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, 22 May 2017

Scientist identify key locations for spread of pin-tailed whydahs

Date: May 11, 2017
Source: The City University of New York

Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura).jpgInvasive parasites are a biological oxymoron. And yet, they are in our backyards! This study analyzes the case of a brood parasitic bird, the pin-tailed whydah (Vidua macroura) and its recent spread into the Americas!

Biodiversity hotspots -- or places with large numbers of species found nowhere else on earth -- also tend to make suitable habitats for invasive species that can, in turn, destabilize ecosystems and supplant indigenous biota. A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications predicts where the pin-tailed whydah, a songbird native to sub-Saharan Africa that has expanded its natural range thanks to the pet trade, may next spread in North America and Hawaii.

The pin-tailed whydah is a brood parasitic bird that lays its eggs in other bird species, typically small African finches, and has been introduced from Africa to Puerto Rico and southern California. In this study, researchers used species distribution models to predict where the whydah may continue to spread in the continental U.S., Hawaii, and the Antilles. To determine the whydah's potential distribution, they used sightings of this species reported to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The investigators then identified suitable whydah habitat by finding correlations between locations where these finches have been seen and global climate data. As brood parasites, whydahs need hosts to complete their life cycle, so the researchers also used the presence of six known host species that have been co-introduced in the whydah's new range to predict suitable habitat. Their species distribution model indicated high habitat suitability in areas of high biodiversity where whydahs do not currently live, including the West Coast of the U.S., Hawaii, and most islands of the Antilles.

New Zealand's mainland yellow-eyed penguins face extinction unless urgent action taken

Iconic yellow-eyed penguins could disappear from New Zealand's Otago Peninsula by 2060

Date: May 16, 2017
Source: University of Otago

Iconic Yellow-eyed penguins could disappear from New Zealand's Otago Peninsula by 2060, latest research warns. Researchers call for coordinated conservation action.

In a newly published study in the international journal PeerJ, scientists have modelled factors driving mainland Yellow-eyed penguin population decline and are calling for action to reduce regional threats.

According to the researchers' prediction models, breeding success of the penguins will continue to decline to extinction by 2060 largely due to rising ocean temperatures. But these predictions also point to where our conservation efforts could be most effective in building penguins' resilience against climate change.

The Yellow-eyed penguin, classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is a key attraction for New Zealand tourism. Yet, the chances of seeing the penguins in the wild are quietly slipping away, the new research suggests.

Lead study author Dr Thomas Mattern of the University of Otago says his team's predictions are conservative estimates and do not include additional adult die-off events such as the one seen in 2013 in which more than 60 penguins died.

"Any further losses of Yellow-eyed penguins will bring forward the date of their local extinction," Dr Mattern says.

Cockatoos keep their tools safe

Date: May 16, 2017
Source: University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna

Only a few animal species such as New Caledonian crows or some primates have so far been found to habitually use tools. Even fewer can manufacture their own tools. Nevertheless, the Goffin's cockatoo, an Indonesian parrot, exhibit both abilities while seemingly lacking a genetic adaptation for tool use. Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and the University of Vienna have now shown yet another tool-related ability in these clever parrots.

After a brief learning phase, they keep their tools safe nearby without dropping them while feeding until the last of five difficult-to-obtain food rewards has been retrieved. In order to succeed, they are able to adapt their behavioural routines in a way that allows for feeding and holding the tool both at the same time. This not only highlights the learning abilities of these animals but also suggests the ability to plan their body movements. The study was published in the scientific journal Animal Behaviour. Any craftsman knows that it is much easier to always keep a pair of pliers or a hammer safe at hand inside a belt instead of having to retrieve it every time it is needed. Having to look for tools, to buy or to manufacture them usually involves a much larger effort than keeping them safe to reuse them at any time.