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.

Monday 29 June 2020

Pinker flamingos more aggressive

Date: June 7, 2020
Source: University of Exeter
Bright pink flamingos are more aggressive than paler rivals when fighting over food, new research shows.
Pink plumage is a sign of good health in lesser flamingos, and a flush of colour often means they are ready to breed.
So when the birds squabble over food, the pinkest flamingos -- both male and female -- tend to push the others around.
The study, by the University of Exeter and WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, also found the birds fight more when food is available in a small area such as a bowl -- so the findings suggest captive birds should be fed over a wide space where possible.
"Flamingos live in large groups with complex social structures," said Dr Paul Rose, of the University of Exeter.
"Colour plays an important role in this. The colour comes from carotenoids in their food, which for lesser flamingos is mostly algae that they filter from the water.
"A healthy flamingo that is an efficient feeder -- demonstrated by its colourful feathers -- will have more time and energy to be aggressive and dominant when feeding."
Dr Rose studied the behaviour of Slimbridge's lesser flamingos in different feeding situations: at an indoor feeding bowl, a larger indoor feeding pool, and outdoors with food available in a large pool.

Study on shorebirds suggests that when conserving species, not all land is equal

Date: June 9, 2020
Source: Princeton University
Princeton University researchers may have solved a long-standing mystery in conservation that could influence how natural lands are designated for the preservation of endangered species.
Around the world, the migratory shorebirds that are a conspicuous feature of coastal habitats are losing access to the tidal flats -- the areas between dry land and the sea -- they rely on for food as they travel and prepare to breed. But a major puzzle has been that species' populations are plummeting several times faster than the rate at which coastal ecosystems are lost to development.
Nowhere is the loss of tidal flats and shorebird species more acute than along the East Asia-Australasian Flyway (EAAF). An estimated 5 million migratory birds from 55 species use the flyway to travel from southern Australia to northern Siberia along the rapidly developing coast of China -- where tidal flats can be more than 6 miles wide -- at which birds stop to rest and refuel.
Since the 1980s, the loss of tidal flats around the Yellow Sea has averaged 1.2% per year. Yet, the annual loss of the most endangered bird species has averaged between 5.1 and 7.5%, with populations of species such as the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpipers (Calidris pygmaea) climbing as high as 26% each year.

Antioxidant-rich diet reduces stress response during bird migration

Date: June 18, 2020
Source: University of Rhode Island
A research team led by a University of Rhode Island ornithologist had birds fly in a wind tunnel to simulate migration and found that birds that consume dietary antioxidants before and during fall migration can reduce the endocrine stress response triggered by long-duration flights.
The results, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, emphasize the importance of protecting habitat with an abundance of available berries containing antioxidants at migratory stopover sites.
"This reduction in the endocrine stress response may be a major benefit birds gain in fall by eating fruits at stopover sites during migration," said Scott McWilliams, URI professor of natural resources science, noting that many species of birds select berries containing anthocyanins, a type of dietary antioxidant present in purple-colored berries. "We know birds prefer certain berries that have lots of antioxidants."

Sunday 28 June 2020

Mysterious Australian Night Parrots may not see in the dead of night

Australia's most elusive bird, the Night Parrot, may not be much better at seeing in the dark than other parrots active during the day
Date: June 9, 2020
Source: Flinders University
Australia's most elusive bird, the Night Parrot, may not be much better at seeing in the dark than other parrots active during the day.
An international study, co-led by Flinders University's Dr Vera Weisbecker, has revealed the critically endangered parrot's visual system is not as well-adapted to life in the dark as would be expected for a nocturnal bird, raising concerns it might be adversely impacted by fencing in the Australian outback.
"Night Parrots must be able to find their way at night -- to find food, avoid obstacles while flying, and escape predators," says Dr Weisbecker.
"We therefore expect their visual system to show adaptations for seeing in the dark, similar to other nocturnal birds -- New Zealand's Kakapo parrot and owls with enlarged eyes for example. However, we found that this wasn't the case."

Spectacular bird's-eye view? Hummingbirds see diverse colors humans can only imagine

Team trains wild hummingbirds to discriminate UV color combinations
Date: June 15, 2020
Source: Princeton University
To find food, dazzle mates, escape predators and navigate diverse terrain, birds rely on their excellent color vision.
"Humans are color-blind compared to birds and many other animals," said Mary Caswell Stoddard, an assistant professor in the Princeton University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Humans have three types of color-sensitive cones in their eyes -- attuned to red, green and blue light -- but birds have a fourth type, sensitive to ultraviolet light. "Not only does having a fourth color cone type extend the range of bird-visible colors into the UV, it potentially allows birds to perceive combination colors like ultraviolet+green and ultraviolet+red -- but this has been hard to test," said Stoddard.
To investigate how birds perceive their colorful world, Stoddard and her research team established a new field system for exploring bird color vision in a natural setting. Working at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, Colorado, the researchers trained wild broad-tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) to participate in color vision experiments.
"Most detailed perceptual experiments on birds are performed in the lab, but we risk missing the bigger picture of how birds really use color vision in their daily lives," Stoddard said. "Hummingbirds are perfect for studying color vision in the wild. These sugar fiends have evolved to respond to flower colors that advertise a nectar reward, so they can learn color associations rapidly and with little training."
Stoddard's team was particularly interested in "nonspectral" color combinations, which involve hues from widely separated parts of the color spectrum, as opposed to blends of neighboring colors like teal (blue-green) or yellow (green-red). For humans, purple is the clearest example of a nonspectral color. Technically, purple is not in the rainbow: it arises when our blue (short-wave) and red (long-wave) cones are stimulated, but not green (medium-wave) cones.
While humans have just one nonspectral color -- purple, birds can theoretically see up to five: purple, ultraviolet+red, ultraviolet+green, ultraviolet+yellow and ultraviolet+purple.
Stoddard and her colleagues designed a series of experiments to test whether hummingbirds can see these nonspectral colors. Their results appear June 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In a quiet world, research on noise and nesting bluebirds

MAY 20, 2020

by Adrienne Berard, The College of William & Mary
Operation Decoy Dan begins at dawn.
Heather Kenny loads up her Honda CRV with three metal rods, two large nets, a rubber mallet and a Tupperware box containing the remaining tools she'll need to weigh, measure and band nesting bluebirds.
Kenny, a biology master's student at William & Mary, has spent the past two years studying the parenting behavior of bluebirds. Specifically, she is working to understand how human-made noise influences nesting and productivity.
She does this by maintaining experimental speakers, which play traffic noise on loop next to bluebird nest boxes. The goal is to see if birds are less likely to nest near the noisy boxes—and to see what behavioral traits are common in the birds who do decide to nest there.
"A previous study in our lab found a correlation that birds nesting in noisier areas raise fewer babies than the ones in the quiet areas," she said. "My study is following up on that and doing an experimental manipulation of noise to see if it's actually noise that is causing this difference in reproduction and if so, why?"
Kenny collected data on 28 nesting bluebird pairs last year. This spring, she monitored 30 nest boxes, located in Newport News Park, New Quarter Park and York River State Park on the Virginia Peninsula.
"We found from last year's data that they were not really responding to noise directly," Kenny said. "So, this year, I set up the speakers before they started building their nests to see if it influences where they decide to nest. I'm also examining the timing of their nesting and egg laying, as well as keeping track of how many eggs they lay and how many chicks fledge."

Friday 26 June 2020

Be still, my beating wings: hunters kill migrating birds on their 10,000km journey to Australia

MAY 25, 2020

by Eduardo Gallo-Cajiao, The Conversation

It is low tide at the end of the wet season in Broome, Western Australia. Shorebirds feeding voraciously on worms and clams suddenly get restless.

Chattering loudly they take flight, circling up over Roebuck Bay then heading off for their northern breeding grounds more than 10,000 km away. I marvel at the epic journey ahead, and wonder how these birds will fare.

In my former role as an assistant warden at the Broome Bird Observatory, I had the privilege of watching shorebirds, such as the bar-tailed godwit, set off on their annual migration.

I'm now a conservation researcher at the University of Queensland, focusing on birds. Populations of migratory shorebirds are in sharp decline, and some are threatened with extinction.

We know the destruction of coastal habitats for infrastructure development has taken a big toll on these amazing birds. But a study I conducted with a large international team, which has just been published, suggests hunting is also a likely key threat.


More pāteke released in Abel Tasman, rare duck population now in the hundreds

Samantha Gee13:31, May 26 2020


Motupipi teacher Jodie Grant releasing some of the pāteke in the Awapoto River.

There might be less people flying around the country, but a plane carrying 49 rare pāteke made a special flight to Nelson, as part of the journey to their new home in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Pāteke, or brown teal, were once widespread throughout New Zealand but are now one of the country's rarest waterfowl species, with the Department of Conservation estimating there are 2000 – 2500 birds left in the wild. 

Despite Covid-19 restrictions and reduced air capacity, the special cargo landed at Nelson Airport last week. 

After being blessed at the airport by Archdeacon Harvey Ruru​ of Te Ātiawa the birds were driven to the Abel Tasman National Park and released on the Awapoto River at dusk. 

Since 2017, Project Janszoon, the Department of Conservation and local iwi have released 288 pāteke in the Abel Tasman National Park, which is one of only two South Island pāteke sites.

Read on

Rare white pīwakawaka attracts photographers and bird watchers to Stratford

26 May, 2020 7:19pm

Stratford's King Edward Park has become home to a rare white pīwakawaka, thrilling local birdwatchers and photographers.

The bird was first featured in the Stratford Press in April, after Jim Gould spotted it during his daily walk. He shared his photos on social media and with Stratford Press readers and soon lots of people headed to the park to try and spot the rare bird.

Known for its friendly 'cheet cheet' call and energetic flying antics, the pīwakawaka, or fantail, is one of the most common and widely distributed native birds on the New Zealand mainland.

"A white fantail, however, that's not so common at all."