards due to the effects of climate change.

"They are facing increasing challenges including a lack of food and the effects of climate change, leaving Scotland’s once bustling seabird ‘cities’ in danger of falling silent," said Allan Whyte, the marine policy officer at RSPB Scotland.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cheats of the Bird World: Cuckoo Finches Fool Host Parents

Sep. 24, 2013 — Cuckoo finches that lay more than one egg in their victims' nests have a better chance of bamboozling host parents into fostering their parasitic young, a study has found.

Dr Martin Stevens from the University of Exeter and Dr Claire Spottiswoode from the University of Cambridge, with Dr Jolyon Troscianko at the University of Exeter, demonstrated that when African cuckoo finch females lay more than one egg in the same nest of their African tawny-flanked prinia hosts, the foster parents find it harder to tell their own eggs from the imposter's.

The host is therefore less likely to reject the parasite's eggs, such that the parasitic chick is raised for free at the host's expense. This helps to explain why female cuckoo finches commonly lay more than one egg in the same host nest.

Host parents often have difficulty in distinguishing parasitic eggs from their own because cuckoo finches lay eggs that beautifully mimic those of their hosts. Such mimicry has evolved to combat egg rejection by picky parents who remove foreign eggs from their nests.

Egg rejection depends on hosts accurately discriminating parasitic eggs from their own. To do so they must first carry out the sensory task of detecting small differences in egg colours and patterns between their eggs and the parasite's. They must then also correctly identify which eggs are parasitic, to ensure that they don't mistakenly reject any of their own eggs. This is a cognitive task relying on an ability to process the sensory information and compare it to a memorised template of what their own eggs look like.

Sudan’s killer power line to be replaced to protect Endangered Egyptian vultures

Sudan government acts on "killer power line"

September 2013. A workshop of the Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project led by BirdLife International and the United Nations Development Program has prompted the Sudanese government to replace one of the most deadly power lines in Africa for large migratory birds , the Port Sudan "killer line".

Thousands of Endangered Egyptian vultures killed
In particular the 31-km long power line is estimated to have killed hundreds and perhaps thousands of Egyptian Vultures since it was constructed in the 1950s. The most recent survey found, during the month of September alone, the carcasses of 17 Egyptian vultures along the power line. All the carcasses were found under power poles, 15 under metal poles and two under concrete poles, making electrocution the most likely cause of death.

The March 2013 workshop, funded by the MSB project, was presented by the Sudanese Wildlife Society (SWS) who is the local non-governmental partner in the project. The opening session was held at the offices of the Sudanese Company for Electricity Transmission. Guests included the Director General and senior engineers of the Electricity Transmission Company, the Director of the Sudanese Electricity Distribution Company, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, and the Director General of the Wildlife Conservation General Administration.

The President of SWS, Professor Ibrahim Hashim, gave a presentation about the impact of power lines on migratory soaring birds, with the emphasis on the Port Sudan "killer line". He then introduced the MSB project guidance materials on bird-sensitive power line development.

"Responses from the distinguished speakers were positive", said Ibrahim Hashim. "All of them stressed the importance of solving the killer power line. The Director of the Electricity Company emphasised the impact of the killer line on birds, as well as the power loss due to electrocution, and he promised to solve the problem."

What’s killing birds and cats in our parks?

Dubai: Scores of birds and cats have died of suspected poisoning in various parks in Dubai, XPRESS has learnt.

Nina Stone, who teaches Brazilian martial arts Capoeira at Safa Park, said she has found 40 to 50 dead birds everyday over the past fortnight.

“It’s a horrifying sight. There are mynahs, crows, pigeons and hud huds either lying dead in the grass or in their final death throes. At least three cats, all neutered, have also died from suspected poisoning and many others have fallen sick.

“I took six of them to the vet and sheltered three others in my house, but there are still a few left near the nursery area. I hope I can rescue them as well before something happens,” she said.

Raining dead birds
At the Umm Suqeim Park the scenes are no less disturbing. “It’s almost like raining dead birds here. They are falling out of the skies and trees. The other day I saw a worker scoop away a bagful of dead mynahs and crows,” said a British woman visiting the park. Similar incidents have been reported from Al Barsha Park.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Artificial Lighting and Noise Alter Biorhythms of Birds

Sep. 24, 2013 — Noise from traffic and artificial night lighting cause birds in the city centre to become active up to five hours earlier in the morning than birds in more natural areas. These were the findings from an investigation conducted on 400 blackbirds in Leipzig by the interdisciplinary research group "Loss of the Night." Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) reported in the open-access journal PLOS ONE that these findings showed how ambient noise and light pollution caused by humans have significant effects on the behavioural patterns of city blackbirds, affecting their natural cycles.

The scientists choose the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) as the model organism for the investigation. This medium sized thrush was originally a forest-dweller, but since the early 19th Century it has become well-adapted to the conditions of cities, where it is now a common resident that is easily identified by its very distinct birdsong. In spring of 2011 and 2012, both over 15 weeks, data on the behaviour of blackbirds were recorded and analysed in the 215-hectar study area in Leipzig. The study area covered an urban gradient of 3km stretching from the city centre through the Clara Zetkin Park to the floodplain forest.

For biologist Anja Ruß and some hard-working students the field work involved numerous nightshifts of patrolling blackbird territories between 1:30am and sunrise to record the birdsong behaviour of male blackbirds in order to locate and record the behavioural patterns of over 400 individuals. In addition, the scientists used data from official statistics for calculations on the distribution of artificial lighting and noise levels of the surrounding environment. Due to the artificial lighting of roads it was much brighter at night in the green areas close to the city ring road than in the floodplain forest. "The brighter the night, the earlier the blackbirds started their dawn song. We found this linear relationship for low levels of artificial night light but it seemed to reach a threshold. If this threshold is exceeded, an increase in light intensity will not lead to an even earlier onset of dawn song," reports Anja Ruß from the UFZ.

City birds 'cope better in cold' than those in woodland

Urban breeding birds fared better than their woodland counterparts during 2012's cold, wet weather for the first time in 10 years, a study has found.

Blue and great tits in a woodland area were compared with those in Cambridge.

Researchers found urban birds relied less on a single source of food, such as caterpillars, whose numbers are affected by cold weather.

Woodland birds also bred less during the cold spell in 2012, said the Anglia Ruskin University study.

It was carried out in conjunction with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) referred to 2012 as "one of the worst breeding seasons on record" following poor results in its annual surveys of nests and fledglings.

'Urban advantage'
The latest study concluded birds living in native British woodland were "more susceptible to the effects of extreme weather conditions than those in urban environments".

Unconfirmed reports of sightings of a Golden eagle in Devon

Search for golden eagle in Devon

September 2013. There have been several reported sightings of a very large raptor, believed to be a Golden eagle, in North Devon in the last month or two. A pet bird from Escot Park did go missing for a week in July, but returned to Escot.

Police Sergeant Dave Knight, a Police Wildlife Crime Officer based in North Devon, is requesting sightings of a Golden Eagle that may be in the North Devon area. If you see this magnificent bird, or if anyone has seen the bird since the beginning of August can they please contact Devon and Cornwall police on 101 giving the exact location and date of sighting.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Rehabilitated bald eagle takes flight, thanks to Audubon Society of Portland

Thanks to Audubon Society of Portland for sending along this new photo of a bald eagle taking flight shortly after rehabilitators released it near Longview, Wash.

The mature eagle was treated for months at Audubon's Wildlife Care Center before Friday's release. Blood tests and X-rays indicted it suffered from lead poisoning, a common problem for raptors in the Pacific Northwest.

Typically, according to wildlife experts, birds are poisoned when they ingest animals shot with lead ammunition or feed on gut piles left behind by hunters using lead ammunition. Most lead-poisoned birds die in the wild, becoming food for other animals and spreading lead toxicity through the food chain.

Sparrow returns (the bird, not Depp)

BRITAIN’S sparrows are staging a fightback — with the help of the public.

Numbers of the UK’s best-loved garden bird have crashed by ten million since the 1970s.

But the drastic decline has halted and their number ....

Angling: Two opposing cormorant camps still at loggerheads

There is little doubt that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and anglers have been at loggerheads over cormorants with both sides struggling to concede to the other’s view.

From an angler’s perspective, it feels like the RSPB have dug their heels in and are choosing to ignore world-wide figures that suggest there are too many cormorants.

Angling Trust chief officer Mark Lloyd gave a host of facts and figures on a recent screening of BBC’s The One Show in favour of keeping cormorant numbers under control.

He claimed that in this country alone there are at least 30,000 of them, each consuming at least a pound of fish a day.

In response, RSPB spokesman John Knott suggested that the birds were not having much impact on current fish stocks.

He went on to blame anglers for overstocking in the first place – although he did have a point there, especially on the commercials, some of which have been heavily overstocked.

What he did not take into consideration is our river system where some of them have been completely stripped of fish.

When I was a young man our local river (Wharfe) was alive with fish with some huge shoals of dace. And venues like Boston Spa, Tadcaster and Ulleskelf were full of them.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Contaminants May Cause Birds to Sing a Different Tune

Sep. 18, 2013 — In an article published today in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers at Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology report that in some environments, songbirds exhibit inconsistency in their songs which may be caused by non-lethal levels of contaminants that persist in the sediments of the Hudson River region.

The research reported in "The Effect of Polychlorinated Biphenyls on the Song of Two Passerine Species," was funded by New York Sea Grant, a joint program of the State University of New York, Cornell University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lead author Dr. Sara DeLeon, working with principal investigator Dr. Timothy J. DeVoogd and co-investigator Dr. Andre A. Dhondt, studied songbirds that nest along the Hudson River valley, a region with legacy levels of PCBs as a result of decades of electronics manufacturing upriver. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic chemical pollutants with demonstrated detrimental toxic and developmental effects on humans and wildlife.

"Dr. DeLeon's work would have brought a smile to the face of Rachel Carson," said William Wise, Interim Director of New York Sea Grant. "This type of dedicated field research can tease out the impact of organic contaminants in the environment on creatures that are known to all of us. Sara and colleagues are drawing the connections between contaminant, animal behavior and, ultimately, a population's health."

Songbirds feed their young PCB-contaminated aquatic insects as their main food source. Some birds continue eating insects throughout life, thus increasing PCB ingestion if they live in contaminated areas. The research team non-lethally investigated total PCB loads, congener specific PCB profiles, and songs of black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) and song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) along a historical PCB gradient at the Hudson River in New York State.

Key among the team's findings is that song disruption is tied to specific types of PCBs -- there are 209 variations, differentiated by the positioning and number of chlorine atoms. DeLeon tested 41 of these variations to isolate their effects.

Federal environment minister says Ottawa to protect endangered sage grouse

The Canadian Press
Tue, 17 Sep 2013 14:22:00 CST

OTTAWA - After having its legal feathers ruffled in court, the federal government says it is moving to protect the endangered sage grouse.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Tuesday the government intends to introduce an emergency protection order for the bird native to the southern Prairies.

She said the order would impose obligatory restrictions to protect the sage grouse and its habitat on provincial and federal crown lands in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The restrictions would not apply to activities on private land, or on grazing on provincial or federal crown lands.

"Through a combination of stewardship measures we are addressing the imminent threats to the Greater Sage-Grouse," Aglukkaq said in a release.

"We will be working with provinces and stakeholders over the coming months to implement these measures."

The sage grouse population in Canada has declined by nearly 98 per cent since 1988, with less than 150 birds now remaining in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Last year environmental groups went to court to force Ottawa to issue an emergency protection order for the bird after the government said discussions about the sage grouse were covered by cabinet confidentiality.

Last month the Federal Court of Appeal ruled the federal government can't use cabinet secrecy to hide debate about the endangered bird.

Conservation groups said Tuesday they were cautiously optimistic about the government's decision, but want more details about the plan.

"We have yet to see when — or even if — the emergency order will be implemented, and whether it will provide real, meaningful protection for these prairie birds and their critical habitat," said Melissa Gorrie, lawyer for the group Ecojustice.

Nature Canada and other organizations expressed similar views, praising the decision but calling on the federal government for more information.

"Some of the key specifics of the order are still unknown at this time, so we're going to have to wait and see all the details before we know what it will mean for this iconic at-risk species," said Ian Davidson, executive director of Nature Canada.

"Even so, we are treating this as a very positive development."

Environment Canada said an emergency order under the federal Species At Risk Act can be used when a species faces imminent threats to its survival.

Eagle Vs. Deer: Camera Trap Shows Golden Eagle Capturing Sika Deer

Sep. 23, 2013 — A camera trap set out for endangered Siberian (Amur) tigers in the Russian Far East photographed something far more rare: a golden eagle capturing a young sika deer.

The three images only cover a two-second period, but show an adult golden eagle clinging to the deer's back. Its carcass was found two weeks later, just a few yards from the camera, initially puzzling researchers.

The paper and images appear in the September issue of the Journal of Raptor Research. Authors include Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

"I saw the deer carcass first as I approached the trap on a routine check to switch out memory cards and change batteries, but something felt wrong about it. There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died." said lead author Dr. Linda Kerley of ZSL, who runs the camera trap project. "It was only after we got back to camp that I checked the images from the camera and pieced everything together. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Co-author Dr. Jonathan Slaght of WCS noted that golden eagles have a long history of eyebrow-raising predation attempts. "The scientific literature is full of references to golden eagle attacks on different animals from around the world, from things as small as rabbits -- their regular prey -- to coyote and deer, and even one record in 2004 of an eagle taking a brown bear cub."

Researchers from ZSL have been using camera traps for six years to monitor Amur tigers in the Lazovskii State Nature Reserve in Primorye in the southern Russian Far East. The images from these traps usually record common prey species, and occasionally a resident or transient tiger -- information important to understanding tiger population structure.

The scientists underscore that golden eagles do not regularly attack deer, and there is no evidence that such attacks have any impact on deer populations.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Helicopter called in to save seagull stuck in power lines

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (CNN) - A dramatic rescue unfolded in Virginia Beach Thursday.

A helicopter was called in to save a seagull.

Witnesses reported the bird had been tangled up in the power line since Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Virginia Dominion Power said the seagull was too high up for a bucket rescue.

So the company sent in the helicopter it usually uses for special equipment.

Workers managed to free the bird.

It was then taken to the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where it's expected to be treated for its injuries.

Ancient bird species shows signs of comeback in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- One of the world's oldest and most distinctive songbird species might be coming back from the brink of extinction thanks to a relocation project that established a new population on an almost predator-free island, New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) announced Monday.

A DOC team had relocated 41 tiny alpine rock wrens (also known as tuke in Maori) from around Fiordland in the far southwest of the South Island to Secretary Island over 2008 to 2011, and the number had grown to 66 in April, said a DOC statement.

"The increased safety of the island, a place where predators pose a lesser threat, provides insurance against the birds' steady demise on the mainland," DOC ranger Megan Willans said in the statement.

Of the 66 birds on the island, where the population of predatory stoats was tightly controlled, 63 had hatched and fledged there, indicating the birds have settled in well enough to breed.

The rock wren is the only true alpine bird in New Zealand and one of the most ancient bird species in the world.

They stem from a species present more than 80 million years ago and have no close structural resemblance to any other group of birds in the world.

Harris hawk trapped at Essex caravan park rescued from tree

A couple hired a cherry picker to rescue a Harris hawk trapped upside down by its ankles in a tree.

The female hawk was spotted 34ft (10m) up in a dead tree at the Dovercourt Caravan Park by a security guard.

The guard called Katrina Myers, who runs Colchester Owl Rescue in Rowhedge, asking her to come and help.

But because Mrs Myers was not tall enough to reach the bird from the cherry picker, her husband Dave - who is scared of heights - went up instead.

And as he made his way up to the hawk his mobile telephone rang. Mr Myers' ring tone is the Mission Impossible theme tune.

'Went ballistic'

Mrs Myers said after repeated attempts to reach the hawk, Mr Myers managed to take hold of the bird.

"It knew it was going to be handled," said Mrs Myers, "and it freaked out.

"As soon as my husband got it wrapped up, she went ballistic."

The hawk suffered grazes but no broken bones.

Mrs Myers is now hoping to reunite the hawk with its rightful owner.

It is not clear whether it had previously been used as a pest control or breeding bird.

Monday, 23 September 2013

New grass to stop birds hitting planes

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a bird hitting a plane.

Well, not for much longer, if New Zealand scientists are successful in introducing bird-repelling grass around airports.

It's hoped the development will alleviate the multi-million dollar aviation problem of aircraft being struck by our feathered friends.

The scientists have created a new type of grass that can be laid around airports, which repels the insects that create perfect bird-feeding conditions.

Insects weaken or kill sown grasses leaving spaces for the establishment of weeds, which attract grain feeding birds.

Tests at two New Zealand airports show bird numbers fell by 70 percent when the new grass was laid and there was less chance of feeding on insects, weeding seeds or eating grass.

"The newly developed bird deterring grass ... contains a natural fungus, an endophyte, that produces chemicals that deter insects," Dr Chris Pennell of AgResearch Lincoln says.

"This reduces the attractiveness of the airport as a feed source."

The fungi also leaves an unpleasant taste that deters both grass-eating birds like geese and rodents that attract larger predators such as hawks.

"We have data that suggests animals and birds learn to avoid these areas," Dr Pennell said.

Read more:

Police seize trapping nets and protected rare birds – CABS

Update: CABS have said the Dotterel trapper from Sarraflu filmed by CABS this morning was identified and is being questioned in the Victoria police station at the moment.

Earlier this afternoon CABS said that its volunteers today caught a bird trapper who was trapping dotterel (Birwina) with a huge net installation near Sarraflu, Gozo. According to the conservationists, early this morning at around 08.15 a Bird Guards team filmed a man in a blue T-shirt – probably in his late twenties – activating a clap net and setting out cages containing live decoy birds.

“Shortly before the arrival of the police the man received a phone call and began to deactivate the nets. As he realised that the officers had almost reached the site, he panicked and fled with the birds in their cages,” reports CABS member Craig Redmond, whose team had discovered the site.

“His flight will not rescue him from the long arm of the Maltese law however. “We have photos of the man setting his net and with the decoy birds in his hand. Identification should be no problem for the police.” Craig Redmond comments.

CABS said that when the police arrived on the site “they discovered four 50 m long clap nets, a pond and plastic decoys and a single live Dotterel in a cage. After an exhaustive search of over an hour the Bird Guards found a further 6 cages and live birds that the man had discarded along the path of his hasty flight.

Songbirds May Have 'Borrowed' DNA to Fuel Migration

Sep. 20, 2013 — A common songbird may have acquired genes from fellow migrating birds in order to travel greater distances, according to a University of British Columbia study published this week in the journal Evolution.

While most birds either migrate or remain resident in one region, the Audubon's warbler, with habitat ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Mexico, exhibits different behaviours in different locations. The northern populations breed and migrate south for the winter, while southern populations have a tendency to stay put all year long.

Evolutionary biologists have long been puzzled by research that indicates some Audubon's warblers share the same mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) with myrtle warblers -- a different species of songbird that migrates annually to the southeastern U.S., Central America and the Caribbean -- even though they look dramatically different.

"Mitochondria are only passed down from mothers to their offspring," says David Toews, a PhD candidate in UBC's Department of Zoology. "So it's a very useful marker for differentiating species. In this case, finding two species of songbirds sharing the same mtDNA is very surprising, so we set out to find out why."

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Understanding Humanity’s Infatuation With Chickens

There’s been quite a bit of research performed lately about the origins of birds. Adding to the fray is a study from Bournemouth University which aims to uncover the origin of chickens and their relationships with humans. For millennia we’ve been keeping these flightless birds near us, using them for work, for sport, for food, for religion, etc.

The Bournemouth University researchers, as well as those from the Universities of Durham, Nottingham, Leicester, Roehampton and York, want to understand where these chickens came from, how they spread so wildly across Europe and at what point humankind looked at these fowl and decided to start eating their eggs. Moreover, the researchers plan to uncover the origins of chicken bones in religious ceremonies and the cultural significance of cockfighting. When completed, the research will have scanned the history of chickens and humans over the past 8,000 years. The research will begin, appropriately, in January 2014, otherwise known as the Year of the Chicken.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to work with a team of high international esteem drawn from a wide range of disciplines that includes genetics, cultural anthropology, history and archaeological science,” said Dr. Mark Maltby with the University of Bournemouth in a statement. The researchers will also borrow some of the expertise of local poultry breeders and farmers as well as other interested members of the public.

“We are united by our mutual research interests in how chickens and people have interacted in the past and the present,” said Dr. Maltby.

When they set out to start this research, the scientists say they’ll start by digging into archeological records to map out the evolution of the bird and how it made its way from its original home in Southeast Asia to Europe and elsewhere. It’s already known that the earliest ancestors of the chicken were wild jungle fowl, but it’s not yet clear when humans began not only hunting these birds for food, but domesticating them and eating their eggs.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Barnstaple industrial estate 'under siege' by seagulls

BUSINESSES on a Barnstaple industrial estate say they have been under siege by seagulls for too long and have had enough of the feathered pests.

People working on Pottington Industrial Estate are regularly dive-bombed while buildings and cars have been damaged by layers of bird poo.

Business owners say the estate is constantly strewn with rubbish after seagulls attack bins and employees have to put up with the birds’ constant squawking.

Some firms already pay hundreds of pounds a week for measures to prevent the birds from nesting on their buildings.

But at a meeting on Monday night at the Barnstaple Hotel nearly 40 business owners and representatives met to discuss how they can rid the estate of the birds for good.

The meeting was set up by Chris Bonner, a landlord on the estate.

He said: “We need to set up a business group, like we used to have, and team together to get rid of the birds.”

Business owners and representatives discussed culling the seagulls.

But North Devon Council regulatory services manager Andrew Millie said it was unlikely business owners would get a licence to cull the birds.

Researchers turn to cannons to save elusive birds

EASTHAM, Mass. (AP) — Three cannons explode on a deserted Cape Cod beach, unleashing a startling cloud of white smoke and sand. In tandem, projectiles erupt from the ground, flinging a net over a group of elusive shorebirds known as red knots.

A dozen wildlife researchers emerge from hiding and sprint to transfer the prized catch into holding boxes and then to a camp nearby. There, they collect feather samples as they measure, weigh and tag the robin-size birds, then fit their legs with tiny geolocators and release them.

Biologists hope the geolocators will use ambient light to calculate and record the locations of the rosy-breasted birds, helping conservation workers who will recapture them to determine their migration routes and refueling stops.

The red knot is already on New Jersey's endangered species list and has been proposed for inclusion on the federal list. It's known for its South America-to-Arctic migration, a 10,000-mile flight.

Thousands of migrating birds killed after flying into gas plant flare

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – A manager at the Canaport liquefied natural gas facility in Saint John says there’s little it can do in the next few weeks to prevent more migrating birds from flying into a flare that’s burning at the plant.

Fraser Forsythe said Thursday the latest estimate is that about 7,500 migrating birds died while the company was burning off excess gas at the facility on Friday and Saturday.

The plant is in the middle of making changes to equipment at the facility to reduce the amount of flaring, Forsythe said, but completion of the project is still several weeks away.

In the meantime, he said the plant cannot compromise safety to prevent birds from being killed again.

“We find ourselves in a dilemma here. The flare system is a safety-release system to ensure we can maintain normal operating pressures in the plant,” he said in a telephone interview.

As the liquefied natural gas boils off, some of it has to be released or it poses a safety risk to the facility, added Forsythe.

“At the moment there’s not a whole lot I can do to resolve it in the short term.”

He said a project to install a high-pressure compressor for the gas has been underway since 2011.

“As we commissioned it we have been flaring,” he said. “Unfortunately for us we’re just a few weeks away from getting that compressor up and operating.”

Forsythe said the plant was originally designed to move large amounts of gas on a continuing basis, but the markets have changed and more of the gas is stored now and shipped during peak demand times.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Birds appear to lack important anti-inflammatory protein

From bird flu to the West Nile virus, bird diseases can have a vast impact on humans. Thus, understanding bird immune systems can help people in a variety of ways, including protecting ourselves from disease and protecting our interests in birds as food animals. An important element in the immune system of many animals' immune systems -- including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and most animals with a backbone -- is a protein called tristetraprolin, or TTP. TTP plays an anti-inflammatory role, largely through keeping another protein, called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF), in check. Studies have shown that mice bred without TTP develop chronic inflammation that affects their entire bodies. Even animals missing TTP in just one immune cell type develop a catastrophic and deadly inflammation when they're exposed to tiny amounts of a molecule from bacteria, underlying the importance of this protein. And yet, researchers have not been able to find TTP in birds. Could birds really be that different from the vast majority of their closest animal relatives? To answer that question, researcher Perry Blackshear and his colleagues at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences conducted a comprehensive examination, using several different methods to look for TTP in birds. Their results suggest that birds are truly an anomaly, having no analog for TTP in their immune systems.

Fears for safety of birds as live traps found

Traps containing small birds being used as live bait have sparked fears poachers are trying to catch sparrowhawks.

The RSPB and Lincolnshire Police have found nets containing dead and live creatures at a farm, where they also found a small wire cage on a pole containing two dead warblers with fishing wire nooses on the outside.

Investigators are linking the discovery to a 2ft tall mesh cage baited with a Greenfinch which was hoisted 20ft up a tree a mile away on the north side of Boston Cemetery. This trap also had fishing wire snares fixed to the outside.

It is believed the traps were designed to catch sparrowhawks, which could have been be lured in to attack the thrashing birds.

Wind Turbines Kill Nearly 600,000 Birds a Year — and No One's Doing Anything

Eagles have been revered throughout American history and culture, but when it comes to protecting them against wind turbines, there is minimal protection for these esteemed avians. Wind turbines have been responsible for the deaths of 85 eagles since 1997, according to a new study investigating wind farms in 10 states. One of the eagles was electrocuted by the wind turbine in the study, as Fox News reports. These are concerning findings to say the least, but what about the thousands of other birds who are killed by wind turbines? They deserve to be recognized as well.

The statistics of birds killed and injured by wind turbines are astounding. Shawn Smallwood, author of the study that was published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, comments, "I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012," as Daily Callerreports.

In the U.S., birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and eagles actually have their own law — the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, "which Congress passed in 1940 to protect bald eagles and expanded in 1962 to cover goldens." The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have not yet given consideration to the harmful impact wind turbines are having on eagles. However, they are open to experimental procedures to improve fatality monitoring methods.