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.

Sunday 31 March 2019

Study proves importance of bird poo in enhancing coral growth

March 15, 2019 by Mark Hathaway, University of Otago
A University of Otago study has shown the positive impact bird poo, or guano, has on coral growth in tropical seas. Published online in the respected scientific journal Scientific Reports, the study Seabird nutrients are assimilated by corals and enhance coral growth rates demonstrates that seabird nutrients can significantly boost coral growth rates, offering a positive news story in a decade that has documented dramatic declines in reef health and percentage cover.
"The findings have important implications for catchment-to-reef connectivity and demonstrate that coral conservation should also consider catchment management in addition to marine protection," says author Dr. Candida Savage, of Otago's Department of Marine Science.
The research was conducted in two Fiji marine protected areas; one remote island (Namena) with an intact coastal forest with breeding seabirds, the other (Cousteau) is away from any seabirds and their associated guano. Natural chemical tracers in coral tissues showed that corals growing near the roosting seabirds took up seabird nutrients. A one-year growth experiment demonstrated that corals grew up to four times faster at the Namena reef compared to the Cousteau reef due to the presence of seabirds.
"Bird guano is known for its qualities as a fertiliser, however the impact it had on coral growth has been unknown until now. I was astounded at how much of a difference the presence of guano had in promoting coral growth," Dr. Savage says. The research shows that natural sources of nutrients like seabird guano may benefit coral reefs, in contrast to man-made nutrients from land that tend to degrade coral reefs.

OUTRAGE from UK's top shooters after ROGUE gunmen kill one of England's rarest birds

ROGUE gunmen killing England’s rarest birds of prey over grouse moors have caused outrage among the country’s top shooters.
PUBLISHED: 17:45, Wed, Mar 20, 2019 | UPDATED: 19:06, Wed, Mar 20, 2019
Hen harriers: RSPB warns of threat of hunting to birds of prey
Academic proof that hen harriers are being illegally slaughtered has seen the country’s leading shooting organisation warn how the killings are causing “terminal damage” to the sport. A ten-year study tracking 58 satellite-tagged harriers that vanished mysteriously has concluded almost three quarters were either confirmed or highly likely to have been destroyed illegally. As the study was published this week, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation warned: “the criminals are wrecking shooting”.
The plight of the hen harrier on moors managed for grouse shooting has become one of conservation’s most controversial issues.
Harriers, known as sky dancers because of their flamboyant breeding display flights, are blamed for taking young red grouse and posing a serious threat to a countryside tradition that has become big business and starts with a bang on the Glorious Twelth of August.

Prestigious "driven shoots" can cost up to £15,000 a day for a party of eight guns, with a brace of grouse costing a shooter more than £140 to bag although they only fetch around £4 from game dealers for the table.

With far fewer legally protected harriers nesting on English uplands than conservationists believe the landscapes should be supporting, illegal persecution to protect game birds has long been suspected. 
By analysing a tracking study from the Government’s wildlife agency, Natural England, along with data supplied by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Cape Town found direct evidence of four tagged harriers being illegally killed while another 38 disappeared in a way that makes them believe they were also illegally slaughtered.

The findings prompted a stern response from BASC.

After antelopes, the Great Indian Bustard's survival is threatened by dogs

Press Trust of India  |  Jodhpur Last Updated at March 19, 2019 10:35 IST
After antelopes, dogs have emerged as a major threat to the endangered Great Indian Bustard, inspite of conservation and breeding projects underway in the state to stop the bird, one of the heaviest flying birds, from being extinct.
According to wildlife enthusiasts, the bird is falling prey to stray dogs in desert areas of Jaisalmer, where the number of the canines has seen a spurt.
"These dogs have emerged as a major threat to conservation efforts. They kill the birds and even destroy their eggs," said Radheshyam Pemani, a wildlife enthusiast from Pokhran.
He said dogs routinely attack the birds in evening, when they come out to feed.
The weight of the bird which can be up to 15kg proves fatal for it when dogs attack. If the bird is alert, it takes a flight away from dogs but a delay weakens its chances of survival.
Until 1980s, up to 2000 Great Indian Bustards could be found in western India, reports say. But due to rampant poaching and dwindling grasslands, their population declined rapidly.
In 2011, the International Union for Conservation of Nature categorised the bird as "critically endangered".
A petition is being heard in the Rajasthan High Court for the safety and conservation of the endangered bustard, with a focus on identification and elimination of the threats to its life.

Whooping Cranes Are Back From The Brink

Mar 18, 2019, 03:58pm
The whooping crane conservation effort has ended after successfully pulling the iconic bird back from the brink of extinction
Considering all the recent bad news regarding the global devastation of non-human species, I thought it was time to share some good news with you: The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently ended its successful research and captive breeding effort of the endangered whooping crane. This research and conservation effort had been ongoing for more than 50 years.
“Whooping cranes are still endangered, but the overall population has grown more than tenfold in the last 50 years since Patuxent’s program began,” said conservation biologist John French, director of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
The whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America, and one of the largest. Their lifespan is just 22 to 24 years in the wild. Whooping cranes are omnivorous (with a preference for carnivory), and they foraging whilst strolling about in shallow water or through fields.

An iconic bird just lost important habitat protections: What it means

A rule rollback will allow more oil and gas drilling to occur on nearly nine million acres of lands crucial for the species’ survival.
Last week, the Trump administration rolled back protections for the embattled greater sage grouse, an iconic bird that has become a symbol of the struggle over how to balance extractive land use and preservation in the American West. The new plans allow more oil and gas leasing and drilling opportunities across nearly nine million acres of critical habitat.
Since the late 1990s, conservationists have pushed to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. An endangered listing, however, would bring severe limitations on grazing, energy development and other activities across 173 million acres of public, state and private land in the west.
To forestall that, the Obama administration in 2015 brokered a compromise plan to limit development and restore disturbed areas within “core” grouse habitat, while allowing more intensive development elsewhere.
The agreement won the support of a variety of industry and environmental stakeholders, but also spurred criticism and lawsuits. Some environmentalists argued that the protections were not strong enough; some industry groups and state and local governments called for the plan’s “draconian” restrictions on development in sage grouse habitat to be loosened.
The Trump administration heeded the latter calls.
The new plan reduces protections on over 51 million acres of “priority” habitat in seven states, making it easier for oil and gas companies to receive waivers, exceptions, and modifications to drilling rules. It eliminates from all but two states the most stringent protections, which tightly circumscribed mineral leasing and drilling in nearly nine million acres of the most sensitive grouse habitat.

Friday 29 March 2019

Tiny song bird makes record migration, U of G study proves

Mar 20, 2019 08:07 AM EDT
Blackpoll warbler wearing tiny 'backpack.'

It's an epic journey for a tiny bird.
For the first time, University of Guelph biologists have tracked an annual migration of up to 20,000 kilometres made by the 12-gram blackpoll warbler, one of the fastest declining songbirds in North America.
The bird's trek between its breeding grounds in the central and western boreal forest of North America and its winter home in the Amazon Basin - one of the longest songbird migrations recorded -- is the topic of a new paper by a research team headed by U of G biologist Ryan Norris.
The paper was published today in the journal Ecology.
Describing a "great circle route" arcing across North America and including a transoceanic flight to South America, the study confirms an epic migration journey that scientists had long suspected but not yet proved.
In 2015, Norris and other biologists were the first to show that blackpolls breeding in the Maritimes and New England complete a non-stop transoceanic flight of up to three days and about 2,700 km along the eastern coast of the United States.
For this new study, they looked at the full migration of birds from central and western breeding populations.
"It's amazing," said Norris, who worked on the study with Hilary Cooke, associate conservation scientist with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. "A bird weighing a couple of loonies travels from the western edge of North America all the way to the Amazon basin - and, in between, traverses the Atlantic Ocean."
Other co-authors were integrative biology professor Amy Newman and U of G grad students Bradley Woodworth, Nikole Freeman and Alex Sutton, as well as researchers from other universities, conservation groups and national parks in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.
For the study, researchers tracked birds outfitted with tiny geolocators from four boreal forest sites across northern Canada and Alaska.
Total southward migration took about 60 days on average over distances ranging from 6,900 km for birds breeding in Churchill, Manitoba, to 10,700 km for populations on the western edge of the continent in Nome, Alaska.
Blackpolls from Nome took 18 days to fly across North America to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas. There, the birds spent almost a month fattening up to double their body weight before a non-stop, 2 ½-day flight across open water to overwintering grounds in northern Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.
They covered between 2,250 and 3,400 km for that transoceanic hop.

Hidden Hawaiian Bird Nests Finally Found

Night vision binoculars, a scent dog, and video cameras have caught band-rumped storm petrels coming and going from their volcanic nests for the first time.
Authored by
March 20, 2019
In the four years that Nicole Galase has been studying band-rumped storm petrels on the Island of Hawai‘i, she has worn through five pairs of hiking boots, thrashing their soles on the rough lava fields of Mauna Loa. But Galase isn’t complaining, as the countless kilometers of travel have paid off: she is the first biologist to unequivocally locate these secretive seabirds’ Hawaiian nesting sites, concealed deep in volcanic lava tubes.
“Stormies,” as Galase fondly calls the seabirds, are thought to be in decline globally and are officially listed as endangered in the United States. They spend most of their lives far out at sea, ranging across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and never touching land outside of the breeding season. They confine their nesting colonies to remote islands and hide their nests underground, coming and going only at night. Ancient bird bones found by archaeologists suggest that the seabirds have nested throughout the Hawaiian Islands since before Western contact, but modern-day evidence of breeding was, until now, circumstantial. While there were reports of nighttime calling, and occasional sightings of adults in breeding condition, or of fledglings, no researcher had ever found nests sheltering eggs or chicks.
Back in 2014, Galase arrived at the US Army’s Pōhakuloa Training Area on the Island of Hawai‘i to lead a seabird research project, a joint initiative of the army’s natural resource program and Colorado State University’s Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands. Previous acoustic monitoring showed that band-rumped storm petrels frequented the Pōhakuloa area—a high plateau between several volcanoes including Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea—during the May to November breeding season, yet no one could prove they were nesting there. The 28-year-old new hire’s assignment was to catch them in the act.

Bromethalin is poisoning the parrots of Telegraph Hill, study finds

Date:  March 18, 2019
Source:  University of Georgia
Bromethalin, a common rat poison, is the agent responsible for a neurological disease that has sickened or killed birds from a popular flock of naturalized parrots that reside primarily in the Telegraph Hill area in north San Francisco, according to a new study led by the University of Georgia Infectious Diseases Laboratory and funded by Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue.
The study, published today in PLOS ONE, caps a multi-year effort to determine the cause of the disease, which has been observed in parrots from this flock since at least 1999.
"The investigation, inspired and funded by Mickaboo, required a team of veterinarians, pathologists and researchers. It is only because the poisoned birds were feral parrots that the condition was so thoroughly investigated," said first author Fern Van Sant, whose clinic, For the Birds, in San Jose, California, provided care for many of the affected parrots. "The findings offer us an opportunity to assess the true risk of this rodenticide to pets and feral animals and to clarify the risk of potential soil and water contamination."

Rare 'Ringo Starr' cockatoo faces extinction due to habitat loss in Far North Queensland

Updated 7 Mar 2019, 11:33pm
A rare and beautiful cockatoo, known as the "Ringo Starr" of the bird world, could be extinct in Australia within a decade unless urgent action is taken to protect its habitat in a remote part of Queensland.
Key points:
The Palm Cockatoo is extremely rare and is the only bird in the world that uses a tool musically.
Researchers are worried the bird will be extinct in a couple of decades due to habitat loss and low reproductive success.
The cockatoo is currently listed as vulnerable but researchers are building a case to reclassify it as endangered.
The Palm Cockatoo, which can make its own musical instrument, is only found on the top of Cape York in far north Queensland but its numbers are declining rapidly.
Researchers fear the distinctive black bird, which is Australia's largest cockatoo, could soon disappear because its habitat is being lost to mining and land clearing.
Professor Robert Heinsohn from the Australian National University has been studying the Palm Cockatoo since the 1990s and describes it as "one of the spectacles of the bird world".
"They are magnificent large parrots and very ancient ... right from the start of the family tree for parrots ... and they are just incredibly striking to look at," he said.
"They not only look good but are the rock stars of the bird world ... making drumsticks from branches and banging out tunes to attract the bird ladies."
Professor Heinsohn said the Palm Cockatoo is the only bird in the world that uses a tool musically.
"They break off a branch and peel back the bark, they whittle it down to about 30 centimetres and they hold it in their foot and tap on the edge of their nest hollow," he said.
"They have a very good sense of rhythm and different styles of drumming signatures.

Climate change is hurting migrating waterbirds across the West. It could get worse

MARCH 18, 2019 10:54 AM,
UPDATED MARCH 18, 2019 03:19 PM
A rainbow greets geese on the Pacific Flyway in the Sacramento Valley
A beautiful morning in a Sacramento rice field is complete with a rainbow and an active grind of geese. The big Pacific Flyway migration is underway in the Sacramento Valley, with millions of birds expected in the coming months. 
By Jim Morris
A beautiful morning in a Sacramento rice field is complete with a rainbow and an active grind of geese. The big Pacific Flyway migration is underway in the Sacramento Valley, with millions of birds expected in the coming months. 
By Jim Morris
Every year, millions of waterbirds migrating from Alaska to Patagonia take a break from that epic journey to rest, eat and breed in a stretch of wetlands spanning six Western states called the Great Basin.
A warming climate has made that migration more challenging by altering how mountain snowmelt flows into the network of lakes and rivers stretching from the Sierra Nevada to the Rockies, according to a new study based on 25 years of climate, weather and avian population data.
Researchers found that “climate warming has significantly reduced the amount and shifted seasonality of water flowing into wetlands” throughout the region, altering habitat for migratory birds, according to the study in Scientific Reports.
It suggests the trend will continue with warming weather causing snow to melt earlier and shifting peak flows. That could benefit some birds, but threaten others.

Thursday 28 March 2019

Man Shells Out $1.4 Million for a Pigeon Because It's Simply the 'Lionel Messi' of Racing Birds

MARCH 19, 2019
Don’t bet against the high-flying lifestyle of rare bird and sports.
A buyer has bid more than $1.4 million for a champion Belgian racing pigeon in a sale, according to the auction house Pipa, which oversaw the online auction for the rare bird.
This regal, emerald green-feathered bird is no regular pigeon you would frequent on the street — as you probably imagined.
In fact, lest you underestimate the athleticism of the mighty bird named “Armando,” look no further than this endorsement.
Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the founder and chief executive of Pipa, told the Press Association: “This pigeon has a race record that has never been matched by any other pigeon.”
“In football terms you have Messi and Ronaldo – it’s that level.”

Local lensman captures rare footage of palm nut vulture

There are only seven breeding pairs and 40 resident birds currently in South Africa.
March 18, 2019
An Impala Park resident can be proud of himself after he snapped rare photos of a palm nut vulture feeding on a raffia palm tree in the park on Wednesday, 6 March.
“There is a pair of vultures that frequent the park every morning and afternoon. The birds have been attracted to the raffia palm tree which was planted by a resident many years ago and have been feeding off the palm nuts,” said Chris Butler. “There is also a juvenile which follows the adults.”
The eagle-eyed lensman snapped the photos at about 5.30pm with a Canon SX60 camera. The sighting of the birds is a rare event, as according to Wikipedia, there are only seven breeding pairs and 40 resident birds currently in South Africa.
The palm nut vulture closely tracks oil or raffia palms, and therefore is most common in coastal forests and mangrove swamps below 1,500 metres, but can also be found in wet savannas.

Rare hawk that succumbed to Maine winter will go on display at state museum

State raptor biologists said it will help tell the story of ‘migrant’ birds.

The great black hawk that was euthanized after it took up residence in Deering Oaks park and sustained frostbite during a storm in January will be mounted and displayed at the Maine State Museum.
Maine state raptor biologist Erynn Call said the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife made the decision to display the large hawk, which is native to Central and South America. She said the hawk’s plight tells the story of how birds – called vagrants by ornithologists – can fly off course and end up far from their usual habitats.
“IFW did make the decision on the great black hawk, and it will be at the Maine State Museum,” Call said. “I wouldn’t call it a non-native, I’d call it a migrant. To our knowledge, it did come here by the natural process of migration. This happens to other species of birds as well.”
It was only the second time a great black hawk was seen in the United States, Maine Audubon said.


Endangered Woodpeckers Find New Home In “Big Woods Wildlife Management Area”

March 21, 2019
The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) is has announced that a federally endangered species, the red-cockaded woodpecker, has moved in to Big Woods Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Sussex County.
This is the first documented occurrence of red-cockaded woodpeckers residing on the WMA. The pair of woodpeckers are banded and originated from The Nature Conservancy’s Piney Grove Preserve, which neighbors Big Woods WMA.
The Preserve has long harbored the sole remaining population of red-cockaded woodpeckers in Virginia, although a second population is in the process of being re-established in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the DGIF and partners.
The DGIF’s Executive Director Bob Duncan lauds this discovery as a conservation success for Virginia. “The long-term commitment of our agency and its partners to acquire and actively manage the Big Woods WMA for red-cockaded woodpeckers, and many other species, is tremendous, said Duncan. The arrival of these red-cockaded woodpeckers at the WMA marks a major landmark in DGIF’s conservation efforts for this endangered species. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, the DGIF has a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to serve as the lead agency for the conservation of protected animal species in Virginia, including red-cockaded woodpeckers.  The Big Woods WMA was purchased in 2010 with funds provided in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Land Acquisition program, which provides grant funds to support the conservation of habitat for endangered and threatened species.”

Australia’s rarest bird on menu for wedged-tailed eagle

19 March 2019
A successful rabbit cull two decades ago has had unforeseen consequences, with a study finding wedge-tailed eagles are now preying on one of Australia’s rarest birds.
The University of Queensland research found that more native species, including the critically-endangered plains-wanderer, were now being taken by wedge-tailed eagles.
UQ School of Biological Sciences PhD candidate Graham Fulton said the change in diet occurred when a radical approach was taken to reduce out-of-control rabbit populations.
“The rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus or RHDV – a virus that only harms rabbits – was introduced into western New South Wales in 1996 and 1997,” he said.
“In terms of reducing rabbit numbers, it was hugely successful, in some areas killing up to 90 per cent of rabbit populations.
“What was probably not recognised at the time, was that rabbits were between 56 and 69 per cent of the wedge-tailed eagle’s diet, so after the cull their diet had to change.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Bird watcher spots rare yellow cardinal

By: Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Updated: Mar 20, 2019 - 12:17 PM
THEODORE, Ala. - A rare yellow cardinal once again has been spotted by a bird watcher, this time in Theodore, Alabama.
Karem Maldonado has nine bird feeders scattered about her yard. Normally, Maldonado doesn’t have time to sit and watch the birds who visit, saying she’s “one of those persons who are always go, go, go,” reported. But for her 6-year-old granddaughter, the go, go, going got to be too much, so she took a break, sitting down for some quality time with the little girl.
The break was well-rewarded when the yellow bird flew up for a snack on Feb. 28. 
But it was March 11 when she got the perfect photo of the male cardinal that she has named Mr. Sunshine, and the photos have started going viral, according to WKRG.
When a yellow cardinal was spotted last year, a biology professor at Auburn University said it was very rare to see the bird with the genetic mutation.
Geoffrey Hill, who is a cardinal expert, has never seen one in wild, calling it a one in a million mutation, reported.

Lesser Moorhen in Cape Verde, March 2019

On the morning of Tuesday 5 March resident Cape Verde birder Uwe Thom found a moorhen species frequenting a productive area of marsh north of Santa Maria, Sal. This area has also played host to a long-staying African Crakeand a Hudsonian Whimbrel this winter, both of which were also found by Uwe. Managing only a single photo of the bird's rear end as it scarpered for cover, several birders including Pierre-André Crochet and BirdGuides' Josh Jones were intrigued by features it showed, such as the unusual leg colour, and encouraged Uwe to return and try to obtain better views. Uwe managed to see the bird better that evening, with images confirming the bird to be an immature Lesser Moorhen – the first record for Cape Verde and an extreme rarity in the Western Palearctic.
Although very elusive among the vegetation, the bird would occasionally pose long enough for a full suite of key ID features to be noted, most significantly the broad and deep yellow bill, which is more triangular shaped than in Common Moorhen, with a reddish wash to the culmen. Furthermore, the head and body were an overall paler slaty grey colour, particularly around the face, with a hint of darker mask, vaguely reminiscent of Sora. The legs were largely a pale pinkish-yellow, rather than the yellow-green of Common Moorhen. Lesser Moorhen is also, as its name suggests, smaller than its Common counterpart, although without that species alongside it to compare (Common Moorhen is a vagrant on Sal), judging size proved difficult.

WATCH: Meet Eclipse - the 1 in 100,000 black barn owl

PUBLISHED: 10:43 01 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:07 01 March 2019
Black is the new white - at least it was when an extremely rare barn owl visited north Essex recently.
 Eclipse is a black barn owl and part of a wildlife display show put on by Coda Falconry - a bird of prey centre in Waltham Abbey that brought some of its birds up to Hedingham Castle to show them over the half-term break.
According to business owner Sarah Jane Manarin, black barn owls occur once every 100,000 births in the barn owl population and the highly unusual birds don’t last long in their native habitat.
“You don’t see black barn owls in the wild because their mother rejects them and doesn’t feed them,” she said.

Man sparks outrage after posting footage of him attacking a federally protected pelican - which could see him charged with animal cruelty

Hunter Hardesty appeared to attack a federally protected pelican in Key West
Hardesty posted footage on his Facebook page with many condemning him
He jumps into water on top of the pelican and is seen holding him and laughing
The pelican then snaps at his face, manages to break free and then flies away
The Davidsonville, Maryland man could now face animal cruelty charges
PUBLISHED: 13:51, 10 March 2019 | UPDATED: 21:52, 10 March 2019
A man could be charged after a video showed him attacking a protected pelican in Key West, Florida
Hunter Hardesty from Davidsonville, Maryland posted footage on his Facebook page with many people condemning him for his actions. 
The video, posted on March 7,  starts and shows Hardesty appearing to lean over a harbor’s edge holding out something in his hand. 
The pelican floats closer and Hardesty appears to jump into the water on top of the pelican, causing both to sink beneath the water’s surface.
Hardesty then grabs the large bird with two hands while others not pictured on camera can be heard laughing.
 A woman in the background tells him: 'If you don't get out of there right now I'm going to call security. Knock this party off right now.'
The bird appears visibly distressed and as Hardesty holds on to him, as his friends laugh from a jetty.
The pelican then snaps at the man with is beak before flying off to another area.  
Social media users Many blasted at the stunt on Hardesty’s Facebook page, branding it cruel and stating they had reported him to Florida law enforcement.
A post from Hardesty on Friday read:  'The book blowin up on a Friday !! Sheesh.'
Dennis John Deevy Jr wrote:  'We need to get a petition to have this MF charged.'

In a first, fossil bird found with unlaid egg – via Mark Raines

“I couldn’t even sleep at night,” the lead paleontologist says of her reaction to the discovery.
ABOUT 115 MILLION years ago in what's now northwest China, a female bird was on the verge of motherhood. But somehow, her life on an ancient lakeshore took a traumatic turn, triggering a pregnancy complication that killed the egg forming inside her and may have even led to her death.
Entombed ever since, this mother bird is now a paleontology milestone: Named Avimaia schweitzerae, the newly described species is the first fossil bird known to science that contains an unlaid egg.
“We were not expecting anything interesting, but it turned out to be the first fossil bird ever found with an egg inside its body,” says lead study author Alida Bailleul, a postdoctoral researcher at China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP). “To me, that’s the funniest thing.”
Described this week in Nature Communications, the egg could shed light on reproductive disorders in ancient birds. And if its pigments are preserved, the fossil could reveal more about how ancient birds nested. Previous research has shown that the colors and speckles on dinosaur eggshells may vary depending on the dinosaur's nesting behavior, such as whether the species buries its eggs or broods them. This pattern holds true in the only dinosaurs alive today: birds.

Monday 25 March 2019

Crocodiles and birds were 'prehistoric bedfellows'

February 28, 2019
Romanian palaeontologist Matyas Vremir and a team of researchers found that the fossilized eggs discovered in 2011 belonged to two bird species as well as two reptile species, the ancestors of modern crocodiles and geckos
Crocodiles and birds may not seem the most obvious bedfellows, but scientists now say a prehistoric fossil find in Romania suggests that at one time the two species may have shared nests.
In 2011 Romanian palaeontologist Matyas Vremir found fossilised eggs and eggshell fragments dating back roughly 68 million years on a river bank in the Oarda de Jos area of central Romania.
Some two million years later, land-based dinosaurs were wiped out by a cataclysmic event, probably an asteroid strike that may have also triggered massive volcanic activity.
Vremir analysed the find with an international team of researchers who found that the eggs belonged to two bird species as well as two reptile species, the ancestors of modern crocodiles and geckos.
The team published its conclusions this month in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, saying the fossil find was "unique in the vertebrate fossil record and represents the earliest record of disparate animals sharing the same nesting area".
The authors say that the presence of the two reptile species "perhaps suggests that these animals were not only tolerated, but were perhaps not perceived as a threat to enantiornithine eggs or nestlings," referring to one of the prehistoric bird species.

Swans hunt for junk food in Lake District town after tourists told to stop feeding them

Sky News 8 March 2019
Swans have been raiding a Lake District town's bins for junk food after tourists were warned to stop feeding it to them.
The birds have been waddling nearly half a mile from Lake Windermere to Bowness-on-Windermere, where they have been scavenging for scraps outside a Tesco supermarket and fast food outlets.
It comes after signs were erected - by an unknown person - urging visitors against throwing fast food or bread to the birds.
Residents are understood to be concerned that the swans could now be hit by cars or attacked by dogs, and that their large size could be intimidating to pedestrians, particularly small children.
Marian Jones, a ranger for the Lake District National Park Authority, said: "One of the reasons swans and other birds are attracted to Bowness is because they're being fed.
"Unfortunately, this can cause health problems for the birds and make them tame, which can put them at risk from traffic and dogs.
"To protect these birds and reduce the risk of accidents, we advise people to not feed them."
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said swans in public spaces can often suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies due to people feeding them bread.
RSPB spokeswoman Annabel Rushton told Sky News: "Fast food should not be fed to swans. Just like us humans, it is not good for them and its grease can get stuck to their feathers making it difficult for them to preen, which they need to do to keep their feathers waterproof.

Walkers urged to report cruelty to wild birds and animals after owl shot dead on moors

Tawny owl was blasted with shotgun and stuffed in a wall
09:55, 10 MAR 2019
Walkers and ramblers on moors above the Holme Valley are being encouraged to report suspected wildlife persecution.
A tawny owl was shot dead on Wessenden Head and Digley Moor at Holmfirth in September. The bird of prey was discovered with shotgun wounds inflicted at close range before it was stuffed into a wall.
Jaw-like traps had also been set to eradicate native stoats and weasels, with one containing the decomposing remains of a targeted wild animal, said conservation group Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors (BBYM).
The group wants action and spokesman Luke Steele said: “Walkers are in a unique position to help protect wildlife on Yorkshire Water’s moors where suspected persecution is encountered.
“This may include finding injured animals in traps or snares, birds of prey which have been shot or individuals simply acting suspiciously.
 “We urge those who visit Yorkshire Water’s moorland to familiarise themselves with the signs of wildlife persecution, then come forward with any suspected incidents.
“It’s a grim reality that wildlife is being wiped out by trap, snare and gun on some of the region’s most popular moorlands to boost red grouse numbers for shooting.”
An interactive map showing locations of traps and snares on the utility company’s moorland has been published by BBYM to warn visitors of their whereabouts.
The wildlife organisation has also released a practical guide detailing how to detect and report wildlife persecution. Any suspected wildlife persecution can be reported to Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors at

Food trade driving extinctions

Some 100 bird species are forecast to go extinct based on current farming and forestry practices, according to a new global analysis. During the first 10 years of this century, this figure has increased by 7 per cent, with cattle farming the biggest factor, along with the impact of oil seed crops (such as palm and soy). By comparison, roughly 140 species have been lost during the last 400 years.
The study has recently been published in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal, with the researchers using bird extinction as a measure of the loss of biodiversity linked with international trade in food and timber. Alarmingly, the findings show that international trade can drive threats to animal species far from the countries where the goods are consumed.
In 2011, a quarter of biodiversity impacts in Africa and a roughly a third in Central and South America were driven by the increased demand and consumption of good from other parts of the globe. The researchers estimated the number of species at risk of extinction due to the conversion of natural habitat to land for agriculture and forestry between 2000 and 2011, with the predicted figure as high as 121 if there is no change to current land use.
One of the researchers, Professor Henrique Pereira of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), explained that such losses can't be addressed with adding individual human responsibility (such as what people buy and eat). He said: "We have to provide more information for consumers on that – so that they know what they are buying."
Co-researcher Alexandra Marques added: "We must address unsustainable patterns of consumption driven by economic growth. Our choices here will have consequences elsewhere."
Ariel Brunner, from BirdLife Europe, said the study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that unsustainable food and farming system is "at the very heart of the ecological crisis – both in terms of driving the collapse of biodiversity and contributing to climate change."

Cause of mass bird deaths revealed

Some 56 Mallards and a Canada Goose died in a park in Calgary, Canada, due to starvation and exposure. Alberta Environment and Parks confirmed the reason behind the grim scenes, which were discovered during the last week of February in Elliston Park. A few carcasses were discovered initially by Heather and Wayne Clarke, with more and more dead birds being found in the following days. This sparked an investigation with the outcome ruling that limited foraging opportunities drove the mass deaths.
Alberta Environment and Parks and the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative at the University of Calgary investigated the incident at the stormwater pond, and in a statement said: "[We] have determined that the ducks suffered from starvation and exposure, which was the likely cause that led to the mortality of 56 Mallards and one Canada Goose. Some additional tests are underway to rule out other causes of death."
Due to extremely cold temperatures, birds that spend the winter as far north as Calgary can face a particularly tough time – particularly wildfowl, which depend on open water. It's thought that particularly harsh conditions sparked the sudden death of such a large number of birds.
When Mr and Mrs Clarke first came across the load of dead animals there were only a handful of bodies, but open further visits to the pond during the same week many more appeared. Wayne Clarke said: "We couldn't believe it … after a week, 50 birds, scattered around – unbelievable. I've been hiking around this lake here for 17 years and I've never seen it like this."
Brett Boukall, Senior Wildlife Biologist at Alberta Environment and Parks, added: "When we see this overcrowding, the birds might not be able to feed effectively, they might not be able to protect themselves from the elements. It's possible that if one of them is carrying a disease, it can spread more quickly when they’re in a tighter group in a smaller area."