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.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

'Nestbox revolution' for Critically Endangered parakeet


07/02/2020

In 2007, Brazilian non-governmental organisation (NGO) Aquasis conducted museum research and exhaustive field expeditions on the historically reported distribution of Grey-breasted Parakeet in north-east Brazil. The search was instigated due to the alarming decline in the area of occurrences of the parakeet, caused mainly by habitat loss and the illegal traffic of wild-caught birds. At least 16 locations were considered to be possible refuges for the species, but only one population was found, in the humid upland forests of the Serra de Baturité in Ceará State.

As a consequence, Grey-breasted Parakeet was included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered and, from that year, Loro Parque Fundación has supported Aquasis's programme to save this species from extinction. The Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP) has also been an early supporter.

Bycatch driving Greater Scaup decline in Europe


11/02/2020

A new study has concluded that the wintering population of Greater Scaup in the Baltic Sea is likely to undergo a significant decline over the next three decades due to unsustainable levels of bycatch.

Greater Scaup is currently classified as Vulnerable on the European Red List of Birds. The south-west Baltic Sea supports one of the most important wintering populations across Europe, yet intensive fishing means that a large concentration of gillnets are being deployed at the same time as huge numbers of diving duck, including Greater Scaup, are present in these food-rich areas.

Suspecting that levels of bycatch were affecting diving duck populations, the researchers calculated the Potential Biological Removal (PBR) for Greater Scaup and modelled population changes.




Rare eastern bristlebirds rescued from fire zones in East Gippsland



John Masanauskas Herald Sun
February 5, 2020 12:11PM

Endangered eastern bristlebirds from a colony of up to 180 are set to be moved from fire grounds in Mallacoota to Melbourne Zoo to give them a chance at a future.

Mallacoota’s Howe Flat is home to a colony of up to 180 endangered eastern bristlebirds, some of which will be moved to Melbourne Zoo to act as an insurance population in case Howe Flat is burnt by the East Gippsland fires.

Nine birds were trapped on Wednesday — four pairs and a single bird.

The birds, which are not very mobile, are being trapped in fine mist netting, which doesn’t harm them.

They were taken from Brokewells Hut to Mallacoota by boat, then to the aerodrome by car for a flight to Essendon and then on to Melbourne Zoo.

The Australian Defence Force transported the staff.

MORE BUSHFIRE SUPPORT
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said: “Our hardworking teams are ensuring this precious little bird has a chance at a bright future despite the impact of these devastating fires, which are still posing a threat to our native wildlife.

“This is fantastic news and a testament to the dedication of multiple agencies working together to save an endangered species.”

The mission started on Monday and is due to take a week weather permitting.



Audubon: Commonwealth LNG could destroy habitat of rare, elusive marsh bird




Sergio Chapa Dec. 4, 2019

Environmentalists are raising concerns that building a new liquefied natural gas export terminal along the mouth of the Calcasieu Ship Channel in southwest Louisiana could harm a shy and elusive marsh bird that is expected to be added to the endangered species list.

In a public letter filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, the Audubon Society of Louisiana wrote that the proposed Commonwealth LNG export terminal could destroy habitat for the eastern black rail, a rare marsh bird that fits in the palm of the average person's hand.

Described as "shy and elusive" by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the rail is one of 41 species of animals that have been nominated to be added to the agency's endangered species list next year.

Exact population figures remain unclear but with an estimated 1,300 left along the coastal prairies of Texas and less than 1,000 breeding pairs along the Atlantic Coast, Audubon Louisiana has captured and banded more than three dozen of the rare birds on private lands along Highway 82 in southwest Louisiana. The environmental group said the rail prefers habitat heavy with gulf cordgrass, which is visible on the proposed LNG project site.


Friday, 14 February 2020

Kākāpō to head home from Auckland Zoo after lengthy battle with deadly disease



Danielle Clent15:38, Feb 04 2020
CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

Margaret Maree, a kākāpō from Codfish Island, has survived her battle with a potentially fatal fungal lung infection.

After eight months of battling a rare and deadly disease, 34-year-old kākāpō Margaret Maree is finally heading home.

She was one of 12 kākāpō treated by Auckland Zoo after an outbreak of aspergillosis - a mould or fungus that infects the lungs - on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island.

Nearly 50 of the critically endangered birds were brought to the mainland from Whenua Hou, near Stewart Island, to be assessed after the outbreak last year.

A total of 21 birds were diagnosed with the disease. Nine died, including three at Auckland Zoo.

On January 30, Margaret Maree had her seventh CT scan at Veterinary Specialists Auckland in Mt Wellington after being brought to the zoo in May for treatment.

Test results have given Margaret Maree the all clear and she will return to her home with another kākāpō on Wednesday.

Senior veterinarian for Auckland Zoo, Dr An Pas, said staff were very pleased that she could go home after a "long and challenging" period.

"Being able to send the last two kākāpō home, one of these being Margaret Maree, one of the founder birds, after so many months of intensive treatment for her, feels great.




Very rare black-throated thrush brings flocks of birdwatchers to Grimsby



Sightings of a black-throated thrush, a bird rarely seen in the UK, has brought dozens of twitchers from across the UK to the town

Corey Bedford Live News Reporter
14:43, 2 FEB 2020

Rare black-throated thrush spotted in Grimsby

Birdwatchers have flocked to Grimsby after a black throated thrush was spotted on the grounds of the Grimsby Institute

Enthusiastic twitchers have travelled from across the UK to see a rare bird that has arrived in Grimsby.

A black-throated thrush has been spotted on the campus of the Grimsby Institute, which has caused quite a stir in the bird-watching community.

The birds are native to Asia, but are occasionally seen elsewhere as vagrant birds, which is when a bird strays far outside its expected breeding, wintering, or migrating range.

Sightings of the black-throated thrush in the UK are incredibly rare, with some bird watchers saying they only appear here once or twice a year.

One twitcher said: "You get a maximum of about two sightings a year in the UK, so it's a very rare occurence.

"We all have apps on our phone such as Bird Guide, which can let you know when a rare bird is spotted somewhere in the UK.

"I've only travelled from Hull, myself, but I have seen people from all over the UK coming to see it, they've been coming and going all morning."

The bird is currently on the green area in front of the Grimsby Institute, and has been hopping from tree to tree throughout the day.

A black-throated thrush can be recognised by its black bill with yellow base, grey plumage, and black tail.

Their breeding range extends from very Eastern Europe to Western Siberia and north-west Mongolia.


Bird watchers calling foul after hunt interrupts search for rare duck near Shrewsbury



By Lucy Todman | Shrewsbury | News | Published: Feb 5, 2020

Bird watchers hoping to spot a rare European duck on a pool near Shrewsbury claim their chances were ruined by members of a hunt.

Around 30 bird spotters were in hides at Venus Pool, between Cross Houses and Cressage, when the hunt’s hounds found their way on to the nature reserve.

Members of the Shropshire Ornithological Society (SOS) say the disturbance led to the birds taking flight, spoiling their observations of the red crested pochard.

John Arnfield, chair of SOS, said: “Horses and riders were observed all over the reserve, including in ‘no-go’ areas.

"Considerable disruption to the birds on the pool occurred and the many visitors were frightened and upset.

“We had between 20 and 30 people in the hides at the pool eager to catch sight of the red crested pochard, which is a rare bird from Europe.

"However, at around 11am, the hunt, which started in Eaton Mascot entered the reserve.

"The dogs put up all the birds from the lake.

"We could see them riding around the reserve on both sides of the lake.”


Illegal hunting killed at least 99 birds last year: BirdLife Malta says this is the tip of the iceberg



In its annual assessment of illegal hunting and trapping, BirdLife says 2019 was the second-worst year in the past seven

3 February 2020, 5:52pm
by Laura Calleja

There were 99 illegally shot birds last year, in what BirdLife Malta described as the tip of the iceberg.

The number only represents the bird casualties retrieved by BirdLife and the police, which suggests that the number could probably be higher.

BirdLife released its annual assessment on illegal hunting and trapping. "The casualties make 2019 the second-worst year for illegal hunting since 2015," the organisation said.

In a statement on Monday, the NGO said that the numbers only represented the tip of the iceberg since many other shot birds are never found or end up in taxidermy collections.

BirdLife said it had received nearly 400 reports from the public - an average of eight per day - in response to its No More Callers campaign to weed out the widespread and unregulated use of electronic bird callers.

The organisation said that uncontrolled trapping of finches, which it said should be illegal following a landmark European Court of Justice judgment delivered two years ago, was putting Malta at risk of facing an escalation of infringement proceedings by the European Commission.

It said the derogation applied by Malta allowing trappers to catch two bird species was being used as a smokescreen for the largescale trapping of protected finches.

The NGO said that the authorities failed to have any form of control over legally hunted or trapped birds. “Following the 2018 Game Reporting Data Report from WBRU including results from only 9% of hunters and trappers who bothered reporting any catches, this year’s trapping season miraculously reached the season’s quota of 700 trapped Golden Plover at the last few hours of the last day!”

BirdLife said that despite all this, the government continued to ignore the proposal for the setting up of a Wildlife Crime Unit to enforce the laws. The creation of such a dedicated unit enjoys unanimous backing of all the members of the Ornis Committee, BirdLife said.
It added that more than a year has passed since Ornis recommended to then parliamentary secretary Clint Camilleri the creation of such a unit.

BirdLife Malta said the hunting and trapping seasons were characterised by an Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) Police unit at its lowest-ever capacity in recent years, with zero back-ups from the specialist enforcement branch within the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU).

BirdLife Malta said that the unit had ended up with zero staff assigned to it following various resignations over the past few years. “This has led to a nonchalant attitude by the government towards illegalities, as characterised by several episodes of protected birds being killed – from the initial massacre of Greater Flamingos in August before the season opened, to the shooting of a flock of rare Short-toed Eagles in November, with all birds believed to have been shot dead.”


Thursday, 13 February 2020

Smart birds' two-year memory means they could be trained to avoid cats



Amber-Leigh Woolf15:18, Feb 12 2020

North Island robins tested at Zealandia remembered a trick for two years.

Scientists have discovered the North Island robin (toutouwai) has a memory of two years and hope this can aid its survival.

In a test at Zealandia in Wellington, the toutouwai were able to peck open a lid to retrieve concealed food after being taught the trick years prior.

Lecturer in behavioural ecology Rachel Shaw said the two-year memory span, and the birds' accuracy, was surprising. 

"Once they've got it, they've really got it."  

The impressive result means robin might be able to be taught new strategies to avoid predators, Shaw said. 

"In a population like that [in Zealandia] where individuals are always dispersing across the fence, it could be that we could train individuals about threats in Wellington, like cats," she said. 

North Island robin (toutouwai) have been found to be able to retain the memory of a trick for two years.

"It's a cool positive that might yield some great conservation applications in the future." 

In 2015 and 2016, Shaw successfully trained all the 32 toutouwai residents of Zealandia to open a swivel lid with their beak to retrieve a worm from a hidden compartment. 

Of the 32 experienced toutouwai, 30 birds spontaneously solved the task, opening the lids on their first attempt. None of the untrained birds solved the task. 

Shaw said the birds were taught using a behavioural shaping procedure.  

The impressive result means North Island robin may be able to be taught to avoid cats.

"We progressively close the lid to the point that they understand that when it's fully closed they know there's food in there, and they can open it." 

The result did not arise due to the birds being more likely to interact with the apparatus, the Biology Letters journal article on the research said. 

"The experienced birds' pecking behaviour was spontaneous and targeted.



Scottish rural groups criticise general licence restrictions



10 February 2020 | by FarmingUK Team | NewsRenewables and Environment

The amendments to general licences follow a public consultation which received over 700 responses

Scottish rural groups have criticised moves to further restrict the use of general licences by saying it 'poses a threat to wildlife conservation efforts'.

Eleven species of birds, including rooks, great black-backed gulls and collared doves will have stronger protection from April 1, as they will be removed from general licences.

In six weeks’ time, the renewed licence rules mean those seeking to control birds not included on the updated list will be legally required to apply for a licence.

The announcement, made by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on Friday 7 February, means land managers will have to apply specifically for prior approval from SNH’s licensing team to control certain birds on Special Protection Areas.

General licences allow certain birds to be killed without the need to apply for individual licences - for example, to prevent serious damage to crops, to protect public health and to help prevent predation of other, at-risk bird species.

The amendments to general licences follow a public consultation which received over 700 responses.

It comes as an additional SNH review shows that while many wild bird populations are in a healthy condition, a range of pressures, including climate change, means others have decreased, and are in need of greater protection.

The licence review also concluded that the control of greylag geese, a species already listed on the licence, should be extended to year-round control, to help minimise widespread agricultural damage to grass pasture and emerging crops.



After tigers and elephants, India now plans to protect its endangered birds



February 10, 2020

On Feb. 4, images of a rare oriental darter struggling to free its beak from a piece of plastic went viral. The incident was reported from Palwal in Haryana which, according to the news report, has lost more than half of its wetlands in 30 years (1970s-2000) due to land-use change like agricultural expansion. In June 2018, in a similar incident, in a wetland just outside Delhi, a black-necked stork had its beak sealed with a plastic ring around it. Its photo had gone viral. The bird was later rescued after extensive efforts by forest authorities.

Such incidents where birds are impacted by trash and plastic waste could be reduced as part of a new plan to conserve birds and control dumping of waste into areas like wetlands that are bird habitats.

With the focus on tigers and elephants, conservation and protection of birds take a backseat in India. Now, a 10-year plan proposed by the Indian government hopes to help in the conservation of birds and their habitats in India.

The draft—visionary perspective plan (2020-2030) for the conservation of avian diversity, their ecosystems, habitats and landscapes in the country—was put in the public domain by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change on Feb. 3, seeking comments from all stakeholders.



Critically endangered shore plovers released on offshore refuge



Matthew Tso15:54, Feb 07 2020

As the shoreline comes into focus from the cabin of the Charmaine Karol I can see green bush cascading downwards from a straw-coloured tabletop to meet the beach. 

It is entirely appropriate that a tiny symphony has been playing John Williams' magnificent theme from Jurassic Park inside my head on our approach to Mana Island.

Like the movie's fictional Isla Nubar, Mana is a man-made glimpse into the past. This becomes apparent as soon as I disembark.

A few steps from the boat I stop to adjust my grip on a camera bag I've carried ashore when I  look down to see an inky black skink wriggle out from between the rocks beneath my boot. "Must be more careful," I think.

We are here to witness the arrival of 18 critically endangered shore plovers, and are met by Department of Conservation staff and a party from Ngati Toa who perform a waiata to welcome the birds ashore.


Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Rare Bird Spotted At Karanji Lake



February 6, 2020

Mysore/Mysuru: In a special discovery, bird lovers have spotted a White-Rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) at the Karanji Lake inside the Chamarajendra Zoological Garden. A group of volunteers reported the rare sighting at the Lake. 

A team comprising S. Nisarga, S. Shylajesha and Sudhanshu Hegde spotted the songster bird and according to Shylajesha, the bird is usually found in the thick forests of Biligiri Rangana Betta, Male Madeshwara Betta and Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

It is a thrush-like bird with a long, graduated tail. Males are glossy back above and rich chestnut below while the females are similar but paler. Juveniles are reddish brown with rusty wing bars. Dense lowland and hill forests, forest edge, and overgrown orchards and plantations are the bird’s favourite habitat. 

It is a popular cage bird and its song is a varied series of loud whistles and flutelike notes, often involving mimicry of other birds. 





Lucky ducks: Once thought extinct, rare pochards take steps toward recovery



by Edward Carver on 6 February 2020

12 Madagascar pochard (Aythya innotata) ducklings were born in the wild in November.

Conservationists had introduced 21 young adult pochards to Lake Sofia in northern Madagascar in December 2018, but did not expect them to reproduce so quickly.

The pochard was once common in Madagascar’s highlands, but the population declined rapidly in the mid-20th century. Only a single pochard was spotted from 1970 until 2006.

The new crop of ducklings marks a victory for conservation groups that have been working to save the species since then. However, the pochard’s future remains precarious due in part to a lack of food, with its total population measurable in the dozens.

One of the world’s rarest birds, once thought to be extinct, successfully bred in the wild late last year. The crop of ducklings marks a victory for conservation groups that have been working for more than a decade to save the species.

In November, conservationists celebrated the appearance of 12 Madagascar pochard (Aythya innotata) ducklings on Lake Sofia in northern Madagascar. They had introduced a set of young adult pochards there in December 2018 but did not expect them to reproduce so quickly. Diving ducks normally don’t breed until they are 2 years old.

“We were very surprised and excited to have chicks just one year after introducing the ducks,” Felix Razafindrajao, a wetlands manager for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a group based on Jersey in the British Isles, told Mongabay. In addition to the 12 ducklings, which came in two broods, there are also eight pochard eggs in the marshes that should hatch in the next few weeks, he said.




Why are bird eggs in cold climates darker colored?



A global survey suggests that it might help keep them warmer

DEC 6, 2019 — 6:45 AM EST

Bird eggs come in a dizzying array of colors. But from a global perspective, that diversity follows a simple pattern, new research shows. The colder the climate, the darker the egg.
Darker eggs absorb more heat than lighter ones. This could help developing chicks stay warm while their parents forage for food. That’s the conclusion of the study. It appeared online October 28 in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Biologists have long tried to understand why birds’ eggs come in so many shapes and colors. There could be many reasons. Color may help camouflage eggs from predators. Egg shape or color might also somehow protect eggs against bacteria or signal their quality. Shape or color might even help keep an egg warm. Scientists have turned up some evidence to support all of these hypotheses, says Phillip Wisocki. He worked on the research while studying biology at Long Island University Post in Brookville, N.Y.

Adds Daniel Hanley, scientists were never sure whether any of these factors were important to egg diversity. This biologist advised Wisocki on his research.


Slaughter of the songbirds: the fight against France's 'barbaric' glue traps




French hunters claim tradition justifies their exemption from EU rules. But with many species endangered, there is growing pressure for a ban

Kim Willsher in Provence
Sat 30 Nov 2019 12.30 GMTLast modified on Tue 3 Dec 2019 12.32 GMT

It is early morning in the heart of Provence, and somewhere behind the tall black pine trees a rousing dawn chorus begins. We are crouching out of sight among the rosemary bushes and wild asparagus listening to the melodic musical phrases of song thrushes and blackbirds.

This is Marcel Pagnol country, rich in flora and fauna and of exceptional natural beauty; but there is no sign of the singing birds anywhere in the rustling foliage, trees or sky.

Yves Verilhac, of France’s Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), knows why. “The singing you can hear is from caged thrushes and blackbirds who are appellants (callers). They’re caught and kept in the dark for months so when they’re taken out into daylight they sing their hearts out and attract other birds.”

He points above the treetops where clusters of sticks attached to vertical poles glisten in the nascent sunlight. “Those are verguettes: sticks covered in glue. The callers call, other birds come, land on a verguette, and they’re stuck. The more they struggle to get away, the more they become stuck.”

The trilling Provençal songbirds are unwitting decoys to lure more birds into a death trap, he says. Once enticed, the birds are either blasted out of the sky by hunters hidden in camouflaged cabins, or find themselves stuck on the sticks.

It is a scene with which readers of Roald Dahl’s The Twits – in which the Twits coat branches with glue to catch birds to bake in a pie – will be familiar.

La chasse à la glu – glue-trapping – was banned in the EU by a 1979 bird directive, except in special circumstances where it is “controlled, selective and in limited quantities”. Since 1989, France has invoked these circumstances to permit glue-trapping in five south-east departments on the grounds that it is “traditional”.


Monday, 10 February 2020

Tripura organises its first-ever "Hornbill Festival"

08 FEBRUARY 2020 Last Updated at 6:36 PM | SOURCE: IANS

Agartala, Feb 8 (IANS) The two-day first Hornbill Festival of Tripura began on Saturday with the aim to conserve the striking forest bird "Hornbill" and to boost the livelihood of the people through tourism.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb inaugurated the state''s first-ever Hornbill Festival at the famous Barmura hill (in western Tripura), one of the biggest hill ranges of Tripura which was last month renamed as "Hathai Kotor", or "big hill" in the tribal language "Kokborok".

The "Hornbill" festival, named after the Indian Hornbill, the large and colourful forest bird which is displayed in the folklore of most of the tribals in northeast India, usually takes place in the first week of December every year since 2000 at Naga heritage village Kisama, about 12 km from Nagaland capital Kohima.

Deb said that with the conservation of the "Hornbill" bird, eco-tourism would flourish enhancing the livelihood of the local tribals, inhabitants of the Barmura hill.

Sandpipers on an arduous migration now have a rest stop all their own

by Nanditha Chandraprakash on 6 February 2020


  • The Rainforest Trust and the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand recently purchased 8 hectares (20 acres) of shoreland in the Gulf of Thailand to protect a vital stopover site for spoon-billed sandpipers (Calidris pygmaea).
  • Spoon-billed sandpipers fly annually from Russia to parts of Southeast Asia and depend on sites like the salty coastal wetland of Pak Thale for survival 
  • The species is critically endangered, with only about 240 to 456 adults globally.
  • This stretch of shoreland along the Inner Gulf of Thailand is also an important migrating and wintering site for other waterbirds passing through Thailand.
For the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, a tiny shorebird that makes an 8,000-kilometer (5,000-mile) migration each year, wetlands are vital stopover points. To boost the small bird’s population, the Rainforest Trust and the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST) have purchased a stopover haven in the Gulf of Thailand from two banks for the species’ winter migration.

“The purchased land is currently an active salt pan which has supported a wintering population of spoon-billed sandpipers regularly every winter,” said Angela Yang, chief conservation officer of the Rainforest Trust.

Common Quail elected as Iberia's bird of 2020

07/02/2020


In the first cross-national vote of its kind, Portugal and Spain have elected Common Quail as Bird of the Year 2020.

The online poll was organised by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) and the Spanish Society of Ornithology (SEO/BirdLife), with Common Quail (7,390 votes) fighting off stiff competition from Montagu's Harrier (6,130) and Iberian Grey Shrike (5,156).

Although Common Quail remains a numerous species in Portugal, it has declined by an alarming 30% over the last decade alone, largely due to changes in agricultural practice.

The story is a familiar one: the overall intensification of farming, including expansion of monocultures, disappearance of fallow land and the removal of hedges and field margins leave less and less available habitat for this and other typical farmland birds. Quails feed on seeds, cereal grains and small invertebrates, so the species has also suffered from the increased use of herbicides and insecticides.

What's behind the mysterious death of more than two dozens birds in downtown Pensacola?

Kevin Robinson Pensacola News Journal
Published 8:00 AM EST Feb 8, 2020

More than two dozen birds were found dead on a Pensacola sidewalk Friday, and there are no immediate answers as to why.

The birds were concentrated at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Intendencia streets, though people reported others on surroundings streets and canopies. A crowd of stunned, heartbroken onlookers gathered and tried to puzzle out among themselves what happened.

Phillip Darby, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of West Florida, didn't see the carnage first-hand, but he said his educated guess was that the birds had crashed into a building.

He said birds tend to follow a pretty set migratory path, and that if there is new construction along the route — particularly large buildings with lots of glass — birds can be disoriented by reflections of trees or the sky and crash into them as a flock.

Still, onlookers at nearby businesses said they hadn't heard any collision, and there didn't seemed to be any visible damage to windows.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Lucky ducks: Once thought extinct, rare pochards take steps toward recovery

by Edward Carver on 6 February 2020

  • 12 Madagascar pochard (Aythya innotata) ducklings were born in the wild in November.
  • Conservationists had introduced 21 young adult pochards to Lake Sofia in northern Madagascar in December 2018, but did not expect them to reproduce so quickly.
  • The pochard was once common in Madagascar’s highlands, but the population declined rapidly in the mid-20th century. Only a single pochard was spotted from 1970 until 2006.
  • The new crop of ducklings marks a victory for conservation groups that have been working to save the species since then. However, the pochard’s future remains precarious due in part to a lack of food, with its total population measurable in the dozens.

One of the world’s rarest birds, once thought to be extinct, successfully bred in the wild late last year. The crop of ducklings marks a victory for conservation groups that have been working for more than a decade to save the species.

In November, conservationists celebrated the appearance of 12 Madagascar pochard (Aythya innotata) ducklings on Lake Sofia in northern Madagascar. They had introduced a set of young adult pochards there in December 2018 but did not expect them to reproduce so quickly. Diving ducks normally don’t breed until they are 2 years old.

“We were very surprised and excited to have chicks just one year after introducing the ducks,” Felix Razafindrajao, a wetlands manager for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a group based on Jersey in the British Isles, told Mongabay. In addition to the 12 ducklings, which came in two broods, there are also eight pochard eggs in the marshes that should hatch in the next few weeks, he said.

Read more

'Rare bird sighted in Chilika after 1997'

BHUBANESWAR: An unusual bird sighting at the Chilika Lake prompted a bird watcher to embark on a frantic quest for its identity. This, in turn, which was taken up by other bird lovers and was threatening to become a thriller, before a 32-year-old photograph came to the rescue and helped crack the mystery. 

The winged guest, in turned out, is an Australian stilt and its sighting in Chilika's famed Mangalajodi is the first ever, bird watchers claim. The Australian stilt, which is also called the pied stilt (Himantopus leucocephalus), was spotted by a local bird guide, Madhu Behera, on Saturday morning.

"I captured a few photos of the bird but could not identify it. It looked like the black-winged stilt but was morphologically different, having a ridge of black feathers in the upper part of the neck," said Behera, who is part of the Mangalajodi Conservation and Tourism Trust. 

Behera immediately dusted off his copy of the 'Bird Atlas of Chilika', published by the Bombay Natural History Society (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Bombay-Natural-History-Society) (BNHS) and the Chilika Development Authority (CDA), but found no mention of the bird in the Chilika region. "None of the other popular bird guide books and field guides showed any bird that looked like the one I saw. Finally, I found a photo resembling the bird I saw in 'A Field Guide to Birds of Chilika', written by Odia ornithologist Uday Narayan Dev," Behera explained. 

When Behera reached out to fellow enthusiasts, they confirmed that what he had seen was indeed the Australian stilt. Noted wildlife photographers and bird experts like Siba Prasad Parida, Gahar Abedin (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/GaharAbedin) and Shakti Prasanna Nanda concurred with the finding. 

The photo that ended the confusion was clicked in 1987. Dev, whose book helped Behera when others had failed, recalled that he had seen the Australian stilt in the Nalabana area of Chilika (another stretch of the vast lagoon that is a favourite of birds). "Australian stilt sightings in Nalabana were reported till 1997, but stopped afterwards" Dev said. Siba Prasad Parida, an associate professor of zoology at Centurion University who has participated in all the bird censuses at Chilka since 2002, hailed the sighting. "This indicates that the weather and the food in Mangalajodi favours the bird," he said.

Manx hen harrier 'Mary' poisoned by laced bait and found dead in Eire

Friday, 7 February 2020 - Environment


Hen Harrier Mary as a nestling (RSPB and Manx BirdLife)

A hen harrier born in the Isle of Man in the summer of 2019, has been found dead beside baits laced with poison in the Republic of Ireland.

Mary was part of the satellite-tagging project led by RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project team which is coordinated in the island by Manx Birdlife and the Manx Ringing Group (MRG).

Tags attached to the birds enable their whereabouts to be tracked, providing insights to the behaviour and population dynamics of the persecuted birds of prey.

After fledging last year, Mary spent a few weeks exploring the island, flying to and from the Calf of Man where she was pictured by warden Aron Sapsford, at the end of August.

By the end of October, satellite data revealed she had flown from the Isle of Man across the Irish Sea to Eire.

Sadly, soon afterwards on November 2, Mary’s satellite tag indicated that she had died.