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, 28 February 2020

Mass poisoning causes a heavy blow to the largest colony of Griffon Vultures in mainland Greece

We are devastated to report that eleven Griffon Vultures fell victim to poisoning in the area of Klisoura Gorge in Greece. Unfortunately, nine vultures died from the incident, and two are alive but currently in recovery.

A total of eleven Griffon Vultures, a protected and critically endangered species in Greece, have been found poisoned in Klisoura Canyon in the Messolonghi-Etoliko Lagoon National Park a few days ago. This is the most severe poisoning case recorded in the country, after the one in the Strait of Nestos in 2012, and the largest confirmed case for Griffon Vultures.

The Messolonghi Management Body and HOS/BirdLife Greece discovered the carcasses of the nine Griffon Vultures. Executives from the Management Body of the Hunting Association of Messolonghi recovered the other two Griffon Vultures, which are currently alive and are being treated at ANIMA, gradually showing signs of recovery from poisoning. The dead vultures will be sent to the Athens Veterinary Foundations Centre for toxicological analysis, and to help avoid further poisoning.

Concerns about the fate of the rest of the vultures in the area are high and the danger of the local vulture population collapsing remains. The Griffon Vulture colony of Klisoura and Akarnania, are the only ones left in Western Greece and the largest remaining in the mainland.

Growing flowers to save a Critically Endangered hummingbird

Flitting through the mist in Ecuador’s high Andean forests, the Black-breasted Puffleg is running out of habitat. A forest restoration programme offers hope, working with local people to plant the species’ favourite flowers.

When it comes to birdwatching, Ecuador is a lucky country. Although it occupies only 0.2% of the earth's surface, it houses around 130 species of hummingbird – that is, more than 35% of all the world's hummingbirds. Some are found nowhere else on the planet, including the Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis. This Critically Endangered endemic lives 3,200 – 3,400 metres above sea level, amid the cold mist and drizzle of the high Andean forests. Its unique name comes from the white feathers that adorn its legs, similar to the rustic trousers worn by local people. This glossy, iridescent bird is truly miniscule, measuring 9cm at most.

The species is so iconic that in June 2005, it was declared the Emblematic Bird of the Metropolitan District of Quito (the capital city of Ecuador). The founding member of Aves y Conservación (BirdLife in Ecuador), Juan Manuel Carrión, strongly advocated for this recognition during his time as City Councillor. His intention was: “To make the species visible, to attract attention in a symbolic way and for the city to have a natural emblem embodied in a bird; as well as encouraging municipal participation in efforts to preserve it”.

This bird needs all the recognition it can get. Its population is estimated not to exceed 1000 individuals, spread across just two sites. One spans the northwestern slope of the Pichincha Volcano. The other was rediscovered in 2006 by the ornithologist Olaf Jahn in the Toisán Range, Imbabura province.

Alarm over collapse of chinstrap penguin numbers

Global heating suspected to be behind sharp decline in populations across Antarctic islands

Tue 11 Feb 2020 00.01 GMTLast modified on Tue 11 Feb 2020 10.16 GMT

Colonies of chinstrap penguins have fallen by more than half across islands in Antarctica, prompting scientific concern that “something is broken” in the world’s wildest ecosystem.

After more than a month counting chicks in the South Shetland Islands, researchers suspect global heating is behind the sharp fall in numbers of the distinctive birds, which get their name from a black line that runs below the beak from cheek to cheek.

Using drones and handheld clickers, the team of four scientists from Stony Brook University in the US found only 52,786 breeding pairs on Elephant Island, 58% fewer than in the last survey in 1971.

Travelling on a Greenpeace expedition, the scientists also conducted a penguin census in the snow, fog and freezing rain of Low island, where preliminary figures indicated a similar scale of decline in what is believed to be the largest chinstrap population in Antarctica.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

21 new species added to Indonesian bird collection

Arya Dipa

The Jakarta Post
Bandung / Mon, February 17, 2020 / 06:34 pm

Twenty-one new species have been added to the list of bird species endemic to Indonesia as of the beginning of 2020, bringing the country's total to 1,794 bird species.

Achmad Ridha, a research and communication officer at nonprofit bird conservation organization Burung Indonesia, said that the additional species included seven newly described bird species - including the Alor myzomela (Myzomela prawiradilagae) and the spectacled flowerpecker (Dicaeum dayakorum) - as well as 14 species that were split off from previously discovered species.

The Alor myzomela was announced as a new species in Oct. 2019. The bird is endemic to Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara, and lives in a terrain 900 to 1,270 meters above sea level.

Meanwhile, the new Latin name given to the spectacled flowerpecker honors the Dayak people of Kalimantan, who have extensive knowledge about the flora and fauna of their native regions.

Other new species include the Peleng fantail, the Peleng leaf warbler, the Taliabu bush warbler, the Taliabu myzomela and the Taliabu leaf warbler. Three of the species are endemic to Peleng Island, Central Sulawesi, while the two other species are endemic to Taliabu Island, North Maluku.

Mysterious suicide of birds in Assam village portrayed in poems - via Richard Muirhead

Jatinga, a small tribal village and Assam’s only hill station, is known for the mysterious suicide of birds during certain weeks of the year.

ART-AND-CULTURE Updated: Feb 18, 2020 14:48 IST
Indo Asian News Service

While scientists and ornithologists have been trying to explore and understand the mystery as to why birds behave in a particular manner during those weeks in Jatinga, Guwahati-based poet and award-winning author Tapati Baruah Kashyap has chosen to tell the stories of the birds, the beautiful place and the people living there through her poems.(Unsplash)

Jatinga, a small tribal village and Assam’s only hill station, is known for the mysterious suicide of birds during certain weeks of the year. While scientists and ornithologists have been trying to explore and understand the mystery as to why birds behave in a particular manner during those weeks in Jatinga, Guwahati-based poet and award-winning author Tapati Baruah Kashyap has chosen to tell the stories of the birds, the beautiful place and the people living there through her poems.

“In Love With Jatinga” is a collection of 50 poems through which the poet not only asks the often-repeated question as to why the birds of Jatinga meet death in such a mysterious manner, but also takes readers through this place, which is located on the lap of the lofty Borail mountain (in southern Assam).

“Jatinga is not about birds alone. It has lovely people, lovely oranges and pineapples, and breath-taking natural scenery all around. It is a little paradise on earth,” Kashyap says. The poet, in the opening of her book has dedicated it to “serene people, serene place, spotless nature, in the lap of Jatinga.”

The mysterious birds’ phenomenon has made Jatinga, only nine km from the mountainous Haflong, the district Headquarters of Dima Hasao in Assam, world famous for the strange behaviour of the migratory birds that takes place during the months of September to November. As many as 24 of the 50 poems are about this village, its people, its birds, winding pathways, sweet breeze, the headman, its founding fathers, its hard-working women, and so on.

WATCH: Tallest bird in UK filmed in Norfolk countryside

PUBLISHED: 20:10 16 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:41 17 February 2020

The tallest bird in the UK are the centre of a new wildlife video after making Norfolk their home more than 40 years ago.

Wildlife documentary maker Liam Smith, who runs the Shot of Wildlife YouTube channel, captured several species of animals while out in the county's countryside including the common crane.

The bird stands at more than four feet tall and has a wingspan of almost eight foot and are considered one of the tallest birds in the whole of Europe.

The flock of cranes, filmed between Acle and Billockby, first came to Norfolk in 1978 from mainland Europe.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Sumatran birds closer to extinction due to habitat loss, hunting

Jon Afrizal

The Jakarta Post
Jambi / Wed, February 19, 2020 / 11:19 am

Dozens of bird species endemic to Sumatra Island are closer to extinction because of habitat loss from land use change as well as illegal hunting.

According to bird conservation NGO Burung Indonesia, 42 bird species have been listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Meanwhile, nine species are listed as critically endangered.

“Most of the species in the critically endangered category are losing their habitat [and are] illegally hunted,” Burung Indonesia spokesman Achmad Ridha Junaid said on Tuesday.

For example, cucak rawa (straw-headed bulbuls) were often hunted to be sold as pets, despite their limited number remaining in the wild, Achmad went on to say. The IUCN red list in August 2018 estimated the number of cucak rawa in the wild at 600 to 1,700.

Some experts believe the species is extinct by now.

Similarly, the rangkong gading (helmeted hornbill) is often hunted for its bright red and yellow solid casque. The species has been included in the critically endangered category.

Achmad said the rangkong gading had been considered vulnerable until 2015, but its status had been increased to critically endangered ever since, because of rampant hunting.

Plenty to Squawk About: Spanish Capital Plans for Huge Cull of Parrots

By Reuters
Feb. 13, 2020

MADRID — Madrid has begun planning for a cull of almost all the city's population of thousands of Kramer and Monk parrots, invasive species that the city council says are a nuisance to human neighbours and a threat to public health.

More than 11,000 birds, or some 90% of the capital's total population of the birds, will be culled under the programme, local government officials said on Thursday.

The cull, criticised by several animal rights groups, is due to begin in October and run for 23 months. It will aim to bring the bird numbers under control by destroying nests, removing eggs, and capturing both chicks and adults using nets and cages.

"The ethical euthanasia of the animals will be conducted using methods that do not contravene animal welfare norms," Madrid's environment department said.

How bird flocks with multiple species behave like K-pop groups

FEBRUARY 12, 2020
by Natalie Van Hoose, Florida Museum of Natural History

Birds of a feather don't always flock together: Peer into a forest canopy, and you will likely spot multiple bird species flying and feeding together, a phenomenon most spectacular in the Amazon where 50 species may travel as a unit. But are birds in these mixed flocks cooperating with one another or competing?

A new study suggests both.

In an analysis of nearly 100 North Florida flocks, Florida Museum of Natural History researchers found similar bird species were significantly more likely to flock together than hunt alone, working as a group to stay safe from predators while cruising the canopy in search of insects. Species kept competition within the flock low, however, by differentiating their foraging technique, their choice of hunting spot or the general distance they kept from a tree trunk.

In other words, think of flock dynamics like a K-pop band, said study lead author Harrison Jones.

"You have to be similar enough to the other members to get along as a group but specialized in some way: There's the leader, the one who raps, the one who plays guitar," said Jones, a doctoral student in the University of Florida's department of biology. "It's the same with birds. They hang out together because they share things in common, but they can't share too much. If you're so similar that you're eating each other's lunch, then you have a serious problem."

Monday, 24 February 2020

Dead birds found in passenger’s baggage from China at Virginia airport

Agriculture officials have incinerated a box of dead birds that a traveler from China tried to bring into the U.S.

Officials say the birds were discovered in the passenger’s luggage at Washington Dulles International Airport last month.

When officials intercepted the package, the passenger said it was cat food. There’s still no word on what kind of birds they were.

They were tiny, about 2.5 to 3.5 inches in length. Bird imports from China are prohibited because of potential exposure to avian influenza.

About 300 birds killed in Alabama's first sandhill crane season in over a century

by The Associated Press

Saturday, February 15th 2020

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — About 300 sandhill cranes were killed during Alabama’s first hunting season for the birds in more than a century, the state conservation agency said.

A news release from the state conservation agency said about 400 people bought permits to hunt the large birds, which some people like to eat.

While not everyone with a permit got a bird, migratory game bird coordinator Seth Maddox said the final numbers will probably be in line with other states that have hunting seasons for sandhill cranes.

The state last allowed sandhill crane hunting in 1916 after hunting nearly wiped out the species. A hunting ban allowed the bird’s populations to recover enough to allow a season.

Defra holds firm on game bird releasing in England

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 6:31 PM

The shooting community has been provided with reassurances by Defra that no knee-jerk reactions will occur following the ongoing review of releasing gamebirds in and around designated sites.
In response to a written question by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Shooting and Conservation, regarding timescales, Defra Minister Rebecca Pow said ‘it is not in its [Defra’s] view reasonable nor realistic to expect measures to be implemented before summer/autumn 2020’.
Caroline Bedell, BASC’s executive director of conservation, said: “BASC has been raising its concerns at the highest levels of government and we are delighted that Defra will not be bullied by threats of legal action into a knee-jerk ban on the release of game birds across almost half of England.
“As many shoots are already in the planning stages for next season the news is reassuring that there is no immediate threat ahead whilst the review is undertaken.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Seabirds rescued after wild weather pushes them as far inland as NSW Central Tablelands

Wild weather off Australia's east coast has pushed seabirds hundreds of kilometres inland, with some rescued at Canberra and on NSW's Southern and Central tablelands.

Key points:
A number of the seabirds were found exhausted and underweight; some have since died
It's hoped they will eventually be released back out to sea, certainly not until Cyclone Uesi has had its time impacting the east coast
There's also been another rare sighting of a Bulwer's petrel, which don't usually venture too far from the equator

Mick Roderick from Birdlife Australia said it was not unusual for rough weather to knock birds off course, but the latest weather system had resulted in some very rare sightings.

"Even before the wild weather, we saw a lot of sooty terns close to the coast, which is unusual — there may be something going on with their food source," he said.

"But then the east coast low hit during the week and that has absolutely sent a lot of these seabirds off course.

Sub-Antarctic-dwelling king penguin spotted unusually far north at Port Davey, Tasmania

A second king penguin has been spotted on mainland Tasmania, with one wildlife officer calling the sighting especially rare "unless you're on a tourist ship going to Antarctica".

Key points:
A king penguin was spotted by kayakers on a beach at Port Davey in Tasmania's far south-west
The species is usually seen 1,500km further south in Sub-Antarctic regions such as Macquarie Island
It is the second such unusual sighting this year, but a wildlife officer says it is no cause for concern

The penguin was spotted by kayakers at Port Davey in Tasmania's far south-west.

Wildlife officer Julie McInnes said it was a different penguin to the bird spotted at Seven Mile Beach near Hobart last month.

Dr McInnes said it was unusual to have two king penguins sighted in one year.

"This is a really rare thing for people to see, unless you're on a tourist ship going to Antarctica," Dr McInnes told ABC Radio Hobart.

The birds usually call Macquarie Island, about 1,500 kilometres from Tasmania, home.

"Given the remote location of the second bird, there may be a number of birds that come ashore over the years which are not seen or reported," Dr McInnes said.

She said "vagrant" juvenile penguins were known to come ashore away from their colonies from time to time.

Predicting 50,000 years of bird migrations

By Jim Shelton
february 18, 2020

Neither wind, nor rain — nor massive sheets of ice — have kept Earth’s birds from their appointed rounds of migrating to better climes, according to a new study.

That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Max Planck-Yale Center for Biodiversity Movement and Global Change (MPYC), which simulated global bird migrations during scenarios of past climate conditions. The researchers said that, in the Americas in particular, migrating birds successfully maneuvered vastly changing landscapes in the past 50,000 years.

“Our simulations predict that bird migration worldwide has remained relatively constant over this period, suggesting an origin for this phenomenon that is older than the glacial cycles of recent Earth history,” said first author Marius Somveille, a former MPYC researcher who is starting a postdoctoral position at Colorado State University.

Yet there has been regional variation in migrating birds’ response to climate change, the researchers said. In the Americas, for example, there has been a larger increase in the distances that birds have migrated over the past 50,000 years, compared with other parts of the world.

“In the last ice age, up to about 18,000 years ago, North America had an ice sheet that covered a large part of the continent and prevented bird species from living there,” said Yale’s Walter Jetz, senior author of the study, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and co-director of MPYC.

“This ice sheet retreated and birds colonized the land — and those birds were likely highly migratory, as seasonality in this area was pronounced. Our simulations suggest that toward the present this part of the world has seen both migratory distances and migration activity significantly increase,” he said.

The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Concerns raised over proposed Lower Hutt pathway's affect on penguins

Matthew Tso 13:52, Feb 19 2020

Two of conservation's heavy hitters have raised concerns over a proposed pathway they say could put penguins in jeopardy.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and Forest & Bird lodged submissions opposing the Eastern Bays Shared Path in Lower Hutt citing inadequate measures to protect the environment.

Both organisations made mention of the potential impact on the at-risk little blue penguins, or kororā, that live along the shoreline.

DOC believes up to 14 per cent of Wellington's little blue penguin population - more than 100 birds - nest along the eastern bays and more needed to be done to protect them from traffic, habitat displacement and dogs.

They were also concerned the path's construction would have an impact on 5000 square metres of shorebird foraging habitat used by the nationally threatened reef heron and caspian tern. The regionally threatened variable oyster catcher and nine at-risk species are also present in the area.

Watch video and read more

South Coast shorebird hatching boom despite bushfires

FEBRUARY 19, 2020 8:18 AM AEDT

Critically endangered Little Terns, Hooded Plovers and Pied Oystercatchers have fledged chicks at nesting sites along the NSW South Coast despite bushfires and beach visitors.

Environment Minister Matt Kean was pleased the little nesting shorebirds are doing well despite many challenges this summer including the Currowan fire.

“It’s really encouraging to see great conservation outcomes for these rare birds,” Mr Kean said.

“It’s great to have positive news about these birds which are migratory and listed as endangered or vulnerable species at risk of predation, storms and other threats.”

“These precious birds made it through last week’s king tide which nearly washed the eggs away before they hatched. Thankfully, NSW Government’s Saving our Species (SoS) program experts and local volunteers snatched them to safety from the advancing tide, moving the nests to the top of a sand mound.”

Volunteers kept watch to ensure the chicks were safe as the youngsters are still feeding with their parents at the site. Other breeding successes include:
35 little terns at Mogareeka, near Tathra
10 little terns and three pied oyster catchers at Tuross estuary, despite fox attacks and high tides
5 pied oyster catcher fledglings near Durras Lake entrance.

Shorebird Recovery Coordinator Sophie Hall-Aspland said these results show the shorebirds’ resilience, with the help of the determined efforts of the SoS’s South Coast Shorebird Recovery Program, which is a collaboration between SoS, NPWS, local community groups and over 100 volunteers.

The shorebird nesting season occurs from August to January/February, with peak laying from late November to mid-December. While pied oystercatchers are residents on many Aussie beaches, little terns undertake an arduous migration from as far away as Korea and Vietnam.

'Incredible bird species' from Wicken Fen Nature Reserve featured in University Museum of Zoology

12 February, 2020 - 14:12

Birds from one of Fenland's biggest nature reserves are featured inside one of Cambridge University Museum of Zoology's new galleries.

"Incredible bird species" from the Wicken Fen Nature Reserve near Ely have their own spot in the new collection made up of 13 habitats, showing off more than 200 birds.

Each gallery aims to highlight the conservation work currently taking place to protect the UK's birds, with stories to read in each section.

Wicken Fen is home to over 9,000 species, including rare orchids, cuckoos and bitterns.

Professor Rebecca Kilner, museum director, said: "We are dedicated to sharing the wonders of biodiversity, and we can't wait to welcome visitors to our new British bird gallery.

"The new displays showcase the vital conservation work taking place across the UK - and here in Cambridgeshire - to protect birds and the places where they live."

The University Museum of Zoology in Cambridge is one of the largest natural history collections in the UK, with a rich history dating back to 1814.

In 2018 the Museum reopened after a five-year, £4.1million redevelopment - including nearly £2 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It revealed thousands of specimens, including whales, elephants, a giraffe, giant ground sloth, insects, corals as well as items collected by Charles Darwin.

Anne Jenkins, director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "We are lucky to have a diverse range of interesting and important native bird species on our doorsteps.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Supreme Court steps in to save two endangered bird species

February 19, 2020 8:52 am

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stepped in to save two endangered bird species — Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican — by directing the Rajasthan government to chalk out a time frame to remove overhead high-voltage power lines and lay them underground.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant observed that the two species were vulnerable to fatal collision with overhead power lines.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) echoed the concern and insisted that power lines would have to be laid underground to save the birds.

The Court then asked the Rajasthan government’s counsel to obtain instructions from the authorities concerned on shifting overhead lines below the ground within two weeks.

The top Court observed that the State could go for underground cables in agreements with private companies.

The Court observed that overhead power lines obstruct the flight of the Great Indian Bustard, a larger bird, and as a consequence its movement was restricted.

The Chief Justice said: “One of the solutions suggested to avoid collision of birds with overhead wires is these be laid underground.”

For the other bird species, the top Court reckoned it faced difficulties due to power generation plants and queried the State if it is facing any issues so that the court could issue specific directions.

Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, representing the MoEF, contended that a team of ministry officials and other wildlife experts had visited Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Nadkarni said after considering all aspects, the only solution available is to take the cables underground.

Former Interior Officials Urge Interior Sec. Bernhardt Not To Change Migratory Bird Act

By NPT Staff on February 12th, 2020

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is being urged by a bipartisan collection of former Interior Department officials not to alter the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The changes being pursued by the Trump administration would shield companies whose operating practices kill migratory birds.

“This is a new, contrived legal standard that creates a huge loophole in the law by allowing companies to engage in activities that routinely kill migratory birds so long as they were not intending to do so,” wrote the former officials in a letter to Bernhardt. “It is now more urgent than ever that we implement policies to conserve our vanishing bird species rather than unraveling decades of progress and crippling the law that protects them.”

The signers include former deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directors, and Migratory Bird Conservation chiefs who had direct responsibilities for implementing migratory bird policies and served in their positions under every presidential administration from President Nixon to President Obama.

"This legal opinion is contrary to the long-standing interpretation of the law held by every administration (Republican and Democrat) since at least the 1970s," reads the letter (attached). "The proposed rule turns the MBTA’s straightforward language into a conclusion that only the purposeful killing of migratory birds violates the Act."

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act turned 100 in 2018. It has been applied for decades by federal agencies and the courts to protect birds not just from unauthorized hunting but also from being harmed or killed by industrial operations. Migratory birds are increasingly threatened by land development, habitat loss, and the effects of climate change.

A recent study in Science claimed that nearly 3 billion birds have vanished from North America over the past 50 years.

Rüppell's Vulture breeding with Griffon Vulture at two Spanish sites

New evidence suggests two cases of a Rüppell's Vulture breeding with a Griffon Vulture in Spain. In two different Griffon Vulture breeding colonies in Spain, one pair was observed copulating, and in the other, an adult Rüppell's Vulture was collecting nesting material.

Rüppell's Vulture
The Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) is an African species whose distribution range is located in the equatorial and eastern areas of the continent. It resembles our Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), especially the juveniles and immature birds, being slightly smaller in size. The IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species considers it Critically Endangered, which is the last category before global extinction, due to the rapid declines of several populations across Africa.

its declining state is mostly due to the successive and frequent mass poisonings in Africa, which are driving several species of African vultures to extinction. The Vulture Multi-species Action Plan (Vulture MsAP), co-developed by us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and endorsed by the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS), concludes that poison is the biggest threat to vultures worldwide, and a significant part of this global action plan for vultures focuses on the actions needed to fight this threat. Unfortunately, experts foresee a rather bleak future in the short term if poisoning events keep occurring at this rate.

Rüppell's Vulture in Europe
In consequence, Rüppell's Vultures are becoming alarmingly scarce in Africa but, surprisingly, they are increasingly seen in Europe. This is probably due to increased mixings of individuals of this species with wintering juvenile Griffon Vultures in West Africa. A percentage of Europe's growing population of Griffon Vultures winters in the Sahel zone of West Africa, where it will encounter some Rüppell's Vultures. When European Griffons start their migration north, they probably drag some African vultures with them, and with plenty of food in Europe, they are beginning to call our continent home. The species was recently added to Andalucía's list of vultures, making it Europe's 5th vulture species and one of the most threatened bird species in Spain.

Hooded Merganser rescued from Ipswich cosmetics shop


A drake Hooded Merganser has been escorted out of a high street shop in central Ipswich.

The exotic duck had to be removed from a cosmetics store on Tavern Street on Wednesday [28 January] by local security.

The yellow-ringed bird is well known in Suffolk, having arrived on the Blyth Estuary at Blythburgh in late October 2018, where it remained for several weeks before relocating to Ipswich in 2019. It has lingered around the town since then and has become a popular attraction, usually being seen either in Christchurch Park or along the River Orwell.

The Kiko Milano store contacted Ipswich Central at 09:30 to report that a 'pigeon' was loose in the shop and needed to be rescued.

Street rangers from Ipswich Central arrived at the scene shortly after, only to find that it was in fact the Hooded Merganser, which had made its way almost 1 km down the high street to the cosmetics chain's store and then somehow found its way inside.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Rare fairy tern gets 20% population boost with birth of seven chicks

Danielle Clent 11:11, Feb 13 2020

The birth of seven new fairy terns has boosted the population of one of New Zealand's rarest birds.

The birds, also called the tara-iti, have "teetered" on the brink of extinction since 1970, the Department of Conservation said.

There are fewer than 40 adult fairy terns and they continue to be critically endangered despite intensive management.

However, the latest breeding season has boosted the population by about 20 per cent.

"Seven chicks is a great season – last year (2018-2019 season) we only had two chicks fledge, so this is a big improvement," biodiversity ranger Ayla Wiles said.

India's bird population 'going down sharply'

18 February 2020

Much of India's bird population has sharply declined in the past few decades, according to a major study.

The State of India's Birds report relied on the observations of more than 15,000 birdwatchers who helped assess the status of 867 birds.

It found the greatest decline in the numbers of eagles, vultures, warblers and migrating shorebirds.

But the population of peafowl, the national bird, has increased significantly.

Hunting and habitat loss are the two main reasons behind the decline. "Collision" with electricity lines, according to the study, is a "prime current threat" to birds.

The report, the first comprehensive study of its kind, made two assessments: the drop in bird population over the last 25 years, and over the last five years.

Radar captures huge bird migration over Florida

A huge swarm of birds migrating is nothing unusual - flocks can fly thousands of miles undetected.

But in a rare event on Monday, US National Weather Service radar captured birds migrating from South America over Florida.

Atmospheric conditions caused the systems to detect the birds, which took hours to fly over the Key West station.

The group measured at least 90 miles (145km) in radius, according to meteorologists.

In 2017 a swarm of migrating Printed Lady butterflies was detected by radar over Colorado, but the phenomenon is rare.

A GIF produced by the Weather Service shows the migrating birds in green and yellow, and rain depicted in blue.

Endangered gull fledglings stoned to death at Canterbury's Waimakariri River

Emma Dangerfield10:55, Feb 18 2020

The slaughter of five threatened fledgling gulls in North Canterbury has been described as "gut-wrenching, illegal and morally abhorrent".

The five black-billed gulls were found with their heads bashed in at a popular dog-walking spot on the banks of the Waimakariri River on Monday.

Their bodies were still soft, indicating they had been killed mid-morning. They were just days away from being able to fly.

Department of Conservation senior ranger Anita Spencer said it was particularly devastating as the birds, which are the most threatened gull species in the world, had been through a rough season.

"A lot of work goes into protecting these gulls so it is extra gut-wrenching that they got to this stage for them to be killed," she said.

Flying high, not getting high: the poppy-eating cockatoos of Tasmania are no opiate addicts

Scientists say it’s the poppies’ fat and protein, not their narcotic alkaloids, that keep the birds coming back for more

Fri 14 Feb 2020 19.00 GMT

Tasmanian farmers have reported their poppy crops are being ravaged by cockatoos, but experts say it is likely that it is a taste for the fatty seeds, and not an addiction to opiates, that is attracting the birds.

Tasmanian farmer Bernard Brain told the ABC on Tuesday that flocks of about 300 white cockatoos had decimated his harvest by ripping capsules from his poppy flowers and eating them, leading him to believe that the native birds were addicted to the alkaloid found in the seed.

Poppies, which naturally produce opium, are used to produce highly addictive drugs such as morphine, opium, heroin and codeine.

But Maggie Watson, a lecturer in ornithology at Charles Sturt University, has cast doubt on that theory.

“The pathways of addiction for birds and mammals are very different,” she said.

“[The cockatoos] are not affected by the opiates in poppy seeds, rather they are interested in the fat content of the seeds.”

Poppy seeds are high in fat (about 50%) and protein (about 22%), so they are very nutritious for the cockatoos.

A spokesperson from BirdLife Australia supported this and said: “Our senior bird expert says he’s not entirely convinced it is about the cockies being addicted.

“I actually think it is a case of these intelligent birds discovering and exploiting a new food resource rather than them becoming the junkies of the bird world.”

Monday, 17 February 2020

The 10 british songbirds at risk of extinction, from the turtle dove to the marsh tit

Paula Lester February 12, 2020

The latest figures on songbirds make for sobering reading.

Songbirds are defined as ‘perching birds’, because their specially adapted feet (with three toes facing forward and one back) allow them to grip on to branches and ledges, in gardens, parks, woodland and farmland.

As their name suggests, these passerines also emit beautiful and highly complicated songs that are best heard during the dawn chorus. According to the latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB, the following 10 species on the red list of Birds of Conservation Concern suffered some of the most rapid declines from 1967 to 2016:

Turtle dove

Streptopelia turtur — numbers down 98%
One of the reasons why this dainty dove (right) with its pale-pink breast and gentle, purring call is now increasingly rare is thought to be the lack of seed and grain available to it during the breeding season, which results in far fewer nesting attempts.

Lesser Moorhen in Catalonia – a second for mainland Spain


An immature Lesser Moorhen was discovered on the outskirts of the city of Olot in Catalonia, Spain, on Thursday 23 January, part of a rich run of Afrotropical vagrants to be recorded in the Western Palearctic in early 2020. Pere Baucells Colomer was one of just four birders to see this extreme vagrant, and takes up the story:

I received a call from my brother Jordi just as I took my lunch break on 23 January. Amazingly, he had been told that a Lesser Moorhen had just been found in Olot! Adrià Ferrussola, who works at the sewage treatment plant near the town, managed to catch the bird. After a while, he released it close to the sewage works and sent my brother the news. Given these circumstances, we assumed the bird would be in poor condition and quickly went there to try and capture it again, so that it could be taken to a vet centre.

We found the bird in a flooded grass field close to the bushes where Adrià had left it. But, surprisingly, the bird seemed quite healthy, so we stayed to watch it and take some photos. When a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew overhead, it became nervous. Suddenly it flew about 25 m to a forest with dense understory and was lost to view. We tried to relocate it because other birders had arrived, but it was never seen again.

Researchers study how birds retweet news

Date: February 14, 2020
Source: The University of Montana

Every social network has its fake news. And in animal communication networks, even birds discern the trustworthiness of their neighbors, a study from the University of Montana suggests.

The study, recently published in the top science journal Nature, is the culmination of decades' worth of research from UM alumni Nora Carlson and Chris Templeton and UM Professor Erick Greene in the College of Humanities and Sciences. It sheds a new light on bird social networks.

"This is the first time people have shown that nuthatches are paying attention to the source of information, and that influences the signal they produce and send along," Greene said.

Carlson, Templeton and Greene shared an interest in trying to crack the Rosetta Stone of how birds communicate and collected bird calls over the years.

Each bird species has a song, usually sung by the males, for "letting the babes know 'here I am,'" Greene said, as well as staking out real estate. Their loud and complex calls usually ring out during breeding season.

But for warning calls, each sound stands for a specific threat, such as "snake on the ground," "flying hawk" and "perched hawk." The calls convey the present danger level and specific information. They also are heard by all species in the woods in a vast communication network that sets them on high alert.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

'Nestbox revolution' for Critically Endangered parakeet


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


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.

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.