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 26 January 2020

Conservation group says Mandalay birds need help


A local conservation group will present to the Mandalay Region Forest Department a list of birds that need to be protected.

Daw Thiri Dae We Aung, managing director of the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association, said the survey, which was conducted in Rakhine, Mon, Bago and Yangon regions and states, will be submitted by the end of the month.

“We will propose bird species to conserve, and detail where bird hunters are active and selling,” she said.

The survey is aimed at supporting the government’s environmental protection campaign and the 2018 Biodiversity and Conservation of Protected Area Law.

Under the law, anyone guilty of unlicensed hunting or violating hunting rules faces a maximum three years in prison, a maximum fine of K500,000 (US$340), or both.

Wildlife, including birds, is essential for a healthy ecosystem, and water birds are a useful indicator of wetland health.

The association conducted a survey of birds in Paleik, Pyu, Sakar, Manaw, Sont Ye and Taungthaman lakes in Mandalay on January 12 and 13, Daw Thiri Dae We Aung said.

“We found rare species of water birds like Baer’s pochard in Paleik and Manaw,” she said. “The birds migrate in April and May, so we have to wait to count them. Paleik and Sont Ye lakes and the wetlands are essential for water birds.” – Translated

New wind turbines could be harming thousands of endangered bird populations, says RSPB


Wind farms installed offshore to tackle climate change are actually threatening thousands of endangered seabirds around the UK, according to the RSPB.

The bird charity says new wind farms could be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for more than 1,000 birds across four of the most threatened species.

Many of these birds feed on fish at sandbanks, where developers prefer to build offshore wind turbines.

There are more than 15 proposed UK offshore wind farms, which tend to be more efficient than those on land, as stronger winds cause the turbines to spin faster, meaning they generate more energy. 

Wind power is a sustainable source of energy and has a smaller impact on the environment than burning fossil fuels.

However, in a report published in Biological Conservation, the charity has identified areas where the building of wind farm infrastructure should be banned, such as sandbanks, where birds tend to feed on small fish.

Rare bird has found its own 'McDonalds' in Christchurch Park

PUBLISHED: 16:10 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:20 20 January 2020

A certain visitor has been ruffling feathers in Christchurch Park with people trying to find out where the newcomer hails from.

The Hooded Merganser is native to North America but has been spotted in Ipswich of late, bathing in the wilderness pond.

The male duck has a distinctive crest along the top of it's head with a large white plume against a distinctive black outline - closely resembling a quiff.

A spokesperson for Ipswich Borough Council said: "It has created quite a stir, lots of people have been down to photograph it as it is a particularly handsome specimen.

"The rangers think it might stay as the pond is its equivalent to McDonalds - plenty of fish."

There has been speculation among bird watching communities as to where the mystery visitor had come from as the species is native to North America.

John Grant, president of the Suffolk Bird Group, said: "There's a 99.9% chance that it's not a wild bird.

"It's very likely to be an escapee from an ornamental collection as they are very attractive - though the owner will be unlikely to admit they let it escape."

Short of stowing away on a boat to Felixstowe it's doubtful whether the Hooded Merganser would have made it across from North America alone.

Mr Grant says that whilst there have been some accepted as a wild bird in rare cases in Britain, this is not likely to be one of them.

Wherever it's from, the sightings have prompted a wave of interest as the feathered celebrity has reportedly been hanging around for some weeks now.

Thursday 23 January 2020

Rehabilitated King Eider breaks age record


An extraordinary ringing recovery has been confirmed as the oldest-known King Eider on record – at some 24 years old.

To add to the remarkable nature of the record, the bird – a drake – was rescued as an adult during an oil spill in Alaska in 1996 and was cared for after this environmental disaster by International Bird Rescue, surviving 23 years after its rehabilitation and release. It was found recently deceased in 2019. The finding proves that rehabilitated, formerly oiled birds can survive many years after treatment and release back to the wild.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and US Geological Survey (USGS) Bird Banding Lab, the previous oldest King Eider was a healthy female that was at least 22 years and one month old when she was recaptured in Nunavut, Canada.

Ten new taxa described from Indonesia


For most, the idea of discovering and describing a single new bird to science is a life-defining moment. Yet, in a recent paper published in Science, Frank Rheindt, associate professor at the University of Singapore, and his team describe an incredible 10 new bird taxa (five species and five subspecies) – the largest number of novel bird descriptions from a single geographic locality in more than a century.

They originate from three islands off the east coast of Sulawesi, the largest island in the biodiversity hot-spot of Wallacea. Crucially, the satellite islands of Taliabu, Peleng and the Togian Islands are separated from Sulawesi by deep water. For example, despite being just 12 km from the mainland, Peleng has never been connected to Sulawesi, providing ideal conditions for the speciation processes postulated by Alfred Russel Wallace during his numerous expeditions to the region in the late 19th century.

Having first visited the islands as a doctoral student in 2009, Rheindt, the paper’s lead author, revisited with his team in an expedition from November 2013-January 2014 in order to gather the observations, specimens and sound recordings necessary to provide evidence for his suspicion that the birds he had seen four years prior were novel taxa. Negotiating notoriously difficult Indonesian research permits, hitching rides with empty cargo ships and slumming it on remote mountainsides for days at a time, Rheindt and his team were justly rewarded.

RSPB reveals new seabird hot-spot map


The RSPB has produced new maps identifying the location of marine hot-spots for some of the UK's most threatened seabirds, based on tracking data, for the first time.

A five-year RSPB project previously tracked the movements of Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and European Shags from colonies around the UK during the breeding season. Now, hotspot mapping techniques have been applied to this data to identify the most important areas used during this crucial time.

All four species are either Amber- or Red-listed. The new research demonstrates the large areas required by UK seabirds and comes at a time when there is a vital need to understand more about our seabirds as decisions are being made relating to fishing, offshore windfarms and how we can best protect our seas.

Four different hot-spot mapping techniques were trialled during the project and provide a range of potential areas that could be considered for formal protection. The researchers recommend that the choice of hot-spot identification method should be informed by considering species ecology alongside conservation goals to ensure hot-spots are of sufficient size to protect target populations.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Incredible Dinosaur Fossil Reveals How Their Feathers Compared to Modern Birds

21 JAN 2020

A 120 million-year-old fossil is helping paleontologists to bridge the 'phantom' evolutionary leap between feathered dinosaurs and modern birds.

Dubbed "the dancing dragon", or Wulong bohaiensis, this newly described species is a strange mix between bird and dinosaur, ancient and new.

First discovered in China more than a decade ago, in one of the world's richest fossil deposits, the ancient animal's beautifully preserved bones have only recently received closer inspection.

The Jiufotang Formation, where the fossil was found, belongs to the Jehol group - known for its incredible variety of animals, it's considered one of the earliest habitats where dinosaurs, birds, and bird-like dinosaurs co-existed. But even amongst stiff competition, the Wulong fossil is one of a kind.


Giant Ocean Heatwave Called 'The Blob' Has Caused The Biggest Seabird Die-Off on Record

17 JAN 2020

Scientists have reported on another devastating biological disaster, caused by a patch of abnormally warm water in the Pacific Ocean known as 'the Blob'.

This concentrated marine heatwave lingered in the northeast Pacific between 2013 and 2016, and researchers now think it was largely responsible for the death of almost a million common murres (Uria aalge), amongst other wildlife. This makes it the largest seabird die-off in recorded history.

The estimate is based on some 62,000 murres that washed ashore on the west coast of the US during 2015 and 2016, covering an area stretching from California to Alaska. Only a fraction of birds that die at sea typically wash ashore, indicating the scale of the mass dying was much larger than the number of bodies we've found.

The emaciated birds were left starved by a lack of food, caused by increased competition in the warmer waters, according to the scientists – and numerous other species may have been hit by the same confluence of factors.

"Think of it as a run on the grocery stores at the same time that the delivery trucks to the stores stopped coming so often," says biologist Julia Parrish, from the University of Washington.

"We believe that the smoking gun for common murres – beyond the marine heat wave itself – was an ecosystem squeeze: fewer forage fish and smaller prey in general, at the same time that competition from big fish predators like walleye, pollock and Pacific cod greatly increased."

The team reviewed studies of fish and plankton collected by fisheries during the time the blob was at its peak, as well as other field studies and reports, and concluded that the warmer temperatures in the water had increased the metabolism of these cold-blooded ocean dwellers.


Monday 20 January 2020

Male sparrows are less intimidated by the songs of aging rivals

The same singing that marks a male as 'the guy to beat' at age two signals that he's 'obsolete' by age 10

Date: January 17, 2020
Source: Duke University

Few singers reach their sunset years with the same voice they had in younger days. Singing sparrows are no different. Duke University-led research reveals that elderly swamp sparrows don't sound quite like they used to -- nor do they strike the same fear in other males who may be listening in.

Humans are remarkably good at guessing a person's age just by hearing their voice. But this is the first time the phenomenon has been demonstrated in wild animals, said Duke biology professor and study co-author Steve Nowicki.

The findings were published on January 7 in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

During the early spring, a male swamp sparrow stakes out a breeding territory and threatens any male who dares to trespass on his turf. If a potential rival enters another male's territory and starts to sing, the resident male says "Get out!" by singing back with a rapid weet-weet-weet and flying toward the intruder. Eventually, if all else fails, he attacks.

Previous research by this team showed that male swamp sparrows reach their peak as vocalists at age two, and start to decline after that, singing less frequently and less consistently as they get older.

Flycatchers and fantails: new songbirds discovered on tiny islands

Five species and five subspecies found in Indonesia in the largest discovery of its kind in more than a century

Thu 9 Jan 2020 19.00 GMT Last modified on Thu 9 Jan 2020 19.25 GMT

Ten new songbird species and subspecies have been identified on a trio of previously under-explored Indonesian islands in the largest discovery of its kind in more than a century, according to a new study.

Hidden away on the remote Wallacean islands of Taliabu, Peleng and Batudaka, close to where British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace independently developed the theory of evolution to Charles Darwin, five new bird species and five subspecies were detected during a six-week expedition to the area, off the coast of Sulawesi.

Although birds are among the most comprehensively documented animal classes, with only a handful of new species identified each year, the pioneering methodology used in the study, published in the journal Science, has raised the prospect of further discoveries around the world. The researchers concentrated their efforts on the islands of Taliabu and Peleng due to their likely high biodiversity because of their genetic isolation over the last few million years, revealed by using sea-depth analysis of the deep water channels in the archipelago.

Young sea eagle takes up residence among Oxfordshire's red kites

Bird is one of six released on Isle of Wight as first residents in England for 250 years

Fri 17 Jan 2020 12.39 GMTLast modified on Fri 17 Jan 2020 19.40 GMT

It is one of the country’s top predators, with a 2.4-metre (8ft) wingspan and a preference for plucking fish from the ocean.

So a young sea eagle’s choice of landlocked Oxfordshire as its home is unexpected. More surprising still is that the bird has lived for four months almost completely unnoticed by the public close to the M40 and the commuter belt.

The eagle, known as G3-93, is one of six satellite-tracked specimens released on to the Isle of Wight last summer, when they became England’s first resident sea eagles, or white-tailed eagles, for 250 years.

“He thinks he’s a red kite,” said Steve Egerton-Read, a project officer for the reintroduction programme led by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. “Like all young birds, he tries to learn from other birds. In the absence of other eagles, he’s learning from red kites. He flies around picking up bits of dead stuff – dead rabbits, dead game birds.”

Scavenging carrion is normal for young sea eagles, which rarely learn to hunt live animals in their first year. According to Egerton-Read, G3-93 is living on private land where the bird is safe from persecution by humans.

“Oxfordshire is full of game shoots but there’s no ill-will towards it and the landowners are very pleased to have another exciting bird to add to their list,” he said. “I don’t have many concerns for their safety over southern England and there is much more food for them here than in Scotland.”

African grey parrots spontaneously 'lend a wing'

Date:  January 9, 2020
Source: Cell Press

People and other great apes are known for their willingness to help others in need, even strangers. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on January 9 have shown for the first time that some birds -- and specifically African grey parrots -- are similarly helpful.

"We found that African grey parrots voluntarily and spontaneously help familiar parrots to achieve a goal, without obvious immediate benefit to themselves," says study co-author Désirée Brucks of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany.

Parrots and crows are known for having large brains relative to the size of their bodies and problem-solving skills to match. For that reason, they are sometimes considered to be "feathered apes," explain Brucks and study co-author Auguste von Bayern.

However, earlier studies showed that, despite their impressive social intelligence, crows don't help other crows. In their new study, Brucks and von Bayern wondered: what about parrots?

To find out, they enlisted several African grey parrots and blue-headed macaws. Both parrot species were eager to trade tokens with an experimenter for a nut treat. But, their findings show, only the African grey parrots were willing to transfer a token to a neighbor parrot, allowing the other individual to earn a nut reward.