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.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

How Graffiti On Bus Shelters Actually Saves Lives

Fri 25 Oct 2019 5.53 AM

Graffiti tags and other forms of vandalism at bus stops are oddly helping to save the lives of billions of birds.

Polish researchers have studied more than 80 different bus shelters across the country.

After carrying out almost 2,500 inspections every ten days, Poland's Academy of Science has concluded that birds are far less likely to collide with, and die, if the bus shelter has graffiti, dirt or artwork on it.

"Billions of birds die every year after hitting glass structures and our results suggest that collisions with glass bus shelters may be an important source of bird mortality," the authors said.

Puffins make poor diet choices when the chips are down

NOVEMBER 4, 2019

A new study has shown that Britain's puffins may struggle to adapt to changes in their North Sea feeding grounds and researchers are calling for better use of marine protection areas (MPAs) to help protect the country's best known seabirds. Britain's coasts support globally important populations of many species of seabird, but they face many challenges as their established habitats change.

Scientists at the University of Southampton and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology studied the diet and distribution of Atlantic puffins and razorbills on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve, off the coast of southeast Scotland.

They studied the seabirds' over-winter feeding habits and found that during the 2014 to 2015 winter, when conditions were good, both species foraged close to their breeding colony eating a diet consisting mostly of lipid-rich fish such as sandeels. However in the 2007 to 2008 winter, conditions were not as good and the small fish populations were mainly concentrated further out in the southern North Sea. Whilst the razorbills flew farther away from the breeding colony in order to maintain their healthy diet, the puffins stayed closer in, eating a poorer quality diet of crustacea, polychaete worms and snake pipefish. The researchers found that fewer birds survived to return to the colony in the spring of 2008 compared to 2015, with puffins being more severely affected than razorbills.

Australia has all the tools to protect its birds from extinction – but it is failing

If ever there were a country in a position to invest in protecting its precious wildlife, it was Australia. Yet the survival of dozens of species is at stake

Mon 4 Nov 2019 17.00 GMTLast modified on Tue 5 Nov 2019 02.45 GMT

The last time Australia experienced a quarter of national negative economic growth, the Soviet Union still existed, Nirvana were on the cusp of releasing Nevermind, and the first serious attempt to analyse and catalogue our threatened birds – The Action Plan for Australian Birds – was about to be published.

In the 28 years since, the lucky country has recorded the longest period of continual economic growth of any modern nation. Whether this was due to 1991 being “the recession we had to have”, the fundamentals of a strong, modern economy having been put in place, or the sheer dumb luck of being a beneficiary of the China boom, if ever there were a country in a prime position to be able to invest in protecting its precious wildlife, it was us.

So how has that worked out?

Not so well. Each decade since, lead author Prof Stephen Garnett has produced a further action plan for Australian birds. By the time of the 2010 action plan, the conservation status of 49 species of Australian bird had deteriorated since 1990. That is, they had been recognised as taking the next step towards extinction.

Garnett was in Melbourne last month , consulting with threatened-species experts in final preparations for the 2020 action plan. Final population estimates and other data are still being thrashed out; the early indications are not so promising for a turnaround in fortune for the majority of our threatened species. In fact, a 2018 report by the National Threatened Species Hub, with which Garnett collaborates, indicated that some of the birds in this year’s Bird of the Year poll, such as the regent honeyeater and the orange-bellied parrot, may not exist in the wild if the vote were to be run in 20 years’ time.

Songbirds sing species-specific songs

NOVEMBER 12, 2019

The generation of species-specific singing in songbirds is associated with species-specific patterns of gene activity in brain regions called song nuclei, according to a study published November 12 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Kazuhiro Wada of Hokkaido University in Japan, and colleagues. According to the authors, the findings could be a promising step toward a better understanding of the contribution of multiple genes to the evolution of behaviors.

Learning of most complex motor skills, such as birdsong and human speech, is constrained in a manner that is characteristic of each species, but the mechanisms underlying species-specific learned behaviors remain poorly understood. Songbirds acquire species-specific songs through learning, which is also thought to depend on species-specific patterns of gene activity in song nuclei—brain regions known to be specialized for vocal learning and production.

In the new study, Wada and colleagues made use of two closely related songbird species—the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and the owl finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii)—and also the hybrid offspring of matings between these two species. This allowed them to examine the relationship between inter-species differences in gene expression and the production of species-specific song patterns.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

The largest seabirds in the North Atlantic travel hundreds of miles just to catch food

NOVEMBER 1, 2019

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Gannets, the largest seabirds in the North Atlantic, can travel hundreds of miles from their homes just to catch food for their chicks. However, with around a million square miles of ocean to choose from, it has always been a mystery how they decide where is best to search for fish.

Now, new research led by the University of Glasgow and published today in the Journal of Avian Biology, offers new insights into why these iconic shaped seabirds choose to hunt the way they do.

Scientists recorded thousands of gannets commuting to and from the Bass Rock, in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in Eastern Scotland. The Bass Rock houses the world's largest northern gannet colony, with an estimated 75,300 breeding pairs calling it home.

They found that traveling as part of a flock appeared to be about more than just gaining aerodynamic benefits. The researchers were able to show that the more experienced adult birds were often found at the front of commuting flocks, with younger birds following behind. The results add weight to the theory that gannets learn to hunt by following their elders.

Dr. Ewan Wakefield from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: "Our research offers a more detailed insight into how and why gannets search for food in the way they do. With such a large expanse of ocean to choose from it has always been a mystery as to how they know where fish are most likely to be found.

Fowl language: Amazonian bird's mating call noisiest in world

White bellbird’s call reaches same volume as pneumatic drill during courtship ritual

A bird in the Amazon has shattered the record for the loudest call to be recorded, reaching the same volume as a pneumatic drill.

The white bellbird, which lives in the mountains of the north-eastern Amazon, was recorded at 125 decibels (dB), three times louder than the next bird in the pecking order, the screaming piha.

Mario Cohn-Haft, an ornithologist at the National Institute of Amazonian Research and the author of a paper published in the journal Current Biology, captured a male white bellbird specimen in the Brazilian state of Roraima in 2017.

It was about 30cm (12in) long from beak to tail, said Cohn-Haft. He dissected it in the field, removing the skin and some organs to prepare it to be added to his collection. Something caught his eye under the bird’s pure white feathers: a muscular, sculpted chest. “It had a six pack,” he said, with tissue five times thicker than that of most birds its size.

DoC concerned 'mega mast' could wipe out native bird populations in some areas


Native bird populations could be completely wiped out in some areas hit by this year's mega mast.

It's set to be the biggest seeding event in more than 40 years, but half-a-million hectares of forest will receive no 1080 predator control.

"There's a huge number of rats, and there will be a huge number of stoats in our forests this year," says Peter Morton, of the Department of Conservation (DoC). 

The threat to birdlife this summer is so much higher because climate change is making our native bush go through an explosion of seeding. That causes a chain reaction - the more seeds the more birds, the more birds the more rodents.

"We'll lose some of our most precious treasures in those forests," says Forest and Bird ecologist Rebecca Stirnemann.

One example is a whio nest Newshub saw. The eggs laid by a little blue duck were no match for a stoat, which stole three eggs of the endangered species in the space of 10 minutes.

With heavy seed fall expected, Fiordland all the way up to the East Cape will be hit the hardest. 

But areas like Nelson Lakes National Park, the Tararua Ranges and the Tongariro Forest won't get any DoC-funded predator control.

In those regions populations of whio, kokako and kiwi could be wiped from the map.

"In years without 1080 we lost 90 percent of all our kiwi chicks, they were just decapitated by stoats, killed," says Stirnemann.

By closely watching the forests DoC has been able to estimate that the number of predators will be near saturation point.So much so that they're expecting to see rodents in some tunnels 96 percent of the time.

The Department of Conservation believes around 1.4 million hectares of native forest is at risk of being swamped by predators this mega mast season, however, just 900,000 hectares will be covered by the current 1080 drop, leaving half-a-million hectares of native bush still at risk.

Vulture population shows tentative signs of recovery in Pakistan


KARACHI: Once a prime candidate for extinction, the population of vultures in Pakistan has shown tentative signs of recovery in the past five years, but nature’s “garbage disposal” is still facing looming threats on several fronts, experts said.

The population of several species of vulture started declining in the mid-1990s due to the ingestion of livestock carcasses containing residues of deadly cattle drugs.

Apart from drugs, food shortages, and an increase in tree felling, especially those with vulture nests, have all been important contributors in the declining number of vultures.

The critically endangered oriental white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus) have declined across most of their range by over 95% since the mid-1990s, according to a recent report published by the Pakistan chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Friday, 8 November 2019

Sydney airport worker gouged in eye by falcon living in Qantas hangar

Exclusive: union says cleaners should not have to work in area where falcons have nested for at least 20 years

An aircraft worker has been gouged in the eye by a falcon that lives in a Qantas Sydney airport hangar, creating what the union has called an “unsafe work environment”.

Multiple peregrine falcons – including at least one small family – live, nest and hunt in the hangar.

Falcons have been there for at least 20 years and have turned it into a “known roosting site”.

But on Tuesday last week, one of the falcons attacked a worker, causing significant damage to his eyes, neck and face. The worker “may lose sight in one eye”, the Transport Workers Union said.

The birds cannot be easily removed because they are a protected species, and Qantas has allowed them to stay because they keep mice, rats and pigeons away.

Guardian Australia has obtained an internal safety warning issued by Qantas that confirmed the attack and told staff to wear safety goggles until the end of breeding season in November.

Suffolk golf club sees 25% increase in bird species

Tania Longmire
October 29, 2019 20:14

Ufford Park Woodbridge Hotel, Golf and Spa in Suffolk has seen a nearly 25 per cent rise in bird species that live at the venue in just eight years, according to a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) survey.

The club is now home to 39 species and new residents include four mistle thrushes and a number of hawfinches.

Mistle thrushes have been scarcer in south east England because of drier summers in recent years, and sightings of hawfinches – the UK’s largest finch – are increasingly rare because their breeding areas are in decline.

Rare eagle sneaks into Iran and drains Siberian ornithologists’ funds by spamming costly text messages

25 Oct, 2019 08:13 / Updated 12 days ago

A Russian bird conservation group has discovered a sudden hole in their budget after one of the eagles they were tracking started bombarding them with hundreds of expensive text messages from Iran.

Roaming is one big headache when you travel a lot, and raptors can get burned by it just as easily as the bipeds that created mobile phones. Just ask the Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network (RRRCN), an environmental group whose eagle tracking budget was surprisingly drained by one particularly sneaky bird of prey.

The network studies the migration routes of various birds, including the endangered steppe eagle. They do so by putting solar-powered GPS trackers on their subjects. The device records the coordinates of the birds and dumps the data via text messages through a regular mobile network when it’s available. The conservationists then check the routes against potential threats like high-voltage power lines or poison baits deployed for pest control and try to find ways to avoid them.

A cyclist suffered an anaphylactic reaction after being attacked by a magpie.

'It smashed me really hard': Cyclist suffers an anaphylactic reaction after magpie swooped and scratched her face while she was cycling
Mellissa Gregory was bike riding with partner when she was attacked by magpie 
She claims the bird swooped and drew blood from her face causing it to swell
She was rushed to hospital leaving doctors confused over anaphylactic reaction 

PUBLISHED: 14:37, 2 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:37, 2 November 2019

Mellissa Gregory was bike riding with her partner at Chelsea's Bicentennial Park in Melbourne's south when a magpie swooped and attacked her face three times.

She claims the bird drew blood from her face causing it to swell from an allergic reaction. 

'Out of nowhere I just get hit in the side of the face,' she told 7NEWS.

'Next thing I know there's just blood everywhere... It honestly smashed into me really hard.'

Ms Gregory was rushed to hospital and doctors were left confused over the anaphylactic reaction. 

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Why Do Pigeons Bob Their Heads?

Are they really wagging their heads up and down? Look a little closer …

In 1978, a group of researchers in a laboratory at Queen's University in Canada clustered around a plexiglass box enclosing a treadmill … with a pigeon walking on it. The purpose behind this comical scene was to try and answer an age-old question: Why do pigeons bob their heads?

Head-bobbing is as much a feature of pigeons' identity as is their tendency to swarm us at the slightest suggestion that we might be harboring a snack. Bopping their heads as they stalk about pecking the ground for crumbs, these birds seem to be grooving to some secret beat, as if they're all attending a silent disco in the town square. 

But what's the real purpose behind this seemingly ridiculous motion?

The 1978 treadmill experiment gave us the first crucial insights into that question. And the study overturned one major assumption in the process: Pigeons aren't actually bobbing their heads. Instead, they're pushing them forward. 

When the researchers in that study reviewed slow-motion footage, they found that there were actually two main parts to a pigeon's head movement, which the scientists called a "thrust" and a "hold" phase. 

"In the 'thrust' phase, the head is pushed forward, relative to the body by about 5 centimeters [2 inches]," explained Michael Land, a biologist at Sussex University in the United Kingdom who has studied eye movements in animals and humans. "This is followed by a 'hold' phase, during which the head is kept still in space, which means that it moves backwards relative to the forward-moving body."

New Zealand's bird of the year: the most important election – aside from the real one

What started as innocuous good fun has evolved into a national obsession, complete with voter fraud, skulduggery and high passions

Tue 5 Nov 2019 11.12 GMTLast modified on Wed 6 Nov 2019 00.51 GMT

The data team picked up on them first – 310 “dubious” votes from an IP address in Australia, sending one trend line suddenly, suspiciously skyward above the others. Something funny was going on with the shag.

Of course, by then – the 13th year of the competition – organisers knew to expect dodgy dealings in New Zealand’s bird of the year poll.

If a nationwide vote to name a favourite native bird sounds like innocuous good fun – a creative means of celebrating unique, threatened fauna – you may be underestimating bird of the year. Coordinated by the Royal Forest & Bird Society, an environmental nongovernmental organisation, it is often described as the country’s most important election – second only to, you know, the actual elections. Since 2017, too, it has had the same validation as two other Kiwi creations, pavlova and Russell Crowe: Australia has tried to pass it off as its own.

From a total of 900 votes received (some by post) in the first vote in 2005, bird of the year has grown to about 28,000 in 2015 and more than 48,000 in 2018 – nearly double the number that just elected the mayor of Wellington.

For this year’s competition, voting has been changed to proportional representation, allowing five choices, owing to persistent feedback that it was “too hard for people to choose just one bird”, according to a Forest & Bird spokeswoman, Megan Hubscher. “We’re seeing some interesting campaign strategies starting to take shape around that as well – for example, the penguin species are grouping together to campaign for ‘five ticks to penguins’.”

Complex society discovered in the vulturine guineafowl

NOVEMBER 4, 2019

Multilevel societies have, until now, only been known to exist among large-brained mammals including humans, other primates, elephants, giraffes and dolphins. Now, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and the University of Konstanz report the existence of a multilevel society in a small-brained bird, the vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum). The study, published in Current Biology, suggests that the birds can keep track of social associations with hundreds of other individuals—challenging the notion that large brains are a requirement for complex societies, and providing a clue as to how these societies evolved.

Multilevel societies occur when social units, such as pairs, of animals form groups that have stable membership, and these groups then associate preferentially with specific other groups. Because this requires the animals to keep track of individuals in both their own and other groups, the assumption has long been that multilevel societies should only exist in species with the intelligence to cope with this complexity. While many bird species live in groups, these are either open, lacking long-term stability, or highly territorial, lacking associations with other groups.

Vulturine guineafowl, however, present a striking exception: The researchers observed these birds, which are from an ancient lineage resembling dinosaurs, behaving highly cohesively without exhibiting the signature intergroup aggression that is common in other group-living birds. And they manage this despite having relatively small brains, even relative to other birds. "They seemed to have the right elements to form complex social structures, and yet nothing was known about them," says Danai Papageorgiou, lead author on the paper and a Ph.D. student at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Bird 'Arrested’' By Dutch Police On Shoplifting Charge And Twitter Can’t Keep Calm!

10/02/19 AT 9:19 AM

Bird behind bars? Yes, you read it right. In an unusual incident, the Dutch police recently arrested a tiny parakeet bird and placed it in custody after its owner was arrested for shoplifting.

As the feathered creature was a partner-in-crime, sitting on the offender’s shoulder when he violated the law, the police had no option but to "arrest" the adorable birdie. The local police did not have a birdcage so the felon was put behind a regular cell with bread and water.

No wonder, the Dutch are known for treating everyone equally!

Sharing the photo of the green and yellow bird seated in a cell, the Police Utrecht Centrum jokingly wrote, “This bird sat on the shoulder of the thief we arrested for shoplifting. As we don’t have a bird cage, this bird had no other place to stay than in a cell.”

As it was a petty theft, the police released the felon soon, along with with his feathery friend who promptly hopped back on his shoulder as the duo walked out of the station.

Least Bittern – a new species for Ireland


An unusual bird was discovered by my good friend John O'Donoghue on the back lawn of his house in Farranfore, Co Kerry, at 5 pm on Monday 7 October. It was a quiet, mild evening with sunshine and a clear sky at the time of finding. The specimen was in very poor condition and could not fly, so John decided it was best to pick it up and bring it inside to save him from his dog. However, unfortunately, some 30 minutes later, it had passed on.

On Tuesday morning, John called over to me at work, across the road from his house, to show me what he had found. A Google search produced nothing even close to the bird, so I decided to make contact with Birdwatch Ireland. After some discussion with them it transpired the bird was a Least Bittern and had originated from North America – little did we know at the time the interest this small, misfortunate bird would attract.

Researchers Implant Memories in Zebra Finch Brains

Juvenile birds learn the length of the sounds in a song from a false memory introduced via optogenetics, instead of from real interactions with a tutor bird.

Oct 3, 2019

Animals learn by imitating behaviors, such as when a baby mimics her mother’s speaking voice or a young male zebra finch copies the mating song of an older male tutor, often his father. In a study published today in Science, researchers identified the neural circuit that a finch uses to learn the duration of the syllables of a song and then manipulated this pathway with optogenetics to create a false memory that juvenile birds used to develop their courtship song.

“In order to learn from observation, you have to create a memory of someone doing something right and then use this sensory information to guide your motor system to learn to perform the behavior. We really don’t know where and how these memories are formed,” says Dina Lipkind, a biologist at York College who did not participate in the study. The authors “addressed the first step of the process, which is how you form the memory that will later guide [you] towards performing this behavior.”

“Our original goals were actually much more modest,” says Todd Roberts, a neuroscientist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Initially, Wenchan Zhao, a graduate student in his lab, set out to test whether or not disrupting neural activity while a young finch interacted with a tutor could block the bird’s ability to form a memory of the interchange. She used light to manipulate cells genetically engineered to be sensitive to illumination in a brain circuit previously implicated in song learning in juvenile birds.

Zhao turned the cells on by shining a light into the birds’ brains while they spent time with their tutors and, as a control experiment, when the birds were alone. Then she noticed that the songs that the so-called control birds developed were unusual—different from the songs of birds that had never met a tutor but also unlike the songs of those that interacted with an older bird.


Monday, 14 October 2019

Montrose welcomes more than 55,000 geese as ‘Scotland’s biggest nature spectacle’ returns

October 7 2019, 2.36pm

More than 55,000 pink-footed geese have descended on an Angus reserve as part of “Scotland’s biggest nature spectacle”.

Droves of the birds have taken up their winter residences at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve.

They have flown about 750 miles (1,200km) from their summer breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland.

The latest count revealed there are now at least 55,326 of the birds – up by more than 5,000 since September – with numbers still increasing.

Anna Cowie, the Trust’s Montrose Basin ranger, said: “Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve is an internationally-important habitat for pink-footed geese.

“These birds are one of the heralds of autumn, and we’ve been pleased to see so many people flocking to the basin at dawn and dusk to take in the spectacle.

“This has been a very unusual season with birds arriving from Iceland much earlier than in recent years. It’s impossible to say when numbers will peak.”

The “pinkfeet” are thought to have arrived in numbers earlier this year due to snow in Iceland pushing them south quicker than usual.

The best time to see and hear large numbers is at dawn and dusk.

During the day, most of the geese head out to find food.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo found dead in East Sussex


A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was discovered in residential Seaford, East Sussex, on the morning of 2 October.

The bird, which was very freshly dead and had presumably only just perished, was discovered lying between two large brick pillars on the path which runs out to Splash Point at the end of Gerald Road at around 09:30 by Mary-Anne Carter, who lives on Gerald Road and was out walking her dog.

She passed the unusual corpse to her neighbour, Robert Lawson, who commented: "I thought the bird looked like a cuckoo, or possibly a shrike.

"I took it home and looked in the Collins Bird Guide, and was able to identify it as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo."

This represents the second record for East Sussex and unfortunately bears a striking resemblance to the previous occurrence, which flew into a wall in Eastbourne and was picked up dead on 4 November 1952. There is also a single record from West Sussex, which again involved a freshly dead bird at Middleton-on-sea on 14 December 1960.

Incidentally, another Yellow-billed Cuckoo was found on St Mary's, Scilly, on the morning of 2 October, but happily was still alive. However, it quickly disappeared into gardens after its discovery and hasn't yet been seen again.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The impact of human-caused noise pollution on birds

OCTOBER 11, 2019

Anthropogenic noise pollution (ANP) is a globally invasive phenomenon impacting natural systems, but most research has occurred at local scales with few species. Researchers in this study investigated continental-scale breeding season associations with ANP for 322 bird species to test whether local-scale predictions related to breeding habitat, migratory behavior, body mass, and vocal traits are consistent at broad spatial extents for an extensive group of North American bird species in the continental United States.

Better protection sought for Thailand's helmeted hornbill

OCTOBER 11, 2019

by Busaba Sivasomboon

Time is running out for Thailand's dwindling population of helmeted hornbills thanks to poaching of the exotic birds for the ivory-like casques atop their big red and yellow beaks.

The species, known by the scientific name Rhinoplax vigil, is listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"Currently, there are fewer than 100 of the birds in Thailand's forests," says Dr. Kaset Sutacha, chairman of the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand and head of the Exotic Pet and Wildlife Clinic at Kasetsart University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bangkok.

"Critically endangered" is just a step away from "extinct in the wild" and two steps from becoming considered "extinct."

Demand from China is helping drive demand for their distinctive casques, "helmets" in French, which males deploy in battle. The material is used to make rings, pendants and other decorative items.

Worries over the species' survival intensified after the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC recently posted photos online of dozens of skulls of the endangered avian for sale.

A campaign on the online petition site is pressuring the government to add the bird to Thailand's Wildlife Preservation List as soon as possible. It now lists 19 other species.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change

OCTOBER 11, 2019

Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

The study looked at the breeding season of superb fairy-wrens living in the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

The research was led by Dr. Lei Lv, who is visiting ANU from Sun Yat-sen University in China.

Dr. Lv says warmer temperatures in early spring mean the birds will start breeding earlier than they normally would. If temperatures rise too high in mid-summer, they will also finish breeding earlier.

"Fairy-wrens have a very long breeding season which usually runs from around September through to February," Dr. Lv said.

"The timing varies a lot among individuals and from year-to-year. We wanted to see if this variation was connected to changes in climate.

"It turns out if the minimum night-time temperatures are milder, the birds will start breeding earlier.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Bugged backpack for Brazilian birds

1st October 2019

Purple martins will soon begin their yearly winter migration but this time they’ve got a new accessory. The birds will be wearing little backpacks that will track their roosting sites.

As the bird travels north from Brazil, the purple martin roosts in small forested patches on their rout to North America.

“This is highly unusual behavior for songbirds, which typically roost in heavily forested areas,” said Auriel Fournier, a co-author of the study with University of Manitoba biological sciences professor Kevin Fraser, who led the research. Fournier is the director of the Forbes Biological Station at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

“It’s surprising to see them roosting in these forest islands, which are small, isolated clusters of trees typically surrounded by agriculture, water or recently cut forest,” Fournier said.

The research is intended to determine whether the birds are responding to a change in the environment or whether their roosting behaviour has always been this way.

“We believe they must be intentionally seeking out the forest islands,” Fournier said. “Because these habitats don’t occur very frequently on the landscape, the birds’ use of them is unlikely to be by chance.”

Removing invasive mice from the Farallon Islands would benefit threatened birds

Date:October 10, 2019
Source:Point Blue Conservation Science

New research from Point Blue Conservation Science shows the significant negative impact that invasive, non-native house mice on the Farallon Islands are having to the threatened ashy storm-petrel. Original modeling by ecologists published today in the journal Ecosphere shows the potential impacts to the petrel's population if mice are allowed to remain. The super-abundant mice encourage migrating burrowing owls to stay on the island, who later in the winter switch from eating mice to preying on the petrels.

No Casino shootout: police deny plan to kill swooping magpies in NSW town

Police say media reports that trained marksmen would be brought in to control the town’s magpies were incorrect

Fri 4 Oct 2019 07.44 BSTLast modified on Fri 4 Oct 2019 07.58 BST

Police in the northern New South Wales town of Casino have denied they planned to deploy specially trained officers to shoot and kill magpies, contrary to media reports.

On Friday the Northern Star reported that elite police officers would descend on the town to shoot local magpies which have been deemed too dangerous to live.

According to quotes attributed to acting sergeant David Henderson, police “specially trained to euthanise animals as painlessly and quickly as possible” were to be brought in.

But NSW Police issued a statement in the afternoon saying “there is no proposed magpie cull in Casino or anywhere in the Richmond police district”.

Local councillor Jill Lyons confirmed there were no plans, and said she was glad it had not come to such measures.

“No one is aware of extra police coming into the area,” she said. “No police have been called in to shoot anything in the Richmond valley this season.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Study recommends special protection of emperor penguins

OCTOBER 9, 2019

In a new study published this week (Wednesday 9 October) in the journal Biological Conservation, an international team of researchers recommends the need for additional measures to protect and conserve one of the most iconic Antarctic species—the emperor penguin (Aptenodyptes forsteri).

The researchers reviewed over 150 studies on the species and its environment as well as its behaviour and character in relation to its breeding biology. Current climate change projections indicate that rising temperatures and changing wind patterns will impact negatively the sea ice on which emperor penguins breed; and some studies indicate that emperor populations will decrease by more than 50% over the current century. The researchers therefore recommend that the IUCN status for the species be escalated to 'vulnerable'; the species is currently listed as 'near threatened' on the IUCN Red List. They conclude that improvements in climate change forecasting in relation to impacts on Antarctic wildlife would be beneficial, and recommend that the emperor penguin should be listed by the Antarctic Treaty as a Specially Protected Species.

Lead author Dr. Philip Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology at British Antarctic Survey, says:

"The current rate of warming in parts of the Antarctic is greater than anything in the recent glaciological record. Though emperor penguins have experienced periods of warming and cooling over their evolutionary history, the current rates of warming are unprecedented."

"Currently, we have no idea how the emperors will adjust to the loss of their primary breeding habitat—sea ice. They are not agile and climbing ashore across steep coastal land forms will be difficult. For breeding, they depend upon sea ice, and in a warming world there is a high probability that this will decrease. Without it, they will have little or no breeding habitat."

Greater protection measures will enable scientists to coordinate research into the penguins' resilience to a range of different threats and stressors.

Insecticide blamed for the deaths of 200 native birds, including wedge-tailed eagles

Environment officials are unsure whether the poisoning of the birds in northeast Victoria was an accident

Australian Associated Press

Mon 7 Oct 2019 02.16 BSTFirst published on Mon 7 Oct 2019 02.03 BST

An insecticide is likely to be behind the deaths of almost 200 native birds in northeast Victoria, environment officials believe.

After dead wedge-tailed eagles were found near Violet Town in August the state’s environment department found more – along with hawks and falcons – on a nearby property.

They have since found up to 200 dead native birds in the area, including 25 wedge-tailed eagles.

Tests on six eagles have detected an insecticide used to control mites.

The same agricultural chemical has been found in the carcasses of animals suspected of being used as bait. The department believes it may have caused all the bird deaths. But it is not sure whether the poisoning was accidental.

“It remains unclear if these birds were deliberately poisoned, however given the large number of birds found nearby, it’s a possibility,” the environment department compliance manager, Andrew Dean, said.

Raids have also taken place in recent weeks at properties in Shepparton East and Goomalibee.

“All evidence collected will be forensically analysed, including the carcasses and chemicals seized, which may take some time,” Dean said.

Native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act and deliberately killing them can result in a fine of up to $39,652 or up to two years in prison.

Madrid to begin 'humane slaughter' of parakeets

Spanish capital to reduce number of brightly coloured birds over public health risk fears

Sam Jones in Madrid

Tue 8 Oct 2019 09.25 BSTLast modified on Tue 8 Oct 2019 19.50 BST

Madrid’s city council has grown sick of its parrots.

Or, more precisely, of the thousands of shrill, bright green monk parakeets that screech through the capital’s skies and build vast nests in its trees.

The council has announced plans to reduce the number of parakeets after a recent survey showed the population had grown from 9,000 birds three years ago to 12,000 today. In 2005, there were only 1,700 of them in Madrid.

Although the birds are native to Argentina, many were imported as pets before ownership was outlawed eight years ago.

The city council says the swelling population needs to be brought down as the parakeets are competing with other species for food and damaging the environment by stripping vegetation to build their huge stick nests.

It also says they pose a public health risk as they can pass illnesses such as psittacosis (parrot fever), avian flu and salmonella on to humans.

And then there is the size of their nests.

“As time goes on and they get bigger, these nests can become dangerous and weigh up to 200kg,” the council said in a statement.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Climate change 'has affected a third of UK bird species'

2 September 2019
Cuckoo numbers are in steep decline across almost half of England because of climate change but buzzards are up, according to a new study.
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has looked at which species are most hit and helped by climate change.
Researchers found weather changes had a long-term effect on about a third of the 68 species studied.
BTO science director James Pearce-Higgins said there were "winners and losers".
Thirteen species have seen a greater than 10% rise in population numbers while three have suffered big drops.
Which birds are suffering and why?
Migratory birds are the biggest losers.
In five of the 11 regions studied, cuckoos, which have seen a population drop of more than 80% in the past 30 years, were the bird with the biggest fall in numbers.
The swift and turtle dove, which are also migratory, had the biggest drops in two areas each.
Cuckoos, which are on the RSPB's red list for conservation, are in the UK between April and June for breeding season.
The birds' journey back to Africa takes them via Italy or Spain, the latter having been hit by droughts brought on by warmer weather, the BTO said.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Booming year for Britain's loudest bird

16th September 2019
Bitterns back from the brink of extinction as 102 male bitterns recorded on RSPB reserves for the first time.
Britain’s loudest bird has enjoyed its best year since records began, according to a new survey by the RSPB.
Conservationists are heralding the success of a project to bring bitterns (a type of heron) back from the brink of extinction.
Bitterns are highly secretive despite their claim to fame as Britain’s loudest bird. With their well camouflaged, pale, buffy-brown plumage, bitterns spend most of their time hiding in dense stands of reed and are so elusive scientists count them by listening for the males’ distinctive booming call.
Astonishing recovery
Since 2006, there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of bitterns making their home in Britain. This year numbers reached record levels once more with 198 males recorded at 89 sites. This compares to 188 at 82 sites in 2018.
They had completely disappeared in Britain by the 1870s, before recolonising early in the 20th century. However, they found themselves back on the brink in 1997 when numbers dropped to 11 males.
Simon Wotton, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, said: “Bitterns are one our most charismatic birds. Their astonishing recovery from the brink of extinction is a real conservation success story and example of what is possible through targeted efforts to restore wildlife habitat.
“It’s a delight to hear their distinctive booming call echoing across the reedbeds every year as more and more bitterns are making new or restored wetlands their home.”
Two EU LIFE funded projects helped reinvigorate the bittern population, alongside the legal safeguards in place within Special Protection Areas (SPAs).But the number of SPAs has not increased for 20 years, despite plans to designate more SPAs as bitterns arrived in their newly created habitats. 

Birds make home on volcanic isle transformed by blast in 2013

September 13, 2019 at 15:05 JST
A wedge-tailed shearwater chick has been spotted for the first time on a Pacific island that was ravaged by a volcanic eruption about six years ago.
An Environment Ministry team studying wildlife and other features on Nishinoshima island about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo said Sept. 12 that it found nests made by the birds, along with eggs and a chick.
The island is about 130 kilometers west of Chichijima island in the Ogasawara chain.
Ministry officials, biologists, geologists and other scientists visited the island from Sept. 3 to 5.
What’s unusual about the findings is that plants are typically the first to appear in new ecosystems on land.
“It shows how wildlife takes root on an isolated island,” said Kazuto Kawakami, a senior researcher at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute who took part in the survey, noting that the study is of global significance.

Peregrine falcon that lived in Manayunk steeple found dead with severed leg. Did a drone do it?

by Frank Kummer, Updated: September 18, 2019
Judy Stepenaskie, an amateur but avid bird-watcher, was thrilled in 2011 when a pair of peregrine falcons began nesting in the steeple of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Manayunk.
The birds of prey had been all but eradicated in the Philadelphia area for decades but were making a comeback at the time. Having a pair locally gave Stepenaskie a rare chance to observe them up close for years.
So Stepenaskie was crushed last week to learn that the 10-year-old male, whom she had been calling Manny after his adopted hometown, turned up dead. Mysteriously, his leg was cleanly severed. Peregrine falcons live high up and face few real predators in an urban environment.
“I was really upset. It’s really sad. He was such a good dad,” Stepenaskie said in reference to Manny’s vigilance each time his mate gave birth over the years.
Mike Weilbacher, executive director for the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia, said the bird was brought to the center’s wildlife clinic on Sept. 11 after a woman had found it in her yard in Roxborough.
“It was unusual because the leg was severed so cleanly,” said Weilbacher. The clinic is still awaiting a necropsy expected to be performed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, so an immediate cause of death was not yet available. The bird is being preserved in a freezer at the clinic.

Monroe's swifts stayed away this year due to predator threat

Published September 25, 2019

MONROE — Predatory merlins have frightened away the Vaux’s swifts from their popular roosting spot in Frank Wagner Elementary’s chimney.

Now the question is whether the birds will ever come back.

Their practical no-show this year is evident in observers’ nightly logs: Zero. Zero. Zero.

No swifts entered the chimney starting from Aug. 26 through most of September. The numbers plummeted after the first night’s count on Aug. 21.

Usually, a few thousand swifts would dive in each night. Last fall’s cumulative count at Wagner surpassed 140,000.

The Vaux’s swifts are winging down the West Coast, moving from Canada to Mexico. They’ll do the reverse in the spring. The little birds cover 150 or more miles in a day before collectively swooping into select chimneys and trees for nighttime rest.

“The swifts have abandoned the chimney. This is serious,” said Larry Schwitters, the nation’s pre-eminent Vaux’s swifts expert, with clear disappointment.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Diving birds follow each other when fishing

Date:  September 23, 2019
Source:  University of Exeter
Diving seabirds watch each other to work out when to dive, new research shows.
Scientists studied European shags and found they were twice as likely to dive after seeing a fellow bird go underwater.
The study is the first to investigate why large groups (known as "rafts") of shags dive together at sea.
University of Exeter scientists filmed the birds off the Isles of Scilly to examine their behaviour.
"Our results suggest these birds aren't just reacting to underwater cues when deciding where and when to dive," said Dr Julian Evans, who led the study as part of his PhD at the University of Exeter.
"They respond to social cues by watching their fellow birds and copying their behaviour.
"They're essentially using other flock members as sources of information, helping them choose the best place to find fish."

Defra to review release of game birds after legal threat

Government agrees to examine impact of shooting industry’s release of 50m non-native birds
Thu 12 Sep 2019 10.20 BST Last modified on Thu 12 Sep 2019 11.56 BST
The annual release of more than 50 million non-native game birds into the countryside with no environmental assessment is to be reviewed by the government after campaigners announced a legal challenge.
Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, of the campaign group Wild Justice, argued that the massive and unregulated increase in the number of pheasants and red-legged partridges put into the British countryside for shooting each year – up from 4 million in the early 1970s – contravened the EU habitats directive.
Under these laws, the impact of game birds on the biodiversity of protected areas must first be assessed. Pheasants and partridges can prey on native reptiles and amphibians, while recent scientific evidence has shown an association between game birds and higher numbers of foxes and avian predators such as crows, which in turn prey on rare species such as curlew.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed there will be a review of the way game birds are released on or near protected areas such as special areas of conservation in England.