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.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Vultures evolved an extreme gut to cope with disgusting dietary habits

November 25, 2014

Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

How is it that vultures can live on a diet of carrion that would at least lead to severe food-poisoning, and more likely kill most other animals? This is the key question behind a recent collaboration between a team of international researchers from Denmark's Centre for GeoGenetics and Biological Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, the Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution in the USA. An "acidic" answer to this question is now published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

UK zoo owner convicted of allowing invasive species to escape

The owner of South Lakes Wild Animal Park (SLWAP) in Cumbria, David Stanley Gill, along with the zoo itself, has been convicted of allowing an invasive bird species to escape, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Sec. 14(1).

In July 2013 last year a Sacred Ibis had been sighted on the Cumbrian coast in the region of Dalton-in-Furness a number of times. An expert ornithologist working for Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) established it was the Sacred Ibis and the birds were originating from SLWAP.

The Sacred Ibis does not occur naturally in Great Britain, and if it was allowed to colonise it would pose a significant threat to the natural fauna of Britain. As such it is one of only a handful of species that the government has put an action plan in place to deal with if it does colonise. 

The case was then picked up by officers from Cumbria Police and the NWCU, who with APHA, searched the zoo. During the visit officers found a large open enclosure housing just 27 Sacred Ibis, when the zoo’s records indicated that there should be 36. The officers also witnessed and filmed the birds flying out to the park. 

Female color perception affects evolution of male plumage in birds

November 25, 2014

University of Chicago Medical Center

The expression of a gene involved in female birds' color vision is linked to the evolution of colorful plumage in males, reports a new study. The findings confirm the essential role of female color perception in mate selection and sexual dimorphism.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Rare geese make unusual — and deadly — stop in the Lowcountry

BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC — When avid birdwatcher Carol Clemens had a chance to see a rare species -- one that usually migrates only along the West Coast -- just 45 minutes from her Hilton Head Island home, she couldn't pass it up.

A Ross's goose, similar to but smaller than a snow goose, had been spotted in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge near Hardeeville, and Clemens hopped in her car almost as soon as she heard.

"This bird is so unusual that if I hadn't called my friend to go out and see it, then it would have been a lost opportunity," said Clemens, membership co-chairwoman of the Hilton Head Island Audubon Society.

"We were hoping to get a glimpse of the goose, but thought that it would be just a white speck on the horizon," she added. "But then we got almost 10 feet away and could really admire it."

Read more here:

Twitcher's double 1,500 miles apart: Birdwatcher tags same blackcap during Portuguese holiday weeks after he spotted bird close to his Staffordshire home

Dave Clifton had tagged the small bird near his Staffordshire home
Weeks later on holiday 1,500 miles away in Portugal he captured same bird
Mr Clifton was part of a group catching migrating birds to check tags to see where they had flown from in Europe while making their way to Africa
Chances of catching the same bird twice are almost incalculable 

PUBLISHED: 00:28, 25 November 2014 | UPDATED: 00:29, 25 November 2014

A British birdwatcher enjoying a sunshine holiday in Portugal thought he was experiencing a case of deja vu when he captured a tiny bird.

When Dave Clifton examined the identification ring on the leg of the blackcap he thought it bore an uncanny similarity to the one he had ringed weeks earlier.

But that was 1,500 miles away close to his home Staffordshire and the chances of capturing the same bird twice are almost incalculable.

New bird species confirmed 15 years after first observation

24th November 2014

A team led by researchers from Princeton University, Michigan State University and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences have confirmed the discovery of a new bird species more than 15 years after the elusive animal was first seen on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii), whose discovery has just been confirmed 15 years after the first sighting in Indonesia, is distinguished by its mottled throat and short wings. (Photo by Martin Lindop & Ticiana Jardim Marini)

The newly named Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii), distinguished by its mottled throat and short wings, was found in the forested lowlands of Sulawesi where it had last been observed. The researchers report in PLOS ONE that the new species is markedly different from other flycatchers in its plumage (feathers), body structure, song and genetics, proving that it is a new species. Because the bird has survived in a region heavily degraded by cacao plantations, the species is not currently at risk of extinction.

"Considering that 98 percent of the world's birds have been described, finding a new species is quite rare," said co-author J. Berton C. Harris, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton's Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, which is based at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. "And despite being a globally important avian hotspot, Sulawesi has largely gone unstudied by ornithologists."

Monday, 24 November 2014

Fairy tern crowned NZ Seabird of the Year

The fairy tern has won the New Zealand Seabird of the Year poll, after three weeks of close competition.

The poll is run by the independent conservation charity Forest & Bird.

The fairy tern and the Fiji petrel traded the lead in the poll several times. But a late surge saw it come out on top with 1882 votes. The Fiji petrel won 1801 votes, and 563 people voted for the little blue penguin.

The co-campaign manager for the fairy tern, conservationist and author Wade Doak, says the fairy tern’s win is great news for the species, and for the people who work so hard to protect it.

“Sadly, the dwindling numbers of fairy tern are disproportionate to their popularity, with only between 8-10 breeding pairs of the birds left,” says Wade Doak.

“However the upside is that there are plenty of people who are prepared to go to great lengths to save the fairy tern. Regardless of the conditions at Mangawhai Heads, you’ll almost always find a solitary figure – sitting on an upturned bucket – guarding a fairy tern colony.

“The courage and devotion of the public to saving these birds is incredible. Which is fortunate, because it’s entirely up to us as to whether the birds will survive,” Wade Doak says.