As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Two gay King penguins are being moved to Hamburg so they can stay together

Stan and Ollie were dropped from a breeding programme after proving more interested in mating with each other

Sunday 17 April 2016

Two king penguins at Hamburg Zoo (file pic) Margarethe Wichert / Getty Images

Two gay King penguins have been moved from Berlin Zoo to Hamburg’s Hagenbeck Zoo so they can be together.

Stan and Olli were originally introduced to Berlin Zoo to breed as part of the European Conservation Programme, but it didn’t take long for zookeepers to realise they only had eyes for each other.

“They’re gay, as far as we know. They never bred. And when it came to courtship, they only mated with one another,” Berlin Zoo spokeswoman Christiane Reiss told the Local, in Germany.

Stan and Olli - who the website says will now be named Kalle and Grobi instead - will join Juan and Carlos, another homosexual penguin couple who are already at Hamburg Zoo, where they will no longer be expected to reproduce.

There are many examples of male penguins paring off with other males, especially in captivity. In 2014 two male Humboldt penguins at Kent Wildlife Park – called Jumbs and Kermit – adopted a young chick after its father refused to incubate it. 

In the same year Penelope and Missy broke the mould as Ireland’s first lesbian penguin couple. It is considered much more unusual for female penguins to pair up, the Irish Examiner observed.

Cattle drug threatens thousands of vultures

Modelling study paints bleak picture for Europe’s bird populations.

29 April 2016

Eurasian griffon vultures, like these in Huesca, Spain, are threatened by veterinary use of diclofenac, researchers say.

A veterinary drug blamed for driving vultures to the brink of extinction on the Indian subcontinent could cause thousands of bird deaths now that it is being used in Spain.

Researchers have expressed concern over use of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac in cattle since it was approved for veterinary use in Spain in 2013, as the drug is toxic to vultures who may consume it via dead cows. Now, modelling by Rhys Green, a conservation scientist at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues suggests that the drug could cause populations of that country’s Eurasian griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) to decline by between 1–8% each year. Their work was published on 25 April in the Journal of Applied Ecology1.

“You can almost liken it to the rather macabre game of Russian roulette,” he says. “Vultures eat about every three days on average, so that’s 120 days a year — and so that’s like 120 pulls of the trigger.”

Widespread use of diclofenac in south Asian cattle was linked to the deaths of millions of vultures that ate carcasses containing the drug, causing some populations to decline by more than 99% since the 1990s. Although diclofenac does not yet seem to have caused population declines for Europe’s vultures, scientists suspect that it might only be a matter of time.

Because vultures congregate to feed, Green says that even a few carcasses containing the drug could seriously damage a population. Along with Antoni Margalida from the University of Lleida in Spain, and other colleagues, he is calling for a ban of the veterinary drug in favour of an alternative called meloxicam that is less toxic to vultures.
Toxic roulette

Diclofenac is toxic to vultures even in small doses, causing kidney failure. That results in uric acid accumulating in the birds' blood and crystallizing around their internal organs—a condition called visceral gout2.

Countries on the Indian subcontinent began banning diclofenac in 2006 and since then, vulture populations in the region seem to have halted their precipitous declines3.

In Europe, diclofenac has been approved for veterinary use since 1993. In 2014, the European Medicines Agency acknowledged that vultures are at risk of consuming residues of the drug in dead livestock, but did not recommend banning it. In 2015 the European Commission decided to follow the EMA’s recommendation, leaving it up to EU member states to prevent diclofenac-laced carcasses from entering the food chain.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Despite their small brains, ravens and crows may be just as clever as chimps, research suggests

Study shows how these birds parallel great apes in motor self-regulation

Date: April 26, 2016
Source: Lund University

A study led by researchers at Lund University in Sweden suggests that ravens can be as clever as chimpanzees, despite having much smaller brains, indicating that rather than the size of the brain, the neuronal density and the structure of the birds' brains play an important role in terms of their intelligence.

"Absolute brain size is not the whole story. We found that corvid birds performed as well as great apes, despite having much smaller brains," says Can Kabadayi, doctoral student in Cognitive Science.

Intelligence is difficult to test, but one aspect of being clever is inhibitory control, and the ability to override animal impulses and choose a more rational behaviour. Researchers at Duke University, USA, conducted a large-scale study in 2014, where they compared the inhibitory control of 36 different animal species, mainly primates and apes. The team used the established cylinder test, where food is placed in a transparent tube with openings on both sides. The challenge for the animal is to retrieve the food using the side openings, instead of trying to reach for it directly. To succeed, the animal has to show constraint and choose a more efficient strategy for obtaining the food.

The large-scale study concluded that great apes performed the best, and that absolute brain size appeared to be key when it comes to intelligence. However, they didn't conduct the cylinder test on corvid birds.

Can Kabadayi, together with researchers from the University of Oxford, UK and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, therefore had ravens, jackdaws and New Caledonian crows perform the same cylinder test to better understand their inhibitory control.

Fossils may reveal 20-million-year history of penguins in Australia

Penguin history includes the 'giant penguin,' arrivals via multiple dispersals, extinctions

Date: April 26, 2016
Source: PLOS

Multiple dispersals of penguins reached Australia after the continent split from Antarctica, including 'giant penguins' that may have lived there after they went extinct elsewhere, according to a study published April 26, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Travis Park from Monash University, Australia, and colleagues.

Penguin evolution in Australia following the continent's pre-historic split from Antarctica is not well-understood, but the fossil record shows that Australia was home to a number of penguin species. Only the little penguin remains today, and pre-Quarternary evidence of this species and its ancestors in Australia is lacking. To update our understanding of Australian penguin evolutionary history, the authors of the study analysed recently collected penguin fossils and compared them to known species, including now-extinct 'giant penguins,' and presented a new phylogenetic tree in the context of biogeographical events on the Australian continent.

Old world bird in a new world rainforest

Date: April 27, 2016
Source:  Central Ornithology Publication Office

Sapayoa aenigma, Nusagandi, Panama.jpgThe Sapayoa, a rainforest bird from Central and South America, is an evolutionary enigma--genetic analysis shows that its closest relatives are bird species living across the ocean in Asia and Africa. Now, new research in The Auk: Ornithological Advances demonstrates for the first time that its natural history links it to its evolutionary relatives thousands of miles away.

How the Sapayoa ended up so far from other members of its lineage remains a mystery, and little is known about its reproductive biology or social behavior. However, new field work in Panama by Sarah Dzielski and Benjamin Van Doren of Cornell University and their colleagues reveals that Sapayoas consistently build nests that hang over the water along ravine-bottom streams. One of the active nests they observed was attended by a family group comprised of an adult male and female and two immature males, all four of which brought food to the two chicks. The researchers were surprised by the social behavior they observed, which included mounting between individuals of the same sex, possibly to establish dominance and maintain social cohesion.

These are the first extended observations of Sapayoa breeding behavior, and they provide hints at how this unusual bird is connected with its roots. Many of the Sapayoa's Old World relatives are cooperative breeders, getting help from family groups, and the pear-shaped hanging nest also is consistent with Old World "suboscines," the group of birds to which Sapayoas belong.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Are rare birds being caught for meat?

By Grimsby Telegraph  |  Posted: April 20, 2016

A TETNEY couple fear rare birds are being seized from the wild for breeding or for meat.
Graham Pearson, 59 and his wife Ann have always fed the birds on their field at Tetney Lock.

But they were horrified when they noticed recently how a tree on which the birds are fed had been covered with a chemical, which they say is used to capture the birds.

And the couple say how they believe at least ten birds, including goldfinches and a siskin, have gone missing from the site on Newton Marsh Lane, Tetney Lock.

Mr Pearson said he had also seen three deer on the field previously this year, but they too have vanished.

Graham said: "They may have moved away on their own, but you just don't know."
He added: "We have been down to the field regularly over the past two to three years with bird feeders."

The feeders were made from old logs by Graham and were popular with blue tits, goldfinches, pheasants and robins. The couple had also spotted a siskin on the site.

The couple said a friend had noticed a group of three men in the field. They had with them a white Astra van with ladders on it.

When they saw the friend of Mr and Mrs Pearson they got back into their van and drove off at speed.

The suspicious activity was reported to Lincolnshire Police and the RSPB.

The chemical birdlime, which is a sticky substance that prevents birds from flying off, was then found on the tree.

The couple suspect the birds have been taken away for breeding.

Ann said: "We are told that finches have sometimes been taken to breed with canaries to produce a cross breed of a singing bird.

Volunteers needed to protect rare seabirds in Northumberland

Paul Larkin
11:23Tuesday 12 April 2016

A Northumberland bird protection scheme is looking for volunteers to help vulnerable nesting shorebirds this summer.

The plea has come from the Northumberland Little Tern Project which protects endangered little terns, ringed plovers and oystercatchers.

Little terns spend their winter on the west coast of Africa and return to our coastline at the end of April. These rare birds nest on the beach along with other shorebirds and are very susceptible to disturbance.

In Northumberland, little terns are predominantly found on the National Trust Long Nanny site at Beadnell beach and Natural England’s Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR), which stretches from Budle Bay to Berwick.

The Northumberland Little Tern Project is a partnership between the National Trust, Natural England, RSPB and the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which provides additional funding to the sites that Natural England and the National Trust have been protecting for many years. With this support, extra seasonal staff help protect the sites, provide new information signs and additional fencing to enclose nesting areas.
Chantal Macleod-Nolan, EU LIFE Little Tern Project co-ordinator, said: “Last year, we had a really good outcome with 44 pairs of little terns nesting on the Northumberland coast and 52 chicks fledging by the end of the season.

"The terns had a difficult summer with high tides, human disturbance and persistent predators, and only persevered due to the continued efforts of nine staff and a team of 20 dedicated volunteers working around the clock across both sites. Without this hard-working team, we wouldn’t be able to protect these birds and as a result, volunteer recruitment is crucial to the little tern’s breeding success again this summer.”

Volunteers are essential for the protection of our breeding shorebirds, as engaging beach-users about the significance of the fenced off areas and the importance for dog-walkers to keep their dogs on leads makes a huge difference to the breeding success of these small visitors. The observational research data collected by these volunteers also contributes to a wider national shorebird protection scheme, with the information used to further the protection of these sensitive birds.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

New Zealand conservationists celebrate rare parrot breeding success

The kākāpō has had its most successful breeding season since conservation efforts rescued it from the brink of extinction in the 1970s

Nicola Toki
Thursday 21 April 201610.27 BST

The world’s heaviest parrot, a critically endangered bird that only lives in a remote part of New Zealand, has had its most successful breeding season since conservation efforts began more than two decades ago.

Thirty-seven kākāpō chicks are currently surviving, providing a much-needed boost to the population of 123 adult kākāpō which live on predator-free islands.

The charismatic parrots, which were once thought to be extinct until a population of males and female was found in the 1970s on Stewart Island, reached their lowest number in 1977 at just 18 known birds.

Once found all over New Zealand, they were hunted first by Maori and then by European arrivals. The birds, cloaked in a rainbow of green hues, were so common that an early explorer described being able to shake a tree until they tumbled to the ground, like apples.
But after the introduction of predators such as stoats, ferrets and weasels, their numbers declined noticeably, and by 1840 they had disappeared from the North Island. The loss from the South Island occurred soon after.

The 2016 breeding success signals a new era for kākāpō conservation, said Department of Conservation kākāpō operations manager, Deidre Vercoe.

“The chick numbers achieved this year are a real step towards a future that doesn’t involve the hands-on management of every single bird,” she said.

“Due to some huge improvements in technology in the kākāpō recovery programme, we now have remote nest monitoring and smart transmitters that provide high quality data on what the birds are doing.”

Beaks of Darwin’s finches evolve thanks to newly discovered gene


Named after the father of evolution himself, Darwin’s finches played a pivotal role in helping Charles Darwin formulate and solidify his theory of evolution. An already fascinating species of enormous importance, the discovery of a rare gene just made these beautiful birds a good deal more interesting than they already are.

Scientists were able to discover a gene that plays a role in the shaping of the birds’ beaks. This gene, which is known as HMGA2, continues to work in evolving the beaks of Darwin’s finches. And while Darwin didn’t observe much change to his eponymous finches, biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant were able to, having worked over four decades in the birds’ habitat of the Galapagos Islands.

The story behind the discovery began about a decade ago, when the husband-and-wife biologists observed a drought on Daphne Major Island, which hosted two species of Darwin’s finch – the medium ground finch and the large ground finch. The smaller of the two bird species (the medium finches) didn’t attempt to compete with their larger equivalents due to the food shortage that came with this event. Still, the medium ground finch was able to outlive the large ground finch, with the average beak size for the former bird decreasing quitter markedly. And that’s where the HMGA2 gene came in.

Rare songbird sings on revived Devon nature reserve

By WMNHFinch  |  Posted: April 21, 2016

One of Devon's most elusive birds is singing again on some of the county's rarest and most threatened habitat.

The Dartford warbler's distinctive song is echoing across the RSPB's Aylesbeare 
Common nature reserve, weeks after the end of a major restoration project.
David Boult captured the bird on film this Spring

The RSPB was able to make vital improvements to one of the few remaining lowland heaths in southern England with a £14,000 grant from Tarmac through its Landfill Communities Fund.

Alan Everard, Tarmac's head of estates, south, said: "The restoration of Aylesbeare Common will help ensure this distinctive bird is saved for future generations."

RSPB Aylesbeare Common, in east Devon, is a hotspot for Dartford warblers, and for other specialised heathland species such as nightjar, silver-studded blue butterfly, Kugelann's ground beetle, grass snake, common lizard and the soprano pipistrelle bat.

The Dartford warbler is linked with the conservation of England's surviving heaths, and its liking for gorse in particular led to it once being known by the folk-name 'furze wren' in some parts of the country.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Another protected bird confirmed shot

Swift killed close to the Xrobb L-Għaġin Nature Park in Delimara
Staff Reporter
20 April 2016, 3:27pm

On Tuesday afternoon volunteers of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter(CABS) found a dead swift (rudun in Maltese) close to the Xrobb L-Għaġin Nature Park in Delimara.

The bird which is strictly protected was brought to a vet who confirmed that it was killed with a shotgun. An X-ray shows that the cause of death was a lead pellet which penetrated the bird´s belly from below.

The bird which was passed on to the police’s ALE unit this morning is the second protected bird which was found shot during this year´s spring hunting season. 

Last Monday officers of the Administrative Law Enforcement – Malta´s environmental police – found an injured male Marsh Harrier on a countryside lane close to Bidnija. The harrier was also found to have been injured by lead pellets and was brought to a rehab center.

In view of the fact that last year´s spring hunting season was prematurely closed after a hunter shot down a Kestrel CABS called upon the government to stick to its zero tolerance politic and close the season with immediate effect. “If the season will remain open the Prime Minister has to put up with the accusation that he is applying double standards”, CABS General Secretary Alexander Heyd said.

More Exeter eagle owl encounters reported amid rumours the big bird is living behind the cathedral

An eagle owl on the loose in the skies over Exeter may have made its own in the centre of the city.

Reports suggest that the big bird has set up home in the grounds of the Bishop's Palace behind Exeter Cathedral.

It is said that it has been seen swooping about the area by visitors to the cathedral tower.

Although cathedral staff say they have yet to spot the bird, which is thought to have attacked a bus driver as he walked to work through Southernhay, it has been seen by staff of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds whose office is in Southernhay, near the cathedral.

A spokesman there said: "It appears it has been around here for a few weeks. It has just been seen flying around and people have heard its rather distinctive hoot.

"It is not an indigenous bird and appears to have escaped from an aviary so it is not really within our remit."

Bird of prey attacking members of the public along popular Furness walking route

19 April 2016 2:44PM

WALKERS are being warned about a swooping buzzard which has been targeting members of the public. 

A sign has been put up at the beginning of the Furness Railway line walk between Broughton and Coniston after a number of people have been attacked by a bird of prey. 

Andy Jackson was on the path on Saturday when his wife Toni was targeted by the buzzard. Mr Jackson, from Silecroft, said his wife, a Sellafield employee, was left with visible injuries after the bird swooped on her. 

"I was taking the dog for a walk and she was running, the bird just swooped down out of nowhere and attacked her, drawing blood on her head," Mr Jackson, a decorator, said. 

"Some of the people who came over after it happened said they've heard it's happened a few times, mainly to people who are jogging or running, and they've had to put a sign up warning people."

Louise Clews works in the Manor Arms pub in Broughton and said a number of people had been attacked by the bird in recent weeks. 

She said: "It has happened quite a few times, a lot of people in the village are talking about it, it's like Buzzardgate. 

"It only seems to be runners it has a problem with, maybe it's the lycra? But more than likely it's the running motion. 

"Apparently the buzzard has been here a while but it hasn't attacked people in previous years that we're aware of. But it's only runners it takes offence to, you're ok if you're just walking."

Wildlife expert and birdwatcher Joe Murphy, from Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said it was "very rare" for a bird of prey to attack a human. 

"I've never heard of anything like it," he said.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Birds of prey used to deter "nuisance" seagulls from Weymouth Harbour

Birds of prey used to deter "nuisance" seagulls from Weymouth Harbour

Birds of prey used to deter "nuisance" seagulls from Weymouth Harbour

18 Apr 2016 / Meghan Hindley, Trainee Reporter / @DorsetEchoMeg

BIRDS of prey are helping deter seagulls from hassling members of the public in and around Weymouth Harbour.

The borough council, along with NBC Bird and Pest Solutions, hosted a birds of prey display outside the Weymouth Harbour office on Custom House Quay at the weekend to showcase how the birds can be used to deter seagulls from the area.

The idea is the birds will deter gulls so that visitors can enjoy the ‘sitting out culture’ on the harbour and enjoy a meal or drinks without being interrupted.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s harbourmaster, Keith Howorth, said: "As a harbour we are working together to try to deter the seagulls from the area.

"We are also pushing forward with the message that people shouldn't feed the seagulls.

"This is the first time we have shown the public what we do but we have been working with the company for the past 18 months."

For an hour the birds of prey - Harris Hawks - were flown around the harbour with residents eagerly looking on. Within minutes the hoards of gulls had dispersed and couldn't be seen.

Darren Bishop, regional surveyor and business development manager at NBC Bird and Pest Solutions, said: "As a company we have more than 300 working birds of prey. We train them up from an birth.

"The reason we use Harris Hawks is because they are not a native bird to this country so they are a bigger threat to the seagulls.

"The only thing Harris Hawks are afraid of is dogs. We are doing this more and more of this now. We've been doing this in Plymouth town centre and we've just started one in Bath."

Help protect rare breeding bird on the Sheffield Moors

Last modified: 18 April 2016

Visitors to the Sheffield Moors are being asked to help protect one of the area’s most threatened birds, the ring ouzel.

More commonly known as mountain blackbirds, ring ouzels travel thousands of miles every summer from North Africa to breed on the gritstone edges of the Peak District. Currently, the males are setting up breeding territories in preparation of the imminent arrival of the females.

Sadly, ring ouzels are in serious trouble in the UK; over the past two decades they have declined by 70% and are a species of serious conservation concern. Urgent action is needed to reverse their declines before it’s too late.

In recent years, the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) has worked closely with the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) on Stanage, to raise awareness of the importance of ring ouzel conservation. With the imminent lease of Burbage from Sheffield City Council, the Eastern Moors Partnership is keen to continue this pioneering work to ensure a future where wildlife and people can co-exist.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Inside the Secret Trade That Threatens Rare Birds

Singapore is a major transit hub for trade in threatened birds, especially African grey parrots. 

By Laurel Neme


Singapore plays a key role as a major international transshipment hub for the global aviculture industry, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the wildlife trade monitoring organization TRAFFIC. That’s especially true for trade in African grey parrots.

African greys are highly sought-after as pets because they’re so smart and talkative. (Alex, who lived with scientist Irene Pepperberg for 30 years, had a vocabulary of more than a hundred words and a mind-blowing range of cognitive skills beyond.) They’re native to Equatorial Africa, but populations are declining throughout their range. Although millions of African greys have been bred in captivity, demand for wild-caught birds remains high, and they’re especially vulnerable because they roost in large groups and tend to concentrate around water sources or mineral licks.

They’re now so popular that some range countries have proposed that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates the global wildlife trade, categorize them as requiring maximum protection.

The new study, published in the journal Oryx, sheds light on the bird trade system. It reveals that Singapore has been a major conduit for birds from Africa and Europe to East Asia and the Middle East and that between 2005 and 2014 the city-state imported 212 bird species listed by CITES as needing protections, with African grey parrots the most intensively traded.

As Bidar sizzles, two youths create oases for birds

They have installed pots of grain and water in house gardens that attract scaly-breasted munias, sparrows and other birds

Scaly-breasted munias and other birds 
flock to a garden feeder in Bidar.
In the withering heat of northeast Karnataka’s Deccan plateau, birds are discovering oases of food and water created by two young members of the Bidar Photographic Society. The two have installed pots full of grain and water in house gardens, attracting scaly-breasted munias, sparrows and other birds.

Vangapalli Vinayak, a post-graduate student of commerce at Karnataka College read media reports that some youths were hanging empty nests and feeders in front of their houses to help birds. He then came up with a simple contraption — with the help of metal workers in the old city, he produced a vertical tripod that can hold three pots in less than one square foot.

They were filled with finger millet, bought in bulk, as it can be stored without refrigeration. This was the grain of choice also because an old shopkeeper told him that birds like it a lot. The three tripods and some boxes were placed in an empty housing plot, where he had planted a flower garden.

Seed clue to how birds survived mass extinction

By Helen BriggsBBC News

22 April 2016 

Modern birds owe their survival to ancestors who were able to peck on seeds after the meteor that wiped out most dinosaurs, say scientists.

Bird-like dinosaurs with toothless beaks survived the "nuclear winter" that followed the meteor strike, because of their diet, a study says.

The impact altered the climate of the Earth and blotted out sunlight.

The loss of vegetation would have deprived plant-eating dinosaurs of food. In turn, meat-eaters suffered.

But seeds still in the ground may have sustained small toothless bird ancestors until the planet began to recover.

The theory, outlined in the journal Current Biology, could explain why no modern bird has a beak lined with teeth.

"After this meteor, you're left with essentially a nuclear winter where really not much is growing, the plants aren't able to grow to provide nourishment for plant-eaters and then meat-eaters aren't able to access plant-eaters if they've all perished," said lead researcher Derek Larson, from the University of Toronto.

"We think that the survival of birds had something to do with the presence of their beak."

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Bloodied bird rescued from Mirfield lake after swan territory war

07:00, 18 APR 2016

Swans mate for life but can be brutal in territory wars

A swan who lost her mate has been brutally attacked on a Mirfield lake – by another pair of swans.

The female swan, who had lived at Ladywood Lakes, off Steanard Lane, for several years, was left bleeding and exhausted.

She was rescued by a fisherman who called in experts from Yorkshire Swan Rescue Hospital at Barlow near Selby.

The swan was captured and taken to the sanctuary on Friday. She will remain there for several days but is expected to make a full recovery.

Sanctuary founder Dan Sidley said swans mate for life and, tragically, the swan’s mate was killed in flight a few months ago when he collided with overhead power cables.

Since then she had been alone and vulnerable.

“Swans are quite a ferocious breed and very territorial,” said Dan. “They can be brutal at times.

“Swans mate for life but if one of them dies they do find other partners. We had high hopes this swan would move on after her partner died but that’s not happened.

 “Another pair of swans have come onto the lake and there has been a battle for the water and she’s come off worst.

“We’ve taken her in and she’s in a pen on her own while we monitor her. She’s exhausted and seems to be in a state of shock.

“It looks like she was chased around the lake until she could escape no more. Swans are quite hardy birds so she should recover.”

Extinct status as black-throated finch no longer takes flight in NSW

Posted Fri at 11:05pm

A little bird is no longer taking flight in New South Wales, with scientific officials now declaring it extinct.

The southern species of the black-throated finch has been given the status, while a different species of the bird is still seen in Queensland.

The bird weighs about 15 grams and has a large head and a short, thick, black conical bill.
It also has a black bib, black rump and white upper tail.

Some of these birds that are reliant on grasses, like the black-throated finch, do find it hard to compete (with mining and agriculture).

The New South Wales Scientific Committee said the southern sub-species used to be widespread and abundant in the Northern Tableland and Northwest Slopes regions, from the Queensland border south to the Upper Hunter Valley.

There have only been three sightings of the bird since 1990.

Hunter Bird Observers Club president Allan Richardson said its extinction status was devastating.

"It's very, very sad; many of our threatened species are declining in their ranges," he said.
"There are not very many of our threatened species that are doing very well, so it is inevitable that as things continue, we may see some of those birds not exist in some areas."
Grazing, cropping, mining and wild rabbits have been blamed for the bird's extinction in New South Wales.

Wind farm construction 'cuts golden plover numbers by 80%'

15 April 2016

The construction of a wind farm in Sutherland led to an 80% drop in the number of golden plovers in the area, according to a five-year study.

Scientists have now said their research project should be used as the basis for future studies on the effects of wind farms on other bird species.

The study was funded by the Gordonbush site's owners, energy company SSE, and conducted by RSPB Scotland.

SSE said it had tried to minimise any potential risk to golden plovers.

The study monitored golden plover numbers before, during and after construction.

According to the report, the drop in numbers was greater than in areas surrounding the wind farm that were studied over the same period.

Lead researcher Dr Alex Sansom said: "Golden plovers breed in open landscapes and it is likely that the presence of wind turbines in these areas leads to birds avoiding areas around the turbines.

"This study shows that such displacement may cause large declines in bird numbers within wind farms.

"It will be important to examine whether these effects are maintained over the longer term at this site, and we should also use these detailed studies to examine the effects of wind farms on other bird species."

Golden plover, of which there are believed to be between 38,000 and 59,000 breeding pairs in the UK, are protected under the European Birds Directive.

It places "great emphasis on the protection of habitats" for 500 endangered and migratory species across the European Union.

Aedan Smith, head of planning and development for RSPB Scotland, said it was vital that wind farms "like any development, are sited to avoid harming our most important places for wildlife".

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Robotic falcon ‘hired’ to protect German airport

13 April 2016
By Tereza Pultarova

The Robird and its inventor Nico Nijenhuis
The Robird and its inventor Nico Nijenhuis
A robotic falcon called Robird has been given its first assignment at a small German airport to demonstrate its ability to scare away birds.

The Weeze airport, just across the border from the Dutch town of Nijmegen, will provide ideal conditions to test the drone technology developed by a team from the University of Twente, the Netherlands.

The quiet airport, which handles only around 2.5 million passengers every year, will serve as a test bed for a possible future deployment of the technology at much busier sites, including Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
"This is a historic step for the Robird and our company", said Nico Nijenhuis, CEO of Clear Flight Solutions, a spin-off company from the University of Twente that markets and develops Robird. “We already fly our Robirds and drones at many locations and doing this at an airport for the first time is really significant. Schiphol Airport has been interested for many years now, but Dutch law makes it difficult to test there. The situation is easier in Germany, which is why we are going to Weeze.”

The trial will involve training the operators and air traffic controllers to ensure the robotic falcon doesn’t present any risk to aircraft.

“If you operate at an airport, there are a lot of protocols that you have to follow,” explained Nijenhuis. “You’re working in a high-risk area and there are all kinds of things that you need to check. We use the latest technologies, but the human aspect also remains crucial.”

Robird scares away birds by mimicking the flight of a real peregrine falcon. The birds react to it naturally as they would to the real predator by flying away to a safer area. This is a major advantage compared to other means of bird management, which usually stop working overtime as the clever creatures learn to see through the trick.