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.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

King penguins keep an ear out for predators

Date: July 6, 2016
Source: Society for Experimental Biology

Sleeping king penguins react differently to the sounds of predators than to non-predators and other sounds, when they are sleeping on the beach. Research has revealed that even asleep, these penguins can distinguish between dangerous and benign sounds.

Both adult and juvenile king penguins are prey to large predators like orcas and giant petrels. Even huge non-predator elephant seals can crush penguins to death with their bulky passage. In an environment like this, king penguins who are exhausted after long diving sessions must constantly keep an ear out for incoming threats.

PhD student Tessa Abigail van Walsum explains: "When we played single tones to sleeping penguins, they woke up with little reaction. However, playing them the calls of orcas or skuas caused them to wake up and flee."

Penguins also had strong reactions to some non-predator sounds, reports Ms van Walsum: "The sounds of approaching elephant seals rang big alarm bells for the penguins. Interestingly too, a recording of simple white noise had an unexpectedly strong effect, likely because it sounds much like an incoming wave on the beach." Notably, playing them the sound of unfamiliar predators, such as a dog's growl, got little reaction when they awoke.

The ability of these birds to respond differently upon waking up suggests that they might sleep with just one half of their brain, while keeping close watch with the other half similar to some migratory birds -- essentially 'keeping an eye open'.

All the way from Africa

Updated: July 17, 2016 05:52 IST

Pied cuckoo or Jacobin cuckoo that migrates to India all the way from Africa, and described as the harbinger of monsoon in Indian mythology, was spotted in the jungles near Bidar recently, and photographed by a wildlife enthusiast.

Sainath Sharma, photographer and bird conservation enthusiast, said that pied cuckoo has rarely been studied and photographed in these parts.

This was corroborated by H.S. Patil, former professor of zoology, who has documented birds in Bidar. “It is amazing that these birds can travel up to 5,500 km, from Africa to India. They come here for mating and nesting and they begin their journey months before monsoon arrives in India,” he said.

Mr. Patil said though pied cuckoos have been visiting Khanapur, Shahpur, and Chitta forests around Bidar, there have been few attempts to get them photographically documented.
Mr. Sharma said the bird figures in ‘puranas’ and ancient Indian literature. “Legendary Sanskrit poet Kalidasa has used the bird, called Jataka bird, as a metaphor for patience and purity,” he said.

In Indian mythology, it is a bird that waits through summer for the seasons to change, only to open its mouth to the skies to drink rain water directly.

Mr. Patil said it braves rough winds and changes in temperature before settling in flat areas like the Deccan plateau. “It stays here for months before starting its journey back,” he said.

Largest breeding colony of rare sea bird calls Norfolk its home

14 July 2016 at 7:30am

Norfolk has become home to the UK's largest breeding colony of a rare sea bird.

Little terns travel from West Africa to breed on our coasts each summer.

Monitoring has discovered 169 nests on an area of beach near Sea Palling in east Norfolk.
The RSPB said chicks would be starting to find their feet and urged visitors to the area to be careful.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Albatross poo could be key to saving bird

12:13pm July 14, 2016

People usually do their best to avoid bird poo but a group of researchers has developed a fascination with the faeces of albatross to try and help save the threatened seabird species.

Julie McInnes is leading a study at Hobart's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, analysing the bird's diet to try and develop conservation and management strategies.

"There are very few sites where we can look at long term studies and see if the albatross diet is changing ... shy albatross in Tasmania stay around their colony during winter so we have access to the scats year-round and can compare winter and breeding season diets," Ms McInnes said.

Rats with wings or birds of paradise? Pakistani pigeon-fanciers champion their sport

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2016, 8:00am

A flock of pigeons take off from a Lahore roof top at dawn, rising above the city’s Mughal-era minarets before disappearing out of sight.

Rather than being viewed as pests, these birds are champions of endurance who evoke a passionate following across Pakistan.

It is a love affair ... I can tell the worth of each bird by looking at the eyes and feathers

“It is a love affair,” says Akhlaq Khan, a famous octogenarian pigeon-fancier and author of the only book on the subject in Pakistan. “You don’t see anything there, no difference between the birds,” he said, cradling a plump bird with a white body and coloured head. “But I can tell the worth of each bird by looking at the eyes and feathers.”

On his rooftop in a leafy district of Pakistan’s cultural capital, hundreds of birds are cooing in massive light blue cages in the sweltering Punjabi summer.

In film and folklore, pigeons, or kabootar are associated with love letters destined for harems and for military orders sent to champion warriors by kings of yesteryear.

“Flying breeds in India were introduced by the Mughals,” says Khan referring to the Muslim dynasty that ruled the subcontinent from the early 16th century till the mid-19th.

Pigeon followers broadly class the birds into those known for their competitive flying ability, and those prized for their looks.

Akbar the Great was renowned for his pigeon passion, and, according to one scholar of the court “had 20,000 birds of different types,” said Khan.

Shifting bird distribution indicates a changing Arctic

Posted on June 28, 2016 by Vetscite

Shifts in the distribution of Spectacled Eiders, a predatory bird at the top of the Bering Sea’s benthic food web, indicate possible changes in the Arctic’s marine ecosystem, according to new research in The Condor: Ornithological Applications.

Matt Sexson of the USGS Alaska Science Center and his colleagues compared recent satellite telemetry data from molting eiders with data from the mid-1990s. They found that in two of the species’ four primary molting areas, the birds have shifted their range significantly in the intervening decades, and the researchers interpret this as an indicator of ecosystem change–eiders go where their prey is, and their movements could indicate big changes in the community of bottom-dwelling, cold-water-dependent invertebrates they eat.

It’s easier to track marine predators than it is to track their prey, explains Sexson. “It’s tough to speculate on the connection with climate change because the data are so sparse, but we know that the north Pacific is changing,” he says. “There’s a lot of corresponding evidence that together all says something big is happening here, and eiders provide a readily available indicator that changes are occurring.”

Read more …

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

MPI to prosecute over fishing-related albatross deaths

Thursday, 14 July 2016, 4:35 pm
Press Release: 
Ministry For Primary Industries

MPI to prosecute over fishing-related albatross deaths – new rules to be put in place
14 July 2016

The Ministry for Primary Industries is prosecuting a commercial fisherman in relation to the deaths of 38 albatrosses and is moving to put in place additional measures to help prevent further seabird deaths.

The charges relate to an incident off the West Coast in which 38 albatrosses died when a commercial fisherman fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna allegedly failed to use a tori line - a mandatory mitigation device designed to scare birds away from baited hooks.

The skipper faces a maximum fine of $100,000 in relation to an offence under the Fisheries (Commercial Fishing) Regulations and forfeiture of the vessel used in the operation.
MPI Acting Director Fisheries Management, Steve Halley, says the decision to prosecute sends a clear message that the rules need to be followed.

“MPI works regularly with commercial fishers to reiterate the importance of bird mitigation and the need to comply with regulations designed to prevent seabird bycatch.