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.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Swan shot with cross bow reunited with mate

A swan shot with a cross bow in Lynemouth, Northumberland has been released back into the wild where her mate was still waiting for her after nine days apart.

The female swan had been in the care of Robson & Prescott veterinary centre in Morpeth since Monday, 15 July. She was taken there by us after being rescued from the River Lyne.

RSPCA Inspector Trevor Walker said:

“We got a call from a member of the public that a swan had a cross bow bolt through her neck and I went out to try and find her.

It took a couple of visits before I spotted her and her mate. She was on the water so I requested the help of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, who were outstanding.”
Released back to the wild

Officers from Green Watch at Pegswood fire station came to the swan’s aid and were there again to witness her being returned to the wild.

Steve Richards, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue service, said:

“Our crews are equipped and trained to respond to a variety of emergency situations. However the assistance given to the RSPCA in the rescue of the swan was somewhat out of the ordinary and assisted in a positive outcome on this occasion.”

New Bird Species Found in Central Peru

A graduate student from Kansas University has found a new bird species in central Peru.

Peter Hosner, a graduate from the Kansas University and a team has published a study describing a new bird species called Junin Tapaculo. The bird was found in the remote Andes Mountains of central Peru.
(Photo : University of Kansas)

The tapaculos (ta-pa-COO-lo) are a group of birds found in South and Central America. Highest diversity of the group was found in the Andean region. These birds have short wings and long legs with string feet that they use to scratch the ground. They are brown or gray in color. The birds are mostly identified by their loud ventriloquial calls. When approached, they stick up their tails and scurry for cover.

"We found the Junin Tapaculo in the field by its distinctive voice," Hosner, a doctoral student of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU said in a news release. "I'd spent a lot of time traveling and working with birds in the Andes before I enrolled at KU, and I had never heard anything like it before. We made voice recordings and collected specimens that are needed in all scientific species descriptions. Tapaculos are extremely difficult to identify, so at this point we weren't sure if it was a new species, or if we just happened to record a rarely given vocalization by an already described species."

Turkey clears bird of spying for Israel

The kestrel was discovered by residents of Altinavya, a village in Elazig province, wearing a metallic ring stamped with the words “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel”. Suspicious that the bird may have been on a spying mission for the Jewish state, villagers turned the bird over to local authorities, according to Turkish media.

So great was the level of concern medical personnel at Elazig’s Firat University initially identified the kestrel as “Israeli Spy” in their registration documents. Intensive medical examinations - including X-rays - determined that the bird was, indeed, just a bird. There were no sign of microchips that might transmit information back to Israel, local media reported. The kestrel was allowed to fly off after authorities determined there was no need to press charges.

Yet the incident shows the degree of paranoia and xenophobia regarding Israel that exists among large segments of Turkish society. It comes as talks between Turkey and Israel over compensation for families of those killed in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident have stalled.

Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed on May 31, 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish vessel carrying aid to the embargoed Gaza Strip.

Ties between the countries suffered until United States President Barack Obama brokered a reconciliation between the two sides during a visit to Israel earlier this year.

Rare kingfisher hatched at Albuquerque zoo

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Zookeepers at the Albuquerque BioPark are celebrating the recent birth of a rare Micronesian kingfisher.

The male chick is being hand-raised on crickets and soft pieces of meat. At six weeks old, it's fully feathered and ready to move to a larger enclosure where it will develop flight and landing skills.

Micronesian kingfishers are extinct in the wild. There are only 151 of the birds in captivity.

Officials say this marks the third successful offspring of Micronesian kingfisher at the zoo.

Zookeepers are also monitoring the development of another egg and are cautiously optimistic that kingfisher No. 152 will hatch Friday or Saturday.

The zoo's curator of birds, Peter Shannon, says the success the BioPark has had with breeding and raising the birds for the past two years is extremely important for conservation of the species.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mass poisoning of vultures in KwaZulu-Natal

49 vultures killed with carbofuran
July 2013. On the afternoon of the 15th of July 2013 an Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Wildlife light aircraft spotted a large number of vultures lying on the ground on New Hope farm, in Swartberg, during a routine game count. Ezemvelo KZN alerted the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the African Birds of Prey Sanctuary (ABoPS), and the two NGOs visited the site early the next morning.

49 dead vultures
Upon arrival they were greeted by the grizzly sight of the carcasses of more than 48 Cape Vultures and one African White-backed Vulture. Two Cape Vultures were found alive and were treated for poisoning by staff of the ABoPS. Both have fortunately responded to treatment and are expected to make a full recovery.

Poisoned sheep carcasses - Carbofuran used
"Several sheep carcasses found on site are suspected of being intentionally poisoned in order to control jackal predation on new-born lambs. These carcasses, as well as samples from the crop and stomach contents of the dead vultures, were collected and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The subsequent results clearly demonstrate the use of a poison called Carbofuran in the baited carcasses. Carbofuran is a pesticide poison commonly used for destroying worms in crops. This is the worst incident of vulture poisoning in KZN that I have seen in the 12 years I have been working with birds of prey in the province," said Ben Hoffman of Raptor Rescue, the dedicated bird of prey hospital located at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary.

Not Impressed: Peahens Ignore Most of Peacocks' Flashy Displays

A male hoping to attract a female's attention typically needs something to help him stand out from the crowd, and the inhabitants of the animal kingdom are no exception, with peacocks representing particularly showy lovers.

However, in a new study, researchers found that even though peacocks put on some of the most striking and theatrical courtship displays, peahens almost always gazed at the lower part of the peacock's train of feathers, particularly below the neck.

"The females were primarily looking at the lower portion of the males' display," said study author Jessica Yorzinski, an evolutionary biologist at Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind. "They rarely looked at his head, or anything above it. The males put on this huge display, and females seem to look at only a small portion of it."

North Island kokako reintroduced population has disappeared

Concerns for North Island kokako on Secretary Island following a promising start

July 2013. Secretary Island, at the mouth of Doubtful Sound, is recognised as one of New Zealand's ecological jewels and presents a wealth of opportunities to further advance our knowledge in pest eradication methods and restoration in the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.

The Fiordland Lobster Company funded the transfer of twenty-seven kokako from the North Island down to Secretary Island during 2008-9. In 2011 hopes of success were raised when two kokako pairs and most excitingly one fully fledged juvenile were observed, proving that Secretary Island provided suitable habitat for North Island kokako to breed.

No birds traced
Following these findings Fiordland Lobster and DOC began planning the translocation of additional birds to boost the founding population. However in 2013 an experienced kokako search party were surprisingly unable to locate any kokako on Secretary Island. DOC Ranger Megan Willans said, "At this stage we cannot categorically say there are no surviving kokako on Secretary Island, however evidence suggests that sadly most of the birds have perished."

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bird Gut Boosts Wild Chili Seed Survival

After birds eat a wild chili pepper, more seeds grow.
Originally published: 
Jul 15 2013 - 4:00pm
Ranjini Raghunath, ISNS Contributor
(ISNS) -- When a South American bird eats a certain wild chili pepper, its gut changes the seeds in ways that may improve the seeds' chances of growing into new pepper plants, a new study suggests. 

Seeds of the wild chili plant Capsicum chacoense that passed through the gut of the Small-billed Elaenia had fewer pathogens and ant-attracting chemical cues, giving them a 370 percent increase in survival rate, according to Evan Fricke, a graduate student at the University of Washington, in Seattle. 

Native to Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay, C. chacoense -- the plant in the study -- produces spicy, red-colored peppers. The Small-billed Elaenia commonly grazes on the peppers, and after digesting them, disperses the seeds around the environment giving the peppers an opportunity to flourish. But the peppers do face a few challenges to survival. Insects can pass fungal infections to the seeds, and ants can pick up and presumably eat the seeds after they are dispersed. 

The study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, tested for three factors that could affect the seeds' survival: chemicals from the seeds that attract ants, the seeds' distance from the parent plant, and the seeds' fungal load -- the amount of fungal infection on the seed's outer covering. 

Puffin census on Farne Islands shows numbers rising

Puffin numbers in a habitat in the north-east of England are making a comeback despite thousands having perished in severe winter storms.

A census on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, showed there had been an 8% increase from the last count in 2008.

There are now just under 40,000 pairs of nesting puffins across the eight National Trust-owned islands.

But numbers are still lower than the 55,674 living on the islands in 2003.

Dozens of seabirds were washed up along the coast of north-east England and Scotland in March, with experts blaming weather conditions, as well a shortage of food.

A team of 11 rangers have been checking thousands of burrows on the Farne Islands in search of nesting puffins since May.

David Steel, head ranger on the Farne Islands, said the rise in numbers was a "positive result and a step forward following worrying declines in recent years".

Pigeons Fly Home With a Map in Their Heads

July 25, 2013 — It is a fascinating phenomenon that homing pigeons always find their way home. A doctoral student in biology at the University of Zurich has now carried out experiments proving that pigeons have a spatial map and thus possess cognitive capabilities. In unknown territories, they recognize where they are in relation to their loft and are able to choose their targets themselves.

Homing pigeons fly off from an unknown place in unfamiliar territory and still manage to find their way home. Their ability to find their way home has always been fascinating to us humans. Despite intensive research, it is not yet definitively clear where this unusual gift comes from. All we know is that homing pigeons and migratory birds determine their flight direction with the help of Earth's magnetic field, the stars and the position of the sun. As Nicole Blaser, a doctoral student in biology at the University of Zurich demonstrates in the Journal of Experimental Biology, homing pigeons navigate using a mental map.

Navigating like a robot or cognitive capabilities?

Research proposes two approaches to explain how homing pigeons can find their home loft when released from an unfamiliar place. The first version assumes that pigeons compare the coordinates of their current location with those of the home loft and then systematically reduce the difference between the two until they have brought the two points together. If this version is accurate, it would mean that pigeons navigate like flying robots. The second version accords the pigeons a spatial understanding and "knowledge" of their position in space relative to their home loft. This would presuppose a type of mental map in their brain and thus cognitive capabilities. Up until now, there has not been any clear evidence to support the two navigation variants proposed.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Genetic Secrets of the World's Toughest Little Bird

July 16, 2013 — Scientists from Griffith University have taken part in an international study which has revealed the genetic secrets of how a small bird can survive in one of the most hostile environments on earth.

The ground tit (Parus humilis), lives in the Tibetan plateau, the largest high-altitude land mass in the world. This study has found molecular signatures in the ground tit genome which reveal how it copes with the extreme living conditions of this habitat.

Professor David Lambert and Dr Sankar Subramanian from Griffith University's Environmental Futures Centre took part in the study.

"We have long known that these birds are well adapted to living with low oxygen levels, typical of high elevation, but until now we have had only a limited understanding of the genetic background of these adaptations," Dr Subramanian said.

"In this study we have identified the genetic modifications of the species which make this possible," he said.

Endangered bird dies entangled in fishing line

An endangered Pied Oystercatcher has been found dead on the NSW South Coast, entangled in fishing line that had almost severed both its feet.

The bird was discovered by a paddler on Mogareeka Inlet, near Tathra, and has led to renewed appeals for fishers to leave no trace of line, hooks, or any other equipment.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Ranger for Ben Boyd National Park George Malolakis asked fishers to be wildlife aware.

“When fishing, try and cast away from foraging birds and make sure you collect any discarded fishing line or other fishing gear,” Mr Malolakis said.

“Death by entanglement is not humane and while most fishers have great respect for the environment, a thoughtless few can do serious harm

“The shortest piece of line or the smallest hook or lead weight left behind can injure or kill wildlife.

“If you do inadvertently hook a bird please don’t panic and do not cut your line.

“Gently reel the bird in and place a towel or shirt over the bird’s head, then very gently try to remove the hook or line.

“Do not release the bird if hooks have been swallowed or are too difficult to remove, instead call your local wildlife care group.

“This entangled bird carcass was delivered to WIRES and, while nothing could be done, this was the right thing to do.

RSPB warns seabird numbers falling

Seabird numbers have continued to fall following the coldest spring in 50 years, according to new figures from RSPB Scotland.

Early colony counts at a sample of RSPB Scotland sites across the country, from Shetland to the Firth of Clyde, have revealed that adult birds have arrived late and in poor condition for the breeding season.

The figures show some of the steepest declines in seabird numbers, including an 87% decrease in the number of kittiwakes around Orkney and a 70% decrease of the same species on Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde compared with numbers at the same sites during the seabird census in 2000.

Guillemots and razorbills have also decreased considerably, with numbers down by 46% and 57% respectively in Orkney.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Rare chickens to be destroyed after latest tests reveal more chicks are infected with dangerous salmonella - UPDATE

A FLOCK of 4000 rare chickens have been handed death sentences, after another three birds tested positive to salmonella.

Despite a public outcry and a Federal Court reprieve last week, the syndicate that imported the chickens were last night resigned to the fact the flock must be destroyed.

The Department of Agriculture issued a destruction order for the flock, held in quarantine at Torrens Island, after an initial test revealed one chick was infected with salmonella .

The Australian Rare Poultry Importation Syndicate, which spent 10 years and $500,000 to bring the breeds to the country, said it accepted the latest test results and their consequences.

"The only responsible decision that could be made was to turn the flock over to the Commonwealth for destruction," the statement said.

"We are clearly disappointed that this first importation has been unable to consummate this remarkable effort, especially after the investment (physical and financial) provided by some of our key syndicate members."

RSPB: Wind farm could kill a dozen eagles

RSPB Scotland published an estimate of the death toll and confirmed it will object to the proposal for 12 turbines on the Eisgein estate in the Isle of Lewis.

But Nick Oppenheim, the estate’s owner, accused the charity of double counting because the new development would be next door to a wind farm already given the go-ahead.

The estate, which is located on the Pairc peninsula of Lewis, is home to around a dozen pairs of breeding golden eagles, one of the highest densities in Europe.

It is also one of the favoured sites in the Western Isles for the controversial programme to reintroduce white-tailed sea eagles in Scotland.

However, energy company GDF SUEZ is already pressing ahead with plans for the 39-turbine Beinn Mhor wind farm on the estate.

Feds advance plan to kill barred owls in Northwest

GRANTS PASS, Ore. Federal wildlife officials plan to dispatch armed bird specialists into forests of the Pacific Northwest starting this fall to shoot one species of owl to protect another that is threatened with extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday released a final environmental review of an experiment to see if killing barred owls, which are bigger, more aggressive and less picky about food, will allow northern spotted owls to reclaim territory they’ve been driven out of over the past half-century.

The agency has been evaluating the idea since 2009, gathering public comment and consulting ethicists, focus groups and scientific studies. It will issue a final decision on the plan in a month.

“If we don’t manage barred owls, the probability of recovering the spotted owl goes down significantly,” said Paul Henson, Oregon state supervisor for Fish and Wildlife.

The agency’s preferred course of action calls for killing 3,603 barred owls in four study areas in Oregon, Washington and Northern California over the next four years.

The plan is expected to cost about $3 million and requires a special permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits killing nongame birds.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Egyptians Hunt Down Migratory Birds for Natural Viagra

It is a little known fact outside of conservation and hunting circles, Sherif Baha el Din from Nature Conservation Egypt told The Guardian, but Egyptian hunters will destroy thousands of migratory birds in the coming weeks as they make their way from Europe back to Africa for the winter.

Egyptian bird hunters trap thousands of migratory birds in a variety of different ways.

Some set up a wall of nets along the Mediterranean Sea to capture the common quail, others set up “shade traps” on the ground, complete with an electronic bird call device that lures the birds in to their senseless death, while others set up nets in trees.

On their long and perilous journey south, migratory birds will seek out acacia trees for rest, but they’ll find hunters waiting for them instead, who will shoot at everything in site, according to The Guardian.

Bycatch, which refers to birds accidentally called up in the murderous fray, are rarely spared even though some pubescent, unenforced laws in Egypt require such caution. As such, scores of shrikes and warblers and other birds will also die unneccessarily.

The European Golden Oriole is particularly vulnerable as hunters seek them out as “natural viagra” for residents of Arab Gulf countries that need a little help in the bedroom.

At one tree at an oasis somewhere in Egypt, Jonathan Franzen, who visited the country last year to report on threats to migrants across the Mediterranean for National Geographic, watched as hunters massacred approximately 5,000 golden orioles.

Barbie gull: Pink birds and Scotland

The Scottish SPCA has rescued a seagull found covered in a "Barbie pink" paint or dye, but Blush is not Scotland's first brush with pink birds.

Pranksters are suspected in the case of Blush, the young herring gull found in Mallaig with an unusual colour of plumage.

Animal welfare officers based in Alloa are now caring for the chick who should eventually grow out the painted feathers after unsuccessful attempts to clean it off.

Pink gulls have a Scottish literary heritage. For West Hartlepool-born writer Compton Mackenzie, who died in Edinburgh in 1972 and is buried on Barra, they were key to the plot of his book Rockets Galore.

The story was a sequel to his 1947 novel Whisky Galore which was loosely based on the real-life story of the SS Politician, which sank off the coast Western Isles loaded with hundreds of cases of whisky.

The real-life angry bird: Vets seek owner of foul-mouthed parrot who told rescuers to 'bugger off'

Vets want to track down the owner of this foul-mouthed parrot - who told rescuers to 'bugger off' when they found it in the middle of the road.

The grumpy African Grey was spotted in the street near Guiseley, West Yorkshire, by a kind-hearted member of the public who tried to pick it up.

But the irate parrot repeatedly swore at him - using foul language and lashing out with its claws.

The angry avian told its rescuer to 'bugger off' several times, but he managed to put him in his car and drive to White Cross Vets in Guiseley.

The pet, whose gender and name are not known, immediately began attacking staff and squawking 'oi' at them when they tried to check him over.

Fortunately the bird later calmed down and vets were able to send an ID number which was attached by a ring on its leg to a specialist team to try and track down the owner.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Bird flocks black out Australia town

Thousands of birds have flocked to a town in Australia, causing power cuts and a mess, its mayor says.

Around 2,000 pink galahs and white cockatoos have descended on Boulia, Queensland, as a result of the drought, Mayor Rick Britton said.

They have been perching on power lines, causing outages when they take off, he said.
pink galah (male) credit: Wikipedia

The birds may not leave until November when rain is due, he said, so "people are going to have to live with it".

Galahs are a type of pink-breasted cockatoo found in Australia.

Several shires in Queensland are suffering from drought due to low rainfall. Boulia is in the far west of the state.

"Because we're in dry arid land we try to make our streets beautiful with lawns and trees - so the birds think that it's a little secret haven in the drought," Mr Britton told the BBC.

There were around 2,000 birds in the town, he added.

German cuckoo satellite tagging programme – Where do German cuckoos go?

German cuckoos tracked for the first time
July 2013. The first Bavarian Cuckoo, fitted a few weeks ago with a mini satellite transmitter, has reached the Africa. Until now, it has remained a mystery as to exactly where the cuckoos head to, or by which route, when they leave Germany after their brief three months stay. Thanks to the international project can now for the first time both the conservationists and the general public watch live on the internet, draw routes on which the popular birds with their high-tech backpacks in the south and where they reside there until the next spring.

A cuckoo known as "Richard" was tracked to eastern Libya, an area mainly dominated by desert. From his capture in Bavaria his route led him initially to Switzerland, then down through the Italian boot and finally over the Mediterranean. Among the 13 cuckoos given satellite tags in Germany, two animals were in Italy and four in the Balkans.

Several cuckoos, as part of the same project, were tagged in Belarus, with some interesting results. They appear to be heading for the same part of Africa, by very different routes, including one that flew south via the Arabian Peninsula, Eritrea and Sudan.

Why they spend time there, when soon the birds will move on on completely different routes to Africa, only to meet again in Africa, are the interesting questions to which the international telemetry project aims to find answers in the coming days, weeks and months.

Over 70 rare birds under threat as forest depleted

Mamiwa Forest Reserve in Ukaguru Mountains, Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, home to over 70 rare bird species, may soon disappear, due to illegal logging, agriculture and mining activities.

This was revealed by Project manager for forest justice in Tanzania Elinas Monga, a project under Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) during a one-day stakeholders meeting to present results of a disturbance and biodiversity survey to stakeholders in Kilosa district over the weekend.

According to Monga the survey revealed that increased human activities also threatened newly discovered endangered amphibian and bird species scientifically known as probreviceps durirostris and Moreau’s sunbird respectively.

He told 30 participants and stakeholders comprising village executives and district officials explained that the survey was conducted in six sites in the forest to determine the condition of the 14,000-hectare forest located 85 kilometers away from Kilosa district and which supplies water to several villages in Kilosa and Gairo districts.

The forest is surrounded by Nongwe,Masenge,Mkobwe, Mtega East, Mtega West and Mandege villages.

He said that TFCG was conducting researches and regular surveys on the conditions of forests in the country so that the government and relevant organs could act on their findings.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Lone mother swan struggling to bring up her flock - UPDATE

Mute swan single mother bringing up the kids on her own

June/July 2013. Mute swans are reasonably common and widespread across the UK, but we have not had one on our local pond since we have been here (10 years) until 2013. Earlier this year, a pair took up residence, and duly produced a clutch of eggs amongst the vegetation on the small island. 
The swan's mate was killed shortly after she laid her eggs when
 he flew into a power line. Photo Copyright Wildlife Extra

Tragically, shortly after the eggs were laid, the male (Cob) swan flew into some overhead cables and was killed, leaving the mother (Pen) to look after her eggs and then to bring up the cygnets by herself. 

June 13th. So far, the pen has proved an exemplary mother, hatching all 8 eggs (on about 17th May) and managing to keep all of her cygnets alive for the first 2 weeks. 

July 13th. A month on, and the super mum has done incredibly well. All 8 cygnets still exist, which is extraordinary. The cygnets are growing strongly, and will soon become a considerable force in their own right. Just yesterday a heron landed nearby, but was given very short shrift by mum.

Greater flamingos have best year for breeding yet in Abu Dhabi

Flamingos breeding at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

July 2013. The Greater flamingo has successfully bred once again at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi. Around 200 chicks were born in the last six weeks - the highest number recorded since the species first returned to the Reserve to breed back in 2011 and experts say it is an indication of improved conditions for birds to breed, according to The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).

The first chicks hatched on June 1, 2013 and by July 16, a total of 201 chicks had been observed. These numbers are significantly higher than the 39 chicks born during the last breeding season in 2012-2013. Today, around 2,000 Greater flamingos can be spotted residing in Al Wathba, with a high percentage of these being adult breeding birds.

"The breeding is a result of sustained efforts to improve habitat conditions and management in the Reserve. This record further enhances Al Wathba's status as a key bird site," said Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Executive Director, Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD.

"The landscape around Al Wathba has changed considerably over the past decade and we are making sure that the necessary resources are allocated to the Reserve to ensure its proper protection. Protecting such an area is crucial in the preservation of Abu Dhabi's biodiversity," she added.

Seagulls Get 'Drunk' on Flying Ants

You won't like seagulls when they get a few ants in them. Seagulls in southwest England are getting "drunk" off of flying ants, brazenly stealing food out of residents' hands, flying directly into buildings and failing to get out of the way of cars, according to news reports.

Apparently the birds are becoming inebriated from the formic acid in the ants' bodies, which "lowers their inhibitions" and messes up their coordination, similar to the effects of alcohol, the Bristol Post reports. Hot weather has helped spawn large populations of ants, upon which the seagulls feed. "That isn't so good for the birds — it leaves them a bit drunk," Rebecca Nesbit, an entomologist with the Society of Biology, told the Bristol Post.

- See more at:

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Novel Study Using New Technologies Outlines Importance of California Condor Social Groups

July 16, 2013 — The intricate social hierarchy of the California condor, an endangered species, is something that could not be studied until recently due to the severe reduction of this population in the wild. The first formal study on this species, based on remote video observation of reintroduced populations, indicates that the species has a complex system of interactions based on dominance. The study further indicates that, with the effect of human disturbance and lead poisoning removed from the equation, an individual bird that does not successfully integrate into the structure will have reduced survivability.

"We were able to engage in this effort due to the use of new technologies that allow us to observe these newly reintroduced groups without disturbing them," said James Sheppard, a conservation biologist for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. "This ongoing study provides us information about these unique birds that was essentially lost when the populations disappeared in the wild and will help us with our ongoing efforts to recover this species."

The California condor was reduced to little more than a dozen individuals in the 1980s before a collaborative captive-breeding program raised the population to a status where this species could be reintroduced into the wild again. The study, which appeared in a recent issue of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, outlines the fluidity of the bird's hierarchical social structure and the role dominance plays among the group.

Death row reprieve for rare chooks in quarantine on Adelaide's Torrens Island

MORE than 4000 rare chickens on death row in quarantine on Torrens Island have been given a stay of execution until 10am on Friday.

A syndicate which spent a decade and $500,000 importing the poultry obtained a last minute court injunction halting the planned destruction of the flock at 7am today but Department of Agriculture officials insist the birds will have to be destroyed.

The Australian Rare Poultry Importation Syndicate is meeting with its lawyers today seeking advice on alternatives to save the chickens.

The destruction order was issued late Friday after a single, week-old chick died and an autopsy concluded the death was due to a strain of salmonella.

The letter advising the syndicate of the impending destruction from the officer who issued the order said it would receive 'a statement of reasons for my decision in the near future.'

The syndicate says the disease has not been detected in any other birds, including 'sentinel' birds bred to be susceptible to disease, and suspect it may be a 'false-positive' result.

Federal Court to decide fate of 4000 rare chooks on July 25

ADELAIDE'S now world famous death row chickens have another stay of execution after Federal Court Judge Anthony Besanko gave 4000 fancy imported birds a second lifeline until midnight on July 25.

The chickens - being followed in blogs and petitions from around the world - arrived in Adelaide as eggs in what supporters say is a 'Noah's ark' project to replenish the local gene pool, as meat chickens are hybrids and no new non-commercial breeds have arrived since 1948.

However, the 10 year, $500,000 project to establish a disease-free flock made up of 45 breeds from the United Kingdom then bringing their fertile eggs to Australia faces disaster after the eggs hatched nine weeks ago and one of several chicks which died, was diagnosed with salmonella.

Bird on a wire brings down power line, burns passing driver


A buzzard landing on a power line set off a chain of events Tuesday morning in Texarkana that left about 1,200 customers without power and one unsuspecting driver shaken and burned.

Jerry Cunningham says he was driving in the 1700 block of East 9th St. when he heard what sounded like an electrical transformer blowing and then saw power lines arcing in his direction.

The next thing he knew, something hit his car, cracking the windshield and sending sparks flying.

"I had all my windows and sunroof opened. That is where I got these burns from," Cunningham says, pointing to red welted streaks on his side. "It hurts like crazy."

AEP SWEPCO says the buzzard had landed on a ground wire and when that wire broke, it fell on a 12,000 volt transmission line.

Power was restored to customers about an hour later.

Monday, 22 July 2013

New chick find signals hope for critically endangered kiwi

Rowi chick a boost for struggling population
July 2013. The discovery of a kiwi chick born on Marlborough Sounds' Orua Wairua (Blumine) Island could help secure the future for the world's most endangered kiwi - the rowi.

The as yet unnamed chick was transferred by the Department of Conservation (DOC) to Mana Island - a predator-free kiwi sanctuary off the Kapiti Coast -joining other rowi, in the hope it will one day breed.

Just 375 rowi alive including only 80 breeding pairs
Kiwis for kiwi executive director, Michelle Impey says the chick's hatching could unlock the species' gene pool, genetically diversifying the rowi population which stands at just 375.

"With an estimated one third of rowi unproductive and with the population down to just 80 breeding pairs, this precious chick could literally ensure the survival of the species," says Ms Impey.

Mersey & Dee Estuary coast declared as a RAMSAR site

Recognition for an internationally important wildlife site between the Mersey and the Dee

July 2013. Over 2,000 hectares of the Hoylake, Wallasey and Seaforth foreshores have been formally recognised as an internationally important area for wildlife following the decision to designate the area as a Special Protection Area (SPA) - in recognition of its international importance for birdlife - and as a Ramsar site, in recognition of its importance as a wetland habitat.

Following an earlier consultation led by Natural England, the formal designation of the site as an SPA and Ramsar site was confirmed by Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment on 5th July. The decision means that the area is now part of the network of European Natura 2000 conservation sites and joins the network of internationally important wetland sites recognised under the Ramsar Convention.

Mersey & Dee Estuary - 20,000 waders in winter
Located on the northwest coast of England at the mouths of the Mersey and Dee estuaries, the new Mersey Narrows and Wirral Foreshore SPA and Ramsar site is home to internationally important populations of knot, bar-tailed godwit, little gull and common tern and regularly supports over 20,000 waders and wildfowl during the winter.

Sand and mudflats, saltwater lagoons, saltmarsh and shingle banks
Sitting next to a busy shipping channel, the site contains a varied range of wildlife habitats some of which have been generated by the surrounding industry. Sand and mudflats offer feeding grounds for waders at low tide; saltwater lagoons are exposed at different times, whilst shingle banks and manmade structures provide roosting sites at high tide. Saltmarsh and a freshwater lagoon each support their own communities of plants and animals.

Environment Minister, Richard Benyon said: "The Hoylake, Wallasey and Seaforth foreshores are important habitats for a wide range of birds. I'd like to congratulate everyone who worked so hard to ensure that the area has been given Special Protection Area and Ramsar status."

Natural England Chair, Poul Christensen said: "Sitting side-by-side with a busy port, this is a fantastic site for wildlife, and I'm delighted that it is receiving the international recognition and protection it deserves."

Read more about Hilbre Island

New Great Indian Bustard habitat found in Jaisalmer, conservation hopes soar

JAISALMER: The state bird and critically endangered Great Indian Bustard has found a new habitat. 

A flock of 24 GIBs was recently spotted in the grasslands of Salkha area, 45 km from Jaisalmer district. Of them, 21 were males and three females. 

The area is situated outside the Desert National Park and the forest department, for security reasons, has set up a temporary check post. 

Conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts are excited at the prospect of the birds finding a new habitat. The state government has approved Rs 4.5 crore for conservation and promotion of GIBs, which fall under schedule-1 category of endangered species. 

Chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Dr Govind Sagar Bhardwaj confirmed the spotting of GIBs in the Salkha area. The area is new for the birds as earlier they were spotted at Sudashri closure or the national park. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Bird Friendly Buildings Mandated in Minnesota, city of Oakland

The state of Minnesota and the city of Oakland, California are the latest governments to pass legislation that mandates bird-friendly building designs.

They join San Francisco - which passed "Standards for Bird Safe Buildings" in 2011 - along with several municipalities in the Chicago area. The city of Chicago has produced voluntary guidelines. 

National legislation has been introduced in the House by Illinois representative Mike Quigley. It calls for all public buildings, whether renovated, constructed or acquired to incorporate bird-friendly designs and materials, as well as modify existing buildings to meet these goals. 

As many as one billion birds die each year colliding with buildings, one of the leading causes of bird mortality in the US. 

Glass-sided buildings have been popular for decades and as designers strive for more energy-efficient buildings, they tend to use more glass to bring in daylight. Birds are confused by the light that reflects off glass because they see the reflection of sky and trees. Since green buildings often emphasize native landscaping, that attracts birds to the site. 

Bird experts and scientists left puzzled as birds fall dead from north Queensland skies

EXPERTS are looking for clues as to why common black kites are falling dead from north Queensland skies.

Black kites, also known as shite-hawks and firebirds, are medium-sized birds of prey and are among the few raptor species which gather in flocks.

Testing has so far excluded bird flu and Newcastle disease, both highly contagious viral infections linked to mass deaths of migratory wild birds, and transmissible to humans.

But the cause of the latest spate of deaths, possibly linked to a cross-border infection, is still a mystery.

Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed it is testing "several kites in relation to unexplained deaths in the tropical north Queensland region''.

"The exact number of bird deaths is unknown and estimates are not available at this stage of the investigation,'' a spokesman told The Courier-Mail.

He said a range of tests were being undertaken for potential causes.

"Laboratory testing is ongoing to determine the cause of this mortality incident.''

Environment Department wildlife director Beck Williams said her office would investigate if it was suspected the birds might have been illegally killed.

Bird of prey expert James Biggs said it was highly unusual for raptors to die in large numbers or, literally, drop dead from the sky.

"If it is not disease, it could possibly be poisoning, but without being familiar with the ongoing tests it is hard to know,'' the Cairns Tropical Zoo bird supervisor said.

Black kites prey on insects, small animals and birds, and can spend all day soaring on the wing, hawking insects out of the air and eating them on the fly.

"They are often seen hovering around fires, like cane burn-off, where they catch the insects pushed up on the updraft,'' Mr Biggs said.

"But if there is a road kill they will feed on that too.

"Whatever it is that is killing them I'd be very keen to know why. It's a puzzle.''

Members of the public can report bird deaths by calling 1300 264 625.

Buzzard attack sparks osprey conservation fears

SHOCKING footage of an attack on an osprey chick by a buzzard has emerged - sparking conservation fears.

The chick is one of only two hatched this year on the osprey nest at Lochter Estate, Aberdeenshire, and was almost snatched by the buzzard before falling to the ground.

Luckily, the chick survived with only injuries and is now recovering through SSPCA care.

A chick from the same nest was grabbed by a buzzard before being dropped to its death last year and this latest incident has led to calls for better measures to protect the species.

The estate's owner, Euan Webster, said was shocked at the recording: "“This footage is clear evidence that last year’s buzzard attack was far from being an isolated incident.

“It is a sign that working to conserve one iconic bird of prey while more common species which predate it breed unchecked is just not working.

“There were two healthy chicks until ten days ago when one chick “mysteriously” fell out of the nest - we have no video of its fall.

“Then on Sunday the remaining chick was attacked as can be seen in the video.

“One chick is with the SSPCA with a broken part of its wing while the other has been safely returned to the nest and is doing fine albeit the parent birds are constantly fighting off the pair of buzzards.

“This cannot be passed off as simply nature taking its course as humans have managed all types of bird for hundreds of years, we must now surely have a responsibility to continue this management in a way that is logical.