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, 20 November 2017

California birds nesting a week earlier than they did a century ago

November 13, 2017

A new study suggests that many of the state's birds are adapting to rising temperatures by breeding earlier than they did a century ago.

A comparison of nesting data recorded in the early 1900s with similar data today for more than 200 species of California birds shows that overall they are breeding five to 12 days earlier than they did 75 to 100 years ago.

Earlier studies found that many but not all birds in California's mountains are moving north or to higher elevations to find cooler temperatures in the face of global warming.

"The shift to earlier breeding that we detected allows birds to nest at similar temperatures as they did a century ago, and helps explain why half the bird species in the mountainous areas of California did not need to shift upward in elevation in response to climate warming over the past century," said co-author Steven Beissinger, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental sciences, policy and management.

The study, led by former UC Berkeley graduate student Morgan Tingley, now an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, UConn postdoc Jacob Socolar, former UC Berkeley postdoc Peter Epanchin, now of the United States Agency for International Development, and Beissinger will be published online the week of Nov. 13 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early spring arrivals have long been noted by the public and reported by scientists, but the assumption has been that the birds are tracking resources, primarily food: with warming temperatures, plants produce leaves and seeds earlier, and insects emerge earlier.

A warbler's flashy yellow throat? There are genes for that

Research might have pinpointed some of the genetic machinery responsible for the plumage colouration in Audubon's and myrtle warblers, related but distinctly feathered North American songbirds

Date:  November 8, 2017
Source:  University of British Columbia

Birds get their bright red, orange and yellow plumage from carotenoid pigments -- responsible for many of the same bright colors in plants. But how songbirds turn carotenoids into the spectacular variety of feathered patches found in nature has remained a mystery. Now research might have pinpointed some of the genetic machinery responsible for the plumage coloration in Audubon's and myrtle warblers, related but distinctly feathered North American songbirds.

Restoration of iconic native bird causes problems in urban areas

After a century-long absence, kaka were successfully reintroduced in Wellington in 2002 - but the restoration of the iconic native bird has ruffled a few feathers.

Kaka are a delight, says Victoria ecologist Associate Professor Wayne Linklater. "They're wonderful birds to watch and listen to, and you watch kids' faces light up around them." But, just like their cousins the kea, kaka are boisterous, brainy and also potentially problematic in urban areas.

An emerging challenge in Wellington's suburbs is kaka damaging property - gouging into trees, roofs and buildings.

"Kaka are cavity nesters and, like most birds, attract in numbers where there is food," explains Wayne. "They're quite happy living in cities, where there are human-made cavities and food everywhere."

This has led to neighbours arguing about whether people should be feeding kaka, says Wayne. "Wellingtonians love feeding birds and connecting with wildlife - somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of residents at least occasionally feed birds in their backyard. It extends from throwing out some scrap food to placing large quantities in bird feeders.

"It could be that for many kaka their primary food source is people's backyards, and this is driving them to gather in particularly large numbers in some neighbourhoods."


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Critically Endangered hawks thrive following translocation

Species translocation - capturing animals in one place and releasing them in another—is a widely used conservation method for establishing or reestablishing populations of threatened species. However, translocation projects often fail when the transplanted animals fail to thrive in their new home. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications demonstrates how close monitoring of the animals being released into a new area is helping wildlife managers gauge the success of their effort to save the Ridgway’s Hawk of Hispaniola.

Ridgway’s Hawk is a critically endangered raptor endemic to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Since 2009, the Peregrine Fund has translocated 104 nestlings from the species’ stronghold in a national park to a protected resort area called Punta Cana 130 kilometers away. They monitored the birds after their release, tracking their survival and breeding success, as well as collecting the same data on 36–110 breeding pairs per year in the original national park population. Survival rates were high in both locations, and more young hawks began breeding on the resort property, probably because more territories were available due to the birds’ low numbers.


Shock as beautiful protected swan cruelly 'blasted from close range'

X-rays confirmed the bird was "covered in pellets" and left on the cliff-tops near Bempton

Daniel Kemp
13:24, 10 NOV 2017
UPDATED13:26, 10 NOV 2017

A swan has been shot dead close to a popular East Riding bird-watching reserve.

X-rays confirmed the bird, which is a protected species, was “covered in pellets” and had been “blasted from fairly close range”. Killing a swan is a criminal offence

The Whooper swan had just made a 1,000-mile trip from Iceland for the winter, but was found covered in blood after a close-range shooting on a cliff-top near Bempton.

It was found on fields between the RSPB site at Bempton Cliffs and the village of Buckton.

RSPCA inspector and national wildlife officer co-ordinator, Geoff Edmond, said: “I feel outraged that this has happened.

 “These birds come down predominantly from Iceland from October onwards to spend the winter months here. In other words this bird is likely to have flown around a thousand miles to suffer this terrible fate.

Record number of barnacle geese arrive in Dumfries and Galloway

11th November

News & Online Editor

A RECORD number of barnacle geese have arrived at RSPB Scotland's Mersehead reserve in Dumfries and Galloway this autumn – 11,070 – rising from their 2016 peak of 10,035.

RSPB Scotland described the numbers as a 'great sign' that the Solway population of barnacle geese is continuing to recover, after hitting a low point of only around 400 birds just after the Second World War.

Barnacle geese are black and white birds, with a call a bit like a dog barking, which winter at sites around the Solway before returning to their Arctic breeding grounds 2000 miles away in Svalbard in the spring.

Eagle-eyed nature lovers may also spot one or two white geese in with the flock at Mersehead, which are barnacle geese with a condition called leucism. Similar to albinism, these leucistic birds have extremely pale, almost white plumage, but unlike true albino birds, which are extremely rare in the wild, they have black eyes, beaks and legs. Only two leucistic barnacle geese have been seen at Mersehead this autumn, though in previous years up to four have been recorded.

RSPB Scotland warden at Mersehead, Rowena Flavelle, said: “It’s great to see the geese back, and fantastic to see the population doing so well. We always look forward to seeing them on the reserve, and when you hear them coming in, you know that autumn has well and truly arrived.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Captive-reared Critically Endangered vultures soon to be released in Nepal

8 Nov 2017

Conservationists are making great progress in removing vulture-killing drug diclofenac from Nepal, with vulture populations stabilising as a result. Now, in this safer environment, it’s almost time for six captive-reared White-rumped Vultures to venture out into the wild.

South Asian vultures have famously suffered devastating population declines in recent decades. For example, 99.9% of White-rumped Vultures Gyps bengalensis were wiped out between 1992 and 2007. This was due to the use of diclofenac: an anti-inflammatory drug given to reduce pain in livestock, but deadly to vultures that subsequently feed on their carcasses. A ban on veterinary diclofenac in India, Nepal and Pakistan in 2006 and Bangladesh in 2010 has allowed vulture populations to stabilise and possibly start to recover in some areas.

However, five of South Asia’s nine vulture species remain Endangered or Critically Endangered; the misuse of human diclofenac to treat livestock, as well as the use of other vulture-toxic veterinary drugs, continues to threaten some South Asian vulture populations with extinction. BirdLife Partners are changing that, through a combination of advocacy, legislation and education.