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.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Greatest threat to Eastern forest birds is habitat loss on wintering grounds

Date: July 24, 2017
Source: Cornell University

Summary: Human-caused habitat loss looms as the greatest threat to some North American breeding birds. The problem will be most severe on their wintering grounds, according to a new study.

Fifty years on, the Breeding Bird Survey continues to produce new insights

Date: July 26, 2017
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.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

New virus discovered in migratory bird in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

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.

Rare bird not seen in 60 years rediscovered

by Shreya Dasgupta on 27 July 2017

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.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Grown-up gannets find favorite fishing grounds

Date: July 27, 2017
Source: University of Exeter

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.

New bird that humans drove to extinction discovered in Azores

Date: July 26, 2017
Source: SINC

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.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Lost in translation: To the untrained zebra finch ear, jazzy courtship songs fall flat

Date: July 10, 2017
Source: McGill University

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.

Chillier Winters, Smaller Beaks

Date:  July 13, 2017
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.

High levels of antibiotic-resistance in Indian poultry farming raises concerns

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
Source: Burness

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.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Nesting in cavities protects birds from predators, to a point

Date: July 12, 2017
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.

Seaside sparrows caught between predators, rising seas

Date: July 12, 2017
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.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Climatic stability resulted in the evolution of more bird species

Date: July 17, 2017
Source:Umea University

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.

Molting feathers may help birds deal with environmental contaminants

Date: July 20, 2017
Source: Wiley

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.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Birds avoid crossing roads to prevent predation

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
Source: Frontiers

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.


Ravens can plan ahead, similar to humans and great apes

Date: July 13, 2017
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.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Even tiny amounts of oil could doom seabirds

Jul. 5, 2017 , 6:00 PM

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 may disappear by the end of this century

By Lakshmi SupriyaJul. 7, 2017 , 10:30 AM

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 march.

Monday, 17 July 2017

UK and Irish seabirds search area size of Spain for food

7 July 2017

By New Scientist staff and Press Association

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.


Birds become immune to influenza

Date:  June 30, 2017
Source:  Lund University

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 virus.

"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.

Birds' migration genes are conditioned by geography

Date:  July 6, 2017
Source:  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.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Palm cockatoos beat drum like Ringo Starr

Date:  June 28, 2017
Source:  Australian National University

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.

Two knees or not two knees: The curious case of the ostrich's double kneecap

Date:  July 3, 2017
Source:  Society for Experimental Biology

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."

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Owls' wings could hold the key to beating wind turbine noise

Date:  July 4, 2017
Source:  IOP Publishing

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.

Restoration efforts bolster population of endangered piping plovers

Date:  July 5, 2017
Source:  SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

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.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

When temperatures rise, Japanese quail require a breeze Date:

July 5, 2017

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. 

Seagulls are dying because they are getting so 'drunk' on flying ants

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: July 08, 2017 

Seagulls are suffering because they are getting 'drunk' on flying ants and suffering from the hot temperatures, say experts.

An unusual amount of dead birds have been reported across the country this week, as Plymouth and the nation experienced the annual 'Flying Ant Day'.

Although they are a nuisance, they pose no risk to humans, but some believe they have the unusual effect of getting our feathered friends absolutely sloshed.

The formic acid in the bodies of the ants is thought to mess with their cognitive ability leading to them acting inebriated, despite this they cannot resist the tasty treats.