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, 26 September 2016

Tool-using crow: Rare bird joins clever animal elite

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News
14 September 2016

A bird so rare that it is now extinct in the wild has joined a clever animal elite - the Hawaiian crow naturally uses tools to reach food. 

The bird now joins just one other corvid - the New Caledonian crow - in this exclusive evolutionary niche. 

Dr Christian Rutz from St Andrews University described his realisation that the bird might be an undiscovered tool user as a "eureka moment". 

"I've been studying New Caledonian crows for over 10 years now," Dr Rutz told BBC News. "There are more than 40 species of crows and ravens around the world and many of them are poorly studied. 

"So I wondered if there were hitherto undiscovered tool users among them." 

Previously, Dr Rutz and his colleagues have reported that New Caledonian crows have particular physical features - very straight bills and forward-facing eyes. The researchers suggested these might be tool-using adaptations. 

Breeding programme
They then searched the crow family for species with similar features, and Dr Rutz said he quickly realised that the "Hawaiian crow was the perfect candidate for further investigation".
Though it will now be something of a scientific celebrity, the Hawaiian crow has recently been rescued from the very brink of extinction. 

RSPB reports that farming causing extinction in the UK

14 September 2016  •  Author(s): Roy Manuell, Digital Content Producer

Following JMU‘s recent study New Food published on agriculture’s contribution to a loss in diversity, an RSPB report entitled the State of Nature report has announced that one in 10 UK species face extinction due to the “policy driven” intensification of farming practices. 

The report conducted by the RSPB, suggested that over half of farmland birds are now in jeopardy.

In response, The National Farmers Union argued that the report negates any progress made by the agriculture industry on conservation over the last quarter of a century.

Mark Eaton, author of the report, said in a statement: 
“We now know that farming practices over recent decades have had the single largest impact on the UK’s wildlife.

“Nature has been squeezed out.”

75% of the UK’s landscape is made up of farmland and it is thought that the increasing use of pesticides and herbicides has largely caused the damage to native species. 

“The great majority of that impact has been negative. This isn’t deliberate, it is a by-product of changes in farming to make it more efficient.”

Oxford to become a "swift city" with 300 new nests stuck on buildings

OXFORD is to become England's first "Swift City" under a major project by the RSPB. 

The charity has been given £83,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to lead a two-year project to maintain swift nesting sites in the city and add 300 further sites onto new and existing buildings. 

The iconic migrating bird, which lands only to breed and can fly 560 miles a day, nests almost exclusively in urban areas, but numbers in the UK have fallen by 38 per cent since 1994. 

One possible cause of the decline is thought to be loss of nesting sites as old buildings are renovated and new builds do not include spaces for them to nest. 

The RSPB project will research Oxford’s present swift populations and nest sites and work with builders and planners to maintain them and create 300 new sites on buildings.

Starting in January, the RSPB will work alongside partners including Oxford University, The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford City Council, Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, Environment Resources Management and the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). 

As part of the scheme a showpiece "Swift Tower" is planned which will combine new nest site with a public art project. 

But the charity has said it will need volunteers to help monitor swift numbers. 

Charlotte Kinnear, local RSPB Conservation Officer, said: "Like much urban wildlife, swifts are under pressure in the UK.