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.

Saturday 28 February 2015

Hidden in plain sight: Amazonian bird chick mimics toxic caterpillar to avoid being eaten

February 23, 2015

University of Chicago Press Journals

Laniocera hypopyrra - Cinereous Mourner.JPGIn a study published in the January 2015 issue of The American Naturalist, Gustavo A. Londoño, Duván Garcia, and Manuel Sánchez Martínez report a novel nesting strategy observed in a tropical lowland bird that inhabits an area with very high losses to nest predators.
How can tropical birds cope with the high rates of nest predation that are typical in most tropical habitats? Are there nesting strategies that allow tropical birds to escape predators such as birds, mammals, and snakes that regularly eat eggs and nestlings?

During the fall of 2012, while working on a long-term avian ecological study, the researchers discovered the second nest ever described for the cinereous mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra) at Pantiacolla Lodge in the upper Madre de Dios River in southeastern Peru. They observed that upon hatching, the chicks had downy feathers with long orange barbs with white tips, which was very different from any other nestling they had observed in the area. The peculiar downy feathers attracted their attention, but the nestling behavior provided a more important cue. While researchers were collecting morphological measurements, the nestling started moving its head very slowly from side to side in a way typical of many hairy caterpillars. While working in the area, the investigators found a poisonous caterpillar with similar size and hair coloration as the nestling. Therefore, the researchers suggest that this is an example of Batesian mimicry in which the nestling tricks predators into thinking that it is a toxic, spiny caterpillar rather than a highly edible nestling.

Leading bird organisation petitions US government to regulate the wind industry

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has filed a formal petition with the US Department of the Interior (DOI) calling for new regulations governing the impacts of wind energy projects on migratory birds to be established.

The US wind industry is now operating under “voluntary” instead of mandatory regulatory guidelines.

The ABC petition supports “Bird-Smart” wind energy, which requires independent, science-based risk assessment leading to careful siting; effective mitigation; independent, transparent post-construction monitoring of bird kills; and compensation if public trust resources are being taken.

Bird-Smart wind energy is designed to reduce and redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss.

“This petition includes new information that further makes the case for wind industry regulation,” says Dr Michael Hutchins, the National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

Being better problem solvers helps mountain chickadees survive at higher altitudes

February 25, 2015

Springer Science+Business Media

Being better problem solvers helps mountain chickadees survive at higher altitudes. Living on harsh, unforgiving icy mountains can make one mentally sharper, and this applies to birds as well. That's what biologists learned after finding that mountain chickadees that live at higher altitudes are better problem solvers than birds of this species hailing from lower regions.

Friday 27 February 2015

Tonnes of pigeon faeces removed from Rye's Landgate Arch

Twenty five tonnes of "festering pigeon faeces" have been removed from an 675-year-old ancient English monument.

The bird droppings, which were almost three feet deep, had built up inside the towers of the Landgate Arch in Rye, East Sussex.

Cleaning contractors described the smell from the acidic guano as "awful - even through a facemask".

The historic structure is owed by Rother council and dates from 1340 but is not open to the public.

Dutch town takes up umbrellas against rogue owl attacks

Residents in the northern Dutch town of Purmerend have been advised to take umbrellas out at night after a spate of attacks by an owl.

Dozens of residents have suffered head injuries over the past three weeks at the claws of the rogue European eagle owl.

Two runners were attacked on Tuesday, with one requiring stitches for five separate head wounds.

The European eagle owl's usual prey are small mammals and birds.


One of the sites of the attacks has been a home for the disabled.

Liselotte de Bruijn, a spokeswoman for the home, told the AFP news agency that residents and workers had suffered at least 15 separate attacks by the nocturnal bird, which remains at large.

"During the day there's no problem, but at night we now only venture outside armed with umbrellas, helmets and hats, anything really, to protect ourselves," said Ms de Bruijn.

‘Racist’ birdies ruffling feathers? Sweden renames ‘neger’ species

The names of some birds in Swedish have been changed by the Swedish Ornithological Society over concerns that they could sound racist.

The society has just compiled a complete list of bird names. Its employees have been receiving numerous questions from translators and bird watchers, who want to know the exact names of birds.

"We haven't had an official list of what all the birds in the world are called in Swedish until now, we just had an unofficial list put together about 10 years ago," Anders Wirdheim from the Swedish Ornithological Society told the Local. “We decided to compile a list and while we were doing that we decided to change the names of any birds that could have stirred up a debate,” he added.

Among the rechristened birds are all which include the word ‘’neger’’ (negro), for instance negerfinken. They changed it to the Swedish “svart,” meaning “black.”

Rare European fieldfare visits Cumberland County couple

Its heart is smaller than a dime.

The Atlantic Ocean is vast and cold.

But somehow a small songbird, a European fieldfare, crossed all that dark water to land in an apple tree in Apple River, Cumberland County, on Saturday.

Kathleen Spicer and her husband Blaine have been keeping tabs on it ever since.

On Tuesday morning, Spicer was holding her 20-month-old great-granddaughter, Serenity, and hoping to see it again.

“It hailed last night and the birds in the yard are all covered in ice,” she said over the phone. “I’m concerned for it.”

The fieldfare, about the size of a robin and a member of the thrush family, is well equipped for winter.

The migratory bird breeds regularly as far north as Iceland and is sometimes seen in Greenland.

The Spicers’ fieldfare, however, is only the second one photographed in Nova Scotia — the other was in Granville Ferry, Annapolis County, in 1994.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Peterson, Iowa, prairie to become bird conservation area

11 hours ago • By Nick Hytrek

PETERSON, Iowa | A wildlife area near Peterson will soon be named Iowa's newest Bird Conservation Area....

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will dedicate the Waterman Prairie Wildlife Management Area and a portion of the Little Sioux River watershed as a Bird Conservation Area at an 11 a.m. ceremony March 7 at the O'Brien County Prairie Heritage Center, about four miles west of Peterson on the north side of Iowa Highway 10.

"Designating this complex as a Bird Conservation Area will add to its recognition by indicating its importance for nesting and migratory grassland and savanna birds," Bruce Ehresman, DNR wildlife diversity program biologist, said in a news release.

Bird watchers flock to Bexhill

Published on the 18 February 2015 

Russell Harrisson sent this wonderful photograph of a Snow Bunting spotted on Bexhill’s seafront. He said: “There has been a lot of excitement recently for bird watchers living in East Sussex with the arrival of a male Snow Bunting visiting the western end of Bexhill beach, near the toilet block by the raised beach huts.

Some of the local dog walkers say that the Snow Bunting has been seen regular since early January.

Small groups of birders can be seen daily eagerly awaiting with binoculars and cameras to view this little colourful bird.”

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Wading Birds: The Canary In The Coal Mine?

It's not a canary or a coal mine in Florida, but the idea from Audubon of Florida is the same. Wading birds hold the same function as the canary, and in this case the coal mine is the Everglades. Tabitha Cale with the society says things are dire.

The 20th annual Wading Bird Report shows some positive and negative stories about Everglades Restoration.

The 20th anniversary of the Wading Bird Report is out and there's some bad news. Everglades restoration is not going well. The report shows that in 2014 there were 34,714 wading bird nests in the Greater Everglades. That's 28 percent fewer than in 2013. 

The biggest drops included little blue herons, 83 percent, tricolored herons, 42 percent, and snowy egrets, 47 percent.

Counting wading bird nests is an indicator of where water flows are improving. The report shows the area with great progress is the Kissimmee River Basin. Meanwhile, Everglades National Park still needs improvement.

Rescuers come to aid of ailing trumpeter swan on St. Croix River

By Andy Rathbun, St. Paul Pioneer Press on Feb 18, 2015 at 12:53 p.m.

HUDSON, Wis. -- A trumpeter swan was seen on Valentine’s Day helping free a sick swan from ice on the St. Croix River near Hudson. Days later, it was a group of humans’ turn to help the bird in need.

Several people arrived on the bank of the St. Croix on Tuesday afternoon with nets, kayaks and a plan to catch a young swan that appeared to be suffering from lead poisoning.

The cygnet was among Wisconsin’s largest wintering flock of swans, but it had isolated itself from others and displayed other signs of lead poisoning — a common problem for trumpeter swans when they eat lead shot and sinkers from river and lake bottoms.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Asian songbird migrants in trouble

Published by surfbirds on February 18, 2015 courtesy of BirdLife International

Migratory songbirds in East Asia are in trouble, according to new research. The study calls for national action and international cooperation to deal with threats, as well as more monitoring and research to help understand and protect this unique migration system.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway, running from Siberia and Alaska down to South-East Asia and Australia, supports the greatest diversity of migratory birds on the planet, with 170 long distance migrant songbirds and over 80 short distance migrants. However, it is also one of most poorly studied of the world’s major migration routes. Remarkably little is known about the populations and ecology of many of its songbird migrants, which rely on habitats along the migratory route for their survival.

Reward offered after footage shows bid to kill goshawks

17 February 2015 Last updated at 18:17

Police said the men seemed to be attempting to kill the birds

Men suspected of trying to kill protected goshawks in Aberdeenshire are being sought after being captured by a special video camera.

RSPB Scotland deployed the camera on Forestry Commission land in May 2014 to monitor a nest at Glenochty, Strathdon.

Footage shows a group of men repeatedly visiting the area. Police said they seemed to be attempting to kill the birds and destroy the nest.

RSPB Scotland is offering £1,000 for information leading to a conviction.

Ian Thomson, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: "This video footage captured by our camera shows what appears to be an illegal incident involving the deliberate targeting of one of our rarest and specially protected birds of prey.

Continued ...

Monday 23 February 2015

Manipal is now a Bird Watcher’s Paradise

MANIPAL: The Manipal International University campus has become a bird watcher’s paradise thanks to a community founded by Shivashankar and Ramith Singhal.

During the recently held 5th edition of the Annual Manipal Bird Day, three new birds — including Tickell’s Thrush, Blue-eared Kingfisher and Slaty-breasted Rail, were sighted by participants from Dakshina Kananda and Udupi districts. This year, 75 participants were divided into 15 teams to explore 17 locations. Almost 20 bird watchers met again in the evening to count the waders at Manipal Lake and a few finished the day counting off nocturnal birds.

Bird watchers, firefighters rescue unusual duck trapped in Fox River

A group of volunteers and firefighters helped rescue a duck trapped in fishing line in the Fox River over the weekend.

The Harlequin duck, believed to be a juvenile male, was pulled out of the water early morning on Jan. 31 and brought to a local rehabilitation center.

Annette Prince, director of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, said bird watchers who saw the duck struggling in the water contacted her group for assistance. Prince said people also had reached out to her group weeks earlier because they saw the duck apparently suffering from a leg injury but could not get to him to offer aid.

"Because they can fly, they're not reachable," Prince said. "His wings were fully functioning, so he was able to get to food sources."

Sunday 22 February 2015

Cliff swallow breeding thwarted by bird version of bedbugs

Bedbugs are no fun, even when you’re a bird.

The species that bothers humans — Cimex lectularius — only feasts on us. But other animals have to deal with their own versions of the nasty parasite. Cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), for instance, are plagued by the American swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius). When swallow bugs infest cliff swallows’ gourd-shaped nests, it’s bad news for swallow nestlings, affecting the young birds’ development and survival.

The parasites are also bad for the parents, scientists report February 17 in Royal Society Open Science. But instead of taking a toll on the parents’ bodies, the swallow bugs affect breeding.

Dozens flocking to see striped sparrow

12:20 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 | Filed in: Round Rock

Richard Kostecke stood on the side of a Williamson County road for more than two hours peering on and off through a telescope. Then he quietly said, “I’ve got it.”

Right in the middle of his lens was a bird never before seen in the wild in the United States.

The striped sparrow, recognizable by a black mask-like stripe on its head, was perched on a shrub 200 feet away on a sunny February afternoon. It was 700 miles away from its home in the western mountain ranges of Mexico, said Kostecke, the associate director of conservation for the Nature Conservancy in Texas.
The striped sparrow has been seen mixed in with a variety of other small birds feeding on crushed pecans and other food resources, with plenty of water nearby from a Williamson County creek.

It was the second sighting of the bird for Kostecke. He was the first person to see it on Jan. 11 on County Road 428, east of its intersection with County Road 361 near Granger Lake. Since then, more than 100 people from across the country have traveled to the area to glimpse it.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Research trio finds bluebird mothers give sons extra dose of androgen when antagonized

(—A trio of researchers has found that western bluebird mothers add a little extra androgen to clutches of eggs during times when there is competition for nest cavities. In their paper published in the journal Science, University of Arizona biologists Renée Duckworth, Virginia Belloni and Samantha Anderson describe how they conducted a ten year field study of the bird species and also carried out some experiments to learn more about induced maternal effects on the cycle of species replacement. Ben Dantzer, with the University of Michigan, offers a Perspectives piece on the work by the team in the same journal edition.

Fearless birds and big city spiders: Is urbanization pushing earth's evolution to a tipping point?

February 18, 2015

University of Washington

That humans and our cities build affect the ecosystem and even drive some evolutionary change is already known. What's new is that these evolutionary changes are happening more quickly than previously thought, and have potential impacts on ecosystem function on a contemporary scale. Not in the distant future, that is -- but now.

Man fined for allowing bird trap on farm

Published on the 18 February 2015 

A national figure in the field sports industry has been fined £4,000 for allowing a pole trap to be used to protect his partridges and pheasants from birds of prey.

Michael Wood had denied allowing traps “big enough to kill a mink” to be set by employees at his Yorkshire farm to break the legs of predators such as raptors.

Wood, Chairman of the Game Farmers’ Association, believed he was “targeted” by the RSPB who viewed him as “public enemy number one,” his lawyers told Scarborough Magistrates Court.

But Wood, 69, ‎who lives in a Grade Two listed manor house near York, passed two of the traps on his farm near Pickering and must have known they were there, the court ruled.

‎He was also ordered to pay £750 court costs and a £120 victim surcharge, giving a total legal bill of £4,870, following the undercover surveillance by RSPB investigators.

Friday 20 February 2015

Police and RSPB appeal for information on shooting of protected bird

Published by surfbirds on February 18, 2015 courtesy of RSPB

Norfolk Police and the RSPB have appealed for anyone with any information about the shooting of a little bustard in Norfolk last month, to come forward.

The bird was discovered dead on a road close to the village of Blofield, five miles from Norwich, on January 22nd and the RSPB and Norfolk Police were informed.

A post-mortem veterinary examination found that the bird had very recently been shot and that this had caused its death.

Australian Birds React to Climate Change

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 3:00pm
Univ. of Adelaide

Univ. of Adelaide researchers are contributing to a large international study aiming to advance the understanding of how different groups of birds tolerate and respond to heat stress.

PhD student and veterinarian Shangzhe Xie and a team from the university’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences are researching the physiological and behavioral mechanisms underlying heat tolerance in wild and captive Australian birds.

“Australian birds are increasingly under threat from extreme weather conditions, and as temperatures continue to rise with climate change, sensitive groups of birds will begin to feel the heat,” says Xie.

“At the moment we are unable to measure the sensitivities of individual bird species to extreme climate events such as heat waves. It’s important we learn more about this as increasingly large numbers of birds die during heatwaves in Australia and overseas,” he says. In a study concluded last summer, Xie and his team measured several physiological parameters, including the evaporative water loss and metabolic rates of Australian desert birds in different temperatures. They found different groups of Australian desert bird species can tolerate heat to different extents.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Study confirms the feasibility of tracking parrots with GPS telemetry


Yes, it is possible to study parrots with GPS trackers--you just have to make them beak-proof. For a new paper in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, Erin Kennedy, George Perry, and Todd Dennis of the University of Auckland and Joshua Kemp and Corey Mosen of New Zealand's Department of Conservation tested the feasibility of tracking parrots with GPS dataloggers in Arthur's Pass National Park in New Zealand. Their parrot of choice was the Kea (Nestor notabilis), a large, intelligent, mountain-dwelling bird perhaps best known for its fearless interactions with tourists and their cars.

While GPS telemetry is one of the best methods for tracking the movements of wild birds, researches have hesitated to apply it to parrots, concerned that the dataloggers may not stand up to their large crushing beaks, high manual dexterity, and curiosity. To make their tracking devices as parrot-proof as possible, Kennedy and her colleagues encased them in tough polymer and attached them to backpack harnesses before placing them on captured Keas. After a week, the researchers recaptured the study birds to remove the harnesses and assess how they were affected by wearing the devices and how well the devices performed.

Genetic evidence shows penguins have 'bad taste'

February 16, 2015

Cell Press

Penguins apparently can't enjoy or even detect the savory taste of the fish they eat or the sweet taste of fruit. A new analysis of the genetic evidence suggests that the flightless, waddling birds have lost three of the five basic tastes over evolutionary time. For them, it appears, food comes in only two flavors: salty and sour.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Even animals compose: What it means to be a musical species

February 17, 2015

University of Vienna

Music is found in all human cultures and thus appears to be part of our biology and not simply a cultural phenomenon. One approach to studying the biology of music is to examine other species to see if they share some of the features that make up human musicality.

Public opinion forces UK government to hold enquiry over Nightingale site development

One of England's best Nightingale sites is under threat

The Government has heeded pleas from more than 12,400 people concerned about the future of England’s finest Nightingale site - Lodge Hill in Kent.

It has called in for a public inquiry on an application to build 5,000 homes on Lodge Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Kent.

Martin Harper, Conservation Director of the RSPB, which led a campaign in support of the site, says: “There has been public outrage and condemnation that a site of national importance for wildlife has been considered for development without public scrutiny.

“We are delighted that the Government has listened to these concerns, and has reached the only logical conclusion.”

Call in means that this case will be examined at the highest level where the full merits and values of the site and associated issues can be aired.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Smile for the camera! Bird called the Tawny frogmouth grins for his close up from his perch

Smile for the camera! Bird called the Tawny frogmouth grins for his close up from his perch 
Bizarre-looking bird was spotted in Queensland on Australia's east coast
Nocturnal animal was perched on a branch next to two fellow frogmouths 
The amateur photographer was amazed by creature's startled-looking smile
Birds often camoflauged in golden shower trees, known as Cassia Fistula

PUBLISHED: 17:54, 15 February 2015 | UPDATED: 18:57, 15 February 2015

It may not have the sweetest-sounding name - but apparently this Tawny frogmouth still has plenty to smile about.

The remarkable-looking bird was spotted perching on a branch in eastern Australia with a startled expression on its face resembling a comical beaming grin.

The colourful owl-like creature was captured on camera by Malcolm Catchlove, 52, who saw it while visiting relatives in Woodgate, Queensland, for new year celebrations.

Smile for the camera! A Tawny frogmouth beams as its picture is taken in Queensland, eastern Australia

The architectural drafter, from Brisbane, looked on in amazement as the animal stared back at him from a treetop while two fellow Tawny frogmouths got in a flap next to it.

He said: 'We were visiting my wife's family for the New Year at Woodgate, a small seaside village on the southern coast of Queensland.

New Indian radar offers aircraft protection against bird hits

IANS | New Delhi 
February 3, 2015 Last Updated at 15:34 IST

A new Indian radar - a global first - offers protection against the menace of aircraft bird hits while another can detect and track unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the company that developed them said Tuesday. The company is eyeing domestic and international markets.

The two radars, among the four indigenously developed, are to be unveiled at the Aero India 2015 exposition at Bengaluru later this month, Sanjay Bhandari, founder chairman and managing director of OIS-Advanced Technology (OIS-AT), told reporters here.

The other two radars are a foliage penetration minefield and IED detection system, and a portable ground surveillance radar system for military and homeland security applications.

Monday 16 February 2015

Ornithologist studies bird lice for answers on pathogens and evolution

Jan 05, 2015 by Sandy Bauers, The Philadelphia Inquirer

When Jason Weckstein looks at a bird, he doesn't see just a creature with feathers that flies.

He sees the bird as a teeming community of tiny creatures, some of which live and feast on its feathers, or that roam more widely and engage in more general mayhem, including gorging on the bird's blood.

When he talks about these things, his eyes light up and he smiles with pleasure.

"When I'm in the field, when I'm out bird-watching, I think, 'Boy, I'd love to get the parasites off that host, '" he said.

Weckstein, 43, is an expert on chewing lice - about 4,000 of them are known to live on birds - and this year left the Field Museum in Chicago to become associate curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Avian cholera returns after decades, kills thousands of Nevada birds

Jeff DeLong, RGJ4:21 p.m. PST February 2, 2015

Thousands of birds have died at Walker Lake from a disease experts say hasn't made an appearance in Nevada in decades.

An estimated 3,000 birds — most of them American coots and ducks — have died in an outbreak of avian cholera since early December in an event that still is unfolding. As many as 10 percent of Walker Lake's ducks may have died.

"It is still an ongoing outbreak," said Peregrine Wolff, veterinarian for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

The event marks the first time for an outbreak of avian cholera in Nevada since the 1980s, Wolff said.

The highly infectious and quick-killing disease is unrelated to the avian flu that has spread among waterfowl in neighboring states and which experts said last Friday was found in a duck in Nevada's Lincoln County late in January. Avian cholera poses no threat to people or dogs.

Bald Eagle Numbers Increase in New Hampshire

NH Audubon 35th midwinter survey shows 34 percent increase compared to last year.
By Tony Schinella (Patch Staff)February 15, 2015 at 8:01am 

NH Audubon recently completed its annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey with a new state record high of 90 bald eagles counted in one day. This is a 34 percent increase over last year, when observers counted 67 birds. Overall, a record 102 volunteer observers participated in the event, which was coordinated in partnership with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program and the U.S. Geological Survey. This trend is promising for conservationists who have been tracking eagle populations since 1981.

“The 2015 count results are truly remarkable,” said Chris Martin, senior biologist at NH Audubon. “Thanks to the efforts of more than 100 volunteers this year and hundreds more over the past 35 years, we’re seeing results from our efforts to protect this threatened species in New Hampshire. To say we are excited would be an understatement.”

Sunday 15 February 2015

Global bird conservation could be four times more cost-effective

05 January 2015 

Targeting conservation efforts to safeguard biodiversity, rather than focusing on charismatic species, could make current spending on threatened birds four times more effective, a new study has shown.

The research, by Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), is the first to link the costs of protecting threatened species with their genetic distinctiveness, measured in millions of years of evolution. It identifies the top 20 birds for safeguarding maximum biodiversity with minimum spend, of which number one on the list - Botha's Lark - currently receives no conservation spending at all.

The researchers focused on some 200 birds categorised in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered, in a study published today, 5 January, in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

They found that if conservation spending on these birds continues along current lines, only 85.9 million years of evolutionary history will be safeguarded, compared to a potential impact of 340 million years.

Rare Harlequin duck in Aberdeen attracts bird watchers

5 January 2015 Last updated at 14:48

The duck was first spotted at the weekend
The arrival of a rare duck which has only been spotted in the UK a handful of times has attracted scores of bird watchers to an Aberdeen river.

The female Harlequin duck was first sighted on the River Don on Saturday.

Twitchers have travelled from across Scotland to catch sight of the bird, which is normally only resident in Iceland and North America.

The local RSPB group said there had only been 10 recorded sightings in the UK since 1950.

Avian malaria also affects wild birds in Austria

February 10, 2015

University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Avian malaria is not uncommon in Central Europe, as many endemic wild birds are infected with species of Plasmodium, which cause avian malaria. In most cases these blood parasites, transmitted by mosquitoes, do not produce any symptoms in endemic birds, as they have adapted to the parasites. A team of pathologists recently showed for the first time that native birds, too, are susceptible to avian malaria.

Saturday 14 February 2015

US Government plans to cull 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants

It could soon be open season on Double-crested Cormorants in the Columbia River

In order to protect young salmon and steelhead trout in the Columbia River, US federal officials have come up with a proposal to cull around 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants that feed off them, reports the online National Monitor.

The fish are listed under the Endangered Species Act as either threatened or endangered. 
If the proposal wins a final approval, state agriculture workers will also need to spray cormorant eggs with vegetable oil to prevent young chicks from hatching.

The drastic move was suggested as a result of an Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently being reviewed. Originally an even greater number of birds, 18,000, were destined to be shot over a period of four years. 

Mutilated Costa Rican toucan 'to get prosthetic beak'

11 February 2015 Last updated at 11:58

A toucan in Costa Rica which lost the upper part of its beak after being attacked by youths looks set to be fitted with a prosthetic replacement.

Four Costa Rican companies that have volunteered their help say they possess the skills to create a prosthesis for the injured bird.

They say they will use 3D printing to create the first prosthesis of this kind in the region.

In the US, prosthetic beaks have been created for an eagle and a penguin.

The male toucan, named Grecia after the area where it was found, was taken to an animal rescue centre in January.

Pictures of its mutilated beak caused outrage after they were circulated in Costa Rican newspapers and on social media.

A campaign to provide the bird with a prosthetic beak quickly raised thousands of dollars and a number of local companies offered their help.

Four of them, Elementos 3d, Ewa!corps, Publicidad Web and Grupo Sommerus, said on Tuesday that they were confident they could design a suitable prosthetic for Grecia and fit it.

Toucans use their beaks to eat and also to regulate their body temperature.

Friday 13 February 2015

Extreme mechano-sensitive neurons of tactile-foraging ducks fit the bill for touch research

February 11, 2015

Biophysical Society

Mechanosensation is one of our fundamental physiological processes, on par with sight and smell, but how it works on a cellular level remains poorly understood, holding back development of effective treatments for mechanosensory disorders like chronic pain. Now, a team of researchers has identified a new model organism that may help elucidate the cellular mechanisms behind mechanosensation: the ordinary duck.

Gannet colony on Bass Rock is world’s largest

The colony of Northern Gannets at Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth has been confirmed as the world’s largest colony with around 75,000 occupied sites, an increase of 24 percent since the last count in 2009.

Stuart Murray, who carried out the count in conjunction with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said: "The colony was photographed from the air on 23 June 2014. Conditions were excellent, with no wind and a high cover of thick cloud which obscured the sun, reducing the glare from all these startlingly white birds. The images were later viewed on computer screens for counting and each occupied site was blocked-out as it was counted.

"Interestingly, the most dramatic increase is between the old lighthouse keepers’ garden and the summit of the Rock. We counted around 10,000 sites in this area compared with 6,500 five years ago." 

Sarah Wanless, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: “It is particularly heartening to see them doing so well when so many other seabirds in Scotland appear to be in trouble, however, the Bass Rock is a small island and the gannets have now filled most of the available nesting habitat. The colony now has only very limited capacity for further increase.”

Thursday 12 February 2015

A gene that shaped the evolution of Darwin's finches

February 11, 2015

Princeton University
Researchers have identified a gene in Galápagos finches studied by English naturalist Charles Darwin that influences beak shape and that played a role in the birds' evolution from a common ancestor. The study illustrates the genetic foundation of evolution, including how genes can flow from one species to another, and how different versions of a gene within a species can contribute to the formation of new species.