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.

Wednesday 31 January 2018

Marijuana farms poisoning Spotted Owls

Wildlife species are being exposed to high levels of rat poison in northwest California, with illegal marijuana farms the most likely source point, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis, with the California Academy of Sciences.

The study, released in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology, showed that seven of the 10 Northern Spotted Owls collected tested positive for rat poison, while 40 percent of 84 barred owls collected also tested positive for the poison.

The study is the first published account of anticoagulant rodenticide in Northern Spotted Owls, which are listed as a threatened species under federal and state Endangered Species acts.

The study area encompasses Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties. It supports previous accounts that rat poison is contaminating the food web in this region, as the primary food source for owls—rodents—is being contaminated.

Timberland converting to marijuana farms
Driving the issue is the increasing conversion of private timberland into private, illegal and unpermitted marijuana cultivation sites. These sites often overlap with designated critical habitat for Northern Spotted Owls, and the owls feed at their edges.

Five penguins set up home on Felixstowe beach

By The Editor | January 14, 2018

A group of penguins has set up home on Felixstowe beach, the first to ever settle naturally in the UK, it has emerged.

The five Magellanic penguins – all adults and apparently healthy – have been spotted over recent days on the pebbled beach close to the Spa Pavilion.

Experts say the flightless seabirds normally live in South America, and they are curious about how they came to be splashing around on the Suffolk coast.

It is likely they hitched a ride on a container ship from the Falkland Islands to Felixstowe Port, which arrived last week – and liked it so much they decided to stick around.

“From the photographs we have seen, the group seem healthy and happy enough,” said zoologist William Spence, from Cambridge University.

He added: “It’s certainly nice and cold at the moment, so they are quite at home in the conditions, and are likely to be finding plenty to eat in the North Sea.

“However, although we understand the public will want to go and see them, we urge them to keep back and give them some space.

“They should also keep their dogs on a lead.”

Daytripper Lorraine Fisher, 34, who was visiting the coast from Ipswich, said: “We saw them waddling around this morning.

“They’re really cute – much nicer than the seagulls you normally come across.

“My four-year-old son has seen Pingu on television, and he was really excited.”

Mr Spence said that while he and his team were not concerned for the penguins’ welfare at the moment, they would struggle in the heat of a Suffolk summer.

“We will monitor the situation, but it may be they migrate north where they will enjoy the colder climate.”

Penguins do not normally make the news in Suffolk – although three years ago a local boy stole a penguin from a zoo and took it home in his backpack.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In an extraordinary twist, US President Donald Trump Tweeted about this story, claiming it was proof that global warming is a myth.

No-fishing zones help endangered penguins

Date:  January 16, 2018
Source:  University of Exeter

Small no-fishing zones around colonies of African penguins can help this struggling species, new research shows.

Working with the South African government, researchers from the universities of Exeter and Cape Town tested bans on catching "forage fish" such as sardines and anchovies -- key prey for the endangered penguins -- from 20km around their breeding islands.

The body condition and survival of chicks improved when the no-fishing zones were in place.

More research is needed, but the scientists say the fishing closures should continue in South Africa and should be considered elsewhere.

"The amount of forage fish caught worldwide is increasing and -- although the effects are disputed -- the impact on marine ecosystems could be severe," said Dr Richard Sherley, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"Forage fish are a key link in the food chain as they eat plankton and are preyed on by numerous species including tuna, dolphins, whales and penguins.

"We need to do more to understand the circumstances in which small no-fishing zones will improve the food available to predators, but our research shows this is a promising way to help African penguins."

Not just for Christmas: Study sheds new light on ancient human-turkey relationship

For the first time, research has uncovered the origins of the earliest domestic turkeys in ancient Mexico

Date:  January 17, 2018
Source:  University of York

For the first time, research has uncovered the origins of the earliest domestic turkeys in ancient Mexico. The study also suggests turkeys weren't only prized for their meat -- with demand for the birds soaring with the Mayans and Aztecs because of their cultural significance in rituals and sacrifices.

New Caledonian crows extract prey faster with complex hooked tools

Date:  January 22, 2018
Source:  University of St. Andrews

Biologists have discovered why some crows 'craft' elaborate hooked tools out of branched twigs.

The new study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution today (22 January), explores why crows go the extra mile rather than using simple, unmodified sticks to extract prey -- it allows them to get at hidden food several times faster than if they used basic (non-hooked) tools.

New Caledonian crows are famous for their use of tools to winkle beetle grubs and other small prey out of hiding places. Although crows are capable of extracting food with straight twigs, in some areas they actively manufacture hooked stick tools before going hunting.

Bird conservation group fears hen harriers 'could become extinct'

16th January

A BIRD group believes East Lancashire’s iconic bird of prey may become extinct after heading into a fourth year without confirmed breeding pairs.

The East Lancashire Ornithologists Club has highlighted there have not been successful breeding pairs of hen harriers since 2014, following failed attempts in 2012 and 2013.

The bird of prey has struggled in recent years with only one active nest in the Forest of Bowland in 2015. Last year’s hen harrier survey showed the number of breeding pairs of the bird in England fell from 12 in 2010 to just four in 2016.

In 2017 in England only three pairs of hen harriers successfully bred out of a total of seven attempts.

David Chew, secretary of the ornithologists club, said: “The Forest of Bowland has traditionally been recognised as the English stronghold for breeding hen harriers.

“Overall, the present situation with regard to the hen harrier and other birds of prey is unsustainable if they are to continue as breeding birds in their traditional environment in the UK.

“If the present situation continues they will eventually become extinct as a breeding bird in these locations.”

Hen harriers eat mainly small birds and mammals, the males are pale grey in colour and females are brown with a white rump.

Monday 29 January 2018

Scientists race to find genetic clues as malaria decimates rare Hawaiian honeycreepers

By Michelle Z. Donahue

As average annual temperatures increase, mosquitoes have also been on the move—up the mountains of the Hawaiian islands. Once a refuge for native birds susceptible to mosquito-transmitted avian malaria, altitude no longer guarantees safety from a disease that can kill them in a matter of days.

The question of what may happen to these endangered birds as their environments continue to shift due to climate change is key to their ultimate survival. The answer may lie in their genes.
Over the next several years, bird, malaria and mosquito experts from Rutgers University, the Smithsonian, and other research organizations will be working to sequence genomes of the amakihi, a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper with populations that appear to be developing resistance or tolerance to avian malaria. They’ll also be sequencing genomes of the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) and the malaria parasite it carries, Plasmodium relictum, both invasive to Hawaii.

The National Science Foundation awarded the team a four-year, $2.5 million grant to conduct the work.

Rare native ducklings spotted in the Abel Tasman National Park

For the first time in "living memory", pāteke ducklings have been spotted in the Abel Tasman National Park. 

More than seven months after a group of 20 juvenile pāteke, or brown teal, were released in the national park, a group of six ducklings have been captured on camera. 

Project Janszoon ornithologist Ron Moorhouse said while it was early days, it was "incredibly encouraging" to see the birds breeding in their first year in the park. 

A group of six brown teal ducklings were captured on camera in Hadfield Clearing, behind Awaroa in the Abel Tasman National Park. It is thought to be the first time the rare native duck has bred inside the park.

"It is the first time we think this has happened in living memory, that pāteke have nested and bred in the Abel Tasman."

He said the ducklings were believed to be a week or so old.

Rare ducks appear in Beijing

2018-01-12 10:54XinhuaEditor: Gu Liping

A pair of rare Baikal Teal ducks have been spotted in Beihai Park in Beijing, drawing many bird lovers to watch and take photos.

The Baikal Teal, also called the squawk duck, is a dabbling duck that breeds in eastern Russia and winters in East Asia.

The male duck has a striking green nape, yellow and black ears, neck and throat. It was listed on the red list of endangered species in 2012 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Every March the birds fly from southern China to Siberia and come back in Autumn. It is rare to see the species in Beijing in January.

"Beijing has over 400 species of birds, and the number has been increasing in recent years," said Wang Bojun, a staff member at the Beijing Wildlife Rescue Center, adding that the phenomenon is a sign of Beijing's improving environment.

Beijing saw major air pollutants plummet in 2017 thanks to a string of measures to improve air quality. The average density of PM2.5 dropped 20.5 percent year on year to 58 micrograms per cubic meter of air in 2017,according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Rare African birds ditch the sun in favour of Irish boglands

Glossy ibis and whitetailed eagle spotted in Irish midlands

Sun, Jan 21, 2018, 12:41 Updated: Sun, Jan 21, 2018, 12:43

A number of rare African birds have ditched warmer climes and have taken up residence in Ireland’s deepest, dankest low-lying bogs.

According to Bord na Móna, the peat and energy semi-state, three glossy ibises, normally found in North Africa, have moved to a bog in Co Westmeath and another has been spotted at a bog in Co Offaly.

It said there have been a number of other sightings of rare birds, including a whitetailed eagle, on Irish bogs in the past few weeks.

Sunday 28 January 2018

Police investigation launched after red kites found dead

17th January

A POLICE investigation has been launched after five red kites, a raven and a buzzard were discovered dead in a village in Oxfordshire.

The birds were discovered by a family on Sunday, September 17, near the village of Pyrton, on the edge of the Chilterns, who reported them to the RSPB.

All the birds were recovered and X-rayed by a local vet. The X-rays revealed no signs of shot.

However, the birds have now been sent off for toxicology testing by Natural England as part of the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS), to see if the birds have been poisoned.

All birds of prey and ravens are protected by UK law, making it illegal to kill or harm them. Those found to have done so could face six months in jail or an unlimited fine.

Thames Valley Police, Natural England and RSPB are now working together on a joint investigation and are appealing to the public for information.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Thames Valley Police on 101.

With their six-foot wingspan, red kites are Britain’s third-largest bird of prey and feed mainly on carrion.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551, email or fill in the online form:

Rarely seen Kittiwake sighted visiting wetlands in Goa

Paul Fernandes| TNN | Updated: Jan 22, 2018, 08:15 IST

PANAJI: Goan birders and a few forest officials tramping around the bigger wetlands in North Goa on their annual water fowl count have something to rejoice after a long time - the sighting of rarely seen black-legged Kittiwake.

This seabird species from the gull is not a regular visitor to India and hardly eight sightings have been reported so far. During the last few days, the little gull has been spotted by some birders at the Morjim sandbank.

"A few persons have seen it," a source from Goa 
Bird Conservation Network (GBCN) said, but declined to provide more details.

Scientists tracing call of a bird find new species in Indonesia

JAN 18, 2018, 5:00 AM SGT
Environment Correspondent

With its crimson head and cloak of glossy black feathers, the Rote myzomela is dressed in the colours of a flamenco dancer.

But it was not the diminutive bird's striking appearance that drew the attention of scientists from Singapore and the region. It was its call.

To the layman, the bird's call sounds like an unremarkable series of chirps. But for the researchers, it was a tell-tale sign that the Rote myzomela was a new species of honeyeater.

It was discovered on Pulau Rote, one of the southernmost islands of the Indonesian archipelago.
Ornithologist Philippe Verbelen, one of the scientists behind the discovery, said: "Most bird species have a distinctive song that is unique to that species."

Mr Verbelen, from environmental conservation group Greenpeace, worked with Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and researchers from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences on identifying the bird.

Their findings were published last month in the science journal Treubia.

Although it was only recently confirmed to be a new species, the bird was spotted by Australian ornithologist Ron Johnstone in the 1990s.

Second batch of rare houbara bird to be reintroduced in Jordan in February

1/15/2018 10:44:03 PM

(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AMMAN – A new batch of the houbara bustard, a rare desert bird that has been extinct in Jordan until recently, will be released back to its natural habitat under an ongoing programme to reintroduce the bird to the Kingdom, a conservationist said on Monday.

The houbara bustard, recognised by nature conservationists as 'an icon of the Arabian desert', will be released in February under the second phase of a programme started in 2014 under a partnership between the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) and the Abu Dhabi-based International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC).

The RSCN and the IFHC on Sunday signed the agreement of the programme's second phase, after field surveys proved the success of the first phase with the apparition of nests and chicks, RSCN Director General Yehya Khaled said.

"The new batch of birds will be released under the second phase in February in the historical habitat of the houbara, including Wadi Araba, the eastern and northeastern desert," Khaled told The Jordan Times.

The second phase will last until 2022, Khaled said, noting that the society will release batches every year.

The IFHC will be transferring the birds to Jordan from breeding centres located abroad, according to the RSCN official.

The houbara bustard reintroduction programme started in Jordan as an initiative of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, according to the RSCN, which said that the bird was last recorded in Jordan in the 1990s due to the destruction of its habitat and high levels of hunting.

A total of 1,300 birds has been released in Jordan between 2014 and 2017, according to the society, which reported sightings of houbara nests in the east of the country, nest and chicks in Wadi Araba and nesting in the Wadi Rum area.

Number of protected birds found shot ‘makes this autumn hunting season worst in past few years’

Joanna DemarcoThursday, 11 January 2018, 08:09Last update: about 12 days ago

52 illegally shot, protected birds have been reported so far since this autumn hunting season has kicked off, causing concern to conservational NGO Bird Life, who has said that it is a high number of reported casualties when compared to the past few years.  The hunting season is ongoing and open till the end of January.

“We usually judge the illegal hunting situation mostly in terms by the amount of birds found by the members of the public, that are shot and injured, and then recovered by the police, by the authorities, or by us,” Bird Life’s conservation manager Nicholas Barbara told The Malta Independent yesterday, following a press conference about the situation regarding the European Court of Justice’s verdict on finch trapping in Malta.

Friday 26 January 2018

A Falklands' Caracara escapes from London Zoo and spends ten days on the loose

Friday, January 19th 2018 - 09:18 UTC

The Striated Caracara is found in the Falklands, where the species has a reputation for bold and mischievous behaviour, and are referred to as “Johnny Rooks”. (Pic A. Hansen)

A powerful bird of prey native to the Falkland Islands was captured on Wednesday after escaping from London Zoo and spending 10 days on the loose. There were repeated sightings of the two-foot tall raptor, called a Striated Caracara, in Camden this week, with one report that it was seen “ripping into a whole cooked chicken”.

 Zookeepers were able to capture the bird after being tipped off that it was perched in a tree two miles away in Kilburn Grange Park.

The species are primarily scavengers, but the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) said they will also attack smaller birds or animals if “a weak, defenceless target arose”.

They are most commonly found on the disputed remote and windswept Falkland Islands, where the species has a reputation for bold and mischievous behaviour, and are referred to as “Johnny Rooks”.

A spokesman said that that the male bird, called Louie, was “well equipped for surviving in the urban environment,” adding: “As a meat-eating forager he clearly found plenty of scraps to dine on during his 10-day escapade.

Staff at the zoo were said to have been carrying out daily searches and “tracking him on his travels around north London” since escaping on January 6 during a “routine flying demonstration”. They were pictured attempting to recapture the bird in the zoo carpark that day and told passersby that the bird had been chased off by a group of crows.

Ornithologists describe them as intelligent and adaptable birds that can dig out prey from burrows and also hunt at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour.

When botanist Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary biology, encountered the birds on a visit to the Falklands in the 1830s, he was said to have been struck by their tameness, inquisitive behaviour and opportunistic feeding habits.

Genetic drift caught in action in invasive birds

Studies of island bird populations have taught us a lot about evolution, but it's hard to catch birds in the act of naturally colonizing new islands. Instead, a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances examines what's happened by looking at the genetics of a species that arrived in Hawaii in the twentieth century through decidedly unnatural means—us.

Japanese Bush-Warblers were introduced to Oahu in 1929 and have since become established on all the main islands of Hawaii, providing a unique opportunity to follow post-invasion evolution on a known, recent timescale. Northern Arizona University's Jeffrey Foster and his colleagues took blood and muscle samples from 147 bush-warblers living on five islands between 2003 and 2005. Their results indicate genetic drift is occurring—Oahu's birds have higher genetic diversity than those on other islands, whose populations were founded by smaller groups of individuals, just as population genetic theory predicts. Kauai bush-warblers, however, appear to be on a distinct genetic trajectory from those on other islands. Kauai is three times as far from Oahu as the closest other islands, and appears to have received a unique subset of the overall genetic diversity found elsewhere, but it remains to be seen whether the trend on Kauai will continue in the future or if continued dispersal of birds among islands will blur these differences. "This study nicely showed genetic divergence for a very short period using the artificially introduced Japanese Bush-Warblers," according to Shoji Hamao of Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science, an expert on the species.

Roadcone-moving kea get gym to distract them away from traffic

A partnership between the Department of Conservation (DOC), Downers NZ, University of Canterbury and the Kea Conservation Trust has enabled a kea gym to be built near the Homer Tunnel in Fiordland National Park.

A kea gym offers the birds several objects they can play with or take apart to distract them from danger or causing damage.

DOC partnerships ranger Sue Streatfield said the idea to establish a gym at Homer Tunnel in Fiordland came after rangers were looking for a way to get kea away from the road.

On regular visits to Homer Tunnel, rangers would find kea wandering all over the road as traffic waited to go through the one-way tunnel to Milford Sound.


Parasitic disease poses threat to greenfinches

ROGER RATCLIFFE Published: 07:00 Wednesday 10 January 2018

The most troubling development in the world of garden birds in recent memory has been a steep decline in numbers of greenfinches caused by a disease known as Trichomonosis. 

Pigeon fanciers call it “canker”, while to falconers the condition is “frounce” but whatever the species the effect is identical. The parasite Trichomonas gallinae causes a swelling at the back of the throat which leads to a progressive difficulty in swallowing and breathing by inflected birds.

You know you are looking at a tricho bird if it is lethargic, gapes frequently and has fluffed-up plumage. I first noticed the condition in Yorkshire greenfinches round about the year 2000, and by 2006 a full scale UK epidemic was declared by the British Trust for Ornithology. Its most recent annual BirdTrends report, published just before Christmas and so given little publicity, highlights that the country’s greenfinch population has suffered a “rapid and alarming decline” of 59 percent.

How These Birds Look So Incredibly Black

By Nathaniel Scharping | January 9, 2018 5:03 pm

Vantablack has been called the world’s darkest substance. When it was unveiled in 2014, the material made headlines for the way it seemed to leach objects of their three-dimensionality; it was so black that every feature merged into a black hole.

Darker than a black bear in a cave on a starless night, Vantablack looks downright otherworldly. But, humans are hardly alone when it comes to inky excess. Some birds, of a type normally associated with brilliant plumage, have feathers that rival the substance’s light-stealing prowess, say a group of researchers in a paper published Tuesday in Nature Communications.


West Coast sparrow makes rare appearance at Cibolo bird sanctuary

By Vincent T. Davis, Staff Writer
January 9, 2018 Updated: January 9, 2018 9:17pm

Joel Williams, a casual bird watcher, settles in at Warbler Woods Bird Sanctuary, off Old Wiederstein Road in Cibolo, where fluttering wings and chirping are the only sounds heard in the early part of the day.

He usually enjoys peace of mind out here, but this morning he’s about to start a nationwide hubbub.

He’d come to see the Harris’ Sparrow on the 124-acre property owned by Susan and Don Schaelzler and Margie Bonnes. He sat on a wooden bench in the Old Barn blind and raised his binoculars to watch flurries of birds scaring up insects and pecking at seeds along a leaf-scattered path.

As Williams snapped photos, he suddenly glimpsed a bird he’d never seen before — a sparrow with golden feathers on its head.

He had a little trouble identifying the sparrow because it wasn’t a Texas bird. With the help of his bird book, he discovered it was a Golden-crowned Sparrow that belongs more than 1,000 miles away on the West Coast.

He posted his find on Twitter and tagged owner Susan Schaelzler, who sent out an eBird Alert on Dec. 11 for the unusual bird sighting. The next morning, 30 people were waiting outside of the sanctuary gate to see the bird.


Thursday 25 January 2018

This Rat-Free City Park Is a Paradise of Rare Birds

Since a park in Wellington, New Zealand, fenced out rats, stoats, and other predators, rare indigenous birds have returned to the city.

Zealandia covers 550 acres in Wellington. Birds breeding in safety inside its protective fence have spread to other parts of the city.

By Emma Marris


We make our way down a steep wooded slope, holding onto trees and bracing our feet sideways against roots. We’re off trail, but Paul Ward, an app designer and self-described “lifelong bird nerd,” knows the way.

All at once we come upon a young man, blonde and bearded, sitting alone on the ground. He’s gazing meditatively at a homemade parrot box.

The man has the hipster air of a musician or student, and he may well be both, but right now he’s a volunteer—for the Polhill Protectors, a Wellington citizens’ group working to make this urban park, called the Polhill Reserve, into a safe haven for rare native birds. Every few weeks he sits for an hour at this box to keep track of whether kaka parrots are nesting in it.

City lights setting traps for migrating birds

19th January 2018

University of Delaware study looks at how birds are drawn to artificial light pollution in urban areas


On their fall migration south in the Northern Hemisphere, scores of birds are being lured by artificial light pollution into urban areas that may be an ecological trap, according to the University of Delaware's Jeff Buler.

Buler, associate professor in UD's Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and his research team used 16 weather surveillance radars from the northeastern United States over a seven-year period to map the distributions of migratory birds during their fall stopovers. The research is published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters.

Since most of the birds that migrate in the U.S. are nocturnal and leave their stopover sites at night, Buler and his research group took snapshots of the birds as they departed.

"Shortly after sunset, at around civil twilight, they all take off in these well-synchronized flights that show up as a sudden bloom of reflectivity on the radar," Buler said. "We take a snapshot of that, which allows us to map out where they were on the ground and at what densities. It basically gives us a picture of their distributions on the ground."

The researchers were interested in seeing what factors shape the birds' distributions and why they occur in certain areas.

Arctic ookpik boom sees many snowy owls head south this winter

"Snowies" have been seen in south-central United States


Snowy owls have become the new Canadian “snow birds” this winter, migrating south of the border in great numbers, and some of the birds, called ookpiks in Inuktitut, have gone as far south as the state of Missouri where their presence on power poles, hay bales and fences has attracted a lot of attention.

In Missouri—more than 3,800 kilometres south of north Baffin, where many snowy owls nest and breed—the big owls, which can weigh up to more than six pounds and have a wingspan of nearly five feet, find a varied diet: they may eat rabbits, squirrels and other rodents, mink and muskrats, and waterfowl and other birds, which they find “usually by sitting on a fence post or from other vantage point and looking and listening for prey,” the Missouri Department of Conservation said in a recent update on snowy owls.

Swans reunited as missing mate returns to rekindle 19-year romance

Sarah Knapton, science editor 
22 JANUARY 2018 • 6:03PM

A heartbroken swan who flew into Britain alone six weeks ago after losing his mate during the 2,500 mile journey has finally been reunited with his partner.

Wildlife experts at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust feared the worst when 26-year-old Bewick's swan Croupier arrived without Dealer, who is mother to his 29 cygnets.

The pair have been together for 19 years and are part of a lineage of swans which can be traced back decades. 

Bewick's swan numbers have plummeted in the past two decades and it was feared Dealer may have been shot or poisoned on her journey back from Russia. 

But on Monday the Trust in Gloucestershire announced that Dealer has finally arrived after going missing for six weeks.

WWT’s swan expert Julia Newth said: "During the 19 years they were together, Croupier and Dealer reared and brought back to Slimbridge 29 cygnets.