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.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Scientists scale trees in desperate attempt to save orange-bellied parrot

Critically endangered bird – down to just 14 in the wild – not helped by being ‘morons’ with poor survival instincts

Calla Wahlquist

Wednesday 23 November 2016 04.07 GMT

Scientists are scaling trees in Tasmania in an attempt to save the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot after the wild population dropped to the “stupidly low numbers” of just 14 individuals.

Three of those wild-born birds are females that have begun the process of selecting nest boxes in Melaleuca, a blustery outpost in the wilderness world heritage area near the southwest tip of Tasmania.

In a crowdfunded last-ditch conservation effort, members of the Difficult Bird Research Group, so called because the birds they focus on are difficult to keep alive, will make the 100km flight from Hobart once a week during the nesting season to try to boost the survival rate.

The plan includes smuggling eggs laid in captivity into wild nests, tracking the impact of predators such as sugar gliders which eat the young, and, if necessary, hand-feeding the nestlings of negligent parents.

“There’s one wild female that, poor bugger, just hasn’t had any success,” Australian National University researcher Dr Dejan Stojanovic told Guardian Australia.

“If she stops feeding the kids for any reason, we are likely going to be climbing the trees every three hours and feeding the kids for her to get them to the stage where they can fly and actually chase her for food.”

It is a desperate final attempt to save a species that has been critically endangered for decades.

Despite regularly producing birds for release, longstanding captive breeding programs have not been able to boost dwindling numbers.


130-Million-Year Old Proteins Still Present in Dinosaur-Age Fossil

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | November 23, 2016 06:34am ET 
Microscopic pigment structures and proteins that graced the feathers of a Cretaceous-age bird are still present in its 130-million-year-old fossil, a new study finds.

The results, which confirm the oldest evidence of the structural protein beta-keratin, show that molecules can survive in their original state for hundreds of millions of years without fossilizing, and that researchers can use modern techniques to identify them, the researchers said.

The tiny and ancient structures were found on Eoconfuciusornis, a crow-size early bird that lived in what is now northern China during the early Cretaceous. Eoconfuciusornis is one of the first birds known to have a keratinous beak and no teeth. (Not all avian predecessors were toothless. For instance, Archaeopteryx, a transitional animal between dinosaurs and birds, had sharp teeth.)

Monday, 28 November 2016

Is this not North Africa? Rare bird flies off course and end up in South Shields

Hundreds of bird watchers flock to see rare bird the Isabelline shrike near Souter Lighthouse in South Tyneside

ByTom Wilkinson
13:29, 1 NOV 2016
Updated13:29, 1 NOV 2016

Hundreds of birdwatchers flocked to see a rare bird blown thousands of miles off course.

The Isabelline shrike spotted near South Shields, South Tyneside, over the weekend should have been on its annual migration from China or Mongolia to North Africa.

The bird came to rest on land managed by the National Trust north of Souter Lighthouse and its visit delighted assistant ranger Dougie Holder.

Usually only one Isabelline shrike is spotted in the UK every year.

Mr Holden, a keen birdwatcher, said: “We get a lot of migratory birds flying over the lighthouse, but I didn’t expect to see the shrike - it was a dream come true.


Verified sighting of rare bird marks first in New Mexico

Posted: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:53 am | Updated: 11:15 am, Mon Oct 31, 2016.

Associated Press |

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Experts say a small bird found near Lake Carlsbad is the first verified sighting of the black rail species in New Mexico.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports ( ) the bird was found last week by a woman who noticed it was unable to fly.

It was taken to the Desert Willow Veterinary Clinic, where it was nursed back to health with a steady diet of meal worms and seeds. Veterinarian Sammie Uhrig says the bird wasn't injured but appeared weak and underweight.

How the black rail came to be in Carlsbad remains a mystery, as their natural habitats include coasts along the Gulf of Mexico.

New Mexico Ornithological Society member Steve West says he has heard of black rails being seen in the state, but this is the first verified sighting.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Game birds filmed in crowded conditions

By Zack Adesina & Syed Fayaz & Oana A Marocico BBC Inside Out London

31 October 2016

Tens of thousands of game birds are being held in cages which can lead to injuries and premature death, a BBC investigation has uncovered.

Inside Out London discovered shocking conditions at three breeding sites.

At one farm holding 25,000 game birds, reporters found carcasses of dead pheasants, cannibalised, plucked or pecked to death by other "stressed out" birds and in crowded pens.

Shooting pumps £140m into London's economy, a recent report says.

Pheasants and partridges, used to breed chicks for shooting estates across the UK, are being confined in barren, wire mesh cages, under conditions that were made illegal for chickens in 2012.

Some of the cages at the game-rearing farms measure little more than an A4 piece of paper, per bird, and are akin to the outlawed battery cages formerly used for hens.


Kōkako crowned Bird of the Year Monday, 31 October 2016, 9:37 am

Press Release: Forest And Bird
31 October 2016

The Kōkako has been crowned New Zealand's Bird of the Year after two weeks of close competition and heated campaigning.

Best known for its deep organ-like call, the Kōkako is a large slate-grey bird with blue wattles.

Once threatened with extinction there were just 660 Kōkako left in 1999. But today, their numbers have passed 3000 individuals, and populations are recovering thanks to predator control and translocation programmes.

Like many of New Zealand’s native birds, the Kōkako is vulnerable to predation by introduced mammalian predators such as stoats, cats, possums and rats that kill eggs, young birds and adults.

The Kōkako’s successful campaign to win Bird of the Year was led by 16-year-old Oscar Thomas from Auckland, with help from the Rotoehu Ecological Trust in the Bay of Plenty.

“I first got interested in birds after my class visited Tiritiri Matangi Island when I was 10 years old. I didn’t see the Kōkako that day, but it was worth the return trip. It’s haunting call and ghostly appearance has fascinated me ever since” he said.

“It has the most beautiful call of all New Zealand’s birds and it’s the loudest in the forest. It sings with a deep, five-note call that makes the Tūī sound like an elaborate train wreck.”

While most teenagers have their eyes fixed on screens, Oscar can be found looking for birds. He is one of the youngest guides on Tiritiri Matangi, helps run a club for young birders, and has even volunteered to count rare birds on the Chatham Islands.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Drones scaring off migratory birds, say RSPB

By WMNJBayley | Posted: October 26, 2016

Some migratory birds fly the best part of 4,000 miles to get here each winter and face all manner of perils on the way – so it seems unfair that they could be endangered by tiny machines that are designed to fly for just 15 to 20 minutes.

That is what could be happening over the Westcountry’s major estuaries this winter as more and more hobbyists fly drones over the water for fun.

Big flocks of overwintering birds like geese can be alarmed by drones – and flying off in mass panic to escape could be harming their chances of survival, according to experts from the RSPB.

It is not only the tiny buzzing flying machines – larger low-flying micro-lites and even pet dogs left to run off-lead can make be a nuisance around the estuarine areas where over-wintering birds gather in large numbers to rest and to take on much needed nourishment between autumn and spring.

Now the RSPB is appealing for visitors to the Westcountry’s estuaries to put wildlife first, in the hope it stops incidents of the birds being disturbed.

The charity says the problem is particularly acute on the Exe estuary, where thousands of geese, ducks and waders congregate, including winter-residents and migratory birds passing through.

Many other of the Westcountry’s estuaries also hold internationally important numbers of wintering birds, and the last thing they need is to be disturbed by people, their dogs, or by machinery of one kind or another.

Peter Otley, site manager for the RSPB’s Exe estuary reserves, said: “The Exe is one of the best places in the UK to see geese, ducks and waders in winter, it’s a wonderful but fragile place and the birds are sensitive to disturbance. 

Rare geese returning to the Highlands risk being shot by accident

October 26, 2016, 6:09 am

Some of the north’s rarest flying visitors have arrived for their winter holiday – amid fears they may be shot by accident.

RSPB Scotland has reported that rare Greenland white-fronted geese have begun returning to Caithness.

But the birds – especially the younger ones – are not always easy to identify, leaving them potentially at risk from wildfowlers.

Their return follows an appeal last month from the RSPB, NFU Scotland and BASC for wildfowlers to take special care so that the geese are not mistaken for more common quarry species and accidentally shot.

Superintendent Colin Gough said, “This is a good example of partnership working giving practical and easily understood advice to prevent accidental shooting of these migratory birds.”

The geese have been seen at the RSPB’s Broubster Leans nature reserve, south west of Thurso, and at a number of other nearby locations.

Dave Jones, RSPB Scotland’s site manager for Caithness said: “Caithness hosts a small but important population of Greenland white-fronted geese each winter. These birds have been placed on the Red List of birds of conservation concern and they are fully protected.

“They are lively sociable birds and can usually be seen in family groups, often a mixture of adults and juveniles. The juveniles lack the distinctive white markings of the older family members which can make them more difficult to identify.

“It’s always a pleasure to watch and hear them. Their calls have a yodelling quality about them which, once learnt, is quite easy to recognise. Our reserve at Broubster Leans is a good place to see them but they are very mobile and will travel from place to place to feed and roost.

“It’s great that so many people and organisations are recognising the importance of these geese to Caithness and I hope they continue to find the county a safe winter home as they have for so many generations past.”


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Experts left baffled by blue gull found dead in Inverness

November 4, 2016, 2:37 pm

A blue-coloured gull found dead near Inverness has left experts searching for an explanation.

Wildlife enthusiast David Lynch came across the bird on the shore of the Beauly Firth near Clachnaharry on Sunday.

He shared a picture of the gull on Facebook along with an appeal for ideas on what may have caused its feathers to turn blue.

But so far no one has been able to find an explanation and even the RSPB have branded the death a “mystery”.

David, who is Highland coordinator for Eco Church Scotland, believes the bird may have come into contact with a poisonous chemical or been intentionally dyed by someone looking to track its movements.

He said: “I had just gone out for a walk and I was watching out for any birds on the path. That’s when I noticed that a gull had washed up on the shore and that its feathers appeared to be very blue.

“I wasn’t aware of any blue tinged gulls in the area so I took the picture and thought I would read up on it.

“I spoke to a friend who used to be a ranger in the Highlands and he told me about schemes in America where gulls are dyed to help mark their flight patterns.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Parrot fossil unearthed in Siberia

By Rebecca Morelle Science Correspondent, BBC News

26 October 2016

A parrot fossil has been unearthed in Siberia - the furthest north one of these birds has ever been found, a study reports.

A single parrot bone was discovered in the Baikal region and dates to between 16 and 18 million years ago.

It suggests that the birds, which today mainly inhabit tropical and sub-tropical regions, may once have been widespread in Eurasia.

It is also the first time a fossil parrot has been found in Asia.

The research is published in the journal Biology Letters.

The study's author Dr Nikita Zelenkov, from the Borissiak Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, said he was surprised by the discovery.

"No-one before has ever found evidence of their presence in Siberia," he said. Image copyright Alexander Sizov Image caption The parrot bones were unearthed from a site in the east of Siberia

The researchers discovered the ancient parrot's remains at Tagay Bay in the east of Siberia.

It was likely a very modern-looking small bird, around the size of budgerigar. "We were excavating all kinds of animals there, and mostly they were rodents, rhinos, cats, hippos and others," said Dr Zelenkov.

"But this locality is also interesting because it preserves a rich community of fossil birds. But no exotic birds have been found there before."

Dr Zelenkov discovered part of a bone called a tarsometatarsus, which is found in the lower leg of birds. After comparing it with other species, he discovered that it belonged to a small parrot.

"Unfortunately, this find is not good enough to reconstruct the appearance or lifestyle of this parrot, but we can see that it was rather similar to modern ones. So it was likely a very modern-looking small bird, around the size of a budgerigar."

It shares features with another earlier fossil parrot bone in Germany, reported in a study published in 2010, belonging to a species called Mogontiacopsitta miocaena.

Climate change is disturbing hundreds of bird species, including our beloved osprey

By John Hopewell October 25

There are many epic animal migrations in nature, and one is currently underway in the D.C. area. Millions of birds are in the process of escaping the cold, polar air and flocking south, some to as far away as Brazil. Today, Washington, D.C., sits in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, but climate change will greatly alter avian ranges and migration patterns.

Even more alarming — recent reports have presented disturbing findings on the potential demise of entire bird populations. Over 300 species are “on the brink,” according to the Audubon Society, including the D.C. area’s beloved osprey.

The osprey, famous for building massive nests on channel markers in the Chesapeake Bay, is in particular danger. The Audubon Society predicts the beautiful bird could lose 79 percent of its current summer range — where the bird lives and feeds — by 2080. The society notes that the osprey can live in warm climates like Florida year-round, but they worry whether the birds will find enough fish to survive.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Golden eagle numbers close to 'historic' levels

10 November 2016

Numbers of golden eagles in Scotland are close to "historic" levels, with more than 500 pairs, a survey of the birds has found.

RSPB Scotland said there had been a 15% rise since 2003, when the last survey took place, from 442 to 508 pairs.

The research was carried out by experts from the wildlife charity and the Scottish Raptor Study Group. 

Scotland is now thought to be home to the UK's entire population of golden eagles.

England's only resident golden eagle, which occupied a site near Haweswater in the Lake District, has not been seen for more than a year and is feared dead.

The RSPB said the six-month survey - which the charity co-funded with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - showed the raptor could now be defined as having a "favourable conservation status".

Numbers of golden eagles in Scotland reached very low numbers in the mid-19th Century, but have been steadily recovering since then.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said the birds were an "awe-inspiring part of our natural heritage" and welcomed the news from the survey.

"Across many parts of Scotland there's been a very welcome turnaround in how people respect these magnificent birds, part of a more enlightened public attitude towards birds of prey," he said.

"Increased monitoring and satellite tagging of eagles, as well as stronger sanctions against wildlife crime may be serving as effective deterrents against illegal activity, therefore helping their population to increase.

"However, the continued absence of golden eagles in some areas of eastern Scotland remains a real cause for concern and suggests that much more work needs to be done."