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, 11 December 2017

Migration makes breeding harder for seabirds

Study reveals migration behaviors of puffins for the first time

Date:  November 30, 2017
Source:  University of Oxford

An international collaboration has for the first time revealed the key drivers of seabird migration. The new study suggests that puffin colonies that travel great distances during the winter often find it more difficult to breed than others, and that escaping your habitat with far flung migration therefore carries a cost.

Published in Current Biology, the work was led by researchers from the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford and conducted in collaboration with eight international partners, including the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, the University of New Brunswick in Canada and the South Iceland Nature Research Centre.

Over the course of eight years the team studied the seasonal behaviours of a wide range of puffin colonies across the species' range, covering 270 individual birds in total. By combining data from multiple colonies the researchers were able to build an accurate picture of the migration behaviours of Atlantic puffin colonies across the world.

While previous research has focused on individual colonies and seabird species, the study marks the first time that seabird migration behaviour has been studied on this scale in such comprehensive detail.

Early avian evolution: The Archaeopteryx that wasn‘t

Date:  December 4, 2017
Source:  Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen (LMU)

Paleontologists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich correct a case of misinterpretation: The first fossil "Archaeopteryx" to be discovered is actually a predatory dinosaur belonging to the anchiornithid family, which was previously known only from finds made in China.

Even 150 million years after its first appearance on our planet, Archaeopteryx is still good for surprises. The so-called Urvogel has attained an iconic status well beyond the world of paleontology, and it is one of the most famous fossils ever recovered. In all, a dozen fossil specimens have been assigned to the genus. Archaeopteryx remains the oldest known bird fossil, not only documenting the evolutionary transition from reptiles to birds, but also confirming that modern birds are the direct descendants of carnivorous dinosaurs. LMU paleontologist Oliver Rauhut and Christian Foth from the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde in Stuttgart have re-examined the so-called Haarlem specimen of Archaeopteryx, which is kept in Teylers Museum in that Dutch city and has gone down in history as the first member of this genus to be discovered.

Pigeons can discriminate both space, time

Finding underscores that animals beyond humans and primates show abstract intelligence

Date:  December 4, 2017
Source:  University of Iowa

Pigeons aren't so bird-brained after all.

New research at the University of Iowa shows that pigeons can discriminate the abstract concepts of space and time -- and seem to use a different region of the brain than humans and primates to do so. In experiments, pigeons were shown on a computer screen a static horizontal line and had to judge its length or the amount of time it was visible to them. Pigeons judged longer lines to also have longer duration and judged lines longer in duration to also be longer in length.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The other Dodo: Extinct bird that used its wings as clubs

By Rory GallowayScience writer
2 December 2017

The extinct Dodo had a little-known relative on another island. This fascinating bird ultimately suffered the same fate as its iconic cousin, but we can reconstruct some of its biology thanks to the writings of a French explorer who studied it during his travels of the Indian Ocean.

In the middle of the 18th Century, at around the time the US was signing the declaration of independence, a large flightless bird quietly became extinct on an island in the Indian Ocean.
Today this bird is all but forgotten.

Early explorers to Rodrigues described a "Dodo" living on the tiny forested island. Males were grey-brown, and females sandy, both having strong legs and long, proud necks. But despite outward similarities to the iconic Mauritian bird, this wasn't in fact a Dodo, but the Rodrigues solitaire.

If you look up Rodrigues in satellite images, you can see a huge ring of submerged land around the central island, over 50% of the original dry land is thought to have been lost under the waves due to sea level rise and the island subsiding into the bedrock. That was the stage for the evolution of the huge bird, over millions of years.

How UK's birds are being affected by a changing climate

By Helen BriggsBBC News
5 December 2017

Migratory birds are arriving in the UK earlier each spring and leaving later each autumn, a report has confirmed.

Some visitors are now appearing more than 20 days earlier than they did in the 1960s, according to the state of the UK's birds 2017 report.

The swallow, for instance, is arriving 15 days earlier than 50 years ago.

Ongoing monitoring is essential to track the future effects of a changing climate on birds, says a coalition of wildlife organisations.

The report is by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) , the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the UK's nature conservation bodies. It pulls together data from the latest bird surveys and monitoring studies.

The report warns that there will be winner and losers in a changing world, with opportunities for some bird species but higher extinction risks for others.

Some, such as the night heron, are breeding in the UK for the first time as their range expands north, while others, such as the snow bunting are in decline.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, lead author of the report, said familiar species such as swallows and sand martins are changing their migratory behaviour.

''We need to take that almost as a warning sign,'' he told BBC News.

Penguins move in to Lotherton Hall

New colony of Humboldt penguins in the new Costal Zone at Lotherton Hall.

21st November 2017.
Published: 14:34 Wednesday 22 November 2017

There was cause for Happy Feet at Lotherton Wildlife World this week as its newest residents celebrated the opening of the first phase of the £1.2m redevelopment of the attraction. The colony of 17 Humboldt penguins are now nicely settled in to their new home at the Aberford estate’s Coastal Zone after moving in from their previous homes, zoos in Dudley and Newquay, a few weeks ago.

New colony of Humboldt penguins in the new Costal Zone at Lotherton Hall. Coun Lucinda Yeadon feeds the penguins. 21st November 2017.

Lotherton Hall’s huge new 120,000 litre penguin pool, complete with above and below water viewing areas, gives the creatures plenty of opportunities to show off their swimming skills to visitors. Leeds City Council’s animal curator, Peter Quince, said: “It’s been great to see the penguins settling in so well to their new home and they really are a fantastic addition to the Lotherton family.

Friday, 8 December 2017

A yellow-eyed penguin that was caught in a net.

Yellow-eyed penguins at risk due to set net fishery


Almost half the breeding population of yellow-eyed penguins on Codfish Island, west of Stewart Island, have disappeared at sea, most likely because of commercial set nets, Forest and Bird says.

Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the group was calling on the Government to gather those who work to protect the penguins, but also the fishing industry to agree an immediate set of actions to eliminate the risks from set netting in the penguins' feeding area.

"Unlike previous years where disease and high temperatures caused deaths on land, this year birds have disappeared at sea. There is an active set net fishery within the penguins' Whenua Hou foraging ground, and the indications are that nearly half the Whenua Hou hoiho population has been drowned in one or more of these nets.

"We are asking DOC and MPI what they intend to do to save our hoiho from extinction, because at current rates of decline we are on track to lose hoiho completely from mainland New Zealand. We have also written to the Minister of Conservation, expressing our concern."

However, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says it is stepping up monitoring of the set net fisheries.

 Almost every penguin killed in the set net fishery was killed on a boat that had an official observer on board, Hague said.

The first step was to get more observers onto set net vessels and prioritise putting cameras on set netting boats, he said.