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, 23 June 2017

Climate change risk for animals living in prime conditions




June 13, 2017

Animals living in areas where conditions are ideal for their species have less chance of evolving to cope with climate change, new research suggests. 

The study examined whether birds might be able to evolve to adapt to changes to the natural environment within their range - the geographical area where the birds nest, feed, migrate and hibernate over the course of their lifetimes.

It found that populations that experienced both the most favourable conditions, usually at the centre of their species' range, and toughest conditions found at the very edges of the range had the lowest evolutionary potential. The populations that displayed the greatest potential to evolve with changing conditions were found living between the two extremes, the study showed.

The research team, including scientists from the University of Oviedo, University of Málaga, Doñana Biological Station, the University of Exeter and the University of Western Australia, studied data on 12 European bird species.

"We were surprised to find reduced evolutionary potential among birds living in the centre of a species' range," said co-author Dr Regan Early, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"The reasons for this are not clear, but high levels of competition in prime areas might lead birds with certain traits to survive - meaning little genetic variety in the population and consequently little scope for evolution.

"We found that populations of birds on the edge of a species' range - like those in the centre - had a reduced ability to evolve," said lead author Dr Jesus Martinez-Padilla, of the University of Oviedo.

"This is probably because they already live in tough conditions for their species. As climate warms, these populations will probably have to move or die out. This is what might happen to populations of the Pied Flycatcher in southern Europe. These populations have little genetic variation compared to northern populations, so they won't be able to adapt to a changing climate. The birds living in places neither the best nor the most hostile environmental conditions - appear to have the best evolutionary potential."

Life aloft: The unexplored ecosystem above your head



7 June 2017

We have nature reserves on land and at sea, but the sky has never been considered a habitat, let alone one worth preserving, until now

By Lesley Evans Ogden

THE Federal Bureau of Investigation has a spectacular view of the city skyline from its Chicago office tower. But when special agent Julia Meredith arrived at work one Monday morning, her eyes were focused firmly on the ground. That’s where the bodies were – more than 10 of them.

Some of the dead were Blackburnian warblers, birds with bright yellow and orange plumage that are rarely seen in the city. They had been on their way to their wintering grounds in South America when they had collided with the building’s glass facade. “They had come all this way and here they were, dead,” says Meredith.

It’s not an isolated incident. Just last month, 395 migrating birds were killed in one building strike in Galveston, Texas. The world over, wherever humans are extending their buildings, machines and light into the sky, the lives of aerial creatures are at increasing risk. We don’t have very accurate figures, but in the US, casualties are thought to run into the hundreds of millions every year. Yet while efforts to protect areas on land and in water have accelerated since the 1970s, the sky has been almost entirely ignored.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Steep declines in Kauai's seabird populations, radar reveals




Date: June 1, 2017
Source: American Ornithological Society Publications Office

The island of Kauai is home to two endangered seabirds, the Hawaiian Petrel and the Newell's Shearwater. Monitoring these birds, which are nocturnal and nest in hard-to-access areas, is challenging, but observing the movements of birds via radar offers a solution. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications takes a fresh look at two decades of radar data -- and comes to worrying conclusions about the status of both species.

To assess the population trends and distribution of the birds in recent decades, André Raine of the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project and his colleagues examined past and contemporary radar surveys as well as data on the numbers of shearwater fledglings rescued after being attracted to artificial lights. Their results shows continuing population declines in both species over the last twenty years -- a 78% reduction in radar detections for Hawaiian Petrels and a 94% reduction for Newell's Shearwaters, with the shearwater decline mirrored in decreasing numbers of recovered fledglings over time.

For shearwaters, this is consistent with previously published work, but past analyses of petrel radar data suggested their population was stable or potentially increasing. The researchers attribute the difference to the fact that for this new study, they carefully standardized the data based on sunset times, which ensured that the time periods (and thus bird movement periods) under consideration remained constant from the beginning to the end of the survey period. They believe that the steep declines may have commenced in earnest in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which led to permanent ecological changes such as the opening of new routes for invasion by exotic predators and plants, as well as significant infrastructure changes across the island.