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 25 July 2018

Ibis that was extinct in wild taught to migrate by following aircraft

Birds bred in captivity led on three-week migration south from Germany by human ‘foster parents’

Denise Hruby in Überlingen, Germany
Fri 20 Jul 2018 16.00 BSTLast modified on Mon 23 Jul 2018 08.19 BST

Leaning out of an ultralight aircraft, Corinna Esterer turns toward a flock of peculiar black birds soaring just a few metres away. “Come, come ibis,” she yells through her megaphone. Drawn by Esterer’s voice, the birds dart to the aircraft, and follow it to a field overlooking Lake Constance in southern Germany. Once on the ground, the ibis flock to Esterer. To the birds, the young woman is their parent.

For more than 300 years, the northern bald ibis has been extinct in the wild in central Europe, with small populations surviving only in zoos. But recently, it has celebrated a slow but steady comeback thanks to human foster parents who have shown the birds how to migrate south by leading the way in ultralight aircraft.

This year is the fifth time the team has taken young birds that hatched in captivity on a three-week migration across the Alps to their wintering grounds in Tuscany.

“It really is pioneering, the first [example] of its kind in which we have reintroduced a bird species with the help of human-led migration,” said Johannes Fritz, the head of the project. Fritz has spent most of his career trying to bring the ibis back. “Granted, they are not very beautiful, but [they are] charismatic,” he said.

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