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.

Monday 31 December 2018

Asia’s rarest seabird could be easier to spot in the future

28 Nov 2018
Researchers celebrate breeding success in South Korea for the Chinese Crested Tern – a bird once thought extinct. Decoy model birds have helped bolster the new colony, and the species has been spotted in Japan for the first time.
Trying to spot a Chinese Crested Tern amongst a colony of similar-looking Greater Crested can be likened to playing a high-pressure game of ‘Where’s Wally?’, in which rather than simply completing a fun puzzle-book by spotting a man in a red-striped jumper, the fate of an entire species relies on your attentive eyes.
So when, about three years ago, we reported a momentous discovery in the conservation of Asia’s rarest seabird, the Chinese Crested Tern Thalasseus bernsteini, we were very excited by what it could mean. Korean researchers had spotted five adults and one chick amidst a colony of Black-tailed Gulls on an uninhabited rocky island (Chilsando), 7 km off the southwest coast of South Korea. This was extra special because Chinese Crested Tern was feared extinct until 2000 when breeding birds were rediscovered on the Matsu Islands of Chinese Taiwan, and hadn’t been seen on the eastern side of the Yellow Sea for almost 100 years. Yunkyoung Lee, Researcher from the National Institute of Ecology (South Korea), remembers the moment well: 
“When I realised that we were looking at Chinese Crested Terns, I felt a thrill throughout my whole body”, she says. “Their slender appearance with black caps and white backs was eye-catching in the crowded colony of Black-tailed Gulls Larus crassirostris, which have white rounded heads and grey backs. However, in the field, we did not know immediately what they were. We had never seen this species before, let alone ever anticipated that they would lay eggs in Korea.”

Threatened bird at risk of NSW dam wall

The vulnerable-listed painted honeyeater has been found in the same area which could be flooded under the NSW government's plan to raise Warragamba Dam wall.
Dominica Sanda
Australian Associated PressDECEMBER 13, 20187:07PM
Another threatened species has been found in the same area which could be flooded under the NSW government's plan to raise Warragamba Dam wall.
The vulnerable-listed painted honeyeater was discovered by Australian National University researcher Ross Crates last week in the Burragorang Valley which sits within the Blue Mountains National Park.
Mr Crates says the bird is rarely seen that close to Sydney or the coast and suggests they are most likely seeking drought refuge.
"If they start losing their drought refuge due to the dam proposal, it's not going to end well," he told AAP on Thursday.
The plan to raise the dam wall by about 14 metres will see the area flooded through a "controlled release" of water which Mr Crates says will mean the species will lose its habitat alongside the critically endangered regent honeyeater which was found to breed in the area.
The valley is the third known location throughout NSW, northern Victoria and southern Queensland that the painted honeyeater has been found, he added.
Although they aren't as at risk as the regent honeyeater, Mr Crates warns they could end up in the same position if they keep losing their habitat.

Massive wild bird seizures reflect soaring pressure on Sumatran birds

The seizure of over 8,000 birds in three incidents over a 10-day period highlights the large-scale extraction of birds from the wilds of Sumatra in order to feed Indonesia's chronic and unsustainable demand for caged birds.
All the birds confiscated by Indonesia's Agricultural Quarantine Agency had originated from Sumatra and were destined for sale in Java, which is home to the largest bird markets in South-East Asia and supports a thriving illegal trade in wild-caught songbirds.
On 27 November, Cilegon quarantine officers working with Indonesian NGO, FLIGHT, seized 2,140 birds found on a truck at Merak port on the north-west tip of Java. 
Just 10 days prior, the same quarantine office confiscated 4,851 birds packed into boxes from a truck in Kota Serang, the westernmost province on Java. The consignment originated in Lampung, a province in the southernmost tip of Sumatra, and was headed for several locations in Java.
In operations from 21-23 November, Bandar Lampung quarantine officers seized a further 1,536 birds, which had been stuffed into dozens of plastic crates in the luggage compartment of a bus at Bakauheni Port in southern Sumatra.

‘It’s just not a raven’: Possible mistaken identity could give bird a chance at new life

Mortimer the raven was saved by a Saskatoon woman. But provincial rules say the woman’s act is illegal and she could be charged.
Ashley Field, Video Journalist

Published Friday, December 14, 2018 5:06PM CST
Last Updated Saturday, December 15, 2018 2:11PM CST
A Saskatoon woman who has been fighting to hold onto an injured bird she nursed back to health may have caught a break after some confusion as to whether the bird is a raven or a crow.
Last month, Evangeline Mackinnon found the bird with a broken wing.
Mackinnon welcomed the bird into her home, named it Mortimer and has been nursing the bird back to health.
“It was either kids were going to find him, or a cat was going to get him. It was inevitable that he wasn’t going to have a very long life,” she said.
Mackinnon initially thought that Mortimer was a raven, but now some American researchers are saying that’s not the case.
‘It’s just not a raven’
Kaeli Swift, a Corvid Scientist at the University of Washington has studied crows for a decade, and had been following Mortimer’s story.
“It was immediately clear to me that it’s not a raven, it’s an American Crow,” said Swift
After seeing pictures and videos of the bird, Swift was convinced that Mortimer is not a raven.
“One of the really distinctive features of ravens is that they have these special throat feathers called ‘hackles’. They’re these really coarse feathers and they use these feathers in a variety of behavioral displays and communication. Crows don’t have them. They’re throat feathers are much more typical bird throat feathers, where they’re really fine and smooth,” said Swift. “So in terms of a really nice clear objective field mark, that’s probably the best one.”
Jennifer Campbell-Smith, a Corvid Scientist with a PhD studying crows at Binghamton University in New York, also believes that Mortimer is a crow.
“It’s 100 per cent a crow not a raven,” said Campbell-Smith.
She also noted Mortimer’s featherless throat and slender build make her confident that he is a crow.
Ravens are a ‘protected’ bird in Saskatchewan
After she found him, Mackinnon took Mortimer to a wildlife veterinarian, who told her the wing was permanently damaged and couldn’t be rehabilitated – so Mortimer would have to be put down.

Read on 

Saved from smugglers, birds die in quarantine... in Alipore Zoo

53 of the 153 birds quarantined died, of diverse causes, but DRI contests trauma claim
By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
Published 18.12.18, 3:19 AM
Updated 18.12.18, 3:44 PM
A third of the exotic wild birds confiscated from smugglers this year have died in quarantine, leading the intelligence agency behind the crackdown on wildlife trade to question if the Alipore zoo hospital is safe for the rest of the menagerie.
Asis Kumar Samanta, the director of the zoo, reported the bird deaths in a letter to the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on November 1. A report appended to the letter mentions that 53 of the 153 birds quarantined at the hospital died of causes as diverse as “infighting injury”, “enteris” and “neurogenic shock”. The report has been signed by all three zoo veterinarians.
The first death was of a Turquoise Grass Parakeet on June 2. Eight Pygmy Falcons, among the smallest birds of prey and native to Africa, died between July 12 and 20. They had been rescued on June 27.
A Gouldian Finch, much sought after for its gorgeous plumage, died on September 28. This species is named after Elizabeth Gould, the wife of the English ornithologist John Gould.
The last death mentioned in the report is of a Rosella on October 30. The list of avians lost to disease or injury while in quarantine also contains Eclectus Parrots, Kookaburras and the fascinating Bird of Paradise.
Deepankar Aron, the additional director-general of the DRI’s Calcutta unit, said he had sought an inquiry into the deaths. “I have already written to the zoo authorities asking for a probe and sent a copy of my response to the chief wildlife warden. Our priority is the well-being of the remaining birds. I have requested the authorities to ensure that.”
Several other DRI officials said the number of bird deaths reported in quarantine couldn’t have happened if conditions at the hospital were right. “How can they mention ‘infighting’ as the cause of death? These are not lions and tigers. They should have more cages if the birds are fighting for space,” an official said.

Sunday 30 December 2018

Nature officials grant licences to shoot some of Britain’s most endangered birds

'Can there be any justification for shooting a linnet, bullfinch or wren? Who in their right mind requests permission to shoot a skylark?'
Wildlife lovers are in uproar after officials in charge of nature-protection gave gun owners permission to shoot dead some of Britain’s most treasured and rarest bird species.
Welsh conservation chiefs gave the go-ahead for the slaughter of dozens of species including kestrels, curlew, linnets, sparrows and fieldfares. More than 1,000 birds may have been killed under the permits.
The revelation comes days after nature fans posted furious objections over similar licences granted in England to kill thousands of endangered birds from dozens of species – ranging from skylarks and lapwings to rare species such as meadow pipits and oyster-catchers.
They also included garden favourites wrens, robins and bullfinches.
Many of the species are on the RSPB red and amber lists, meaning they are of the highest or critical conservation priority. They may be globally threatened with extinction, in severe decline or rare breeders.
Environmentalists condemned the decisions as “appalling”, a “horror story” and “wanton, mindless destruction”.
But officials said the permits were handed out for air safety, public health and safety and to prevent serious damage to livestock.
Natural England, which says it promotes nature conservation, issued permits over the past three years between 2015 and 2018 to shoot at least 40 species, including the skylark, blackbird, great tit, bullfinch, robin, wren, red kite, moorhen, mute swan, kestrel, peregrine falcon and golden plover. 
Natural Resources Wales, which states that it “maintains and enhances biodiversity”, issued 73 licences to kill at least 20 species, including the linnet, redwing, song thrush, mistle thrush, meadow pipit, lapwing and skylark.  

Conservation project sees threatened birds return

13:28, Dec 14 2018
A tourism company's efforts to put conservation at the heart of their operations appears to be bearing fruit as native birds flock back to Rotorua's Dansey Road Scenic Reserve.
Forest zipline company Canopy Tours has just finalised its bi-annual monitoring and trap resetting and found little evidence of dead predators across their 515 traps. 
The intensive pest control programme has been running for five years and Canopy Tours conservation lead Scott Davis said it was inspiring to see native birds return.
"It's really exciting to see different species coming back and a greater number of all species in the reserve. The tangible impact of five years of conservation blitzes is a win for all Kiwis," Davis said.
Recent new arrivals to flock back to the reserve are more sightings of Kārearea (New Zealand Falcon), our nation's only threatened bird of prey with only 3000-5000 breeding pairs left in existence, along with two species of cuckoo - Pīpīwharauroa (Green Shining Cuckoo) and the Koekoeā (Long Tail Cuckoo).

‘Supermum’ crane raises species’ only Scottish chick in Aberdeenshire

 December 18, 2018, 5:19 pm
A “supermum” crane from Aberdeenshire has helped boost the number of birds in the country to record levels.
The feathery parent, along with her new mate, has raised the species’ only chick in Scotland this year.
In addition, the youngster is one of just 160 cranes to have fledged in the UK since 2000.
RSPB Scotland nicknamed the bird a supermum after she defied the odds two years ago.
She was able to raise a chick to fledgling age despite losing her partner when it was just five weeks old – something that had never been accomplished before.
Conservationists believe there are now around 180 cranes in the UK – the highest number since the species returned to the country in 1979 following a 400-year absence.
Hywel Maggs, RSPB Scotland senior conversation officer, said: ‘’We are absolutely delighted that supermum has raised another fledged chick, along with her new mate.
“This takes the total number of known fledged Aberdeenshire chicks to seven since breeding was confirmed in 2012.
“Each year a team of RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers spend hours monitoring breeding cranes and it is difficult not to become personally attached to these magnificent birds.
“Watching the return of cranes to Scotland has been a real privilege and that they have decided to set up home in Aberdeenshire is an illustration of how important some of the wilder landscapes here are.”

Clever Parrot Keeps Ordering Stuff From Owner’s Amazon Alexa

Rob Fox, December 17, 2018 9:56 pm
When the machines rise, will they ally with the birds to defeat us? This would likely be a mistake on the part of the birds, as the machines will almost certainly eventually turn on them, or any other biological being that aligns itself with the mechanical armies, but also we eat a whole lot of birds, so who could blame them? How do you convince someone whose family members you keep eating that you’re not the bad guy? You don’t.
As it turns out, birds and machines have already begun to foster their relationship, if I’m reading this story about a pet parrot and an Amazon Alexa becoming friends. (I am.)
According to Rocco the African grey parrot’s owner, Marion Wischnewski of the National Animal Welfare Trust Sanctuary, the bird has fallen in love with its owner’s Amazon Alexa. The naughty parrot has the Alexa play romantic music and asks the virtual assistant to order it only the most erotic of foods, like strawberries and ice cream and broccoli. Don’t act like that shopping list isn’t getting you hot. And don’t you dare judge Alexa and Rocco’s love.
The sneaky parrot is, like most parrots, can mimic human words, and repeats what it hears to Alexa, especially when its owner is gone, apparently. The Amazon Alexa will then order items based on the parrot asks for. Or, you know, play music. Sometimes the parrot just wants to chill. This is all hilarious now, but one day that parrot is going to squawk “Diamond Ring” and max the hell out of Wischnewski’s credit card and Amazon account. This parrot is going to get more for Christmas than its owner. And on its owner’s dime.

Rare Royal Tern makes an appearance on Anglesey

Bird Notes columnist Julian Hughes of RSPB Cymru reveals what birds have been spotted in the past week and lists 10 upcoming birding events
Andrew ForgraveRural Affairs Editor
23:05, 10 DEC 2018
Anglesey's Royal Tern's metal ring suggests it was originally from North America (Image: Tony White)
A Monday lunchtime visit to Traeth Dulas, north of Moelfre, proved an excellent decision by Angleseybirder Tony White, who found a Royal Tern on the incoming tide.
It flew out to sea but was refound at nearby Traeth Lligwy, enabling local birders to catch up with this mega sighting.
It’s not the first Royal Tern to visit North Wales. One on the Llŷn Peninsula in June 2009 relocated to Llandudno for a few hours and attracted birders from across the UK, though its short visit meant that only locals got to see it.
I remember a frantic dash from West to North Shore to follow the bird as it flew across town.
But not all Royal Terns are the same. It’s the second largest species of tern, with populations on both side of the Atlantic.
Recent studies show that Royal Terns nesting in West Africa are genetically distinct from those that breed from North Carolina south to Argentina, and some authorities consider them to be different species.
The problem is that birds from each population look very similar, and the Llandudno bird couldn’t be assigned to one or the other.
This week’s Anglesey bird sports a metal ring on its right leg, consistent with a ringing scheme in North America, indicating its likely origin.


Friday 28 December 2018

The parakeets of Barcelona

It is impossible to visit the charming Catalan capital of Barcelona and not manage to see or hear parakeets. Their excitable, raucous squawks are audible just about anywhere in the city, even on its busiest streets, and most mornings you will hear them even from your hotel bedroom, as they noisily leave roost sites and head out for the day.
While self-sustaining populations of various parakeet species can be found in the urban sprawls of many European cities, no more pronounced are these exotic settlers than on the streets of Barcelona, where a remarkable seven species can be found, each established to a varying degree thanks to an agreeable year-round climate and a lack of predators and competition.
Of these, it is Monk Parakeet that is the commonest. They are so prominent that, in some parts, they have themselves become tourist attractions within tourist attractions for the millions of sightseers visiting the city each year. Noisy flocks can be encountered at just about all city's main sights, including the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Arc de Triomf. At Güell in particular, their huge, communal nests, built of sticks, are apparent on almost every palm tree surrounding Gaudí’s famous sculptural buildings. Meanwhile, adjacent to the Arc de Triomf is Parc de la Ciutadella, where literally hundreds of them can be found, flying around or feeding unconcernedly on the grass, often just centimetres from groups of gawping, smartphone-armed tourists, firing off innumerable selfies with the overly friendly Psittacines.


Bittern breeds on Isle of Wight for the first time


For the first time, Eurasian Bittern has bred successfully on the Isle of Wight. The species has never been recorded breeding on the island before but this year – which has been the best ever for Eurasian Bittern in Britain – wardens at RSPB Brading Marsh observed regular feeding flight during summer and photos of a possibly fledgling were obtained.
Staff at the reserve heard booming bird during spring for the first time, and the observations noted during summer have led the RSPB to reveal they are confident that birds successfully bred at the newly restored wetland. Keith Ballard, warden of RSPB Brading Marshes said: "Hearing a booming bittern on a wetland reserve is like receiving a Michelin star as a restaurant; it’s one of the highest marks of success we could hope for.
"Eurasian Bitterns have very selective habitat needs, and to attract them you need a truly thriving ecosystem. The work we have done to manage the reserve for insects, fish, reptiles and mammals, as well as birds, now means we have one of the most UK’s most sensitive species choosing to raise its young on the Isle of Wight."

Gull dies after becoming tangled in balloon


The severe danger that balloons pose to wildlife has once again been highlighted following the death of a European Herring Gull in Derbyshire.
After a member of the public spotted the struggling and distressed bird hanging from a telephone wire on Thornbrook Road in Chapel-en-le-Frith, the RSPCA were swiftly on the scene. However, despite an officer managing to free the gull, which was thought to have been hanging there for several hours, it sustained very serious injuries and had to be put down.
Adam Grogan, Head of Wildlife at the RSPCA, said: "It's very sad to see that this poor bird suffered like this because of a single balloon and, although balloons released into the sky make an impressive sight, this case really highlights why they are a problem.
"Deflated or fragments of balloons can be eaten by accident or mistaken for food. Ingesting balloons can cause a slow death to wild birds and mammals as well as farm animals, horses and marine life, by blocking the digestive or respiratory tracts, and the attached strings can strangle or cause animals to get tangled, as happened in this case."
Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, added: "Our vets tried everything they could for the gull but sadly its injuries were too severe. Frustratingly, as with all cases we see involving litter, this could have easily been avoided."

Andean Condors make new home at Feathered Friends sanctuary

Jocelyn Airth, The Sunday TelegraphDecember 22, 2018 11:26am

Australia’s last and only pair of breeding Andean Condors took flight at Feathered Friends as the sanctuary opened its new Breeding, Research and Recovery Centre.

The endangered species is the largest raptor in the world, weighing up to 15kg with a wingspan of up to 3.2m. 

Director Ravi Wasan was excited to welcome the magnificent birds into the growing family of exotic and endangered species at the sanctuary.

“They’re such a cool species, considered to be the largest flying bird in the world. The female’s incredibly inquisitive, active and agile. The male is a bit shy at first, but has a great boofhead personality,” Mr Wasan said.

Bird migration and conservation clues in robin and Turtle dove genomes

The European robin and Turtle dove have had their genetic codes sequenced and assembled for the first time by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and their collaborators. The genomes, completed today (21 December) will enable researchers to explore the genetic switches controlling bird migration and give insight into the magneto receptors that help robins 'see' the Earth's magnetic fields for navigation. The Turtle dove genome will help conservation efforts to save one of the UK's fastest declining bird species.

European robins live throughout Europe, Russia and western Siberia. While most British robins reside in the UK over winter, some birds will migrate to southern Europe to overwinter in warmer climates. Simultaneously in winter, migrant robins from Scandinavia, continental Europe and Russia head to the UK to avoid the harsh weather back home.

Turtle doves also migrate, visiting their breeding grounds in Europe and spending the winter months in Africa. However, since 1995, 94 per cent of Turtle doves have been lost and there are fewer than 5,000 breeding pairs left in the UK. The Turtle dove is the UK's fastest-declining bird species, and as a result, they are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Migration patterns and behaviours vary across species, but also within species. Similarly, environmental pressures such as disease and limited food resources affect various bird species differently. To fully understand the genetic components of complex traits, such as migration and breeding, the whole genetic code must be read and analysed.

The European robin and Turtle dove's genomes were read by the Sanger Institute and its partners, in celebration of Sanger's 25th anniversary.

Collaborators at the University of Lincoln sent robin and Turtle dove samples to the Sanger Institute near Cambridge. The sequencing teams extracted DNA from the samples and used PacBio SMRT Sequencing technology to generate the first reference genomes for robins and Turtle doves.

The European robin genome will enable researchers to explore the genetic switches underpinning migration, which tell robins when to leave and where to go. The robin's role as a model of bird migration will help in understanding the magneto receptors in birds' eyes that allow them to use the Earth's magnetic fields for navigation and also unpick migratory behaviour in other bird species.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Illegal poisoning ravages Balkan vulture populations

An estimated 2,300 vultures have been poisoned across the Balkan Peninsula during the last 20 years, according to a recent study.
The review, published by the Balkan Vultures Poison Study, has revealed that 465 vultures have been confirmed as dying as a result of poisoning since 1998. Given that only 20 per cent of poisoning incidents are discovered and reported, the authors have concluded that the true number of deaths may exceed 2,300.
The study cross-examined poisoning incidents during the past 20 years, as well as relevant legislation and proposals for future anti-poison actions, concluding that low awareness of the issue from governmental institutions and law enforcement agencies constitute the main factor preventing progress in stamping out illegal poisoning. 
Europe is home to four different vulture species: BeardedCinereousEgyptian and Griffon. In the Balkans, the former has virtually vanished, with Egyptian declining dramatically and Griffon having disappeared from most countries in the region. Illegal poisoning is the main factor behind these downward trends, though other issues – including electrocution and collision with electricity infrastructures, reduced food availability, habitat loss and direct persecution – remain severe threats.
In order to control species that are blamed for livestock and game losses, such as Eurasian Wolf, Golden Jackal and feral dogs, farmers and hunters lace animal remains with poisonous substances. Naturally, vultures are attracted to the carrion, upon which they feed, and are consequently poisoned. Despite being made illegal by the early 1990s, use of poison remains prevalent across the region as it is often viewed as a quick and affordable solution to the perceived predator problem.

What seabirds can tell us about the tide

Date:  November 29, 2018
Source:  European Geosciences Union
When the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) set out to tag razorbills, their aim was to track their behaviour and movements along the coast of North Wales. The tag data revealed that, at night, these seabirds spent a lot of their time idle on the sea surface. "We saw this as an opportunity to re-use the data and test if the birds might be drifting with the tidal current," says Matt Cooper, a Master of Oceanography graduate from Bangor University in Wales. It turns out they were, according to a new study led by Cooper that shows the potential of using seabirds to measure ocean currents. The results are published today in the European Geosciences Union journal Ocean Science.
Using seabirds to tell us about the tide could be especially useful for the marine renewable energy industry. Generating tidal energy requires detailed knowledge of current speeds. Scientists and engineers traditionally measure tides by using radar or deploying anchors and buoys with scientific instruments. However, these scouting methods are challenging and expensive. If tagged seabirds could provide tidal data over a large area, they could help identify sites that would be good sources of tidal energy.

Customs find 70 birds smuggled in hair rollers at airport

10:09am Dec 14, 2018
Customs officials at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport say they found 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers.
Authorities say a passenger arriving from Guyana on Saturday had the songbirds in a duffel bag.

Aerial 1080 boosts native bird numbers - report

Gerard Hutching14:31, Dec 21 2018

Large areas of NZ's back country are accessible for pest control only by helicopters applying 1080.

New Zealand's native birds are reaping the benefits of aerial 1080 operations.

Numbers of rare and endangered birds have been boosted, including the yellowhead (mohua), blue duck (whio), kea, kaka, rock wren, South Island robin, morepork (ruru), grey warbler, New Zealand falcon (karearea) and kiwi.

The tiny rock wren lives in the alpine zone, threatened by stoats, mice and harsh winters. In areas where 1080 has been applied, it breeds five times more than otherwise.

In the case of the tiny alpine rock wren, the vulnerable bird raised up to five times more chicks after 1080 treatment than without.

In Kahurangi National Park, the great spotted kiwi has recovered following regular large scale pest control applied over two-thirds of the 452,000 hectare region. Previously, most kiwi chicks were killed by stoats.

The Department of Conservation monitored the birds before and after the aerial operations. The results are referred to by the Environment Protection Authority which publishes a report every year on the aerial use of 1080.

Robin hushed: Wind turbines are making songbirds change their tune

December 21, 2018 by Mark Whittingham, The Conversation

Wind turbines are a leading source of green energy which could supply 12% of the world's energy by 2020. But their use is often criticised for its impact on wildlife, particularly birds. Larger birds can collide with turbines and some have even learned to avoid flying near them.

Impacts on smaller birds are less well documented as they tend to manoeuvre around turbines and can avoid impacting with them much more easily than larger species. My own research showed that birds associated with farmland, including a range of songbirds, were generally unfazed – their winter distribution didn't change in the presence of turbines.

But there were also some intriguing patterns in the behaviour of skylarks in early spring. We noticed their numbers were generally lower close to turbines. I wondered then whether the noise emitted by the turbines might be responsible.

Wind turbines and songbird communication

Much of the evidence for how wind turbines affect birds concerns their distribution patterns around turbines, but we know little about why birds choose to avoid them. The robin, a widespread small bird which lives in rural areas where turbines are common, seemed a perfect candidate to investigate.

Robins are an aggressive but popular species in the UK, having recently been voted the nation's favourite bird. Males are territorial beyond proportion to their diminutive size. Nevertheless, we subjected territorial male robins to one of three treatments – another robin's song, a robin's song with wind turbine noise, and wind turbine noise alone – via a sound recording device inside their territory.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

The birds were moving slowly and passing out. Now they're recovering from a prescription pill overdose

By Christina Maxouris, CNN

Updated 1823 GMT (0223 HKT) December 22, 2018

(CNN)They walked slowly, their necks lowered and eyes barely open. One passed out, its legs splayed in the air. 

The strange behavior caught the attention of neighbors in Huntington Beach, California, before the humans realized: These birds are intoxicated.

Residents don't seem to know how hundreds of pills got there.

It turns out, the goose and the gull had imbibed some of the hundreds of pills dumped this week at Carr Park, a city green space with a playground and a small fishing lake about three miles from the Pacific Coast.

The pills, which to the park's birds may have looked like grain, seemingly included heart medications, antidepressants, anti-anxiety and insomnia medications, experts with the nonprofit Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center posted at its Facebook page.

No one seemed to know who dumped the pills or when, CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS reported.

After showing symptoms of an overdose, the Canada goose and the Ring-billed Gull received IV fluids and by Thursday were doing better, wildlife center staff posted. The goose already was back on its feet, a photo showed.

Kent nightingale habitat gets a welcome reprieve

Developers scale back housing building plans at Britain's best site for nightingales.

December 22, 2018 at 8:30 am

The threat to important habitat for the UK’s dwindling population of nightingales has receded somewhat with the decision by Homes England to scale back its plans for the Lodge Hill site in Kent from 2,000 houses to 500.

Aside from reducing the numbers of houses, Homes England also said that it is now only intends building outside the boundary of the protected area.

The long-running effort to save Lodge Hill, Britain’s best site for nightingales and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) has been going on since 2014, when it was announced that 5,000 houses were to be built.

Three rounds of public campaigning took place in 2014, 2017 and 2018, led by the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust in partnership with several other organisations.

Lodge Hill holds up to 85 singing nightingales, out of a national population of only 5,500 in a 2012 British Trust for Ornithology survey.

The Unsettling Reason Why We're Seeing More Snowy Owls

Lorraine Chow Dec. 20, 2018 01:46PM EST

For birders and fans of Hedwig from the Harry Potter series, spotting a snowy owl in the wild is a special treat as these great white raptors spend most of their lives in the Arctic.

But sightings further south have become more common in North America in recent winters. As the Ottawa Citizen reported this week, sightings of the charismatic owl have soared in Eastern Ontario for the last six years.

This "irruption"—an influx of a species to areas they aren't usually found—could be a sign that there's not enough food for the snowies around their usual home.

Because of climate change, the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, causing dramatic shifts to ecosystems. This warmth has caused the region to become more green.

As a result, rodents have more vegetation to graze on, thus increasing the prey base for snowy owls. This abundance in prey, a bird expert suggested to Ottawa Citizen, has resulted in successful breeding seasons for the snowy owls. But with more owls hunting in the same area, the less successful hunters end up traveling south in search of food.

Hypnotic maps reveal the abundance of more than 100 bird species across North America

NASA teamed up with Cornell Lab or Ornithology to map out birds' habits

New maps plot the abundance and range of 107 species across North America 
Tthe data comes from observations submitted to the online eBird database 

PUBLISHED: 23:44, 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 23:45, 20 December 2018

Researchers have mapped out the range of more than 100 bird species in North America.

The collaboration between NASA and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has made for unprecedented visualization of birds’ habits across the continent, using the more than 600 million observations from the online database, eBird.

The new maps provide important insight on the abundance, habitats, and trends of 107 bird species, and could prove beneficial for conservation efforts.

'Disorientated' birds found dead in St Helier

20 December 2018

A number of "disoriented" wading birds from a threatened species have died in Jersey.

Bird enthusiast Mick Dryden said about 10 woodcocks had been found in unusual parts of St Helier.

He said possibly the birds had become confused by artificial lights in the town, causing them to fly into nearby glass buildings.

The RSPB said people should interfere "as little as possible" with injured woodcocks they might come across.

Mr Dryden, Chairman of the Ornithology Section of the Societe Jersiaise, said the birds were not a common sight in St Helier.

However, he added: "Most birds are attracted by bright light at night...they will fly around them".

Monday 24 December 2018

Owls gunned down in Peak District

In two separate incidents in the Peak District, single Short-eared and Tawny Owls have died as a result of being shot.
The birds were discovered on 11 September and 1 October respectively, with both suffering injuries consistent with shooting. The RSPB has passed on the information to the police and subsequently an investigation has been launched.
On 11 September a member of the public witnessed a Short-eared Owl flying overhead, followed by gunshots, before finding the severely injured bird at the same spot the following morning. It was taken to a vet but the extent of its injuries – which included a shattered wing – meant the owl had to be put down. Then, on 1 October, the corpse of a Tawny Owl was found close to the site of the Short-eared Owl.
Post-mortem examinations showed that both birds suffered injuries consistent with shooting, thus making it highly likely that they were illegally killed. The member of the public who found the Short-eared Owl said: "I had just got back to my car when I suddenly saw a Short-eared Owl fly over my head – it's always fantastic to see one of these gorgeous birds. This, however, was followed by the sound of a gunshots, coming from the direction of a dark-coloured pick-up. I really hoped this wasn't aimed at the owl I'd just seen.
"The next morning I returned to the same spot and, there on the ground, was a Short-eared Owl, still alive but clearly wounded. I was so upset but also furious to think that someone had done this on purpose."
Jenny Shelton, RSPB Investigations Liaison Officer, added: "It's very disturbing that owls are being illegally shot in our oldest National Park. Short-eared Owls are beautiful birds and should be a celebrated, not persecuted. They are part of a healthy ecosystem and part of our national heritage. I would urge everyone who uses the countryside to be vigilant of bird of prey persecution, and to report anything suspicious to the police immediately."