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.
Source: American Ornithological Society Publications Office
Summary: In 1966, a US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist named Chan Robbins launched an international program designed to measure changes in bird populations using volunteers recruited to count birds on pre-set routes along country roads. The result, the North American Breeding Bird Survey or BBS, is still going strong more than five decades later.
Type 15 avian paramyxovirus does not pose a threat to humans or birds; preliminary genetic analysis shows that it is closest to viruses found previously in South America
Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo
Summary: Researchers have discovered a new virus in a white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis), a migratory bird species captured in April 2012 in the Lagoa do Peixe National Park in Rio Grande do Sul State. The current evidence suggests that it is not a risk to humans.
The Táchira antpitta (Grallaria chthonia) was first recorded during an expedition in the mid-1950s.
In June last year, scientists decided to look for the bird again.
During the expedition, the team obtained the first ever photographs and sound recordings of a living Táchira antpitta.
In a remote forest in western Venezuela, scientists have rediscovered a bird that was last seen more than 60 years ago.
The plump, brown Táchira antpitta (Grallaria chthonia) was first recorded during an expedition in the mid-1950s, during which ornithologists collected four specimens of the bird.
Subsequent searches failed to locate the Táchira antpitta. Moreover, the ongoing forest loss in the area where the antpitta was first found convinced scientists that the elusive bird was most likely extremely rare. Consequently, the bird was listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
In June last year, a team of international scientists of the Red Siskin Initiative (RSI) — a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution and various scientific organizations in Venezuela — decided to look for the Táchira antpitta once again. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) helped fund the 2016 expedition as part of its ongoing Search for Lost Birds.
Summary: Like humans, some birds can spend years learning and exploring before developing more settled habits. A study of northern gannets has shown adults return to the same patch of sea over and over again to find food.
Summary: Inside the crater of a volcano on Graciosa Island in the Azores archipelago, in the Atlantic Ocean, an international team of researchers has discovered the bones of a new extinct species of songbird, a bullfinch which they have named Pyrrhula crassa. The remains were found in a small cavity through which time ago the lava flowed. This bird disappeared a few hundreds of years ago due to human colonization of the islands and the introduction of invasive species.
Summary: Zebra finches brought up without their fathers don't react to the singing of potential suitors in the same way that female birds usually do, hinting that the environment in which the birds are raised can have a determining effect on their behaviour.
Source: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University - OIST
Summary: Although Charles Darwin lived and worked in the 19th century, modern evolutionary biologists are far from exhausting all avenues of inquiry regarding birds and evolution. For example, in the 1990s, researchers began to explore a new question concerning the relationship between climate and the evolution of beak size.
As use of growth-promoting antibiotics in animal farming increases worldwide, new study warns of potentially disastrous consequences to human health
Date: July 20, 2017
Summary: A new study from India raises questions about the dangers to human health of farming chicken with growth-promoting antibiotics -- including some of the same drugs used in raising millions of chickens in the United States and worldwide.
Source: American Ornithological Society Publications Office
Summary: Nesting in cavities provides birds with some protection from predators -- but it isn't foolproof. A new study explores how Poland's cavity-nesting marsh tits deal with predator attacks and finds that while tactics such as small entrances and solid walls do help, adaptations like this can only take the birds so far.
Source: American Ornithological Society Publications Office
Summary: Sea-level rise is a problem for saltmarsh birds, but so is predation, and birds sometimes find themselves caught between two threats: They can nest lower in vegetation to avoid predators, putting them at risk of flooding, or move up to keep dry but risk getting eaten. A new study finds that pressure from predators increases flooding risk for seaside sparrow nests -- but that protecting them from predators could also mitigate the effects of climate change.
More species of birds have accumulated in genera inhabiting climatically stable areas. This is shown by a new study from Umeå University.
"The explanation may be that a stable climate makes it more likely that diverging lineages persist without going extinct or merging until speciation is completed, and stability reduces the risk for extinction in response to climatic upheavals," says Roland Jansson, researcher from Umeå University who led the study.
How life has evolved from simple origins into millions of species is a central question in biology that remains unsolved. Advances in genomics and bioinformatics mean we now know a lot about the relationships among species and their origins, but surprisingly little is known about which environmental conditions that allows species to multiply.
Mercury is an ubiquitous environmental contaminant that affects the health of birds and other wild animals. Two varieties of songbird -- zebra finch and European starling -- were found to shed mercury accumulation with their feathers in a recent study.
During a molt, both species quickly eliminated mercury from their blood and significantly reduced mercury concentrations in other tissues. This, coupled with a migration out of contaminated sites, may help birds deal with exposure to environmental toxins.
Why didn't the bird cross the road? Because it was afraid of predators and venturing into another bird's territory
Date: July 19, 2017
Summary: It was once believed that roads posed no problem to birds because of their ability to fly. A new study finds that they can find these human-made structures problematic, especially small, forest-dwelling species. Their hesitance to cross roads could restrict their positive effects on the natural environment, such as seed dispersal, pollination and insect control.
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Summary: Despite previous research that indicates such behaviors are unique to humans and great apes, a new study shows that ravens, too, can plan ahead for different types of events , and further, that they are willing to forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future.
Some of the most devastating
pictures after big oil spills are of seabirds coated in black sludge. But a new
study reveals that even a small amount of oil could cause major damage to bird
populations like the western sandpiper. Just a smudge on their wingtips and
tails makes it much harder for them to fly than normal birds, researchers have
found, which could prevent them from reaching their breeding grounds in time.
The findings are significant
because they suggest that even minor oil spills can have a big impact, says
Christy Morrissey, avian ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan in
Saskatoon, Canada, who was not involved in the research. “There are ongoing
small oil spills around the world that continue to affect shoreline habitats,”
she says. “They don’t necessarily make the news, but still they’re happening.”
For years, scientists have been
trying to estimate how small amounts of oil would affect bird flight, and in
2013, a team of ecologists at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada,
set out to find out. The researchers used western sandpipers, one of 93
shorebird species that saw their numbers decline after the 2010 Deepwater
Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For months following the
1-million-metric-ton-spill, it was common to find birds on the beach with
lightly oiled feathers, says ornithologist and study lead author Ivan Maggini.
“We figured that just having oil on wings’ feathers might affect their main
function, which is flight.”
Emperor penguins are known for
braving the harsh Antarctic winters, but they might not be able to brave the
harsh realities of climate change. That’s the finding of a new study, which
suggests that by the end of this century, the world’s largest penguins may be
no more. Previous research suggested that rapidly warming air and sea
temperatures—which melt sea ice—might cause their numbers to plummet
by as much as 19% by 2100. But a new model looks at other factors,
including how individual penguins deal with climate change by migrating to
places with optimal sea ice coverage. In their model of potential penguin
migrations, researchers looked at how far penguins typically go and what factors
figure in their decisions. They used data previously collected from Pointe
Géologie in Antarctica along with satellite images of penguin colonies that
revealed information about their traveling and foraging behavior. The model
projects that for the next 2 decades, populations will remain stable, and may
even increase slightly as the penguins move to locations that are more
habitable. After 2050, it all goes downhill. Although the rate of population
decline may vary, by the
year 2100 almost all emperor penguins may be gone, the
researchers write in an upcoming issue of Biological Conservation. That’s
because climate change will have rendered all their habitats inhospitable by
then. Gaining endangered status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the
scientists say, may be one way of arresting what might otherwise be their final
Satellite-tracking of hundreds of
British and Irish seabirds has revealed new insights into where species search
for food at sea.
The study, which tracked and
modelled behaviour of kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and guillemots, could help
assess potential impacts from offshore wind farms and other activities and
where protected areas of the seas should be.
Lightweight GPS tags were fitted
to more than 1,300 adult birds from 29 different colonies around the UK and
Ireland, to track where they went once they left their breeding colonies to
catch fish at sea.
The data was used to create a
computer model for each species to predict important areas at sea for other
colonies where no tracking took place, estimating where birds travelled from
some 5,500 breeding sites.
Results reveal the extensive
areas of sea the four seabird species use – at least 1.5 million square
kilometres, an area three times the size of Spain.
Summary: An influenza infection in birds gives a good
protection against other subtypes of the virus, like a natural vaccination,
according to a new study.
An influenza infection in birds
gives a good protection against other subtypes of the virus, like a natural
vaccination, according to a new study.
Water birds, in particular
mallards, are often carriers of low-pathogenic influenza A virus. Researchers
previously believed that birds infected by one variant of the virus could not
benefit from it by building up immunity against other virus subtypes. However,
the recent study concludes that mallards infected with a low-pathogenic virus
build up significant immunity and resistance to other variants of the same
"It was previously thought
that the birds were not particularly good at protecting themselves against
subsequent infections, but in fact they manage quite well," says Neus
Latorre-Margalef, a biologist at Lund University.
Summary: The genetic make-up of a willow warbler
determines where it will migrate when winter comes. Studies of willow warblers
in Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States show that “migration genes” differ --
depending on where the birds breed in the summer. The willow warblers that
breed in southern Sweden migrate to West Africa, while those in northern
Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States fly to southern or eastern Africa.
Professor Rob Heinsohn said while
songbirds and whales can belt out a musical tune, few species recognise a beat.
But the shy and elusive palm
cockatoo, iconic to Cape York Peninsula in far North Queensland, plays the
drums and crafts the sticks.
"The large smoky-grey
parrots fashion thick sticks from branches, grip them with their feet and bang
them on trunks and tree hollows, all the while displaying to females,"
said Professor Heinsohn, from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.
Summary: Ostriches are the only animals in the world
to have a double-kneecap, but its purpose remains an evolutionary mystery. One
of the authors said, "understanding more about different kneecap
configurations in different animals could help to inform prosthesis design,
surgical interventions, and even robots with better joints."
Summary: Inspiration from owls' wings could allow
aircraft and wind turbines to become quieter, suggests a new study. Researchers
studied the serrations in the leading edge of owls' wings, gaining new insight
into how they work to make the birds' flight silent. Their results point
towards potential mechanisms for noise suppression in wind turbines, aircraft,
multi-rotor drones and other machines.
Source: SUNY College of Environmental Science and
Summary: High water on Lake Ontario, urbanization of
the New Jersey shore and a growing predator population are among the challenges
facing one of America’s iconic shorebirds and the conservationists determined
to restore the bird’s population.
Source: University of Illinois College of
Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Summary: Tiny Japanese quail eggs are a
small niche market in the United States, but they're a big business in Brazil
where they are sold fresh in grocery stores in egg cartons that hold 30 of the
small, speckled delicacies, and are a hard-boiled staple on restaurant salad
bars. Recent research helps Brazilian producers understand the birds' behavior
under wind and temperature variables and suggests environmental changes to boost
their egg-laying productivity.