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.

Friday 31 August 2018

First-ever greater rhea chick hatchlings make history at Calgary Zoo

Published Saturday, August 25, 2018 11:42AM EDT 
The Calgary Zoo made history earlier this month when it welcomed its first-ever greater rhea chicks.
The pair – now three weeks old – hatched at the zoo on Aug. 3 and 5.
The flightless greater rhea is the largest bird in South America and is found mostly in Argentina and Brazil. Related to the ostrich and the emu, the bird uses its wings not for flight, but for balance and changing direction while running.
Male rheas incubate the eggs and care for the new hatchlings, guarding them aggressively for six weeks after their birth.
Colleen Baird, the general curator at the Calgary Zoo, told CTV Calgary that the male greater rhea, Jekyll, has fully embraced his traditional role of dad and caregiver.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the greater rhea as a near-threatened species, meaning that it is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable classification in the near future.
The birds are part of the Calgary Zoo’s Species Survival Plan, which helps safeguard at-risk species.
Greater rheas are often hunted for their skin, which is used to manufacture leather, while others collect their eggs for consumption. Both have contributed to the species’ dwindling numbers.

Rare and secretive bird spotted posing as a log in suburban Te Atatū, Auckland

Endangered bird caught on camera in West Auckland
Community Waitakere
The rare and endangered Australasian Bittern/Matuku has been filmed by a remote camera placed by Community Waitakere in Te Atatu Peninsula, West Auckland.
What looked like a log in a suburban Auckland wetland has turned out to be one of New Zealand's rarest and most endangered birds.
An infrared camera set up for two days last week at the Orangihina Wetlands in Te Atatū in West Auckland captured footage of the matuku, also known as the Australasian bittern, wandering through the wetland.
Ecologist Dion Pou from Community Waitakere said he reviewed footage on the camera on the car ride back from the wetland thinking something had gone wrong with his motion-sensitive camera.
"At first I couldn't understand why this log had somehow gotten into the middle of the frame."
Matuku are secretive, rarely seen in pairs, shy away from other animals and are almost never seen near cities, Pou said.
When the Matuku tilts its head upwards it can look like a piece of dead wood.
Its trademark gesture involves the bird tilting its head to the sky exposing the markings on its neck making it look like a piece of dead wood to onlookers.
Over the last 50 years the matuku population has been in steep decline.
The bird is large, the size of a small white-faced heron, but requires wetlands with clean water to survive.
There are fewer than 1000 matuku left in New Zealand and a similar number in Australia along with around 50 in New Caledonia. 
Pou said those numbers made the matuku "as endangered as it gets" on a global scale.
Michael Coote from Forest and Bird said the discovery of the bird in suburban Auckland was a testament to its survival skills. 
In that environment the bird would face threats from off-leash dogs, cats, stoats and rats interested in its eggs.

Birders cheer sighting of rare Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

TNN | Aug 27, 2018, 07.15 AM IST

GURUGRAM: Sunday morning brought cheer to the community of birders in the Delhi-NCR region, after a rare migratory bird, the Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, was sighted at the Aravali Biodiversity Park.

The bird was spotted for the first time in the Aravali Biodiversity Park last year. According to birders, sightings during the same time of the year (for two consecutive years) might indicate the bird has made Gurugram its monsoon migratory destination.

“Last year, during the same time, I saw a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin in the Aravali Biodiversity Park of Gurugram. The entire birder community was taken by surprise, as this was probably the second or third record of a sighting from our zone. Last year, we considered this as an accidental record, as sometimes the bird stops en-route during migration. However, this year we have again spotted the bird in the same month and the same habitat. This gives us hope the Aravali Biodiversity Park habitat is inviting the bird, and that Gurugram could very much be its monsoon migration destination,” said Amit Sharma, an avid birder who spotted the bird along with two other enthusiasts, Gaurav Yadav and Janardan Barthwal.

Birder Gaurav Yadav, from DLF Phase 4, said, “I have been birding for the last two years. I am lucky to spot the bird as it is very rare that one sees a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin here in Delhi and NCR.”

Birds of a feather flocking together - and DOC wants people to stay away

The Department of Conservation is investigating putting up signage to warn people about critically endangered black billed gulls which are nesting on the banks of the Upukerora River near Te Anau.
The Department of Conservation will investigate putting up signage to warn motorbike riders, four-wheel drivers and dog walkers that they risk disturbing a critically endangered bird.
Black billed gulls look to be preparing to nest beside the outlet of the Upukerora River which flows into Lake Te Anau in Fiordland.
But DOC senior ranger biodiversity George Ledgard said the birds might be scared from the area by human activity or predators, and he asked visitors to the area to be cautious.
"We're trying to get some proactive awareness out there and we're talking to Environment Southland about what can be done.
"There is no signage there at the moment and I'm looking into that but we currently don't have the budget for it."
That meant that people using the area were "probably unknowingly" disturbing the birds, he said.
"It's an awareness issue so it's hard to tell people off for something they don't even know they're doing.
"It's a really popular for people to go four-wheel driving, ripping around on their motorbikes, walking their dogs or fishing and a gull is a gull to them, but as native birds that have lived there, they have the priority.
It was possible that the birds would move to a new nesting site.

Artificial breeding efforts increase rare Chinese pheasant population

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/8/14 23:38:41
Researchers in Southwest China's Sichuan Province have hatched five Chinese monal chicks, a rare type of pheasant, increasing the number of artificially bred Chinese monals to a global total of 16.

With highly iridescent plumage, the Chinese monal is one of the largest pheasants in the world.

The species is listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is under China's highest national-level protection.

The bird is as rare as the giant panda, and covering a similar range.

There are less than 3,000 wild Chinese monals in the world, which mainly live in mountainous areas, at an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level in the northwest parts of Sichuan, and Qinghai and Gansu provinces and Tibet Autonomous Region.

"The Chinese monal is one of the most difficult species to breed in captivity," said Zhou Caiquan, deputy director of the Sichuan (Baoxing) Protection and Research Center of Chinese Monal.

"Wild Chinese monals are hard to tame. Some birds still avoid people even after decades in captivity. Furthermore, mating and hatching eggs in cages also prove challenging," Zhou said.

Five artificially bred female Chinese monals in the center laid 16 eggs during the breeding season between April and June, and five of them have been successfully hatched.

Thursday 30 August 2018

What homebody island birds could tell us about adaptation and evolution

13Aug, 2018

In nature, organisms are constantly adapting to their surroundings. It’s why animal or plant populations with the same set of genes will do different things in different environments.
These adaptive divergences can occur within fewer generations, and at smaller spatial scales, than classic evolutionary theory would have us believe. Launching a new study, Colorado State University biologists are diving into the question of just how small these scales could be. To find out, they’re studying a rare, isolated bird that, it turns out, is a bit of a homebody.
Researchers led by Cameron Ghalambor, professor in the Department of Biology, are launching a National Science Foundation-supported study of what evolutionary biologists term “microgeographic” adaptation strategies of island scrub-jays, North America’s only island-endemic bird. Island scrub-jays live exclusively on Santa Cruz Island, one of the Channel Islands off the southern California coast.
The study is aimed at understanding how isolated species like scrub-jays somehow manage to genetically diverge, creating sub-populations that reflect specific, adaptive traits. That’s despite living in an area of less than 100 square miles, with plenty of opportunity to interbreed. What the researchers learn could provide new insight into the mechanisms by which individuals in a single population diverge across habitats, and what that could mean for conservation biology, biodiversity and evolution.

Exotic birds loose in county after naughty goat broke door lock

27th August

A NAUGHTY goat ‘butting’ a door lock led to the accidental release of more than 30 exotic Cockatiels and budgies, many of which are still on the loose in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.
Udupi, the boisterous billy, bashed an internal door to an aviary owned by Vicky Richards Barton, of Cardigan, last Wednesday, August 22.
The rampaging ruminant’s door destruction saw Vicky’s much-loved flock take to the skies some time between 8pm and 10pm.
While some eight birds have already made their way home, Vicky, of Tenby Road, is appealing for help in recovering the rest of her feathered friends.
There have been sightings of the missing 25-plus birds as far afield as St Dogmaels, Llechryd, Cilgerran, Newcastle Emlyn, Cenarth, Haverfordwest, and even Carmarthen.

Nightjars back at RSPB headquarters


After an absence of 45 years, European Nightjar has bred again at RSPB headquarters at The Lodge, Bedfordshire.
In early June a churring male was discovered on an area of restored heathland at the nature reserve. After that, a female appeared and the pair was seen displaying together, which suggested an intention to breed. The site last held breeding nightjars in 1973. Confirmation of whether or not the birds have successfully reared young, and if so how many, will have to wait until after they’ve finished nesting, but the breeding attempt is positive news for the RSPB following on-site conservation efforts.
Peter Bradley, Senior Site Manager at The Lodge, expressed his delight: "We're over the moon, not only because these birds have returned and appear to be breeding for the first time in so many years, but also because they’ve chosen to nest on a part of the reserve where we set about recreating the kind of heathland habitat used by nesting European Nightjars that has been lost."
The RSPB bought 59 hectares of forestry land adjacent to The Lodge in 2003 and began restoring the area back to heathland. Over the course of two winters, the non-native commercial forest trees were felled and heather was sown using seed from existing heathland on the reserve. Nightjars haven't been the only good news story since the restoration either, with Woodlarks and Natterjack Toads among the other beneficiaries.

The glossy ibis invasion continues

Monday, August 20, 2018 - 12:00 AM
By Richard Collins
The curlew is in trouble; a BirdWatch Ireland census found only 150 breeding pairs here in 2015-16, a 97% reduction in numbers since the 1980s.
The bird is still common in winter but the ones you see on Irish wetlands are mostly visitors from Britain and mainland Europe.
Keeping an eye out for curlews, you might come across what appears to be a very dark-coloured one, with long legs trailing behind the tail in flight. Don’t be fooled; despite having the characteristic down-curved bill, this isn’t a curlew but a glossy ibis.
On the Outdoors page, some years ago, we speculated that this exotic creature, which breeds in the eastern Mediterranean Africa and the Middle East, might become a ‘regular’ winter visitor here, rather than a mere ‘vagrant’.
Sightings, since then, have been encouraging. According to the latest report of the Irish Rare Birds Committee, about 46 ibises visited us in 2016. They were seen in 12 counties.
The numbers, although slightly down on the 2015 total of 53, are unprecedented. As Colin Barton, compiler of the report, remarked; “the invasion continues”.

St Albans mural aims to brighten up area and raise money for rare birds

PUBLISHED: 09:00 18 August 2018

A mural has been painted outside a tuition centre in St Albans to raise money for rare birds in the Galápagos Islands.
Bright Young Things, at 12 Ridgmont Road, organised to have the mural of blue-footed boobies and flamingoes painted across the side of the centre to raise money to protect the endangered boobies’ island home.
Woody Webster, director of the centre, said: “We had a white wall outside Bright Young Things, and we wanted to brighten the area up. We’ve had people walking in saying ‘we love your wall’.
“I designed it and got a painter to paint it. The blue booby is such a rare creature and it’s only in a really small part of the world.”

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Spain’s mission to save the White-headed Duck

The beautiful White-headed Duck is a compelling species. Keen birdwatchers are always eager to catch a glimpse of its distinctive blue bill or stiff tail. Its larger, eastern population in Asia is shrouded in mystery: the precise breeding and wintering grounds of tens of thousands of birds counted in Kazakhstan remains unknown. This population is also migratory, travelling long distances from Siberia to the Middle East, whereas the smaller western Mediterranean population resident in Spain, Algeria and Tunisia is more sedentary and far more closely studied. Sadly, what unites these populations is their IUCN listing as globally ‘Endangered’.
Back in the 1970s, the Spanish population of White-headed Duck was brought to the verge of extinction following the severe destruction of its wetland habitats and unsustainable hunting. A count in 1977 recorded just 22 individuals, confined to a single lagoon in Córdoba, Andalucía. Conservationists sprang into action: hunting at the lagoon site was made illegal and habitat restoration measures were implemented, including vegetation regeneration and the removal of harmful non-native species. Slowly but surely, the species began to recover, progressively spreading first to the neighbouring provinces of Sevilla and Cádiz and then on to Almería and Toledo. By 1988, more than 400 birds could be counted and today that number has rocketed up to 2,500 individuals across 13 Spanish provinces.
The spectacular recovery of the White-headed Duck in Spain is an inspiring example of what can be achieved by a well-coordinated Species Action Plan (SAP), grounded in science and supported by local authorities and community groups. But success in one country usually isn’t enough to turn things around for a whole species worldwide. That is why BirdLife has been leading the LIFE EuroSAP project with the goal of elaborating SAPs for sixteen iconic species on an international scale, spanning 65 countries and three continents. The White-headed Duck, still Endangered globally, was selected to be one of the target species, with SEO/BirdLife Spain coordinating efforts to identify threats and conservation measures to feed into an updated international SAP.
Read on  

Ladakh’s revered bird is under threat from human’s best friend – dogs

by Athar Parvaiz on 22 August 2018
The black-necked crane, the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir, is under threat from feral dogs that damage the bird eggs and chicks.
Another threat to the bird is the loss of habitat owing to the loss and degradation of wetlands and changing agricultural practices in both its breeding and wintering grounds.
Dog attacks on wildlife are a threat to species survival in India and researchers suggest responsible dog ownership, control of free-ranging behaviour to reduce interactions with wildlife and dog population management based on scientific research and techniques.
The dance of Chartses, a mating jig of the black-necked crane, is an important feature of every cultural programme or festival in Ladakh where the bird is revered among the people. Ladakhis, particularly those living in Changthang region, consider the black-necked crane not only culturally important, but a spiritual creature as well. Many monasteries have paintings of the crane along with other spiritual paintings.
They believe that sighting the giant bird is a sign of good luck.
But the beautiful creature, also the state bird of the mountainous Jammu & Kashmir, is under severe threat from humankind’s trusted friends – dogs. In Ladakh Himalayas the major threat to the successful breeding of black-necked crane is the damage caused to the eggs and chicks of the bird by feral dogs, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India who claimed that “these dogs are owned both by armed forces as well as by the local nomads.”
Another threat to the bird is the loss of habitat. According to IUCN, the black-necked crane is classified as vulnerable because it has a single small population that is declining owing to the loss and degradation of wetlands and changing agricultural practices in both its breeding and wintering grounds.

Record-breaking numbers of UK's rarest seabird return to island after near extinction

118 pairs of roseate terns successfully raise chicks off coast of Northumberland after nearly being wiped out in 1970s
Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent 

Record numbers of roseate terns have nested off the coast of Northumberland, raising hopes for this once critically endangered bird.
Populations of these terns crashed as low as 16 breeding pairs in the 1970s due to demand for their beautiful plumage, which was used to make hats.
Though still considered the country’s rarest seabird, roseate tern numbers have bounced back thanks to a concerted effort by conservationists, and this year saw 118 pairs raising chicks on Coquet Island.
The small island, just a kilometre from the mainland, is host to the last sizeable breeding population of the tern – which was once widespread across the whole of the UK.
Their success there has been largely the result of a scheme to create rows of “terrace houses” for the birds to live in, which recreate the crevices that the terns like to lay their eggs in.
The RSPB constructed these special nest boxes on the island in 2000 when the population still only numbered 34 pairs, and since then numbers have consistently climbed.
“For the past three years we’ve been consistently attracting more than 100 pairs of roseate terns to the island, who have fledged more than a 100 chicks each year,” said Paul Morrison, warden at RSPB Coquet Island.

Breeding Roseate Terns return to Wales
RSPB Cymru have announced that two Roseate Tern chicks were born at The Skerries this summer – with one chick having successfully flown the nest for the first time since 2006.
Funding provided by the EU Roseate Tern Recovery Project allowed for a two-week extension on the islands’ wardening season, along with newly designed nest boxes being placed strategically around the islands. The wardens also placed lures playing Roseate Tern calls and hand-made decoys with the aim of attracting passing Roseate Terns to the colony.
Once widespread across Wales, Roseate Terns nearly became extinct in the 19th century because their plumage was prized for fashionable hats. Sadly, Roseate Terns continue to face many challenges, including food shortages, eroding nesting habitat and predation. To address this challenge, 2015 saw the launch of an ambitious five year EU-funded Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project bringing together conservationists from the RSPB, BirdWatch Ireland and North Wales Wildlife Trust on the three breeding colonies (two in Ireland and one in the UK). The project is also focused on creating further Roseate Tern-friendly sites across the UK and Ireland in the hopes of re-establishing thriving colonies.
Currently in 2018, there are only 116 breeding pairs of Roseate Terns in the UK, restricted to just Coquet Island in England. With their incredibly pale plumage with slight rosy flush and long tail streamers, they are considered the most elegant of the five breeding terns to visit our shores. These endangered birds migrate each spring from western Africa to breed at only a handful of colonies in the UK and Ireland.

Grasshopper sparrows return to Katama plains

August 23, 2018
Grasshopper sparrows have returned to the Katama grasslands and pastures surrounding the FARM Institute, according to a press release from The Trustees of Reservations. The sparrows are a threatened species which had historically nested on the Katama plains and across the Island, but have not been recorded in the area since 2005, according to the release.
An ecological assessment conducted in late June by Trustees ecology staff to evaluate the farm’s habitat and natural resources led to the discovery of the species’ presence.
As sandplain grasslands began to be invaded by woody species of plants and trees, the sparrows vacated the area as it grew less suitable for nesting.
Trustees ecology assistant Caitlin Borck wrote in an email to The Times that seeing the birds is a good sign. “The fact that a small population used the FARM Institute’s pastures this summer indicates the birds liked the habitat, suggesting the pastures can be managed with grazing to encourage productive habitat for rare birds,” Borck wrote. “Without grazing, the habitat would not exist at the farm.”

Two Indigo Buntings Hatch at Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Aug. 15, 2018
Bird House keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo are celebrating the hatching of two indigo bunting chicks—a first for the Zoo and the North American population in human care. The female indigo bunting laid four eggs in an off-exhibit area between July 15 and July 20. The first chick hatched July 27, but it died later that day. The second and third chicks hatched July 29 and July 31, respectively, and are thriving. A fourth chick did not hatch. The surviving chicks fledged Aug. 8 and will remain off exhibit while the Bird House is undergoing renovations; the building is expected to reopen in 2021.  
“Cracking the code of breeding North American migratory songbirds in human care while they are still common is vital for future conservation efforts,” said Sara Hallager, curator of the Bird House. “I am extremely proud of our team and this success. Breeding these native birds will provide a deeper understanding of their biology, reproduction and behavior and will greatly contribute to in situ conservation efforts.” 
The chicks’ parents are wild-caught and arrived at the Zoo in May 2016. By looking at the color of the birds’ plumage, keepers estimated that they are at least 2 years old. Animal care staff have been closely monitoring the chicks via a closed-circuit cam to allow the parents to bond with and care for their chicks. Keepers continue to provide the birds with a nutritious diet of pellets, fruit, hardboiled eggs, insects and greens. Indigo buntings often have multiple clutches during a season, and animal care staff report that the female is already preparing for a second clutch of eggs.
Native to North America, indigo buntings are considered “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their range is expansive; during breeding season, these migratory birds can be found across the United States—from Texas to Florida, and in all states north toward Canada. In winter, they migrate south and reside in the Caribbean, Central America and the northern tip of South America. In recent years, wild indigo bunting populations have been decreasing due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Monday 27 August 2018

Researchers closing in on mystery illness killing Toronto's most controversial birds

A contagious viral disease may be killing juvenile double-crested cormorants in Toronto

Lucas Powers · CBC News · Posted: Aug 24, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: August 24

Authorities believe they're one step closer to identifying a mystery illness causing unusual behaviour and ultimately death in some juvenile birds on Toronto's waterfront. 

A swab sample taken from a visibly sick double-crested cormorant this week tested positive for a highly contagious avian viral disease called Newcastle disease, according to Brian Stevens, a pathologist at the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.

Brain cells taken from the same animal also show signs of Newcastle disease, he added. Since the affliction can be devastating for both wild birds and poultry, a brain sample will now be sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for further testing. 

"It's all preliminary at this point, but there are signs suggesting that it is indeed Newcastle disease," said Stevens, adding that the process could take a number of weeks to complete. 

The initial result provides some insight into what might be causing dozens of Toronto's most controversial birds to act so strangely. 

About three weeks ago, people using the area around Tommy Thompson Park started reporting finding double-crested cormorants behaving oddly. Individual birds were seen walking down trails nearby people — unusual for the species. Others were found acting as though their wings or necks were broken. 

One video posted to Facebook shows a cormorant with its head tilted sharply to the side, standing in a shallow puddle, seemingly unaware of human activity around it. The user who posted the video said in the comments that the bird stayed that way for hours. 

Bird rescue group dealing with unusual number of injured swans

Thursday, August 16th 2018, 11:01 pm BDTThursday, August 16th 2018, 11:15 pm BDT
By: Chelsea Donovan, General Assignment Reporter

A local bird rescue group says it has received six injured swans in 30 days. The birds from southeastern North Carolina require constant care.

"It is very unusual for us to receive this many at a time with various injuries," said volunteer Amelia Nash with Skywatch Bird Rescue.

Two of the injured swans came from Landfall, one came from Leland and another from Myrtle Beach.

"Many have to be tube fed," Nash said. "There are various injuries to wings, one with a limp, and the small cygnet has what we call angel wing, where it was fed poorly when it was young so the wing did not grow outward. It now can't fly."

It is costing the New Hanover County rescue group about $200 a month per swan for the rehabilitation process.

"These swans are not native species," Nash said. "They came over long ago from Europe so they can survive, but they cannot thrive here."

Nash said people like to have swans as pets for decorative purposes in their ponds, but doing so can shorten their lifespan.

"People buy these for ornamental purposes, but these birds are so far from home, they can't survive," Nash said. "People think they are helping when they give them bread and corn — empty nutrients — but it really adds to their detriment."

There is not one kind of 'good sperm' -- it depends on other qualities in the male, bird study shows

Date: August 16, 2018
Source: Uppsala University

Summary: In a new study, researchers show that the same type of sperm is not always the best for all male birds. Depending on how attractive or dominant you are you might be more successful with longer or shorter sperm.

In a study published in Behavioral Ecology researchers from Uppsala University show that the same type of sperm is not always the best for all male birds. Depending on how attractive or dominant you are you might be more successful with longer or shorter sperm.

Getting a big family can be a difficult business in nature. If you are a male bird, you have to work hard to secure a territory where you will find food for your chicks and convince a lady that you are both good looking enough and also will be a good dad. But getting a mating partner is not the end of the story, you also need to fertilize her eggs, preferably all of them!

For this, you will need good sperm: sperm that is good at fertilizing eggs, but not only, it also has to be BETTER than the sperm of your potential rivals, that is other males your partner might be copulating with before laying all of her eggs. This happens often in nature, because females do not want to put all of their eggs in the same basket and it might be advantageous instead to have some genetic variation among your offspring.

How plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birds

Date: August 15, 2018
Source: University of Delaware

When plants are in distress or being fed on by insects, they have been known to send out sensory volatile cues that alert organisms in the area -- such as birds -- that they are in need of help. While research has shown that this occurs in ecosystems such as forests, until now, this phenomenon has never been demonstrated in an agricultural setting.Researchers at the University of Delaware have recently found that agricultural plants also send out these signals when under duress from insects, opening new potential avenues for growers to defend their crops while at the same time providing a much-needed food source for birds.

Sunday 26 August 2018

The Extinction of the Kauai ʻōʻō

The Kauai ʻōʻō was driven to extinction due to the presence of invasive species and habitat destruction but for other native forest birds conservation efforts can help.

The Hawaiian Islands are a unique and wondrous hotspot of biodiversity, but due to the introduction of invasive predators and habitat destruction, many of these birds have been driven to extinction. The Kauai ʻōʻō is a prime example; the small black and yellow bird once thrived from the shores of Kauai up to through the rugged mountains but the bird was last seen in 1985 and potentially last heard in 1987. Dr. Jim Jacobi recounts his experience of seeing the last remaining ʻōʻō on a trip in 1984 as he says:

It was a beautiful day as I recall. We started off from this camp and it takes about an hour to go from where we were camped to down to the stream. We stopped there and started to listen.”

As they listened and recorded the sounds of the forest, the ʻōʻō called and flew onto a nearby branch. When the ʻōʻō flew away, Dr. Jacobi replayed the sound and suddenly the bird returned. He soon realized the bird was responding to a call he had not heard in a long time.

Today, the Kauai ʻōʻō is extinct but other native forest birds such as the I’iwi are still around, but face the threats of invasive species and climate change. Luckily, conservationists are dedicated to ensuring a thriving future for these rare birds. Conservationists are hopeful that by working to remove invasive species and use captive breeding programs to bolster populations they can help these forest birds fill the forests once again. The ʻōʻō serves as a reminder to strive to prevent extinctions of these endemic birds.

Experience that day in 1984 through this virtual reality video and maneuver through the sights and sounds of the forest using the controls in the upper left-hand corner.

Friday 24 August 2018

Birds Studied for Reaction to Wildfire Smoke


The smoke from area wildfires can pose a health threat to humans, but you may be surprised to learn that researchers are also trying to find out the negative impacts the smoke may have on birds.

Birds have a unique way of breathing, much different than mammals.

Olivia Sanderfoot is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is working on how air pollution affects birds.

She explains their breathing systems allow them to take in more oxygen per unit of air than humans do, something that helps, in part, them to breathe at high altitudes.

“They actually breathe unidirectional, they breathe in a continuous loop. And they utilize a system of air sacs to do this. You can kind of think of them as acting like bellows,” she said.

Sanderfoot says there are very few scientific papers published examining how birds react to air pollution, including smoke. Much of the current knowledge comes from field studies, and case studies in veterinary medicine and poultry research. 

“We know smoke causes thermal and chemical damage to avian lung tissue, and increases avian risk to infection. We also know smoke may compromise a bird's ability to escape during wildfire. They could become trapped due to the presence of thick smoke,” she said.


Israel seeing early flocks of migrating storks amid hot European summer

After heading south from Poland, stork seen nesting in Beit She'an Valley, the only known nesting site below sea level

By AP and MICHAEL BACHNERToday, 12:25 am 1

White storks that have nested in Poland are heading south for the winter earlier than usual after an especially hot, dry summer — a development experts are linking to climate change — and some have already been observed in Israel, which is a major migration route on the birds’ route to Africa.

In a rare case that has stoked Israeli ornithologists’ excitement, a stork has been observed over the last month nesting at the Beit She’an Valley, the only known nesting site in the world for storks located below sea level.

The valley is the one of the hottest areas in Israel, with temperatures regularly reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer — another unusual feature for a stork nesting site.

“White storks normally just fly through Israel,” ornithologist Nadav Israeli of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel told the Walla news site. “About 500,000 storks pass Israel in every migration season. However, a small nesting population has in recent decades established itself in the Golan Heights, where some 15 couples nest annually.”

Golden eagle chicks released to boost south of Scotland population

A long-awaited project to boost the population of golden eagles in the south of Scotland has taken off.

Three young golden eagles have been released into the wild at a secret location in the Moffat Hills.

They were moved from nests in the Highlands where the majority of the birds are usually found.

The translocation project hopes to increase the number of golden eagles in parts of the country where they have become an increasingly rare sight.

Fewer than five breeding pairs exist in the south of Scotland with none in England or Wales.
Iconic bird

The BBC was given exclusive access to see the young birds ahead of them taking flight for the first time in one of the most significant reintroduction projects ever under taken for a large predator.

It is hoped people from the south of Scotland, northern England and even Wales will have the chance to see this iconic bird in the coming months and years.

Pointy eggs more likely to stay put in birds' cliffside nests, study finds

Date: August 22, 2018
Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Natural selection -- that merciless weeder-outer of biological designs that are out of step with the times -- also is a wily shaper of traits. Exhibit A is the pointy murre egg, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Common murres and thick-billed murres tend to nest in tightly packed colonies on craggy seaside cliffs. The ledges on which they lay their eggs can be quite narrow, sometimes "as shallow as the egg is long," the authors of the new study wrote.

"Very little is known about how the murre egg shape affects its stability and viability in this setting," said University of Illinois animal biology professor Mark Hauber, who conducted the study with former Hunter College graduate student Ian Hays. Many have theorized that the shape makes the eggs less likely to roll off of cliff ledges, he said. "But earlier studies failed to isolate specific features of the eggs -- such as elongation, asymmetry and conicality -- to robustly test this hypothesis."

Thursday 23 August 2018

RSPB boss: Britain has one last chance to save endangered species

Chief executive warns of a devastating loss of wildlife if three new parliamentary bills do not rein in UK farming practices

Ministers may have only 12 months to rescue Britain’s degraded environment and to save its endangered birds and animals. That is the stark conclusion of Michael Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB, who has warned that parliamentary bills – to be published over the next year – will have to make crucial changes to the way our farms and fisheries are run if the wildlife and landscape of the nation are to be rescued from their dangerously depleted condition.

“We are on a cusp, and if we fail to act decisively we will pay the price in coming years,” Clarke told the Observer last week.

The three forthcoming bills – on agriculture, on fisheries and on the environment – will replace the EU legislation that currently controls our farming, fishing industry and the quality of our air, water and wildlife. The government has yet to announce what these bills will contain. However, conservationists such as Clarke now fear there is a real risk that one or all of these new pieces of legislation will fail to provide the necessary powers to restore our crisis-hit environment.

Bird communities dwindle on New Mexico's Pajarito Plateau

The numbers of birds and bird species are declining in an area where research predicts major loss of pine forests

Date:August 16, 2018
Source:DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

Researchers have found declines in the number and diversity of bird populations at nine sites surveyed in northern New Mexico, where eight species vanished over time while others had considerably dropped.

"These birds are not using these habitats anymore," said Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Jeanne Fair, lead author of the study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation.

The study, conducted on those sites covering several hundred acres on the Pajarito Plateau from 2003 to 2013, revealed a 73 percent decrease in abundance of birds, dropping from an average of 157 to 42 birds. The diversity of bird species also dropped by 45 percent, from a mean of 31 to 17 species. Some of the species impacted include the hairy woodpecker, western tanager and violet-green swallow.

Macaws may communicate visually with blushing, ruffled feathers

August 22, 2018, Public Library of Science

Parrots—highly intelligent and highly verbal—may also ruffle their head feathers and blush to communicate visually, according to a new study published August 22 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Aline Bertin of the INRA Centre Val de Loire, France and colleagues. The study extends the understanding of the complex social lives of these remarkable birds.

The authors studied five hand-reared captive blue-and-yellow macaws (Ara ararauna) interacting with one another and with their human caretakers. They assessed the feather position (ruffled or sleeked) on the crown, nape, and cheek, as well as the presence or absence of blushing on the bare skin of the cheek. They found that feather ruffling was more common when the birds were not in motion, such as during social interactions and resting periods. Crown feather ruffling and blushing were both more common when the human caretaker was actively interacting with the parrot by talking and maintaining eye contact than when the keeper was in the room but ignoring and turning their backs to the bird. Together, these results suggest that head feather ruffling is associated with states of lower arousal and positive social interactions, the authors concluded.

"How birds use facial displays and whether they communicate their inner subjective feelings is a question that is crucial to deepening our understanding of bird sentience," say Bertin et al. "Although caution must be exercised when interpreting these data due to the small sample size, we argue that crown ruffling and skin color variation may provide facial indicators of birds' inner subjective feelings. On a practical level, parrots are popular companion animals, with millions of parrots being kept as pets, and understanding visual communication in parrots may help to assess their well-being in captive conditions."

Study of bird migration tricky due to hybridization

August 23, 2018, Estonian Research Council

Hybridization among bird species is a widespread phenomenon, which is best illustrated in Estonia by the lesser spotted eagle and the greater spotted eagle. However, due to the fact that the migration strategies of both bird species are completely different, studying their hybrid offspring helps ornithologists discover a lot about their migration secrets.

The lesser spotted eagle is an early leaving far traveler. The greater spotted eagle is a late leaving short- and middle-distance traveler. According to Ülo Väli, senior researcher at the chair of biological diversity and nature tourism of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, hybridization causes confusion among ornithologists, but it is worrying, because the rare greater spotted eagle may be endangered. At the same time, studying hybrids can reveal answers to ecological questions. "With their hybridization, birds offer scientists an excellent inter-breeding experiment from nature, which helps explain factors affecting the migration of birds."

Thus, for instance, it has been believed for a long time that the timing, direction and length of migration of passerines with a shorter lifespan is mostly determined by genetic factors, and for bigger birds with a longer life-span, it is more important to learn from their parents and others of the same species. It has previously only been possible to conduct experiments with small passerines in order to check these assumptions. The research of migration of big birds with a longer lifespan has been hampered by inadequate technical capacities.

Read more at:

Bird feared extinct rediscovered in the Bahamas

August 23, 2018, University of East Anglia

One of the rarest birds in the western hemisphere, the Bahama Nuthatch, has been rediscovered by research teams searching the island of Grand Bahama.

The finding is particularly significant because the species had been feared extinct following the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and had not been found in subsequent searches.

But it is feared that there could only be two left—placing the species on the verge of extinction and certainly among the world's most critically endangered birds.

The Bahama Nuthatch is an endangered species, only known from a small area of native pine forest on Grand Bahama Island, which lies approximately 100 miles off Palm Beach, Florida.

University of East Anglia masters students Matthew Gardner and David Pereira set out on a three-month expedition to find this and other endemic Caribbean pine forest bird species.

They made their way through dense forest with thick 'poisonwood' understorey—the layer of vegetation growing beneath the main forest canopy—in what is thought to be one of the most exhaustive searches of the island.

They worked in partnership with Nigel Collar and David Wege from Birdlife International and the Bahamas National Trust, the organisation which works to protect the habitats and species of The Bahama Islands.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Large number of kiwi deaths likely going undetected, experts say


Kiwi are dying in some of the most heavily-monitored areas of New Zealand, sparking concern for the rare bird elsewhere.  

Data on the cause of kiwi deaths in Northland for the past ten years, which was released under the Official Information Act (OIA), has revealed they are being attacked by dogs and killed by cars, while a large number are dying for reasons unknown. 

But the data is for tracked kiwi only, and the Department of Conservation say the deaths are just a fraction of actual moralities.

At least five kiwi were mauled to death by dogs in the Moehau Kiwi Sanctuary area, in the Coromandel, since Easter.

Last week, Moehau Environment Group chairwoman Lettecia Williams said it was the worst pile-up of dead kiwi the sanctuary has seen since protection was first put in place about 2000. 

The area experienced a noticeable decline in kiwi, which would suggest the eight deaths were just a fraction of other unreported deaths.

Hundreds see great black hawk in Maine; only second time bird spotted in US


Hundreds of bird enthusiasts flocked to Biddeford, Maine, this week to get a glimpse of a hawk that has only been seen in the United States once before.

“There’s really no precedent for one to show up all the way up here,” said Doug Hitchcox, the staff naturalist at the Maine Audubon.

The great black hawk was first spotted on Monday by a woman who was vacationing in the area. She took a photo of the bird, not knowing much about it, and posted it on Instagram. By the middle of the week, photos of the bird had made it to the “What’s This Bird” and “ABA Rare Bird Alert” Facebook pages, much to the delight of birders across the country, who confirmed that it was indeed a rare great black hawk, said Hitchcox.

The great black hawk is native to Central and South America, with the heart of its geographic range in Brazil, so the fact that one was seen in Maine is astonishing, Hitchcox said.

Over the course of the week, birders from across the country migrated to Fortune Rocks Beach in Biddeford and the surrounding area to try to see the bird, causing traffic jams and parking spot shortages. There were birders from all over New England, as well as some from New York who got a speeding ticket as they rushed to see the hawk, and at least two from Arizona, Hitchcox said.

The only other time one of these birds was seen in the United States was in April, on South Padre Island off the coast of Texas, and “birders went nuts,” Hitchcox said.

The relatively recent sighting in Texas, combined with photos of the two birds’ underwings, are enough to make many birders, including Hitchcox, believe that the two birds are actually one and the same. The unique patterns that have manifested themselves on the bird’s feathers are identical in the photos, Hitchcox said.

The patterns “are like a fingerprint for the bird,” Hitchcox said. “That makes it even more exciting.”

Great black hawks have black body feathers, a white tail with one or two black bands, yellow legs, and a yellow cere above the beak.

The area the bird roamed before it was seen flying out to sea Thursday afternoon is near several ponds — perfect for the coastal bird.

“It’s kind of the perfect spot for it to be, besides being in the wrong hemisphere,” Hitchcox said.
The bird was probably born last summer. It has not been given a name, partly because the sex is unknown, and partly because “when there’s only one of them, it doesn’t need a name,” Hitchcox said.

The great black hawk, a raptor, hunts for its food. It feeds on reptiles, other small vertebrates, and large insects. Several people saw it flying around, raiding the nests of American robins and American goldfinches throughout the week, snatching chicks to be devoured, Hitchcox said.

The only other bird that compares to the great black hawk, in terms of the rarity of its sightings in Maine, is a variegated flycatcher, a South American bird, that was seen in 1977 a couple of miles north of where the great black hawk was seen. It was the first time such a bird was seen in the United States. Only a couple of birders have been able to see both birds, Hitchcox said.

Because the great black hawk sighting is so isolated, its presence in Maine does not appear to be part of a new trend or a change in the bird’s normal geographic range. If anything, it simply reinforces a pattern of vagrancy among birds, Hitchcox said.