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.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

When it comes to evolution, testes may play a key role, studies find

Genomic differences in two bird subspecies shed new light on mechanics of testosterone-mediated evolution

Date: June 15, 2016
Source: Indiana University

A pair of studies led by Indiana University researchers provide new evidence that when it comes to evolution, the testes may play a key role.

The research, led by Kimberly Rosvall, assistant professor in the IU College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology, finds that the testes -- or gonads -- have a greater impact than previously thought in evolution. The research was conducted in two subspecies of dark-eyed junco, a type of American sparrow.

The white-winged junco, or Junco hyemalis aikeni, is found in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The slate-colored junco, or Junco hyemalis carolinensis, is from the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia. The first is larger and more aggressive; the other is smaller and more docile.

The studies are published in the journals of Hormones and Behavior and of Integrative and Comparative Biology.

The first paper compares the subspecies in their expression of enzymes that make testosterone within the gonad. The second paper investigates how the subspecies' gonads differ in the expression of stress hormone receptor genes, which are known to lower testosterone.

Goose of a different colour: strange bird spotted in Vancouver's West End


Published on: June 17, 2016 | Last Updated: June 17, 2016 5:06 PM PDT

A goose sporting a strange collection of feathers is making for an odd duck in the West End.
The goose, sighted this week in the company of Canada geese at Sunset Beach, features an unusual pattern of white and darker feathers.

One theory is that it is leucistic, a term that describes a pigment abnormality falling short of albinism.

Another theory is that the bird is a hybrid love child, perhaps the result of the union of a Canada goose and a domestic goose or similar species.

“I don’t have much of a back story,” Greg Hart, urban wildlife programs coordinator for the Stanley Park Ecology Society, said Friday. “It’s just a neat bird that showed up.”

He sees reports of similar birds showing up in the region about once a year, each time sparking the leucistic-versus-hybrid debate on bird forums. “Typically, field marks are what you use to identify these birds,” he said. “This, of course, is displaying field marks that don’t fit any bird. That’s the quandary.”

George Clulow, immediate past president of B.C. Field Ornithologists, said that based on photos provided by The Vancouver Sun, the bird may even have some DNA of a swan goose (a wild species that breeds in China and Russia, but is also domesticated) or Asian domestic goose.

“Upright posture, long neck, bill colour/shape and foot colour are all suggestive of this to me,” he said. “Other parent perhaps Canada goose.”

Monday, 27 June 2016

Iconic wild birds once close to extinction make astonishing comeback in Britain

Tuesday June 21st 2016

Conservationists are witnessing record numbers of an iconic bird that has made an astonishing comeback after it was once close to extinction in Britain.

Avocets, the black and white waders that grace the emblem of the RSPB, have been having a record-breaking year at wildlife reserves across the country.

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) has announced that it has had a record 34 birds at its Washington Wetland Centre in the North East, just a decade after they first returned.

“We’re absolutely thrilled at the number of avocets this year. For the avocets to return year after year is fantastic”

John Gowland, WWT Washington Wetland Centre

It is thanks to a huge amount of work by conservationists to improve habitats for the birds and to protect them from predators. More than £20,000 has been spent on new shingle islands for the birds at Washington.
‘Real conservation success story’

More than 170 pairs were also recorded at the RSPB’s Cliffe Pools reserve in North Kent last autumn – one of the highest concentrations ever recorded in Britain.

The RSPB said numbers have also continued to grow at its reserve at Minsmere in Suffolk after the birds returned in 1947 after an absence of more than a century.

Avocets also overwintered at Middleton Lakes in Staffordshire – the first in the county. Frampton Marsh reserve in

Lincolnshire has also recorded its best ever year with 81 pairs compared with zero in 2008. Record numbers were also recorded at the Dee Estuary in Cheshire.

John Gowland, reserve manager at WWT Washington Wedland Centre, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled at the number of avocets this year. For the avocets to return year after year is fantastic and a real conservation success story.”

Around 7,500 of the long-legged birds were thought to be in Britain in autumn. They included a huge wintering colony at Poole Harbour in Dorset, where numbers have risen from 25 to almost 2,000 in just 30 years.

Monogamous West Norfolk bird wins a second partner

07:48 17 June 2016

Staff monitoring the behaviour of the birdlife in the Fens have spotted a particularly amorous individual residing in the washes.

Black-tailed godwits are usually monogamous birds, but one particular male has surprised researchers with an unusual trait – he has managed to win the affections of two female partners.

It is the first time the behaviour has been noticed at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s Welney Wetland Centre near Downham Market.

Experts claim the male in question could be trying the tactic this summer as the numbers of black-tailed godwits breeding in the UK are at precarious levels.

Read on … 

Two grey plover birds tracked leaving Adelaide and flying 13,000 km in three months

June 12, 2016 11:49am
Environment Reporter Jade Gailberger

TWO migratory birds that spent the summer in Adelaide have been tracked to a remote Russian island in the Arctic Circle, having flown 13,000km in three months.

The grey plovers’ journeys from Adelaide’s International Bird Sanctuary are the subject of a migration study and each carries a solar-powered satellite tracking device.

Both birds left Thompson Beach, west of Dublin, in March, but have chosen different paths to Wrangel Island, which is off Russia’s northeast coast.

So remote is the island that it is thought to have been home to the world’s last population of woolly mammoths up until about 4000 years ago.

after it had flown northwest, over Australia’s central deserts and then east of Kununurra in Western Australia, before heading out over the Timor, Banda and Molucca Seas near Indonesia.

After flying over the islands in the Philippines, CYA clocked up 7340km on a flight to Taiwan, where the bird spent just under two weeks, before arriving at tidal flats of the Jiangsu coast of the Yellow Sea, near Dongtai city.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Great Scot, it’s a great knot! - Twitchers flock to RSPB Titchwell Marsh to see rare bird

18:54 17 June 2016

Hundreds of avid bird watchers have gathered at RSPB Titchwell Marsh over the last three days in order to catch a glimpse of a very rare avian visitor.

The bird, a great knot, should have been migrating from its wintering grounds in Australia and heading for the Arctic tundra in Eastern Siberia but somehow took a wrong turn and ended up on the Norfolk coast.

The great knot was discovered on June 15 amidst a large flock of red knot which are common visitors here during winter months and are well known for their whirling flight routines. As the name suggests, the great knot is slightly larger than the more familiar red knot and with this bird in summer plumage it stands out from its European cousins. Red knot have a circumpolar distribution and like the great knot, can also be seen in the Siberian tundra. It is possible that the newcomer feels quite at home with its smaller companions and is likely to remain with the flock for some time.

Kaikoura's endemic bird offers rare opportunity for science students

Crash-landed Hutton's shearwater birds have given a Kaikoura year 13 science class the opportunity for some hands-on learning.

The Kaikoura High School general science class spent the day last week testing DNA from feathers taken from birds which crash-landed this season.

The Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust collected a feather from each of the birds found on the roads around the district in order to extract the bird's DNA, and determine their gender.

Teacher Rebecca Scott said the students were thoroughly engaged for the whole day and really enjoyed the experience, which would also earn them credits towards the practical side of their course.

"It was very meaningful and worthwhile," she said.

"Genetics can be quite theoretical so for them to be able to put this into practice with a bird which is endemic to this region was a really great experience."

About 75 birds were picked up over a four-week period this year, predominantly along the Esplanade.

University of Canterbury marine ecology lecturer Dr Sharyn Goldstein spent the day with the students DNA-testing 27 of those birds.

The students had done a fantastic job, resulting in some good data, she said.