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.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Climatic stability resulted in the evolution of more bird species

Date: July 17, 2017
Source:Umea University

More species of birds have accumulated in genera inhabiting climatically stable areas. This is shown by a new study from Umeå University.

"The explanation may be that a stable climate makes it more likely that diverging lineages persist without going extinct or merging until speciation is completed, and stability reduces the risk for extinction in response to climatic upheavals," says Roland Jansson, researcher from Umeå University who led the study.

How life has evolved from simple origins into millions of species is a central question in biology that remains unsolved. Advances in genomics and bioinformatics mean we now know a lot about the relationships among species and their origins, but surprisingly little is known about which environmental conditions that allows species to multiply.

Molting feathers may help birds deal with environmental contaminants

Date: July 20, 2017
Source: Wiley

Mercury is an ubiquitous environmental contaminant that affects the health of birds and other wild animals. Two varieties of songbird -- zebra finch and European starling -- were found to shed mercury accumulation with their feathers in a recent study.

During a molt, both species quickly eliminated mercury from their blood and significantly reduced mercury concentrations in other tissues. This, coupled with a migration out of contaminated sites, may help birds deal with exposure to environmental toxins.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Birds avoid crossing roads to prevent predation

Why didn't the bird cross the road? Because it was afraid of predators and venturing into another bird's territory

Date:  July 19, 2017
Source: Frontiers

Summary: It was once believed that roads posed no problem to birds because of their ability to fly. A new study finds that they can find these human-made structures problematic, especially small, forest-dwelling species. Their hesitance to cross roads could restrict their positive effects on the natural environment, such as seed dispersal, pollination and insect control.


Ravens can plan ahead, similar to humans and great apes

Date: July 13, 2017
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Summary: Despite previous research that indicates such behaviors are unique to humans and great apes, a new study shows that ravens, too, can plan ahead for different types of events , and further, that they are willing to forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Even tiny amounts of oil could doom seabirds

Jul. 5, 2017 , 6:00 PM

Some of the most devastating pictures after big oil spills are of seabirds coated in black sludge. But a new study reveals that even a small amount of oil could cause major damage to bird populations like the western sandpiper. Just a smudge on their wingtips and tails makes it much harder for them to fly than normal birds, researchers have found, which could prevent them from reaching their breeding grounds in time.

The findings are significant because they suggest that even minor oil spills can have a big impact, says Christy Morrissey, avian ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, who was not involved in the research. “There are ongoing small oil spills around the world that continue to affect shoreline habitats,” she says. “They don’t necessarily make the news, but still they’re happening.”

For years, scientists have been trying to estimate how small amounts of oil would affect bird flight, and in 2013, a team of ecologists at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, set out to find out. The researchers used western sandpipers, one of 93 shorebird species that saw their numbers decline after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For months following the 1-million-metric-ton-spill, it was common to find birds on the beach with lightly oiled feathers, says ornithologist and study lead author Ivan Maggini. “We figured that just having oil on wings’ feathers might affect their main function, which is flight.”

Emperor penguins may disappear by the end of this century

By Lakshmi SupriyaJul. 7, 2017 , 10:30 AM

Emperor penguins are known for braving the harsh Antarctic winters, but they might not be able to brave the harsh realities of climate change. That’s the finding of a new study, which suggests that by the end of this century, the world’s largest penguins may be no more. Previous research suggested that rapidly warming air and sea temperatures—which melt sea ice—might cause their numbers to plummet by as much as 19% by 2100. But a new model looks at other factors, including how individual penguins deal with climate change by migrating to places with optimal sea ice coverage. In their model of potential penguin migrations, researchers looked at how far penguins typically go and what factors figure in their decisions. They used data previously collected from Pointe Géologie in Antarctica along with satellite images of penguin colonies that revealed information about their traveling and foraging behavior. The model projects that for the next 2 decades, populations will remain stable, and may even increase slightly as the penguins move to locations that are more habitable. After 2050, it all goes downhill. Although the rate of population decline may vary, by the year 2100 almost all emperor penguins may be gone, the researchers write in an upcoming issue of Biological Conservation. That’s because climate change will have rendered all their habitats inhospitable by then. Gaining endangered status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the scientists say, may be one way of arresting what might otherwise be their final march.

Monday, 17 July 2017

UK and Irish seabirds search area size of Spain for food

7 July 2017

By New Scientist staff and Press Association

Satellite-tracking of hundreds of British and Irish seabirds has revealed new insights into where species search for food at sea.

The study, which tracked and modelled behaviour of kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and guillemots, could help assess potential impacts from offshore wind farms and other activities and where protected areas of the seas should be.

Lightweight GPS tags were fitted to more than 1,300 adult birds from 29 different colonies around the UK and Ireland, to track where they went once they left their breeding colonies to catch fish at sea.

The data was used to create a computer model for each species to predict important areas at sea for other colonies where no tracking took place, estimating where birds travelled from some 5,500 breeding sites.

Results reveal the extensive areas of sea the four seabird species use – at least 1.5 million square kilometres, an area three times the size of Spain.