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 28 February 2018

Herring gull sniper being hunted by police after third bird is shot down

Herring gulls enjoy protected status and it is illegal to harm them
06:00, 22 FEB 2018

Police in Falmouth are on the hunt for a sniper who has been picking off herring gulls perched on the town’s rooftops.

Devon and Cornwall Police response sergeant and wildlife crimes officer Paul Freestone, based in Falmouth, took to Twitter to announce the grim finding.

He tweeted: “This is the third incident of a herring gull being shot in Falmouth. It is illegal and police are investigating. Anyone with info please ring 101. #Wildlifecrime ”

A witness reported seeing the gull drop from the sky

Sergeant Freestone has since told Cornwall Live: “We had a call from a member of the public who had seen a gull drop out of the sky and reported it to a PCSO.

“It’s the third shooting in the Wellington Road area. The PCSO went down there and picked it up and brought it back to the station. The gull had a hole in its head from an air rifle pellet.

“How 40,000 starlings go to bed in less than a minute” – amazing moment huge flock drops from sky

By Paul McGowan -

February 20, 2018

A REMARKABLE video shows the moment a murmuration of 40,000 starlings evaporates as they drop out of the sky at the same moment.

Retired water worker Simon Waters, 61, captured the stunning scene at the RSPB Minsmere Nature Reserve, in Suffolk.

His footage shows the birds create incredibly dense shapes at one moment and seem to fill the sky the next.

But the clip is really notable for how the starlings suddenly and in unison land to roost for the night.

Buzzard shot eight times found dead near Llanrhaeadr Waterfall

By Sue Austin | Mid Wales | News | Published: Feb 24, 2018

A buzzard has been found shot dead close to a beauty spot.

The bird of prey was found by a walker near Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant on the Shropshire border.

It was X-rayed by a local vet and found to have at least eight pellets in its body.

Police and the RSPB bird charity have warned that birds of prey are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and to kill or injure one is a criminal offence which could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Rare night parrot vanishes after intervention by recovery team

The Australian
12:00AM February 24, 2018

A critically endangered night parrot disappeared after being fitted with a radio transmitter by a team of experts charged with saving the birds from extinction.

No surveys were undertaken to determine how many parrots there were in the remote East Murchison area of Western Australia before the parrot recovery team netted the bird.

The news emerged as it was ­revealed almost half the nests of night parrots discovered in Queensland were abandoned after being discovered by ­scientists. Critics say mis­directed, if well-meaning, interference in managing the species may contribute to its demise.

The parrot was once widespread across Australia, but numbers plummeted from the late-1800s. The first photograph of a night parrot was taken only in 2013, by naturalist John Young.

As few as 20 night parrots survive in a small area near Pullen Pullen Reserve in western Queensland where Mr Young took his photographs. Three nests uncovered by scientists working for Bush Heritage Australia, which owns Pullen Pullen, subsequently failed to produce offspring. BHA says one nest failed due to heat stress; a snake is believed to have eaten the eggs in another nest; and it is not known why a single chick in the third nest died. A BHA spokeswoman said five other nests successfully produced birds.

In March last year, the night parrot was discovered at the East Murchison site in WA by four ornithologists. Details of the site were sent to recovery team head Allan Burbidge, who led an expedition to the area last August.

Dr Burbidge and his team strung fine nets in an area of spinifex where ornithologist Bruce Greatwich has photographed a night parrot. ­Researchers walked through the spinifex in a line, hoping to drive parrots from their day roosts into the nets.

Monday 26 February 2018

How do birds sleep? You might be surprised

Bob Duchesne | BDN

Mallards are notorious for their ability to sleep with one eye open.

By Bob Duchesne, Special to the BDN • February 16, 2018 6:00 am

Winter is a dangerous time for me. I have too much free time to ponder imponderable questions, like “Do birds sleep?” Well, yes, but not the same way we do, and each species has its own way of sleeping.

Sleeping is dangerous. Slumber too deeply, and you may become somebody’s unwary lunch. Most small birds grab a few winks as needed, but they are hard-wired to wake instantly if disturbed by a neighbor, strange sound, or approaching threat. Awake, gone.

Some birds can sleep with one eye open, resting half of their brain while the other half remains alert. It’s called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. The ability is not limited to birds. Certain whales and porpoises have demonstrated the knack, too. It’s most common in species that sleep in open fields or water, like ducks and seabirds.

Some long-distance migrants are capable of sleeping on the wing, since they often need to stay aloft for days or weeks at a time. But are they really sleeping up there? The only way to know is to wire them up and measure brainwave activity. Obviously, that is impractical for tiny birds.

Frigatebirds are large birds of the tropical oceans. They resemble prehistoric pterodactyls, with short legs and very long, pointed wings that allow them to stay aloft for days. These birds are large enough to be fitted with brainwave monitoring devices. Though they can rest briefly on water, they are not comfortable there. With such long wings, frigatebirds face difficulties taking off from a flat surface, and their tiny feet give them no boost.

Mummified Prehistoric Bird Head Discovered in Mexican Cave

Published 18 February 2018

Researchers say the bird was unearthed in the Avendanos Cave in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

The mummified head of a prehistoric bird was found back in 2016, the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico has revealed.

Researchers say the bird was unearthed in the Avendanos Cave in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The scientists believe they have identified the head of one of the oldest macaw mummies ever discovered.

"The first [thing] we noticed was the head of the macaw in perfect condition," Archaeologist Emiliano Gallaga told The National Geographic.

The green color of the military macaw's plume is visible and its beak is intact. The researchers determined that the bird dates back to about 2,000 years to 900 AD – 800 years older than any other specimen from that region.

The scientist disclosed that military macaws were not native to the region of the Central American country and as a result were likely brought there for religious purposes.

Read on  

Love is in the air: Critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeaters have bumper breeding season

By Melissa Cunningham & AAP
14 February 2018 — 10:57pm

A critically-endangered bird species, native only to Victoria, has recorded a bumper breeding season, bringing it one step closer to staving off extinction.

Thirty-six Helmeted Honeyeater couples in Melbourne's east have raised 61 fledglings so far, with hope for more before the end of the breeding season in March.

Of the 36 couples, 24 birds are first-time parents.

"This is fantastic news for the recovery program, as it means the birds that are reaching breeding age are replacing lost birds or, in some cases, finding their own breeding sites," Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning ornithologist Bruce Quin told AAP.

"It's also a big positive for the conservation program as it shows there is enough quality habitat to support a population increase."

The small, yellow-tufted species have been steadily making a comeback from near-extinction due to a more than three decade-long conservation program.

The Helmeted Honeyeater is Victoria's bird emblem, but it's survival rate on release from captivity sits at less than 40 per cent.

Last year, numbers of the yellow-breasted bird dwindled to 190.

But, increasing numbers of the species is only half the battle.

When a Helmeted Honeyeater enters the wild, it not only fails to evade its main predators, but often flies directly towards them, resulting in its untimely death.

The reason for this, is that Helmeted Honeyeaters have little understanding of what to fear.

Industrial-scale hunting in Tunisia 'is currently legal'

A recent Facebook post by the Lebanese Hunting Club, dated 10 January but subsequently erased, used horrifying images to advertise hunting trips in Tunisia. However, while they shocked the internet, the carnage they depict is currently legal in the country.

Widely shared by conservation organisations and activists, the graphic invitation for tourists to slaughter excessive numbers of birds in Tunisia provoked wholesale indignation and disgust, who are calling on the country's authorities to eradicate these barbaric but apparently lawful practices.

Tourist hunters in Tunisia are permitted to kill Wild Boar, Golden Jackals, Foxes, mongooses and Genets as well as numerous bird species. To do so, they need only apply to a Tunisian travel agency to organise a hunting trip. They are then provided with a hunting licence (valid for seven days and renewable) and a specialised guide. Depending on the game they target, hunters may also pay a fee to the Tunisian state, which can range from 1,000-2,000 dinars (€ 336-672) per hunter, depending on the time and duration of the trip. Each hunter is also allowed to bring 350 rounds of ammunition.

No quota is set for the killing of thrushes or Common Starlings. In fact, this is the case for more than 30 bird species in Tunisia which are considered legally huntable. The exceptions to this rule are Barbary Partridge and sandgrouse species – for these, each hunter is limited to six and 10 kills per day respectively.

Alderney becomes Britain's 20th Bird Observatory

Britain’s birds are amongst the best monitored animals in the world, and it just about to get even better as a brand new bird observatory joins the nineteen others that are scattered around our coast.

Alderney Bird Observatory becomes the most southerly bird observatory in Britain

Alderney Bird Observatory (ABO) received official accreditation at a recent meeting of the Bird Observatories Council (BOC), a gathering of all of the bird observatories, making it the twentieth in the country. Ranging from Fair Isle, Shetland, in the north to Alderney, Channel Islands, in the south, Britain’s bird observatories have kept an eye on the comings and goings of our birds since the first observatory Skokholm, Wales, opened in 1933 – these unbroken observations make them amongst the largest datasets in the world.

Many firsts for Britain have been found and documented at Bird Observatories but it is the day-to day observations of birds on the move that are the most important, birds making their way in and out of Britain on their migrations from far-flung destinations. Since the 1960s several of these have changed the timing of their migration as a response to a changing climate. The Swallow now arrives back in the UK on average fifteen days earlier than it did in the 60s, and the Sand Martin over twenty days earlier, whilst for the Cuckoo the timing hasn’t really changed. It is vital that we keep an eye out for changing patterns in the future if we are to fully understand the pressures that many of our birds might face and how we might help those that are showing declines.

Sunday 25 February 2018

Andean Condors poisoned in Colombia


After last week’s large-scale poisoning of Andean Condors in Argentina was found to have been caused by Carbofuran, the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) has reported another case of poisoning, this time from Colombia. Two condors were found dead in the country, where only around 100 individuals remain in the wild.

Poison is the biggest threat to vultures worldwide. This was the main conclusion of the Vulture Multi-species Action Plan, which was co-developed by VCF and has been recently endorsed by the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS). A significant part of this global action plan for vultures focuses on the fighting this threat.

In Europe, VCF is actively pursuing different lines to these ends, including a brand new project in the Balkans, where the organisation will be working and funding local partners in Croatia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Greece to try to eradicate this illegal and highly damaging practice.

In South America, Fundación Bioandina Argentina (FBA), which is leading the Andean Condor Conservation Program of Argentina, is implementing similar actions, as cases of poisoning have grown exponentially. In the last 13 months, at least 66 condors were killed by poison in several provinces of the country.

Police crackdown on North Yorkshire bird of prey killings

17 February 2018

Police have joined forces with wildlife experts to combat bird of prey killings in the county with the UK's worst record for attacks.

Operation Owl will see officers in North Yorkshire sent to "persecution hotspots" to try and catch offenders.

As part of the campaign, the RSPB has launched a hotline to allow people to report incidents in confidence.

Its latest figures show 54 attacks were reported in the county between 2012 and 2016 - by far the worst area in the UK.

A report by the RSPB claimed many of the incidents were on "land managed for driven grouse shooting".

It cited an incident in 2016 when a gamekeeper on a grouse shooting estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park received a police caution after admitting setting three pole traps.

The RSPB said that in 2016, confirmed incidents in North Yorkshire included four shot buzzards, four shot red kites, two poisoned red kites, a shot peregrine, a buzzard nest destruction and seven incidents relating to the illegal use of spring traps.

As 'they risk becoming memory', GPS technology is being used to help save the curlew

ONE OF Scotland’s most threatened birds, the curlew, has been tracked for the first time using GPS in an effort to save the species. The waders were fitted with GPS trackers in southern Scotland as part of a groundbreaking pilot study to see where they go during their crucial breeding season.

PUBLISHED: 00:00, Mon, Feb 19, 2018

GPS trackers are being used to protect curlews

The RSPB study found adults will travel up to two kilometres to favoured foraging spots, while their partner incubates eggs on the nest, but while rearing young chicks, they stay within 300m to protect them.

The discovery – which highlights the importance of maintaining diverse habitats for curlews to nest and forage on a landscape scale – could be used to help design conservation measures to save the species.

Dr Steven Ewing, senior conservation scientist at RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science, said yesterday: “Curlews are instantly recognisable to all, but like other species before it, they risk becoming just another memory lost to future generations.

“Developing effective conservation strategies demands a good understanding of the species’ needs, as the lack of one important requirement could limit the effectiveness of conservation efforts.

‘Nearly threatened’: Rare migratory bird spotted in Faridkot

A birdwatcher, Jasvir Singh, who captured the rufous vented prinia in his camera, had first encounter with the bird in south-west Punjab in September last year.

PUNJAB Updated: Feb 15, 2018 11:41 IST
Gagandeep Jassowal
Hindustan Times, Faridkot

A rare migratory bird, rufous vented prinia, was recently spotted near Machaki Mal Singh village, 10km from Faridkot town.  

The bird, which was put in the ‘nearly threatened’ category of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNC) in January last year, is only found in northwest India and the Sindh region of Pakistan.

A birdwatcher, Jasvir Singh, who captured the rufous vented prinia in his camera, had first encounter with the bird in south-west Punjab in September last year.

Wildlife officer (Faridkot) Tajinder Singh said rufous vented prinia is rarely spotted in Punjab.

But, Jasvir was not aware of the fact which he came to know about after attending a conference on rare birds. 

“When I came to know about it I rushed to the area again and luckily found the bird on February 5 and 8,.” said Jasvir, a government teacher who started wildlife photography in 2014 

Tayto Park welcomes endangered white-headed vultures

Ronan Gaine – 20 February 2018 02:30 AM

Staff are delighted a pair of white-headed vultures are now at Tayto Park, says Mike Brasser

It was a case of from Africa to Ashbourne for a pair of rare white-headed vultures who have been unveiled at their new Tayto Park home.

The birds of prey, which are on the endangered species list, arrived into the country last month.

The white-headed vultures - the only breeding pair in Ireland - caused plenty of excitement at the theme park and zoo.

They are critically endangered and face the serious threat of extinction.

Zookeepers at Tayto are therefore hoping for a strong bond to form between the pair to allow for breeding at their new home in Co Meath.

The white-headed vulture is part of a captive population managed and monitored by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria's European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).

"The main reason we wanted to welcome them to Tayto Park is that they are very rare in the wild and having them here means we are part of a very important international breeding programme known as an EEP," a spokesman for the park told the Herald.

Mike Brasser, head of the World of Raptors at Tayto Park, said staff were thrilled to have the species join the zoo and said there was "plenty of excitement" following their arrival.

The vultures have yet to be named.

Friday 23 February 2018

Seabird avian flu detected


While there have been no new avian flu infections in the commercial poultry sector, the disease has been detected in other seabird species.

Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde yesterday confirmed that further incidents of the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu had been found in seabird populations in the province.

Seven cases of infected African penguins from six different sites across the provincial coastline were detected.

“Due to the status of African penguins as endangered, a decision to treat infected birds has been taken.

“Treatment protocols are similar to those for flu in humans - appropriate nutrition, hydration, vitamins, and the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics for any secondary infections,” Winde said.

Of the seven cases, one has survived.

No new cases were reported in the commercial poultry sector since October.

“The management authorities of all major sea bird colonies around the coastline are monitoring their zones closely. 

"All necessary precautionary protocols to contain the spread of the disease have been implemented and extended surveillance and collaboration across sectors is assisting with further epidemiological evaluations,” Winde said.

CapeNature chief executive Razeena Omar said: “CapeNature is working closely with the state vet and has put procedures in place to monitor the virus and restrict the spread by humans between infected and non-infected areas”.

Meet The Island-Hopping Emergency Team That Saved Polynesia’s Birds From Extinction

Four of the world’s rarest bird species are once again growing in number thanks to Pacific Island conservation efforts.

If you’re an endangered flightless bird living in the South Pacific, 2018 is already shaping up to be your year. This is, in no small way, thanks to an unprecedented collaborative effort among groups ranging from environmental organizations to successful app game developers.

In what’s regarded as one of the standout conservation achievements of the last year, Alopecoenas erythropterus — the Polynesian ground dove — has been rescued from extinction at the hands of invasive mammalian predators (read: rats) introduced over time by waves of human visitors.

The dove, known locally by the euphonious moniker “ tutururu,” had bottomed out at under 200 remaining, hitting the critically endangered list in 2013. And it wasn’t the only imperiled bird in Polynesia. Along with the Tuamotu sandpiper, aka Prosobonia cancellata, the tutururu now enjoys twice the stable habitat it did before the restoration team tackled the crisis.

Victory didn’t come easy. The massive operation to bring the birds back from the brink required the combined efforts of NGOs like BirdLife International and Island Conservation, corporations like Bell Labs and Tomcat, and public and private stakeholders ranging from island property owners to the French Polynesian government. The logistical and financial scope of the project even attracted the help of Rovio, the company behind the popular game Angry Birds.

While beating back the rat population, the conservation team had to focus on flora as well as fauna. In one especially troublesome instance, the inhospitable lantana plant was strangling environments once supported by island forests, which expanding coconut plantations had spent years clearing away.