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, 30 November 2018

Huge shipment of illegally killed birds seized in Slovenia

Slovenian customs officers have discovered an astonishing 1,349 dead songbirds on a bus heading for Italy, where they were to be eaten in restaurants.
The illegally killed birds included 13 protected species, with 1,028 Red-throated Pipits, 209 White Wagtails, 73 Meadow Pipits, 16 Tree Pipits and 10 Eurasian Skylarks discovered in the 15 boxes seized last month. The vehicle was coming from Romania, and officials have ascertained that they were destined for the Italian black market that distributes such birds to restaurants for use as a 'luxury' dish.
Such dishes are available for a limited time each year – mainly during the autumn migration period – and other species discovered in this latest batch included European GoldfinchSwallowEuropean GreenfinchCommon QuailWillow WarblerWestern Yellow WagtailCorn Bunting and Reed Bunting.

First European bird extinction for 170 years

After nearly 40 years without a confirmed sighting, Common Buttonquail has become the first bird to be declared extinct in Europe since Great Auk.
Better known by European birders as Andalusian Hemipode, the species has been officially classified as Extinct by the Ecological Transition of the Spanish Government, with extensive searches in southern Spain during the last two decades failing to unearth any remnant populations of this elusive species. The last confirmed Spanish record was in 1981 near Doñana National Park and while reliable observations – often of singing birds – were made into the 2000s, none was fully accepted.
Unlike Great Auk, Common Buttonquail is not globally extinct, and is in fact widely distributed in Africa and Asia. It maintains a flimsy foothold in the Western Palearctic, with a small and declining population of the nominate subspecies sylvaticus found in traditional farmland in parts of coastal Morocco. This population was undiscovered for decades, and only came to public light in 2011 following a paper published in Dutch Birding. In Europe however, Spain represented the last vestige for Common Buttonquail, with the only other populations in Sicily and Portugal likely becoming extinct in the 1920s and 1970s respectively.

Black-eared Wheatear: two species, not one

A new study has demonstrated that Eastern and Western Black-eared Wheatears should be treated as separate species.
The research, recently published in Journal of Evolutionary Biology, examined and sequenced the DNA of four black-and-white wheatears: PiedCyprus and both Western and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears. This was used to create a species tree, which illustrates the evolutionary relationships between the studied species. This initial analysis established that, despite their superficial similarities, Western and Eastern Black‐eared Wheatears have evolved as independent taxa, meaning that they should be recognised as full species.
In terms of plumage, black backs and neck-sides separate Pied and Cyprus Wheatears from either Black-eared Wheatear. Interestingly, Western Black-eared Wheatear can be separated from Eastern Black-eared, Pied and Cyprus Wheatears by differences in mitochondrial DNA, yet the latter three species cannot be distinguised individually. Eastern Black-eared Wheatear readily hybridises with Pied Wheatear where their ranges overlap. 

Air Force Academy's Falcon Mascot Will Be Back In Action Thursday

Aurora, the 22-year-old gyrfalcon mascot of the Air Force Academy, will be back in action this Thursday after recovering from injuries sustained when a student prank went wrong earlier this month.
Air Force football will take on Colorado State University Thanksgiving Day at 1:30 p.m. in Colorado Springs, and Aurora will be there to greet fans.
“She likes getting her picture taken with a bunch of people,” said Joseph Kloc, an Air Force senior and member of the elite falconry club. “She's a little bit of a diva.”
Aurora also made an appearance at Air Force’s game against New Mexico on Nov. 10, Kloc said, but didn’t travel to the University of Wyoming in Laramie last week because of icy weather.
The falcon was injured when two West Point students stuffed her and another bird into dog crates before the rivalry football game Nov. 3. Aurora bloodied a wing, likely thrashing around in the crate, before the students turned the birds over.
While football-game pranks are a time-honored tradition between military schools, they’ve never before involved birds. That’s according to the recollection of Lt. Col Don Rhymer, who runs the falconry. He was “ecstatic” to see how Aurora was recovering.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

New Rare, Endangered Bird Species Found in Nepal

Three rare bird species belonging to the bird family of Accipitridae were spotted in a community forest in Gorkha
Nepal is known for its rich biodiversity profile backed by a supportive climate that favors various kinds of flora and fauna.
Over the years, the Himalayan nation has left its unique mark in conserving and identifying various endangered species. Here is another update from the country on similar lines!
According to a recent update, three rare species of birds belonging to the bird family of Accipitridae were spotted in a community forest in Gorkha region.
The community forest is already home to 99 species of bird varieties and researchers were happy about finding three new species: White-Rumped Vulture, Asian Woolyneck Stork and Steppe Eagle.
This is the result of a seven-month-long research by Kushal Shrestha and his team in the region. As part of their research, the team also found another bird called ‘Spiny Babbler’ found to be available only in Nepal.

Two iconic birds brought back from the brink of extinction

By: Krissy Aguilar - / 01:16 PM November 26, 2018
Two exceptionally rare birds have been saved from the brink of extinction, thanks to long-term conservation programs.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has downlisted the risk profiles of both Northern Bald Ibis and Pink Pigeon.
Once down to just 59 pairs in the wild in 1998, the Northern Bald Ibis population is now recovering thanks to conservation action.
It has shown one of the most dramatic improvements, being downlisted to endangered from critically endangered.
Meanwhile, the Pink Pigeon’s populations are stabilizing after once having only 10 individuals in the wild in 1990.

Night parrot's Kimberley location under wraps after rare bird snapped for just the second time

Posted Fri at 10:36pm
The night parrot has been dubbed one of the world's most mysterious birds.
It is endangered and known to exist in very small numbers in Western Queensland.
But in October, Indigenous rangers in Western Australia's Kimberley region captured the second-known photo of the bird in the Great Sandy Desert in just over a year.
Paruku ranger coordinator Jamie Brown said they were keeping the exact location of their discovery a secret, in order to protect the species.
"We're keeping it under the mat sort of thing … because it was so popular and everyone's looking for it, we were just a bit frightened of a big wave of people just coming in and just looking everywhere and trying to find it," he said.

Birders flocking to Goderich yard for look at ultra-rare hummingbird

Updated: November 22, 2018
GODERICH — As many as 100 bird enthusiasts from across North America are crowding into a backyard here this week to get a glimpse of a rare hummingbird that’s never before been seen in Ontario.
The tiny Calliope hummingbird is home to the coastal areas of Oregon and California — but one has made Linda Johnston’s backyard its temporary home, and its presence has created a stir among the passionate subculture of birders.
They have been flocking to the Goderich woman’s property since word of the Calliope’s arrival in Huron County started spreading — the crowd becoming so large that Johnston has permitted access to her backyard, but only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and only until Nov. 25.
What brought the tiny bird to Goderich remains a mystery, but the Calliope is feeding, roosting and spending all of its time in a small area of Johnston’s backyard that includes a feeder.
When it arrived, Johnston told a friend who is a birdwatcher and photographer. Photos of the tiny bird were put on Facebook along with a plea that it be identified. The Calliope was eventually identified, but by that time social media was buzzing over its Ontario visit.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Large colony of endangered gulls nesting on Canterbury's Ashley River

Emma Dangerfield19:39, Nov 22 2018
Critically endangered black-billed gulls on Ashley River
The arrival of the largest colony of black-billed gulls seen on North Canterbury's Ashley River in almost 20 years has prompted calls for river users to take extreme care.
Black-billed gulls are endemic to New Zealand and are the most threatened gull species in the world. The Department of Conservation estimates there are about 60,000 breeding adults left, and the population is expected to decline by up to 70 per cent over 10 years or three generations.
The new colony, located just below the State Highway 1 bridge, is likely to have grown in number because of recent weather patterns, Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group member Grant Davey said.
"We normally attract one colony every year. This one would be the largest since we started bird management 18 years ago, and has probably been swelled by birds arriving from the Waimakariri River, which was swept clear of all nests by the major flood of a couple of weeks back."

These birds are one of the rare animals that hide to mate

Besides humans, few species hide sexual activity. Arabian babblers are one such species; keeping mating private may preserve the peace.
DESPITE THEIR NAME, Arabian babblers never kiss and tell.
In an act often thought unique to humans, these birds go out of their way to hide from other birds during their (admittedly brief) sexual encounters, according to new research.
“The dominant male and female take so much effort to conceal their communication and the mating itself,” says Yitzchak Ben-Mocha, a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the lead author of a study published recently in Evolution and Human Behavior. “They sneak away, copulate, and come back.”
While many species of animals occasionally conceal their sexual antics, such acts usually involve subordinate or “beta” males, who have good reason to hide their trysts from more dominant and aggressive alpha males. But Ben-Mocha says Arabian babblers are the only species other than humans in which scientists have documented dominant males and females habitually conducting their affairs in private.
Ben-Mocha believes that social living is a key reason why the babblers hide their most explicit acts. Arabian babblers are cooperative breeders, meaning that while only the dominant, or “alpha,” male and female in the group typically breed, the rest of the social group pitches in with chick care by helping with feeding, defending territory, and scaring off potential predators.
Sex out in the open may bring conflict to the groups, especially if beta males try to get involved in the action. And among babblers, fights between males usually mean the eviction of the losing side. In other words, discretion may help to whitewash awkward social exchanges and maintain cooperation.

Embryological study of the skull reveals dinosaur-bird connection

November 20, 2018, Universidad de Chile

Birds are the surviving descendants of predatory dinosaurs. However, since the likes of Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, some parts of their anatomy have become radically transformed. The skull, for instance, is now toothless, and accommodates much larger eyes and brain. Skulls are like 3-D puzzles made of smaller bones: As the eye socket and brain case expanded along evolution, birds lost two bones of the skull that were once present in dinosaurs -the prefrontal, at the upper front corner of the eye, and the postorbital, behind the eye (See the skull of Erlikosaurus compared to the seabird Sula in the image below).

Or rather, this seemed to be the case. A new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution has uncovered how during embryonic development of the bird skull, both of these dinosaur bones are still present as starting points of bone formation (ossification centers). Rather than becoming independent bones of the adult skull (as in ancient predatory dinosaurs), they fuse quickly to other embryonic bones, becoming undetectable in the adult bird. The study is the master's thesis of evolutionary biologist Daniel Smith.

During the evolution of toothed, dinosar-like birds in the Cretaceous period, the disappearance of the adult postorbital coincided with an increase in size of the brain, as well as the frontal bone above the brain. The new study shows how the embryonic postorbital of birds fuses to the frontal, becoming part of that bone. By adding itself to the frontal, the postorbital could have allowed it to expand and accommodate a larger brain in evolution. This discovery has also unraveled a long-standing mystery of embryology: In most animals, the frontal bone is formed from cells coming from the outer layer of the early embryo, called the ectoderm. Birds are very unusual because their frontal bone develops from two sources of embryonic cells: The front portion is formed from the ectoderm, but the back portion is formed from an inner layer of the embryo, called the mesoderm. The reason for this was enigmatic, but some scientists had suggested that the back portion of the frontal was different because it evolved from a different bone, that became assimilated into the frontal. The new study has confirmed this hypothesis, by showing that the back portion of the frontal actually starts out as a separate embryonic bone, the same that once developed into the postorbital of dinosaurs (see the image of duck embryos below).

Man, 39, trapped wild birds by putting super-strong glue on feeders in his garden so he could keep them in cages in his house

Police raided home of Julius Gadzor in Kent after tip off from the RSPCA
They found wild birds trapped in cages and feeder and branch smeared in glue
Gadzor has avoided jail after an unusual prosecution for keeping wild birds 

PUBLISHED: 12:16, 19 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:25, 19 November 2018

A 'cruel' man who put strong glue on a nut feeder and tree branch so he could catch garden birds to keep in his home has avoided jail.

Julius Gadzor, of Gravesend, Kent, covered the feeder with rat glue before showing off the wild finches in cages in his home.

The 39-year-old was charged with the unusual crimes of possessing wild birds, using bird lime and possessing items used for trapping birds after an investigation by Kent Police and the RSPCA. 

Julian Gadzor was prosecuted after using strong glue to catch wild birds for his home

Photos from his Facebook show the many cages, some tiny, which he used to house the birds

Gadzor's Facebook page, which claims he went to school in Slovakia, shows he was not afraid of showing off the wild finches and other colourful garden birds he caught.

In one photo, he wrote: 'My wall hahaha', next to the picture of 12 birds in eight cages. It is unclear however whether the birds pictured are those he trapped.

Another photo shows a greenfinch, common in many British gardens, in a cage.

Police today released photos of the branch and feeder which Gadzor had put glue on to catch the birds. 

Gadzor was given a 28-day curfew order when he appeared at Medway Magistrates' Court last Monday, and also ordered to pay £300 in costs and a £85 victim surcharge. 

Monday, 26 November 2018

Swifts ride air currents to catch a free lunch

November 19, 2018, The Company of Biologists
Once an adult swift (Apus apus) leaves its breeding colony and takes to the air migrating south, it won't touch down again until returning home to nest 10 months later. "Common swifts are exceptional in their level of adaptation to aerial life," says Emmanuel de Margerie, a biologist from the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) at the University of Rennes, France, adding, "Foraging, sleeping, preening and all other daily activities are performed in mid-air, day after day, week after week." So, when de Margerie decided to learn how the expert aviators manoeuvre in their aerial domain, he contacted biomechanist Tyson Hedrick from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, who snapped up the opportunity. "Their basic flight capabilities have been well studied in wind tunnel experiments," says Hedrick. However, birds in wind tunnels never share the sky with others or contend with unexpected gusts of wind. de Margerie had filmed swifts soaring and swerving while foraging to feed their chicks and the movies provided the ideal opportunity to find out how much exertion it takes to keep an acrobatic swift on the wing in real life. They publish their discovery that swifts essentially hitchhike on rising currents to make their flight costs almost zero in Journal of Experimental Biology.
But the unique footage was not collected with a conventional camera. Mounting a pair of angled mirrors either side of a camera, with a third mirror in front of the lens to collect the reflections from the wide-set mirrors, de Margerie was able to film a pair of simultaneous movies—each from a slightly different perspective—which he could then analyse to perfectly reconstruct individual swift motions in 3-D. "The current device is cumbersome," says de Margerie, admitting that it takes time to learn how to track the swifts' tortuous flight paths. "After some training, our undergraduate student Cécile Pichot was the most skilful at continuously following foraging swifts for relatively long flight times of up to 6 minutes," he says.

Rare North American gull makes itself at home in Weymouth

15th November
A rare bird has been making itself at home in Weymouth - thousands of miles away from its usual habitat.
A Franklin's Gull, which breeds in northern USA and Canada, has joined flocks of other gulls at Swannery car park next to Radipole Lake to the delight of many birdwatchers in the area.
It arrived in Weymouth on Monday and has been spotted around different areas of the borough.
Daniel Bartlett, of RSPB Radipole Lake, said: "The bird was probably caught up in last weeks stormy weather, and may well have been blown here across the Atlantic. It seems to spend its days out in Weymouth Bay looking for food, and has been seen as far out as Portland Bill.
"Birdwatchers have responded to its arrival, and have been gathering around the RSPB Discovery Centre every afternoon hoping to see the bird. Gulls are often seen in large numbers at the lake during winter afternoons. They come to wash the salt water out of their feathers, before heading off to sea again at dusk, and so the cycle continues."


Some birds have been taken to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lab in Ashland for testing.
Posted: Nov. 17, 2018 10:30 AM
Updated: Nov. 18, 2018 12:58 AM
Posted By: Associated Press
HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) - Federal and state authorities are investigating a mass bird death in northwestern Oregon.
Officials say a bald eagle, red-tailed hawk and dozens of red-winged blackbirds and European starlings were found dead in a field in Hillsboro earlier this week.
Oregon State Police are investigating, and some birds have been taken to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lab in Ashland for testing.
Portland General Electric says crews checked a nearby transformer but it's designed to be safe for birds, and it's unlikely the birds were electrocuted.
Audubon Society of Portland Conservation Director Bob Sallinger says it's possible the smaller birds were poisoned, and the larger, predatory birds died after eating them.

Here's How Much Food Three Different Birds Need to Eat Daily

From hawks to hummingbirds, avians have some enormous appetites.
November 19, 2018
Membership benefits include one year of Audubon magazine and the latest on birds and their habitats. Your support helps secure a future for birds at risk.
This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.
This is BirdNote.

There used to be a saying about somebody who doesn’t eat much — “she eats like a bird.” Just a little of this and a smidgen of that. But how much does a bird typically eat? And how much would you have to eat to match it? Well, depends on the bird. 
As a rule of thumb, the smaller the bird, the more food it needs relative to its weight. A Cooper’s Hawk, a medium-sized bird that hunts other birds, eats around 12 percent of its weight per day. For you, if you weigh … say … 150 pounds, that’s 18 pounds of chow — roughly six extra-large pizzas.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Peoria bird rescue seeks owner of bedazzled vest-clad pigeon

10:27 PM, Nov 16, 2018
PEORIA, Ariz. - A bird rescue center in Peoria is trying to find the owner of one colorfully dressed pigeon.
Jody Kieran, the director of Fallen Feathers, said Friday that nobody has come forward to claim ownership of a pigeon found wearing a bedazzled vest.
The Arizona Republic reports someone found the fine-feathered friend near an intersection last week and brought it to the rescue center.
The organization posted a picture of the bird and the vest to Facebook.
Kieran describes the pigeon appears friendly and well taken care of by its owner. She says she will wait a month before putting the bird up for adoption.
Kieran says it's not uncommon for people to keep pigeons as pets.

Scientists work to save wild Puerto Rican parrot after Maria

November 20, 2018 by Danica Coto
In this Nov. 6, 2018 photo, Puerto Rican parrots huddle in one of the flight cages located in the facilities of the Iguaca Aviary at El Yunque, were the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service runs a parrot recovery program in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. Biologists are trying to save the last of the endangered Puerto Rican parrots after more than half the population of birds disappeared when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and destroyed their habitat and food sources. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Biologists are trying to save the last of the endangered Puerto Rican parrots after more than half the population of the bright green birds with turquoise-tipped wings disappeared when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and destroyed their habitat and food sources.
In the tropical forest of El Yunque, only two of the 56 wild birds that once lived there survived the Category 4 storm that pummeled the U.S. territory in September 2017. Meanwhile, only 4 of 31 wild birds in a forest in the western town of Maricao survived, along with 75 out of 134 wild parrots living in the Rio Abajo forest in the central mountains of Puerto Rico, scientists said.
And while several dozen new parrots have been born in captivity and in the wild since Maria, the species is still in danger, according to scientists.
"We have a lot of work to do," said Gustavo Olivieri, parrot recovery program coordinator for Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources.
Federal and local scientists will meet next month to debate how best to revive a species that numbered more than 1 million in the 1800s but dwindled to 13 birds during the 1970s after decades of forest clearing.
The U.S. and Puerto Rican governments launched a program in 1972 that eventually led to the creation of three breeding centers. Just weeks before Maria hit, scientists reported 56 wild birds at El Yunque, the highest since the program was launched.

Captive-breeding will not save wild Asian Houbara without regulation of hunting

Date:  November 13, 2018
Source:  University of East Anglia
The survival of the heavily exploited Asian Houbara depends on the regulation of trapping and hunting, according to research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
New findings published today reveal that trying to stabilise populations solely through captive breeding will require the release of such large numbers it will inevitably compromise wild populations.
The Asian Houbara, a large, spectacular bird that breeds from the Middle East through Asia, is of major cultural and political significance because of Arab falconry, with hunting influencing international diplomacy. The species is threatened by uncontrolled hunting and poaching, which has caused its decline in the Middle East and Central Asia since the 1960s.
Attempts to conserve the species while also supporting the ancient tradition of Arabian falconry have focused on releasing captive-bred birds in increasing numbers. But research published today in the journal Biological Conservation shows that the species in Uzbekistan is declining by more than 9 per cent each year, and that the number of captive-bred birds needed to be released annually just to stabilise this population would be 1.5 times larger than the wild population itself.
Although captive-breeding can help rescue species from extinction, it bears many risks [see Notes to editors], and such mass-scale releases may compromise the fitness of wild populations. Sustainable hunting and conservation instead needs an integrated approach that also includes controls on hunting, according to Prof Paul Dolman, professor of conservation ecology in UEA's School of Environmental Sciences.

Top film-makers back penguin intervention on Attenborough show

Wildlife documentary experts defend crew’s decision to help trapped birds
Mon 19 Nov 2018 17.41 GMTLast modified on Mon 19 Nov 2018 20.45 GMT

Leading wildlife camera operators and film-makers have defended the film crew on David Attenborough’s latest BBC series over their decision to break with convention and intervene to save a group of penguins that had become trapped in a ravine.
Nature film-makers are discouraged from intervening in the events they are attempting to capture on film. While the general principle is to avoid interfering with the natural course of events, the crew on the Dynasties series stepped in when they saw the birds’ predicament.
The penguins at the centre of Sunday’s episode of Dynasties had either blown or tumbled into a gully in a storm and were unable to to get out. In what BBC Earth described as an “unprecedented move”, the crew dug a shallow ramp so some of the penguins would be able to use it to save themselves.
Veteran wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, whose work has been lauded by Attenborough, described the convention of not interfering as a “cardinal rule”. He said: “If [for example] you’re watching a predator and prey relationship, the key thing is your presence must not influence the outcome.”

Nearly 200 ‘species of concern’ call Fort Bragg, Sandhills home

Military editor 

Posted Nov 16, 2018 at 3:57 PMUpdated Nov 16, 2018 at 6:45 PM
For decades, one of the most infamous residents of Fort Bragg has been a tiny bird.
The red-cockaded woodpecker is an endangered species that once threatened to put a halt to training on the nation’s largest military installation.
Some types of training did come to a stop as conservationists worked to save the bird. And in the years since, military officials and the woodpeckers have learned to co-exist.
The result has been a growth in the local woodpecker population and inspiration for Fayetteville’s new minor league baseball team.
Anna Castillo made no mention of the red-cockaded woodpecker during a presentation Thursday of rare and threatened species in the Sandhills.
Castillo, a conservation planner for the North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership, chose instead to focus on other plants and animals that are not as well known.
Speaking to the Regional Land Use Advisory Commission, she warned that military and local officials must work together to save a number of rare species in the region.
“There’s tons of information on the woodpecker,” Castillo told members of RLUAC, which is a group of municipal and military leaders and conservationists who aim to work together to address land use around Fort Bragg. “The goal here is to prevent other species from becoming endangered.”
During the meeting, Castillo presented information on a database that has compiled nearly 200 species of plant, fish and other wildlife of concern in the Sandhills. The database is built, in part, to help officials better manage habitat where these species live, thus protecting their future.
Species of concern have no legal protections, Castillo said. But they could eventually become endangered if the destruction of their habitat is left unchecked.
Castillo introduced officials to the Sandhills pyxie-moss, which is found only in the Carolinas, and Boykin’s lobelia, a wetlands plant that produces small white and blue flowers.
She also spoke of two species of “significantly rare” butterflies — the dusky roadside skipper and the frosted elfin — “They’re beautiful,” Castillo said — and a small fish known as the pinewoods darter.
“The Sandhills area is a biodiversity hot spot,” she said. “It is really a unique place.”

Friday, 23 November 2018

Cormorants’ rebound confounds wildlife managers


Thirty years ago, with increasing frequency, squadrons of black seabirds were spotted on Lake Champlain flying low and fast across the water as if on some sort of black-ops raiding mission. Their appearance was something of an environmental success that, in the eyes of many, quickly turned into an environmental catastrophe. 
The same scene was playing out on the Great Lakes and the Pacific, as the double-crested cormorant made a miraculous recovery after the ban on DDT, a pesticide that had once imperiled the bird’s existence. But while conservationists hailed the return of birds such as the bald eagle, they became increasingly wary of the collateral success represented by the cormorant. 
As the population surged, once-lush Lake Champlain islands were one-by-one commandeered and summarily defoliated by the cormorants, whose populations had exploded from a single nesting pair into a population that peaked at more than 20,000. Anglers fretted as well, as cormorants slurped down tons of fish, most notably the yellow perch that is an important part of the aquatic food chain and the star attraction at many a lakeside fish fry. 
 In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, citing fears of cormorant overpopulation, allowed state conservation agencies to “take” cormorants without a permit (owners of private fish farms had been allowed to do so since 1998). Thus empowered, the state of Vermont began to oil eggs — spraying eggs with oil keeps out oxygen and stops their development — to prevent them from hatching, soon to be followed by conservation agencies in New York. The feds further allowed states to shoot excess birds by the thousands in an attempt to restore pre-cormorant equilibrium. What followed has been a case study in the successes, the failures, and most of all the unknowns and frustrations that arise when attempting to micromanage the environment. 

Geneticist solves long-standing finch beak mystery

Bridgett vonHoldt found a single genetic key that unlocked beak size in a central African finch species
Date:  November 19, 2018
Source:  Princeton University
Bridgett vonHoldt is best known for her work with dogs and wolves, so she was surprised when a bird biologist pulled her aside and said, "I really think you can help me solve this problem." So she turned to a mystery he'd been wrestling with for more than 20 years.
"I love a good challenge and especially working on new questions!" said vonHoldt, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton. "I was presented with a new problem in an entirely new system, which was an incredible opportunity to explore how different ecologies could promote different evolutionary patterns."
The birder and biologist was Tom Smith, who has spent his career studying finches -- specifically, black-bellied seedcrackers (Pyrenestes ostrinus) -- in Cameroon and in his lab at the University of California-Los Angeles.
He and his colleagues have spent years investigating why some of these finches have small beaks while others have large beaks. Much of their original work identified differences in the hardness of the seeds they eat, a story quite similar to that of Darwin's finches. Smith, who is a professor at UCLA as well as the founding director of the Center for Tropical Research, established a breeding colony of these finches to understand the inheritance of beak size.

Queen's personal swan guard hits out at RSPB's 'ban the bread' advice which he says is starving the regal birds

Successful campaign discouraged the tradition as being unhealthy to swans
Queen's Swan Marker, David Barker, says 'there is no good reason' for the notion 
Swan numbers are plummeting and they are malnourished as a result
Mr Barker says swans are even straying into busy roads in search of fodder 
PUBLISHED: 17:53, 14 November 2018 | UPDATED: 18:24, 14 November
Thousands of majestic swans are going hungry this year after a viral campaign urged people to stop feeding them bread - despite it being perfectly healthy for them.
The Queen's personal swan guard has slammed the campaigners for 'starving' the swans - because people have stopped feeding them bread.
'Ban the Bread' was a highly successful campaign, officially launched by rescue charity Swan Lifeline and backed by the RSPB's advice, which claimed the centuries-old pastime is harming birds.
But the Queen's Swan Marker David Barker, Member of the Royal Victorian Order, said there is 'no good reason' not to feed the swans bread and that many are underweight as a result of the ban.
The Queen is accompanied by the Royal Swan Marker, David Barker, as they watch the Swan Upping on the River Thames near Windsor, July 2009
The charity Swan Lifeline ran an extremely successful 'Ban the Bread' campaign which discouraged members of the public from feeding the birds bread
Mr Barker, the country's leading ceremonial swan expert, added that they are put at further risk by wandering onto roads in search of food, because they are not getting fed.
The campaign also falsely claims bread causes the syndrome 'angel wing' - which is a birth defect and cannot be caused in later life.
Mr Barker said the coverage of the campaign has been inaccurate and 'confusing' for the public.
He added: 'Supporters of the campaign claim that bread should not be fed to swans on the grounds that it is bad for them. This is not correct.
'Swans have been fed bread for many hundreds of years without causing any ill effects.
'While bread may not be the best dietary option for swans compared to their natural food such as river weed, it has become a very important source of energy for them, supplementing their natural diet and helping them to survive the cold winter months when vegetation is very scarce.
'There is no good reason not to feed bread to swans, provided it is not mouldy.
'Most households have surplus bread and children have always enjoyed feeding swans with their parents.'
The concept that bread could be bad for aquatic life gained traction this year but the effects of it can already be seen.

Satellite-Tagged Migratory Bird Shot Dead In Manipur

The incident has prompted the state government to discuss cancellation of gun licenses (air guns) in the next Cabinet meeting
Updated: November 16, 2018 12:17 IST
Days after it was satellite-tagged and released, an Amur falcon "Manipur", named after the northeast Indian state bordering Myanmar, was allegedly shot down by unknown people at a roosting site during its migratory passage through the region.
The incident has prompted the state government to discuss cancellation of gun licenses (air guns) in the next cabinet meeting while a district administration has imposed a ban on air guns in the aftermath of the incident.
Meanwhile, wildlife biologists associated with the tagging exercise will kick-off landscape-level surveys across river valleys in Manipur to ascertain the status of roosting sites.
Amur falcons are known to breed in southeast Russia and northern China and migrate west through India and across the Arabian Sea to southern Africa where they spend their winter, making a round-trip of at least 20,000 km every year, travelling between their breeding and wintering grounds.
This arduous journey includes a non-stop flight over the Arabian Sea after passing across India. The resilient falcons arrive in large numbers during October in Nagaland and a few other places in northeastern India, including Tamenglong in Manipur.
"Manipur", a male migratory raptor, was one of the two Amur falcons to be tagged for the first time in the state. The second bird, a female, was christened "Tamenglong" after the district where it was captured and released. Both were captured on November 4 and released in the morning the day after.
The exercise in the remote community forest area of Chiuluan village along the Barak river in Tamenglong district of the state was undertaken by a team of officials led by Suresh Kumar of the Wildlife Institute of India, the state Forest Department under DFO Arun R.S. and biologists from Hungary.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Sea eagle predation making sheep farming 'impossible'

News16 Nov 2018Ewan Pate
Sheep predation by white tailed sea eagles has risen to a level where it is now almost impossible for some farmers and crofters to maintain their flocks.
There are now an estimated 130 breeding pairs of the giant raptors in the west of Scotland following species reintroduction 30 years ago – but the population is predicted to soar to 700 pairs by 2040.
Not only are young lambs being killed, but adult sheep of up to 60kg are also now being taken.
Skye crofter Alastair Culbertson said: “We can lamb in parks near the house to protect young lambs but as soon as they are turned out on the open hill they and their mother become targets.
“These concerns have repeatedly been rejected by RSPB’s local representative at the Skye and Lochalsh Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group, who puts all livestock loss down to crofters’ ignorance and their failure to manage their livestock properly.
"Many crofters believe that at a local level, RSPB is a direct threat to them and that at the national level, crofters’ concerns are nothing more than an irrelevant inconvenience.”

How Birds Take Flight With Such Ease

New research breaks down the fundamentals required to smoothly go from perched to airborne.
November 15, 2018
Ben Parslew had a problem: His robots weren't very good at jumping. Parslew, an aerospace engineering researcher and lecturer at the University of Manchester, studies the mechanics of flight. Along with his research team, he had turned to robots to better understand how flying machines might be able to launch themselves into the sky like birds. But while avians seem to effortlessly become airborne, Parslew's robots, which were relatively simple constructions, didn’t find it quite so easy. Some would flip over in the air and land upside-down. Others remained stable in the air but jumped in the wrong direction. And still others fell over before they got off the ground in the first place.
Something was clearly not working here. So Parslew and his team decided they needed to back up and first study how exactly a bird launches itself into the air. “That was kind of motivation for doing this study, to understand why our robots are failing and why birds succeed with such apparent ease,” Parslew says. 
The study Parslew's team conducted was published last month in the journal Open Science. Using computer analysis, the researchers found that when birds take off, they simultaneously control two motions: the direction they’re jumping in and the amount they rotate (pitch) their body as they accelerate, Parslew says. Such coordination allows them to remain balanced during launch. 

Rare white sparrow seen in Turkish capital

White-colored sparrow, also known as ‘partially albino’, found in one of the biggest public park in Ankara
By Yıldız Nevin Gundogmus and Mustafa Kamaci
A rare white sparrow, also known as "partially albino" due to the pigmentation in its eyes and part of wing, was seen in Turkish capital.
The bird was first photographed by Emin Yogurtcuoglu, a Turkish wildlife expert and bird observer, last year.
It was also seen this year in Altinpark, one of the biggest public park in Ankara, together with its pair and other sparrows.
Yogurtcuoglu, who has been observing birds in 60 countries, told Anadolu Agency that the sparrow has been living in the park since a year.
He explained that the bird is called partial albino because of “the blackness of its eyes and the pigmentation in a very small point on its wing,” noting that every white bird could not be called as albino.
“It always has a normal-looking pair, who never leaves its side. They've been together since last year,” he added.
Yogurtcuoglu also said that white sparrow could not last long in the nature, as they are easy target for predatory animals.
“It's [the white sparrow] a pretty good-looking one, who's managed to survive,” he said.