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.

Tuesday 31 March 2015

Large bird kill reported near Picher

Nearly 100 dead birds were seen by several travelers east of Hwy 69 and 69a junction south of Picher Friday evening.

Posted: Monday, March 30, 2015 3:49 pm

COMMERCE — Several people in the area reported seeing a large amount of dead blackbirds, most estimates around 100, on the highway between Commerce and Quapaw near Picher over the weekend.

According to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Information and Education Supervisor Micah Holmes, the most likely cause of the birds' demise was natural causes or weather-related issues during their migration. Holmes said his department did not receive any reports of this specific bird kill incident, which occurred on Highway 69 and 69A south of Picher on Friday evening.

Songbirds return to Calgary for spring breeding

Canada is the 'nursery' for American songbirds, says Calgary bird expert

CBC News Posted: Mar 30, 2015 3:11 PM MT Last Updated: Mar 30, 2015 3:11 PM MT

If you haven't seen them, you've likely heard them.

"Canada is the nursery of the North American songbird," said Chris Fisher, the author of Birds of Alberta. 

After migrating to warmer, southern climates for the winter the harbinger of spring — the American robin — is among the first species to flock back to Calgary.

"Calgary and Alberta in particular are just great places to have little babies," adds the Calgary bird expert.

Fisher says songbirds return to the province for the summer because there is less food competition, fewer predators and wide open spaces. 

This is the one bird that must never represent Britain

Ten candidates are on the shortlist to become our national bird; but one imposter is fast making a bid

6:05AM GMT 17 Mar 2015

There are two national votes on May 7, both involving controversial, scheming and sometimes preening individuals. One is the general election and the other is a poll to find a national bird of Britain. There is little doubt which Britons will enjoy participating in more.

Britain has never had a national bird, but it has a deep-rooted love of the creatures. With 1.1 million on its books, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has more paid-up members than all of the political parties put together. Birds are not just part of the English language, they are the punctuation marks that measure the passing of time: the first cuckoo of spring, swallow of summer or robin atop a snowy garden fence. Tweet of the Day preceding the Today programme has almost become as much part of Radio 4 as the pips.

David Goode, the author of Nature in Towns and Cities, says: “A love of birds is a very definite British thing. When the great Victorian natural history societies of Manchester or Birmingham organised trips to, say, the Peak District or North Wales they would hire special trains so great was the demand.”

But for all our avian affection, we do not have a national bird. Sweden has the blackbird, Mongolia has the saker falcon, but Britain has no official feathered friend. The vote to rectify this has been proposed by David Lindo, a keen birdwatcher and a passionate believer in birds as a force for good. So far it is an unofficial vote, but he says: “We’re talking to government.”

He drew up a longlist of 60 birds last year. Following hundreds of thousands of online votes, it has been whittled down to 10: barn owl, blackbird, blue tit, hen harrier, kingfisher, mute swan, puffin, red kite, robin and wren.

Monday 30 March 2015

Big Interview: What persuaded Jemima Parry Jones to buy Newent's birds of prey centre three times

For Jemima Parry Jones, The International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent is more than just a visitor centre with a worldwide reputation. It's also her home.

The centre is gearing up to welcome visitors for the Easter holidays and spring is well and truly under way.

Baby owls are expected to hatch this week, and a Condor is expected to hatch in April.

"And the centre is looking wonderful right now with wild daffodils in flower. There's always something different to see every time you visit," said Jemima.

The International Centre for Birds of Prey has been the home that Jemima has returned to time and time again and she laughs when she explains she has bought the centre three times.

The birds of prey centre was founded by her father Philip Glasier in 1966, when Jemima was 17, and now half a century later it has become a leading conservation centre and visitor attraction.

But it hasn't been an easy journey to build it up to its world class status.

For a start it has involved flying more than 100 birds across the Atlantic, and back again.

Jemima worked with her father and the rest of the family to get the centre off the ground in the early days.

She later flew the nest, and moved to London where she studied musical drama at the Guildhall, alongside fellow students including Celia Imrie and Bill Nighy, and then spent three years at the Royal Academy of Music studying singing and piano.

RSPB shock at M4 relief road decision

Birdwatch news team
Posted on: 30 Mar 2015

A judicial review has concluded that Friends of the Earth Cymru does not have sufficient evidence to mount a full challenge against the Welsh government regarding the construction of a relief road around Newport, RSPB Cymru has announced. The charity has said that it is “shocked and disappointed” at the decision, which was revealed on 26 March.

The so-called Black Route, an M4 relief road to ease congestion around Newport, will run through part of the Gwent Levels. Much of the levels are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and are home to a variety of rare and declining animal and plant species, including Northern Lapwing.

The review considered whether FoE Cymru could mount a challenge based on three grounds for concern:• The Welsh government failed in its duties in relation to the conservation and enhancement of the SSSIs and didn’t acknowledge the harm the plan will do to those protected sites.
• The government didn’t identify, describe and evaluate reasonable alternatives.
• The government didn’t consider an increase in carbon emissions if the new road is built in the context of its own climate change policies and emission targets.

Council could ban bird feeding in revamped square

Published date: 30 March 2015 | Published by: Owen Evans 

PIGEON excrement is blighting a town square which has just undergone a £500,000 improvement.

Plans are now in the pipeline to ban people feeding birds in the Daniel Owen Square in Mold.

Mold Town Council is exploring ways of reducing the amount of bird droppings in the town centre square, named after Mold’s literary great.

A council meeting heard that people leaving feed for birds in the square was adding to the problem.

Town Mayor Carol Heycocks said: “The seats are covered in bird droppings.”

The square has just undergone a massive revamp which saw extensive landscaping, a raised platform to serve as an artistic hub for performers and the Daniel Owen statue moved.

Sunday 29 March 2015

Oddie backs red grouse for Britain’s national bird

Bill Oddie is clearly a little hot under the collar the moment, as he makes his case for the red grouse being adopted as Britain's national bird. His suggestion has arisen because the famous naturalist and former comedy star of the Goodies is concerned that certain wealthy people in society are killing the feathered moorfowl for sport. By elevating the bird to national 'emblem' status, he feels that they are likely to receive more protection and the people who are currently killing them may think twice about their actions.

Speaking earnestly and very obviously from the heart at the Oxford Literary Festival, Oddie asked the assembled audience how they thought that people would react about "blasting the national bird to buggery?" His comments were in reaction to what he perceives as the actions of a number of rich "dishonest, cruel" people in society, who have been hunting the red grouse for what he views as being purely for the reasons of sport.

Why Did the Pink Chickens Cross the Road?

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The mystery of Portland's pink chickens is solved.

Multnomah County Animal Services says the birds' owner told the agency he used food coloring, beet juice and Kool-Aid to dye the two birds, then released them to "make people smile."

Owner Bruce Whitman of Portland says the prank succeeded beyond his wildest hopes. In his words, "I didn't expect to get this many people to smile."

He says he tucked the chickens into a tree to roost early Thursday in a waterfront park, figuring they'd wake to a good day with water nearby and bugs to eat, spread some smiles and he'd pick them up Thursday evening. He soon heard news reports that the birds had become poultry celebrities.

Saturday 28 March 2015

RSPB backs pheasant shoots and says they’re good for the countryside

Wildlife benefits from management of copses and hedgerows, argues conservation director

Sunday 29 March 2015 00.05 GMTLast modified on Sunday 29 March 201500.09 GMT

The UK’s managed shoot industry, which sees millions of pheasants raised and shot every year, has received support from an unexpected quarter.

In a blog published on the website of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, its conservation director Martin Harper has praised the role of managed shoots in protecting wildlife.

“The contribution progressive shoots can make to supporting threatened wildlife is significant, and we are delighted to help them further,” Harper wrote. “This isn’t a contradiction. We simply do whatever nature needs and will work with anyone that wants to help wildlife.”

His views might come as a surprise to some of the RSPB’s 1.1 million members, who would have been persuaded by its original pledge “to discourage the wanton destruction of birds”; they would equally have been a surprise to the RSPB’s detractors in the shooting world.

Sexual selection not the last word on bird plumage

Among birds the world over, natural selection - during migration, breeding in subtropical locales and care of young - is as powerful as sexual selection, researchers have found.

Looking at nearly 1,000 species of birds, the team from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that while males often have brighter feathers than females, the two sexes have come closer together in colour over time to blend into their surroundings and hide from predators.

"Our study shows that ecology and behaviour are driving the colour of both sexes, and it is not due to sexual selection," said Peter Dunn and Linda Whittingham, professors of biological sciences at UW-Milwaukee.

Although most studies of bird plumage focus on dichromatism, evolutionary change has most often led to similar, rather than different, plumage in males and females, the authors wrote in the journal Science Advances.

The team spent four years collecting data from 977 species of birds from six museums in the US and Australia.

They analysed the data, assigning each bird a colour score based on scales of brightness and hue.

Friday 27 March 2015

Exotic bird is captured in Suffolk by animal sanctuary - and identified as a rhea

07:15 27 March 2015

An exotic bird seen roaming the Suffolk countryside has been safely captured and taken in by an animal sanctuary.

The six-foot bird, now confirmed to be a rhea, caused a flap when it was seen wandering around a field next to the water tower north of Hollesley, near Woodbridge.

How the bird arrived in the field remains a mystery to staff at Hillside Animal Sanctuary, in Frettenham, Norfolk, who answered the call for help catching the bird, which has been identified as a rhea, native to South America – not an ostrich, or an emu, as speculated.

It took staff a while to net the bird, which can reach speeds of up to 40mph and had eluded previous attempts.

Once caught, they loaded it in a trailer and took it to the sanctuary, where it is staying in a stable.

How did the chicken cross the sea?

March 26, 2015

Michigan State University

It may sound like the makings of a joke, but answering the question of how chickens crossed the sea may soon provide more than just a punch line. Researchers have studied the mysterious ancestry of the feral chicken population that has overrun the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.

Snakes ravage nests in forest reserve February 26, 2015 - via Herp Digest

A forest fragment might seem like a poor habitat for birds. But in Costa Rica, scientists have found that one bird species is faring much better in fragments than in a nearby forest reserve, where snakes are killing nestlings at an alarming rate.
The researchers studied chestnut-backed antbirds, which live in the forest understory. This species is unusual because it tends to hang on in forest fragments, while other birds vanish.
The team looked for the antbirds in three types of landscapes in Costa Rica: an intact swath of old-growth forest, a protected peninsula at La Selva Biological Station, and two forest fragments. At each site, the scientists monitored nests with video cameras, collecting more than 22,000 hours of footage at 99 nests. The team then reviewed the videos to identify predators that had eaten the eggs or nestlings.
Surprisingly, the birds’ population density was the highest in the forest fragments. The team counted about 40 to 47 pairs of birds per 100 hectares in the fragments but only 17 and 9 pairs per 100 hectares in the intact forest and La Selva reserve, respectively.
The forest fragments also had among the lowest nest predation rates. Nests had a 64 and 72 percent chance of being raided in the two fragments, compared to 79 percent in the intact forest and 95 percent at the reserve. Predators included snakes, fire ants, an opossum, an ocelot, and a hawk. But the bird-eating snake (Pseustes poecilonotus) was by far the deadliest, accounting for about 80 percent of the nest attacks.
The results suggest that attacks on eggs and nestlings are not driving chestnut-backed antbirds to decline in forest fragments, the team says. “[F]ragments may instead provide refuge from nest predation, allowing population increase,” the authors write in Biological Conservation. However, it’s also possible that the species is just taking advantage of the disappearance of other, less hardy antbirds.
Bird-eating snakes might thrive at La Selva because they are protected from hunting and have few predators, the authors speculate. To find out more about the snakes’ activity, researchers could capture some of the animals and equip them with radio transmitters. — Roberta Kwok | 26 February 2015
Source: Increased abundance, but reduced nest predation in the chestnut-backed antbird in Costa Rican rainforest fragments: surprising impacts of a pervasive snake species. Biological Conservation doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.01.015.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Audubon to file suit over bird 'slaughter'

Created on Thursday, 26 March 2015 07:00 | Written by Jennifer Anderson |

Management plan shoots cormorants to save Columbia salmon

In response, the Audubon Society of Portland just announced its intent to sue the Corps over the action.

“We are deeply disappointed that despite more than 145,000 comments opposing this decision, the federal government has chosen to move forward with the wanton slaughter of thousands of protected birds,” Audubon Society of Portland Conservation Director Bob Sallinger said in a statement.

“Rather than addressing the primary cause of salmon decline, the manner in which the Corps operates the Columbia River Hydropower System, the Corps has instead decided to scapegoat wild birds and pursue a slaughter of historic proportions. Sadly, this will do little or nothing to protect wild salmon, but it will put double-crested cormorant populations in real jeopardy.”

RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch confirms many species still declining

Starlings and house sparrow numbers dwindling as survey reveals long-term downward trend despite overall boost to populations due to a warm winter and bumper harvests

Thursday 26 March 2015 06.01 GMTLast modified on Thursday 26 March 201506.03 GMT

The number of backyard researchers in the world’s biggest citizen science survey was up this year, but participants found populations of many bird species continued to decline.

More than 585,000 people took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch. The survey took place over a January weekend, as it has for the past 36 years.

The number of amateur scientists was almost 100,000 more than last year, falling just short of the record participation in 2011. The RSPB said friendly media coverage and support from celebrities had helped inspire Britons to be involved.

Citizen science allows scientists to tap the vast resources of an interested and passionate public by asking them to act as observers of nature. Dr Daniel Hayhow, a scientist at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, said the numbers of people taking the time to join the bird watch was “really exciting and the dataset that we have is a real goldmine”.

Hayhow said: “Personally its a really great privilege to have that many people as your research assistants. I know that it opens up the eyes of some people. I’ve seen the comments that they write alongside their entries saying how much they’ve enjoyed and how much they’ve gained from doing it.”

House sparrow rule roost in Scotland's gardens

25 March 2015 
From the sectionHighlands & Islands

House sparrows were the most commonly spotted bird in gardens in Scotland, according to an RSPB survey.

More than 43,000 people across Scotland took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch held on 24-25 January.

Starlings were the second most seen bird followed by chaffinches. Tree sparrows were ranked 16 - their highest position for 10 years.

Coal tits had the biggest fall in the rankings, going from number nine last year to 13 in 2015.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

'Most attractive' male birds don't have best genes

March 23, 2015

University College London

'Attractive' male birds that mate with many females aren't passing on the best genes to their offspring, according to new research that found promiscuity in male birds leads to small, genetic faults in the species' genome. Although minor, these genetic flaws may limit how well future generations can adapt to changing environments.

Licence to kill mutton birds issued to 3yo children; Tasmanian Conservation trust raises concerns

By Emilie Gramenz
March 25, 2015, 6:20 pm

The issuing of licences to three-year-olds in Tasmania to kill mutton birds is being investigated by the state's Environment Department.

Department figures for 2014 show three children aged three years or younger received licences to kill mutton birds, also known as short-tailed shearwaters.

The issue has been raised by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust which has sought answers about the current procedure for issuing non-commercial recreational licences.

The licence states the birds need to be killed as humanely as possible, by having their necks snapped or dislocated.

The trust's Peter McGlone said he doubts a young child would be physically able to kill the bird humanely.

"You have to snap the neck of the bird, and these are birds that probably weigh about the same as a domestic chook, and I find it hard to believe that a two or three-year-old can actually do what is required to instantaneously kill a shearwater," he said.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Reward Offered for Info in Shooting of Brown Pelican

March 24, 2015 1:30 PM

Someone shot a pelican in Southern California recently, and a bird rehab organization is offering $5,000 for information that leads to the shooter's arrest and conviction.

According to the International Bird Rescue, an injured male brown pelican that could not fly was captured in Redondo Beach March 12. Redondo Beach Animal Control brought the pelican to International Bird Rescue, where staff determined via X-ray that a bullet had shattered its ulna.

International Bird Rescue veterinary staff operated to repair the fracture and clean shrapnel from the wound, but though vets are guardedly optimistic, the bird's survival is by no means certain. Injuring brown pelicans is a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, with fines of up to $2,000 and two years' imprisonment possible for a single offense.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results for Staffordshire swoop in

More than a million eyes took up the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch challenge of 'seeing things through the eyes of a bird' this year, witnessing some exciting and interesting changes among our most popular garden birds.

In excess of 585,000 people across the country spent an hour during the weekend of 24 and 25 January watching their garden and recording any feathered friends that made a flying visit - close to a 100,000 increase on 2014; 7,823 people took part from across Staffordshire.

This year in the Midlands, 1.5 million birds were counted. The house sparrow remained the most commonly-reported bird, with an average of four in each garden. Blackbirds swooped in at number two, appearing in 90 per cent of all gardens, while the blue tit was the third-most spotted bird.

Overall more than eight-and-a-half million birds were spotted, making it another bumper year. Refreshingly, sightings of every bird that featured in this year's top 20 increased on the numbers recorded in 2014, apart from the three finches; chaffinch, goldfinch and greenfinch.

Starling slaughter leaves northern Nevada awash with rotting birds

‘It was like a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds’ as 1m starlings descend on state

Federal government poisons birds to protect livestock from disease

Associated Press in Reno

Tuesday 24 March 2015 19.35 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 24 March 201520.38 GMT

Land owners surprised to discover tens of thousands of dead birds across the high desert are criticising the federal government over a mass killing of starlings in northern Nevada.

The US Department of Agriculture said a pesticide was used to destroy the birds to prevent the spread of disease to dairy cows.

Some area residents, however, say the government should have done more to alert the public and to dispose of the dead birds.

Monday 23 March 2015

Rainbow lorikeets eating meat leaves bird experts astonished

By Matt Watson

The behaviour of a population of rainbow lorikeets who frequent a backyard feeding station on a property north of Brisbane has left bird experts baffled.

The lorikeets are eating meat and Griffith University's Professor Darryl Jones is shocked.

Professor Jones, who is researching the impact of backyard feeding on bird populations, said lorikeets usually eat nectar and pollen which they obtain from native plants and shrubs.

"I have researched what birds feed on all around the world," Professor Jones said.

"I'm up to date with all the kinds of crazy things that birds are eating all over Australia.

"To see a lorikeet eating meat astonishes me completely. I have never heard of such a thing before."

For years, Bill, who owns the Elimbah property, has put out pets mince for magpies, currawongs and kookaburras.

He also puts out seed for vegetarian birds like galahs, king parrots and the lorikeets.

He feeds about a dozen birds each day and knows they are spoilt for choice when it comes to food.

Gross grackles: What to do about the herd of bird

Claire Kowalick
3:00 AM, Mar 23, 2015
3 hours ago

WICHITA FALLS - With the arrival of spring, the large flock of great-tailed grackles that have gathered by the thousands in the center of town may soon be on their way.

Lou Kreidler, director of the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District, said they have received complaints about the birds and the excrement they leave behind under trees and around businesses in the heavily trafficked area of Kemp Boulevard and Call Field Road.

“The city does not do bird control, except when they interfere with aviation,” Kreidler said.

Tasmanian government ignored expert advice on logging threat to swift parrots

Liberal government approved logging against advice from its own department that it could threaten the survival of the species, documents reveal

Sunday 22 March 2015 20.12 GMTLast modified on Sunday 22 March 201522.54 GMT

Lathamus discolor Bruny 1.jpgThe Tasmanian government ignored the advice of its own experts to push ahead with logging in the habitat of the endangered swift parrot, internal departmental documents have revealed.
The documents show that experts warned the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment of the impact of approving logging in five areas of forest in the state’s south-east.

In one area, called a logging coupe, the advice states that the felling of trees will “result in the continued loss of breeding habitat that has been identified as being of very high importance for the species with the further fragmentation of foraging habitat. This cannot contribute to the long-term survival of the species.”

The advice adds that the area earmarked for logging is “within close proximity to known nesting sites for the species.”

It warns that any logging is “likely to interfere with the recovery objectives for the species as outlined above. There is no scientific evidence to support the position that continued harvesting of breeding habitat will support conservation objectives for the species.”

Sunday 22 March 2015

Scientists raid mangrove finch nests as they battle to save birds discovered by Charles Darwin from extinction

Camarhynchus heliobates.pngNests built by a species of finch which was discovered by Charles Darwin have been raided in an eleventh-hour bid to save the bird from extinction.

Just 80 mangrove finches are left alive on the Galapagos Islands, the only place in the world where they are found, having declined catastrophically since the arrival of Darwin on HMS Beagle in 1835.
With the birds on the brink of extinction, an international team of scientists decided they needed to take the desperate course of taking the eggs and raising the chicks themselves, rather than leave them with their parents in the wild.

Help protect House Martin nests

Posted on: 22 Mar 2015

The RSPB are asking the public to protect House Martin nests by reporting anyone who removes them during the breeding season.

House Martins can be seen building their almost spherical mud nests on the sides of houses or farm buildings, usually just under the eaves in a sheltered corner, or on a southerly facing wall to get the warmth of the sun.

A House Martin nest is painstakingly constructed from hundreds of clumps of wet mud mixed with straw and grass to make a closed cup shape, with just a small hole as an entrance and exit. Adult birds will fix old nests and add to them, often using the same nest year after year. 

An uncommon kerfuffle over a rare Hitchin bird which could rewrite the record books if the experts agree

A stuffed bird from Victorian times gathering dust in a museum stockroom is causing a flutter in learned circles as experts decide whether it can be confirmed as the first specimen of its type recorded in the UK.

Mike Ilett from the Herts bird club with the north Herts museum service specimen he identified as a Least Bittern

The Least Bittern – Ixobrychus exilis in Latin – is normally found in North America.

It breeds in reed beds and can be difficult to observe due to its shy and secretive nature – and until now has never been recorded in the UK.

All that could be about to change, but Mark Ilett – who chairs the Herts Rare Birds Panel and is co-author of Birds of Hertfordshire, isn’t getting his hopes up just yet.

The bird in question is part of the collection held at Hitchin Museum, and at the moment it’s held in storage while the heritage base transfers from its former home next to the town library to the revamped Hitchin Town Hall site, which is due to open its doors later this year.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Hummingbird, thought extinct, rediscovered in Colombia

ByMICHAEL CASEYCBS NEWSMarch 20, 2015, 5:44 PM

Conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez had gone into a Columbian mountain range looking to document fires burning in the fragile ecosystem.

A blue-bearded helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) caught on camera in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park, Colombia. Image credit: Carlos Julio Rojas / ProAves.
Image credit: Carlos Julio Rojas / ProAves
They ended up rediscovering a hummingbird that had not been seen since 1946 and was believed to have gone extinct.

The duo earlier this month managed to snap the only known photographs of the blue-bearded helmetcrest.
As he hiked through the region's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park, Rojas said he "saw the flash of a bird screeching past me and saw it perch on a bush nearby."

"I managed to take a quick photo of it before it flew off. I then reviewed the photo on the camera screen and immediately recognized the strikingly patterned hummingbird as the long-lost blue-bearded helmetcrest," said Rojas, whose discovery was first reported in the journal ProAves. "I was ecstatic. After reports of searches by ornithologists failing to find this spectacular species, Christian and I were the first people alive to see it for real."

Using Artificial Nests, Biologists Hope to Lure Swallows Back to Mission San Juan Capistrano

Updated at 6:04 PM PDT on Thursday, Mar 19, 2015

The legendary swallows are said to return to San Juan Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, but these day's it's the tourists who return to the city's mission by the thousands, not the birds.

Biologists are trying to lure back the swallows that made Mission San Juan Capistrano famous by returning to the Orange County building on schedule each year for centuries. They're heading to stage two of a long-term plan to end the mission's bird-less streak.

Having already mimicked bird calls to attract swallows, biologists are creating a 15-foot-tall, moveable arch with artificial nests built in in hopes of reminding them it's a good place to settle.

Friday 20 March 2015

DNR burns grasslands to promote habitat for endangered bird

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015 9:14 am

OWENSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — State wildlife crews have burned hundreds of acres of grasslands in southwestern Indiana to keep a wildlife area in good shape for an endangered water-loving bird.

State Department of Natural Resources staffers conducted a prescribed burn Tuesday of 300 acres at the Tern Bar Slough Wildlife Diversity area about 20 miles northwest of Evansville.

DNR assistant non-game bird biologist Amy Kearns tells the Princeton Daily Clarion the burn cleared out young trees and will help promote "a nice mix of grasses" for the wildlife area's population of least terns.

Indiana's least tern populations have grown significantly since a single pair of the petite shorebirds was found in Gibson County in 1986.

DNR crews say they try to conduct prescribed burns before most reptiles and amphibians emerge from winter hibernation.

The search for skydancers sparks into life

Published by surfbirds on March 20, 2015 courtesy of RSPB

A round-the-clock nest protection operation is once again ready to swing into action with the RSPB asking people who spend time in the uplands of northern England to keep their eyes peeled for hen harriers – England’s most threatened bird of prey.

Now in its eighth year, the Hen Harrier Hotline has been relaunched by the conservation charity with the aim of discovering where these rare birds of prey may be nesting.

Research has shown that the English uplands have enough suitable habitats to give a home to at least 320 pairs of breeding hen harriers, but last year there were only four successful nests in the whole country. Hen harriers breed in remote upland locations so the RSPB relies on walkers and cyclists to inform them of their location. The conservation charity can then put measures in place to protect the nest from harm.

Martin Harper, RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said: “Sadly hen harriers are a much rarer sight in the northern uplands than they should be, one reason being illegal persecution. But if you are lucky enough to see one, it’s an experience that will live with you forever. The male’s courting ritual is a particular stunning spectacle; a series of breathtaking swoops and somersaults that earns it the name skydancer.”

The bird that nurtured its mortal enemy

Presented by
Ben Aviss

Raising young is a stressful, disorientating time for any parent but one bird appears to have been so confused it was seen attempting to brood the chicks in a nearby nest of a hobby falcon – one of its known predators.

Filmmakers for BBC Two series Autumnwatch recorded a female woodpigeon repeatedly trying to brood hobby hatchlings but being pushed off the nest by the chicks’ parent.

The incredible sequence was filmed using a remote camera set up in a farm in Gloucestershire.

“I suspect the bird just became a bit confused,” said Dave Leech, senior research ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

“It may have lost a brood of its own nearby and, still full of hormones associated with that stage of the nesting cycle, decided to brood the nearest available alternative.”

Thursday 19 March 2015

Mercury pollution poses threat to Arctic birds

By Tim Sandle 16 hours ago in Environment
Research indicates that mercury pollution has risen around 50-fold in the feathers of a rare Arctic bird over the past 130 years. Conservationists are concerned for the bird’s future.

The bird at risk is the ivory gull. The ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea) is a small gull (17 inches tall) which breeds in the high Arctic. In non-breeding seasons the bird can be found in Greenland, Canada, and Eurasia. Unusually for a gull, the bird has a totally white plumage.

There are around 20,000 birds in existence. The species is said, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, to be in rapid decline and the status is “threatened.”

As well as habitat loss and risk from predators, the ivory gull has a new threat: mercury poisoning. New research, based on a review of museum specimens, indicates high mercury levels in the gulls. The analysis spanned the time period from 1877 to 2007. Here the increase in mercury levels was over fifty times, with the greatest rises occurring over the past thirty years.

The finding with the gulls is consistent with rising mercury levels in other Arctic birds, fish and mammals. The source of the mercury probably relates to atmospheric pollution. The gull is a good indicator of mercury levels due to the absorption of the toxin into its feathers. The direct concern with the gulls is that, in time, this will affect the bird’s reproduction.

Taupō golf course becomes luxury retirement home for takahe

Thursday, 19 March 2015, 9:59 am

Taupō golf course becomes luxury retirement home for rare takahē

Critically endangered takahē have a new retirement home in Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary thanks to work undertaken by its bird-loving owner, Gary Lane, to secure the site from predators. The Department of Conservation (DOC) will deliver takahē pair, Grant and Flotsom, to the sanctuary near Taupō just after midday today(19 March 2015).

Through its 10-year partnership with Mitre 10 DOC has made significant progress in its Takahē Recovery Programme. With 40 chicks produced this year, the department has seen its best captive breeding season by far.

“This year’s incredibly successful breeding season has meant that we are under more pressure than ever to find safe homes for takahē away from the jaws of introduced predators, particularly stoats,” says DOC Takahē Ranger Phil Marsh.

Rare Indian Courser spotted on city outskirts

Indian Courser (Cursorius coromandelicus) at Bharatpur I IMG 5437.jpgVADODARA: Indian Courser, a rare species of ground bird, was sighted and recorded for the first time on the outskirts of the city recently. The bird that finds mention in the Red List of threatened species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was photographed near Ajwa.

The courser was very common in short grass covered open and uncultivated lands of Gujarat, but has today vanished in many areas. Bird experts say that there is no official record for the sighting of this species in the city.

Commonly known as 'Rann Godhalo' in Gujarat, the bird breeds mainly from March to August. The bird is known to camouflage itself according to its habitat.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Feed ducks frozen peas instead of stale bread, charity asks

People in England and Wales feed ducks an estimated of six million loaves of bread a year

Monday 16 March 2015

It may be a favourite family pastime, but apparently going to your local park to throw stale bread at ducks is completely wrong.
The Canal and River Trust is launching a campaign this week which urges people to feed ducks with frozen peas and sweetcorn instead. Ducks are also reportedly partial to grapes, which should be cut into quarters to make them easier to eat.

People in England and Wales feed an estimated of six million loaves of bread a year to ducks, which can cause damage to birds’ health and pollute waterways.

Ducklings that are fed on bread end up being malnourished, while birds that get used to hand-outs can lose their natural fear of humans and may become “aggressive”.

The charity warns families that bread is essentially “junk food” for ducks, and the remnants left behind encourage rats, disease and algae. Oats, barley, rice and vegetable trimmings are also acceptable replacements for leftover crusts, it advises.

Thousands of geese fall from Idaho sky in likely avian cholera outbreak

Not known whether snow geese contracted the disease during migration
Humans face small risk of contracting avian cholera
Reuters in Salmon, Idaho

Tuesday 17 March 2015 14.34 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 17 March 201515.27 GMT

Avian cholera is suspected in the deaths of at least 2,000 snow geese that fell dead from the sky in Idaho while migrating to nesting grounds on the northern coast of Alaska, wildlife managers said on Monday.

Dozens of Idaho department of fish and game workers and volunteers at the weekend retrieved and incinerated carcasses of snow geese found near bodies of water and a wildlife management area in the eastern part of the state, said agency spokesman Gregg Losinski.

Avian cholera is believed to be the culprit in the deaths mostly because of the way the birds died, he said.

“Basically, they just fell out of the sky,” said Losinski.

He said biologists were awaiting results from a state wildlife lab to confirm the birds died of the highly contagious disease, which is caused by bacteria that can survive in soil and water for up to four months.

Humans face a small risk of contracting the disease, but the more immediate threat is to wildlife in the vicinity of contaminated carcasses, Losinski said.

About 20 bald eagles were seen near areas where snow geese carcasses littered the ground, but a lengthy incubation period makes it unclear if the eagles were infected and would carry the ailment elsewhere, said Losinski.