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.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Storks could become poisoned by pesticides during their migration to Africa

February 24, 2015

Plataforma SINC

Not all storks migrate to Africa. Many stay for the winter in the Iberian Peninsula, where landfills have become a permanent source of food. Scientists have analyzed the presence of pollutants and pesticides (some prohibited in Spain) in the blood of nestlings from three colonies, two of which are close to landfill sites. The results reveal that the main source of contamination can be due to the use of insecticides still used in African countries where the birds migrate to, who transfer their contaminated load onto their offspring through their eggs.

Asian songbird migrants under threat

New research is showing migratory songbirds in East Asia are in trouble, and Birdlife International are calling for national action and international cooperation to deal with the situation.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway, running from Siberia and Alaska down to South-East Asia and Australia, supports the greatest diversity of migratory birds on the planet, with 170 long distance migrant songbirds and over 80 short distance migrants. However, it is also one of most poorly studied of the world’s major migration routes. Remarkably little is known about the populations and ecology of many of its songbird migrants, which rely on habitats along the migratory route for their survival.

The study reveals many migratory songbirds are declining in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, owing to a range of threats operating across many countries. The paper makes a strong case that both national action and international cooperation are needed for effective conservation. 

Neighboring birds sing 'out of tune'

February 18, 2015


Geat tits living next to each other may sing their songs at significantly different rates, more or less frequently, as compared to non-neighboring birds, according to a study published February 18, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Lysanne Snijders from Wageningen University, Netherlands and colleagues.

Great tits are territorial and use their song to signal their territory to unfamiliar potential competitors and familiar neighbors, where boundaries have likely already been established. To investigate how signal traits vary in relation to the overall social environment, the authors of this study tested whether neighboring birds sharing a territory boundary, rather than birds just flying in the area, is related to similarity in dawn song traits between territorial wild great tits.

Researchers collected song recordings from over 70 unique male great tits at dawn, during the breeding season, and compared songs between neighbors and non-neighbors.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Hidden in plain sight: Amazonian bird chick mimics toxic caterpillar to avoid being eaten

February 23, 2015

University of Chicago Press Journals

Laniocera hypopyrra - Cinereous Mourner.JPGIn a study published in the January 2015 issue of The American Naturalist, Gustavo A. Londoño, Duván Garcia, and Manuel Sánchez Martínez report a novel nesting strategy observed in a tropical lowland bird that inhabits an area with very high losses to nest predators.
How can tropical birds cope with the high rates of nest predation that are typical in most tropical habitats? Are there nesting strategies that allow tropical birds to escape predators such as birds, mammals, and snakes that regularly eat eggs and nestlings?

During the fall of 2012, while working on a long-term avian ecological study, the researchers discovered the second nest ever described for the cinereous mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra) at Pantiacolla Lodge in the upper Madre de Dios River in southeastern Peru. They observed that upon hatching, the chicks had downy feathers with long orange barbs with white tips, which was very different from any other nestling they had observed in the area. The peculiar downy feathers attracted their attention, but the nestling behavior provided a more important cue. While researchers were collecting morphological measurements, the nestling started moving its head very slowly from side to side in a way typical of many hairy caterpillars. While working in the area, the investigators found a poisonous caterpillar with similar size and hair coloration as the nestling. Therefore, the researchers suggest that this is an example of Batesian mimicry in which the nestling tricks predators into thinking that it is a toxic, spiny caterpillar rather than a highly edible nestling.

Leading bird organisation petitions US government to regulate the wind industry

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has filed a formal petition with the US Department of the Interior (DOI) calling for new regulations governing the impacts of wind energy projects on migratory birds to be established.

The US wind industry is now operating under “voluntary” instead of mandatory regulatory guidelines.

The ABC petition supports “Bird-Smart” wind energy, which requires independent, science-based risk assessment leading to careful siting; effective mitigation; independent, transparent post-construction monitoring of bird kills; and compensation if public trust resources are being taken.

Bird-Smart wind energy is designed to reduce and redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss.

“This petition includes new information that further makes the case for wind industry regulation,” says Dr Michael Hutchins, the National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

Being better problem solvers helps mountain chickadees survive at higher altitudes

February 25, 2015

Springer Science+Business Media

Being better problem solvers helps mountain chickadees survive at higher altitudes. Living on harsh, unforgiving icy mountains can make one mentally sharper, and this applies to birds as well. That's what biologists learned after finding that mountain chickadees that live at higher altitudes are better problem solvers than birds of this species hailing from lower regions.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Tonnes of pigeon faeces removed from Rye's Landgate Arch

Twenty five tonnes of "festering pigeon faeces" have been removed from an 675-year-old ancient English monument.

The bird droppings, which were almost three feet deep, had built up inside the towers of the Landgate Arch in Rye, East Sussex.

Cleaning contractors described the smell from the acidic guano as "awful - even through a facemask".

The historic structure is owed by Rother council and dates from 1340 but is not open to the public.