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.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

World of pigeon racing rocked by doping scandal

Doping has often tarnished the image of cycling, athletics and horse racing, but drug cheats have taken another sport to an unprecedented low.

The world of pigeon racing was rocked on Friday by the news that several specially trained ‘homer’ birds had been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system.

Traces of the drug Mobistix, a medicine used by humans as a pain-killer, to combat fever and which also prevents inflammation, were found in five of the Belgian birds tested by a South African drugs laboratory, while cocaine was found in the blood of another bird.

The National Chairman of the Pigeon Fanciers Association Stefaan Van Bockstaele and the association’s Chairman of Sport Dirk Schreel were reported to be shocked when they received the test results. It was the second time the 20 samples in total had been tested after a laboratory in Belgian found no traces of drugs in any of them. The samples sent to South Africa were anonymous so the Pigeon Fanciers Association will not be able to take action against the owners of any of the pigeons

Belgian newspapers reported that during the next few months, the association will look at whether the South African lab will be given the task of analysing samples from Belgian pigeons in the future.

Monorail could further endanger bird of the year

By: Jacob Brown, | New Zealand News | Wednesday October 30 2013 11:42

It has been crowned bird of the year, but there are fears a controversial monorail project could further endanger the Mohua.

Otherwise known as the yellowhead, it has topped Forest and Bird's annual poll to find New Zealand's bird of the year.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei used the tagline "vote Mohua, not monorail", to get people to vote for it.

She says its habitat needs to be protected, as it's already endangered.

"The whole issue of protecting birds in order that you have to protect their habitat, and to protect their habitat you have to prevent the destruction of it.

"And the monorail will destroy a significant proportion of the Mohua's habitat."

Conservation Minister Nick Smith is visiting key sites along the monorail route today.

USDA plan to speed up poultry-processing lines could increase risk of bird abuse

Nearly 1 million chickens and turkeys are unintentionally boiled alive each year in U.S. slaughterhouses, often because fast-moving lines fail to kill the birds before they are dropped into scalding water, Agriculture Department records show.

Now the USDA is finalizing a proposal that would allow poultry companies to accelerate their processing lines, with the aim of removing pathogens from the food supply and making plants more efficient. But that would also make the problem of inhumane treatment worse, according to government inspectors and experts in poultry slaughter.

USDA inspectors assigned to the plants say much of the cruel treatment they witness is tied to the rapid pace at which employees work, flipping live birds upside down and shackling their legs. If the birds are not properly secured, they might elude the automated blade and remain alive when they enter the scalder.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Army, University of Maryland create realistic robotic bird

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - A robotic bird created by Army and University of Maryland researchers is tricking real flocks -- and hawks -- midair, making it a potential unsuspecting future war agent.

Robo-Raven glides, soars and flaps like a real bird. Complete individual wing control allows for extreme aerobatics that no other mechanical bird has ever been able to perform, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command researchers claim. But its ability to hide in plain sight and light weight is what excites researchers most.

"It already attracts attention from birds in the area which tends to hide its presence," said John Gerdes, a mechanical engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Vehicle Technology Directorate at APG.

Seagulls, songbirds and sometimes crows tend to try to fly in a formation near the bird during testing, but birds of prey, like falcons and hawks take a much more aggressive approach toward test flights.

"Generally we don't see them coming," Gerdes said. "They will dive and attack by hitting the bird from above with their talons, then they typically fly away."

Bees killed zoo birds; city expands beekeeping

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) - A group of zoo birds died an unusual death in southeast New Mexico. They were killed by Africanized bees.

The bees are proving to be a growing threat in Alamogordo, but city officials say they might have a plan to stop them by bringing even more bees to town.

Zoo keepers at the Alameda Zoo in Alamogordo are all too familiar with the buzzing sound but now not for a reason they'd like to remember.

"The bees became very angry, and they ended up stinging several of our birds, two ravens and one turkey vulture," said Alameda Zoo Director Steve Diehl.

Diehl says a strong wind storm in May caused an Africanized bee hive from a tree to break loose and fall right on top of the birds' cage.

He says after months of investigating the incident he finally got word that the bee stings ultimately killed three of the zoo's birds.

"It's traumatic," Diehl said. "We are very close to all our animals."

'Lost' bird rediscovered in New Caledonia along with 16 potentially new species

In early 2011, Conservation International (CI) dubbed the forests of New Caledonia the second-most imperiled in the world after those on mainland Southeast Asia. Today, CI has released the results of a biodiversity survey under the group's Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) to New Caledonia's tallest mountain, Mount PaniĆ©. During the survey researchers rediscovered the 'lost' crow honeyeater and possibly sixteen new or recently-described species. Over 20 percent larger than Connecticut, New Caledonia is a French island east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. 


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Australia's Oldest Bird Footprints Discovered

Two thin-toed footprints pressed into a sandy riverbank more than 100 million years ago are Australia's oldest known bird tracks, researchers say.

The prints were found among the fossil-rich cliffs of Dinosaur Cove on the coast of southern Victoria. Researchers think the tracks were left by a prehistoric bird species likely the size of a great egret or a small heron during the Early Cretaceous Period.

At that time, the world was warmer and the continents were arranged in different positions than they are today. The site of Dinosaur Cove was located in a floodplain in a great rift valley that formed as the supercontinent Gondwana started breaking apart, tearing Australia away from Antarctica.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Updated | At least 10 eagles shot down over Buskett

At least 10 Booted Eagles shot down by hunters in Buskett, government and hunters federation condemn ‘barbaric’ act.

At least 10 protected eagles were shot down when they tried to find shelter at Buskett, BirdLife said. The NGO explained that 10 Booted Eagles were known to be shot on Wednesday, while three more shootings were reported by the public. 

The government was quick to condemn the shootings of the rare birds over Buskett, describing the act as "barbaric."

It seems that 37 eagles were spotted in Buskett, Rabat late Wednesday afternoon and BirdLife immediately went to the area, but hunters spotted them too and word spread fast.

While appealing to hunters, activists and the public to cooperate, parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes said that the criminal act was being investigated and perpetrators would face the full brunt of the law. The hunters' federation joined in the chorus of dissaproval and described it as "atrocious in its consequence, both on wildlife and on the effect it will have on legal hunting. Very little can be said about this incident, except that, not everyone who carries a gun is a hunter, in the same way as not everyone who carries a knife is a killer."

Second trumpeter swan dies day before hunters' conviction

CLYDE — A trumpeter swan shot Oct. 12 by hunters at Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area in Sandusky County died overnight Monday at Back to the Wild in Castalia.

The swan was one of three shot by two hunters, both of whom appeared and were convicted, in municipal court in Clyde on Tuesday.

Huron father-son hunters Robert and Mitchell Hagstrom, 54 and 20, respectively, pleaded no contest to shooting a trumpeter swan, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, in Clyde Municipal Court.

A third defendant, Charles Catri, 72, pleaded no contest to shielding and harboring an offender and providing false information.

Catri was given a three-day suspended sentence and fined $283 and must serve 20 hours of community service. His Ohio hunting privileges are suspended for six months, Bury said.

Lost Your Emu? Sarasota Animal Services May Have It

Are you missing your pet emu?

One of the large, flightless birds - it's the national bird in its native Australia - was found wandering in Deer Hollow in Sarasota, near the northwest corner of Fruitville Road and Interstate 75.

Sarasota County Animal Services officers were called to the neighborhood today and brought the emu to the animal shelter.

Anyone who may have lost an emu in Sarasota County can contact Animal Services at (941) 861-9501.

First, you have to prove you own the emu.

New 'condor cam' captures rare giant bird in wild

A solar-powered "condor cam" in the hills of Big Sur, on the Central California coast, allows the public to view North America's largest birds in the wild from the comfort of home.

The San Jose Mercury News reports the live-streaming camera went online Monday.

It already has captured video of the birds feeding and preening in the wild. There are only about 430 of the massive, vulture-like birds alive in the world today.

Kelly Sorenson, executive director of Ventana Wildlife Society, says the camera is aimed at a main feeding area, and allows scientists to zoom in on each bird so they can identify them.

Like the panda-cam at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the condor cam uses inexpensive video technology to help the public interact with wildlife.

The camera can be found at .

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Bird deaths lead hotel to action

Markham’s corporate citizens have started doing their part to prevent unnecessary bird deaths, resulting from highly reflective windows.

This year, Markham Hilton Suites Hotel Conference Centre and Spa installed bird-friendly film on the windows in its tranquility garden.

According to the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing bird collisions, bird collisions with windows is one of the leading causes of bird deaths.

Birds cannot detect a window pane, especially if the window reflects a natural surrounding.

Instead, many birds try to fly through the window, resulting in injury and often death.

The hotel’s tranquility garden — the site of wedding ceremonies and other special events — includes several trees, which reflect off the glass panes.

Beleaguered bustards

The declining fortunes of many bird species in India, and the likelihood that some of the critically endangered ones would barely exist in a small part of their historical range in coming years call for a serious review of conservation efforts. There are 145 avian species in the country facing various levels of threat according to a list compiled for the current year by IUCN, an international conservation organisation. Among the birds that face a bleak future is the great Indian bustard. By some estimates, less than 250 representatives of this heavy, terrestrial species survive today. Research insight points to the peculiarities of its grassland habitat, growing pressures from cattle grazing and expanding farming activity as significant causes for its depletion. The Bombay Natural History Society, after a lot of study, has expressed worry at the lack of a comprehensive approach to conservation. A comeback for the great Indian bustard, as well as the lesser florican and Bengal florican belonging to the same family, will now depend on a conservation programme that is based in science and quickly builds community support. Rajasthan has the largest known population of the great Indian bustard and has done well to allocate resources to aid a dedicated effort.

Wildlife officers investigate bird deaths

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – All non-essential staff at the Canaport liquefied natural gas plant in Saint John were sent home Thursday as officers with the Canadian Wildlife Service went to the facility to investigate the deaths of about 7,500 migrating birds.

The birds died about a month ago when they flew into a flare that was burning off excess gas at the facility.

Kate Shannon, a spokeswoman with Canaport, says the company was not aware the officers were going to arrive Thursday.

Shannon says Canaport was complying with their requests and the plant was still operating.

The plant is owned by Repsol, which holds a 75 per cent interest, while Irving Oil of has a 25 per cent share in the facility.

Wildlife authorities probe death of Philippine eagle released in wild

Wildlife authorities said Saturday they are investigating the death of a rare Philippine eagle, one of the world's largest and most endangered raptors, shortly after it was captured by a local resident.

The carcass of the giant bird, belonging to a species that is threatened with extinction, was recovered from a resident of Gingoog city in Mindanao, the Philippine Eagle Foundation said.

It had only been released into the wild by conservationists two months earlier.

"Minalwang (the name given to the bird by the foundation) was captured. The bird died of infection that had been aggravated by its captivity," the foundation's communications officer Beauxy Auxtero told AFP.

She would not discuss the cause of the infection, nor comment on a statement by a government wildlife official that the eagle, a juvenile male, had been shot to death.

Auxtero said the Gingoog resident who had captured the bird had not been placed under arrest.

The bird had two bullet wounds, Josie de Leon, wildlife resources division chief of the environment department's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, told AFP earlier Saturday.

Killing endangered species in the Philippines is punishable by a 12-year prison term and stiff fines, she added.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Bumper berry harvest not enough for Sussex birds

Sussex bird lovers are being urged to continue to leave food out despite a bumper summer for berries.

The hot weather of the summer has meant branches have been straining under the bulge of so many berries.

But the RSPB has warned many will not be ripe enough to eat for the county's birds and has urged people to continue to put out food.

And this is even more vital given the drop in temperatures experienced this week.

Ian Hayward, from the RSPB's wildlife enquiries team, said: “Not all of the berries out now are ripe enough for birds to eat - most won't be taken until after the first frosts and ivy berries won't start forming until much later in winter - so it's still important to supplement the natural food with things like seed mixes, mealworms and suitable leftovers from your kitchen.”

No endangered species status for ashy storm petrel

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Federal biologists have turned down Endangered Species Act protection for the ashy storm-petrel, a sea bird that breeds on islands off the California coast.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday that the bird is going through natural population fluctuations, but is not in a long-term decline.

The agency says a review of the scientific information shows that the bird's range remains the same, and predation by burrowing owls and gulls at a major breeding site on Southeast Farallon Island is not causing a long-term problem.

The review was prompted by a lawsuit from the conservation group Center for Biological Diversity, which challenged a 2009 finding that protection was not warranted.

Birds Of A Feather Spy Together

The scene: Two men in a chilly Soviet apartment converse in whispers, careful to protect their plans from enemy ears. Little do they know, the benign-looking raven outside their window is not merely a city scavenger hunting for food, but a spy for the U.S. government.

Sound too ridiculous to be true? In fact, animal spies — and their very real missions — are the subject of journalist Tom Vanderbilt's article "The CIA's Animal Spies" in Smithsonian magazine this month.

On Sunday, Vanderbilt sat down with All Things Considered's Arun Rath to discuss the furry and feathered secret agents of the Cold War.

Putin's crane is found after losing its way

MOSCOW (AP) — One of the Siberian cranes that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped teach to fly south last year lost its flock along the way, but has been found and brought to Moscow.

In September 2012, Putin flew on a motorized hang glider as part of a project to teach the endangered birds who were raised in captivity to later follow the aircraft on their migration south to Central Asia.

One of the cranes was recently spotted in the Tyumen region of Siberia and identified by a tag on its right leg as belonging to "Putin's flock."

The crane was flown by airplane to Moscow, where its arrival Friday was covered by state television. The white bird, called Raven, will spend the winter in a wildlife reserve.

We must act now to save beautiful owls under threat

BARN owls in Worcestershire are under threat in what is being described as “the worst breeding season for 30 years”.
The Worcester Barn Owl Conservation Group (WBOCG) has found numbers of the popular farmland bird have decreased dramatically since 2009, with only four nests found in a recent survey, compared to the usual 13.
Bird numbers usually start to increase once the weather starts to get warmer after the winter but a report by the British Trust for Ornithology found deaths had increased by 208 per cent at the end of March this year.

More bad news on the Turkish BALD IBIS front

The trial release of six ibis from the semi-wild colony at Birecik, three of which were satellite tagged, has ended abruptly, and unfortunately, we don't have a clear idea as to what has happened.

The birds were released in late July and, after an initial spell staying nearby in Turkey, five of the six (including all three tagged birds) suddenly moved off south in August and most intriguingly ended up stopping for almost three weeks very close to the last Syrian colony near Palmyra... where only one adult of the truly wild population had spent the spring this year. The birds then started moving again in early September, but instead of heading further south, they moved west towards Homs and just a few days later all three tagged birds stopped transmitting within a few hours of each other - we don't have very clear information on the exact last locations, and its obviously not an area that could be searched owing to the current security situation.

Seabird death chemical to be banned

Discharge banned at sea
October 2013. Wildlife charities have welcomed the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) swift action to ban ships across the world from discharging all forms of high viscosity polyisobutylene (PIB) into the sea during tank cleaning operations. PIB was the chemical responsible for the deaths of over 4000 seabirds on the south west coast earlier this year. 

The tragedy, the largest marine pollution incident of its kind in the region since Torrey Canyon, shocked thousands of people.

Banned from discharge at sea

Dead guillemot covered in the glue like substance,
photo by Darryl Thorpe/Cornwall Wildlife Trust
At a meeting of the IMO's working group on the Evaluation of Safety and Pollution Hazards of Chemicals (ESPH) in London today, it was decided to change the classification of high viscosity PIBs to require full tank prewash and disposal of all residues at port and prohibit any discharge at sea from 2014. This will also apply to new "highly-reactive" forms of PIB, which are currently being transported un-assessed.

The recommendation to do this had been made by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on behalf of the UK Government, following vigorous campaigning by wildlife charities and the public.

Alec Taylor, Marine Policy Officer for the RSPB said; "We are delighted with the action taken by the IMO. The global trade in PIB products is increasing and with it the risks to our precious marine environment. Today's global ban on the deliberate discharge of high viscosity PIBs into our seas is a real step forward and one that we hope will end this particular pollution threat to seabirds and other marine life."

Concern mounting for missing rare owl from North Yorkshire

AN owl sanctuary owner has issued an urgent appeal for help after two rare birds of prey escaped during a storm.

Rose Dawson said Canadian great horned owls Bramble and Briar, which stand at about 2ft tall and have wing spans of more than 4ft, flew off after a tree branch crashed onto an aviary overnight on Wednesday, October 9.

Mrs Dawson has run a private sanctuary at Long Acre, Sowerby, since being approached by vet Donald Sinclair, who was portrayed in the James Herriot books as Siegfried Farnon, with an injured barn owl 26 years ago.

Civil Societies help to protect Amur falcons in Nagaland

Dimapur, October 16 (MExN): Wild Flowers, a development and conservation group of CCER has urged civil societies of Nagaland providing protection to Amur Falcons arriving Doyang in Nagaland a bordering areas of Assam to be keep on their initiative of protection and conservation.

Mubina Akhtar, one of the Director of the group said since the birds have arrived and every concerned organisations and appropriate authorities must work hard for next one month. Akhtar said that Amur Falcons had arrived and were sighted from October 1. Initially, around 50-60 birds were sighted but the numbers have gone up to a couple of thousands now. More are expected to arrive. Following reports about the falcons being hunted in large numbers last year, a Rapid Action Project (RAP) was undertaken by the Natural Nagas and WTI with the help of local civil societies and to assist the state Forest Department in their endeavour to protect them. Wild Flowers has appreciated Naga civil societies for its initiative to save the bird appeals Naga people to keep on the protection measures for free passage of the Amur falcon birds on their route to Africa.

‘Endangered’ Label Restricts Sales of Blue-throated Macaw

Selling blue-throated macaws across state lines will be outlawed as of Nov. 4, three weeks after the bird was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The rule is part of an effort by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to save a parrot species whose numbers in its native Bolivia are estimated at less than 500. Opponents, however, argue that the sales restrictions will have no impact in Bolivia given that the South American country already bans the bird’s capture and export.

Not all movements of the blue-throated macaw will be illegal in the United States. Private and commercial breeding efforts and the bird’s sale to a resident of the same state may continue unabated, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council reported.

Blue-throated macaws, like other parrot species, are monogamous and tend to mate for life, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service pointed out it its report.

In addition, a permit may be issued for a bird’s sale or commercial use if the activity is for scientific research or to enhance "the propagation or survival of the species,” the Fish & Wildlife Service stated.

The blue-throated macaw is both rare and expensive. Breeders and pet stores typically price individuals at $2,000 or more.

Dead Condor Found in Tehachapis Had Rare Upbringing

There's an update on the condor that was found dead in a water tank in the Tehachapi Mountains last Wednesday, and it's sad news: the victim was one of very few adult condors that were hatched and reared entirely in the wild.

Condor 630, a female who hatched in June 2011, was found dead by first responder crews practicing during an earthquake readiness drill near Bear Valley Springs in the Tehachapis. She was floating in a "dip tank," a water tank used to supply firefighting helicopters.

Of the 424 California condors known to exist worldwide at the end of August, only 30 adults were hatched and reared in the wild without direct human intervention. Condors are not reproducing well in the wild, and without the continual release of captive-reared birds to boost the population the species would be in even bigger trouble than it is at present.

Ivanpah Solar Bird Kill Count Rises

ReWire reported earlier this month that early September was tough on birds near the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Between September 3 and 19, we reported, 20 birds had been found dead at the plant, 13 of them showing signs of burn injuries possibly related to the plant's concentrated solar "flux."

Well, September's full data set is in, and it's not particularly good news. According to compliance documents the plant's owners filed with the California Energy Commission a total of thirty dead birds were found at the Ivanpah plant in September, with 14 reported as bearing signs of burn injuries.

The plant, which owners BrightSource, NRG Energy, and Google are building in the Ivanpah Valley near the Mojave National Preserve, is readying to go online later this year.

According to the compliance report, Ivanpah's owners conducted several surveys during September to look for injured birds both during periods when the projects tens of thousands of mirrored heliostats were focused on the boilers atop the power towers to create solar flux, as well as some surveys around units not in flux.

BBC criticised over rare migrant birds featured in 'Tweet of the Day'

Radio 4 listeners have woken to the melodious sound of birdsong since the station began its early morning Tweet of the Day slot earlier this year to educate the nation about the calls of British species.

However, some wildlife lovers have been left annoyed that the producers have chosen to include rare migrant birds that only stop in the UK for a few weeks of the year.

One frustrated listener, Steve Norris, wrote to Radio Times: “Since July, we’ve been subjected to more and more ‘passage migrants’ that most of us are totally unfamiliar with.

“I don’t class these birds as British, so why are we listening to them?”

The BBC has included some rare species because its selection is based on the official list of nearly 600 British birds compiled by the British Ornithologists Union (BOU), whose qualification for entry is that a bird must have landed on UK soil once.

We must act now to save beautiful owls under threat

BARN owls in Worcestershire are under threat in what is being described as “the worst breeding season for 30 years”.

The Worcester Barn Owl Conservation Group (WBOCG) has found numbers of the popular farmland bird have decreased dramatically since 2009, with only four nests found in a recent survey, compared to the usual 13.

Bird numbers usually start to increase once the weather starts to get warmer after the winter but a report by the British Trust for Ornithology found deaths had increased by 208 per cent at the end of March this year.

Calif. city turns to birds of prey to solve problems

AVALON, Calif. — For years, this island harbor town has had serious tourism problems: Its beaches were consistently rated among the most polluted on the West Coast, and its waterfront was crowded with aggressive gulls that harassed visitors and stole food off their plates.

All that has changed, and leaders are giving much of the credit to a group of environmental enforcers they hired — Larry the hawk, Chin the falcon and Big Al the owl.

They are raptors, or birds of prey, trained to bloodlessly drive off pests fouling the harbor with waste droppings.

“We brought in a natural solution,” city manager Ben Harvey says.

Led by licensed master falconer Rocky Post and joined by a few feathered colleagues, the winged residents quickly established rule of the skies over Avalon, clearing the air and water in this resort center of Santa Catalina Island off the coast from Los Angeles.

Post, 60, a retired Torrance firefighter who has trained birds since before he was a teen, has become the bird man of Avalon, a popular and visible figure walking daily through streets, restaurants and shops with a raptor on a gloved hand or on the wing.

When Post first met with city leaders last fall to discuss their problems, he counted 40 gulls on or around their outdoor dining table. These days, those tables are mostly clear. When a bird does show up, a quick flyby from Larry is usually enough to scare away the straggler.

“When you put a predator back on top of the food chain, things start to balance out,” Post says.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Endangered Israeli eagle falls prey to Hezbollah

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli eagles dangerously endangered by pesticides, electrical wires and poachers now apparently face a new threat: Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar website recently boasted of capturing an eagle that carried an Israel-labeled transmission device on its back and claimed the bird was an Israeli spy. It said hunters in central Lebanon shot down the bird and found devices on it as well as a copper ring on its leg that reads "Israel" in English followed by letters that refer to Tel Aviv University. The fate of the eagle remains unclear.

Israeli ornithologist Yossi Leshem said Thursday he was tracking the bird for research and was "incredibly frustrated" it was harmed. Leshem, a Tel Aviv university professor, has specialized in the Bonelli's Eagle for decades and said they are in great peril with just nine pairs of mating age remaining in Israel.

"The whole field of conservation is based on regional cooperation and not this nonsense," said Leshem, who collaborates on several projects with Palestinian and Jordanian scientists.

Leshem said Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkey all have targeted migrating birds from Israel in the past and made similar unfounded espionage accusations.

Egyptian authorities, for instance, recently detained a stork that was tagged with a tracking device and claimed it was spying for Israel. Previously, Egypt has accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of training sharks to reach the Sinai Peninsula to harm tourism there.

"Every time a migrating bird from Israel, carrying a satellite transmitter or a ring, is captured by one of the neighboring countries, it is immediately thought to be the instrument of a sophisticated spy work by the Israeli Mossad," Leshem wrote in a recent essay after an Israeli common kestrel was captured and investigated by Turkey. "All the countries mentioned employ the same methods of research and use the same electronic devices in tracking birds and mammals in their studies, and yet the paranoia persists in the Middle East."

It's no yolk - chickens given hi vis jackets to help them cross the road

Why did the chicken cross the road? Well, at least they'll get to the other side safely in these snazzy jackets.

Domestic chicken owners are cladding their pet hens and roosters in hi-visibility bibs to help keep them safe as the darker nights draw in this Autumn.

The bright pink or yellow items of clothing are designed to alert motorists and others to keep the birds safe in the busy urban and suburban areas they live in.

The "High Vis Chicken Jackets" are being produced by Omlet, who also manufacture fashionable chicken coops to cater for the rise in the amount of chickens being kept as pets in the UK.

"We had people inquiring about this kind of thing so decided to look into it," director Johannes Paul said.

He added: “Most people who have chickens as pets will have them out and about and we do hear about chickens who do cross the road.

“If you imagine you are in a built-up area and your chicken gets under the fence, they don’t care if there is a road there. They just go straight across it.”

Omlet suggest the jackets are particularly helpful for battery hens, whose sparse feathers make them more susceptible to the cold.

They go on to say that they could also help with hens who have recently moulted giving them extra warmth and as well as "protecting their modesty."

UK farmland bird numbers are still declining

Farmland bird numbers continue to fall as Government mulls countryside spending

October 2013: The latest official figures on farmland birds reveal that they are continuing to decline. The annual Wild Bird Indicator statistics have been released ahead of a decision that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson, is due to make about spending on the English countryside.

The Farmland Bird Index, which covers 19 species reliant on the farmed countryside, has seen a five-year decline of eight percent. However looking back over the last 40 years the decline in farmland birds is a staggering 50 percent. The fastest declining species since 1970 include turtle doves (down 95 percent), corn buntings (down 90 percent) and lapwings (down 63 percent). But it is not all bad news as some species numbers have increased since 1970, including jackdaws who have seen a 140 percent increase in numbers and a 134 percent increase for woodpigeons. 

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “The trend for farmland birds continues to go downwards. The decline has slowed, and wildlife friendly farmers who put conservation measures in place on their land must be congratulated for their hard work. But if we are all going to work together to bring wildlife back to our countryside then the funding must be there for these measures to continue. 

“Before the end of the year, Owen Paterson will need to decide how much funding he can allocate to wildlife-friendly farmers, those farmers doing the most for wildlife. Without Owen Paterson’s help farmland wildlife will continue to struggle, along with those farmers trying to help. These figures tell us that the volume of birdsong – the soundtrack to our summer - in our farmed countryside has halved in my lifetime. Mr Paterson has the power to turn up the volume!” 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Migration mystery - Mutton bird chicks fly 8000 miles without parents

Victoria's shearwater arrive back from North Pacific for breeding season 
October 2013. Shearwaters, or ‘Mutton Birds' as they are often called, have arrived back in Australia at Victoria's Port Fairy breeding ground after completing their long migration south from wintering grounds in the northern Pacific. 

Department of Environment Senior Biodiversity Officer Mandy Watson said: "The Short-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostris), with their instinctive timing, reach the breeding ground promptly on or close to 22 September."

Return promptly to same burrow
"Shearwaters come in their thousands from the northern hemisphere summer feeding grounds off Alaska and Siberia. For more than 35 years they have arrived at the same time within a few days, returning to the same burrow each time," Ms Watson said.

Feed & breed
"They feed on fish and other seafood, tend to be more active at night, and generally mate with the same partner for life. After arriving, they clean out the burrows and mate, then the entire population flies off to sea for about two weeks before returning to lay eggs. They lay one white egg that generally hatches in seven weeks."

BTO cuckoos now in Congo Rainforest

Cuckoos have reached their wintering grounds
October 2013. Since the last update there has been a flurry of activity as the BTO Cuckoos have moved further south. The cuckoo called Nick's tag has not been heard from for a while but regular transmissions are still coming in from all the others. There are now five Cuckoos in the heart of the Congo Rainforest; Chris, Waller, David, Livingstone and Tor. 

Chris is now in the area in Congo that he has spent most of the last two mid-winter periods, close to Congo's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He arrived here on 26 September, just a day later than he arrived at this location last year.

Waller has travelled south to the DRC and for a short time was our most southerly Cuckoo. He is only 115km (71 miles) to the east of Chris's location (and a little south), with the Congo River running between the two positions.

David - Further south
David has also been busy. From his position in Sudan he flew over the Central African Republic to arrive in the Salong National Park in DRC by 5 October. He's roughly 160km (100 miles) north of the area he wintered in last year, having arrived on 24 October 2012. This wintering location is one of the furthest south we have seen from our Cuckoos since the beginning of the project. Only a small number of tagged Cuckoos have flown that far south, including David in 2012, Lloyd in 2012 and Kasper in 2011.

I'm Singing in the Rainforest: Researchers Find Striking Similarities Between Bird Song and Human Music

Oct. 16, 2013 — The Musician Wren (Cyphorhynus arada) is aptly-named, because these birds use the same intervals in their songs that are heard as consonant in many human cultures. This is what composer and musicologist Emily Doolittle and the biologist Henrik Brumm found out in their zoomusicological study. Consonant intervals are perceived to fit well together. They sound calm and stable, and are the basis for keys in Western Music. It is because Musician Wrens preferentially produce successive perfect octaves, fifths, and fourths that their songs sound musical to human listeners.

In fact the researchers found passages in the songs of the Musician Wrens with striking similarity to passages of e.g. the composers Bach and Haydn. "However, this does not mean that the musician wren is singing in a key the way a human musician might. Rather, the bird's preference for consonances leads to occasional conjunctions of pitches which sound to human listeners like they are drawn from the same scale," says Emily Doolittle.

In 2011, Emily Doolittle was composer-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, where she collaborated with ornithologist Henrik Brumm in researching song of the musician wren, gathered birdsongs for future musical use, and presented a concert of her birdsong-related works, performed by members of the Bavarian State Opera.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Increase in US woodpecker populations linked to feasting on emerald ash borer

October 2013

The scourge of forests, the emerald ash borer (EAB), is usually described with words like ‘destructive’ and ‘pest’. A recent study based on data collected by citizen scientists suggests that one more adjective might apply (at least from a bird’s perspective): ‘delicious’.

In a study published this week in the journal Biological Invasions, U.S. Forest Service entomologist Andrew Liebhold and Cornell University scientist Walter Koenig and others document how an EAB invasion fuelled a population boom for four species of birds in the Detroit area.

The four species of birds considered in the study ‘Effects of the emerald ash borer invasion on four species of birds’ included three woodpeckers that are known to forage on EAB-infested ash trees – the downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker – as well as the white-breasted nuthatch, a common bark-gleaning species that is also a potential predator of EAB. All four species are cavity-nesters and also stand to benefit from an increase in nesting habitat as trees are killed by EAB. The release is available online

“The emerald ash borer has been massively destructive because most North American ash trees have little or no defence against it,” Liebhold said. “We can take heart that native woodpecker species are clearly figuring out that EAB is edible, and this new and widely abundant food source appears to be enhancing their reproduction.”

Birds On Repeat: Do Birdwatchers Playbacks Hurt Fowl?

Oct. 16, 2013 — In the forests of Ecuador, plain-tailed wrens nest in bamboo thickets, singing complex and continuous melodies. Residing nearby are rufous antpittas, small, secretive birds that hop like thrushes and whistle in mossy forests. Together, their songs fill parts of the South American Andes.

Birdwatchers often seek out rare and beautiful birds like the wren and antpitta using "playbacks" -- or recordings of bird songs -- to draw such them out from their hideaways. But does such babbling-on-repeat harm the birds?

Using the emphatic sounds of both bird species, a Princeton University researcher has -- for the first time in peer-reviewed research -- examined the effects of birdwatchers' "playbacks" in the wild. In PLOS One, he shows that playbacks do have potentially negative consequences, especially in terms of birds' energies.

"Playbacks would be harmful if a species becomes stressed, expends energy, or takes time away from other activities to respond to these recordings," said J. Berton C. Harris, a postdoctoral fellow studying under Professor David Wilcove from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs' Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy.

Working in a southern Ecuadorian biological reserve, Harris studied the effects of both single and repeated playbacks on wrens and antpittas. In his first trial, he introduced single playbacks to 24 groups of wrens and 12 groups of antpittas. Along with David Haskell from the University of the South in Tennessee, Harris monitored both bird species for one hour after playing a five-minute, self-recorded song.

Blind chicken brought back to life

A blind chicken has been brought back to life after its dedicated owner gave it CPR for over three hours.

Chooky Wooky was recently blown into the backyard pool at 14-year-old owner Rayna Rapo's home in Sydney, Australia.

Fearing that her pet was dead, Rayna plucked her out of the water and tried to revive her.

And even when her mother Roberta suggested that Chooky Wooky couldn't be saved Rayna was determined not to give up.

Roberta says: "She wouldn't let us stop trying to revive her. I pumped her chest and blew air down her beak."

Meanwhile, they also used a hairdryer and towels to try and warm the chicken up.

And, amazingly, just over three hours later Chooky came back from the dead.

Roberta says: "She hopped up, did a poo, I thought 'you show off' and then she even laid an egg."

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Man arrested after dead birds of prey seized

Wildlife crime arrest in Essex

October 2013: A man from Essex has been arrested by officers from the National Crime Unit on suspicion of smuggling endangered birds of prey.

A number of dead birds, believed to be owls, were recovered from a freezer in the house in Stanford-le-Hope and forensic analysis is now being carried out to find out how they were killed. Another 25 taxidermy birds were also seized.

The man was arrested on suspicion of trading in endangered species and evading restrictions contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and Control of Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997.

The search was part of a joint investigation involving the NCA’s Border Policing Command, Border Force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit officers.

Senior investigating officer Ian Truby, from the NCA’s Border Policing Command, said: “This joint investigation has so far identified around 150 endangered birds that we suspect have been sold without the correct trade certificates or export permits. Unregulated imports or exports of animals can harm the survival of rare species. That is why the law around moving them is so strict.”