New Evidence That Urban Water Pollution Is Harming Birds

A white-throated dipper in County Kerry, Ireland. (snowmanradio / Wikipedia)

A white-throated dipper in County Kerry, Ireland. (snowmanradio / Wikipedia)

Bloated rats and fat pigeons aside, the urban environment doesn’t always super-size animals. In fact, cities might be having the opposite effect on one critter – the European dipper, a bird that’s struggling with development problems linked to urban water pollution.

That’s the theory of scientists at Cardiff University and elsewhere who’ve been poking around in the rivers of South Wales, which bear a rich history of industrial pollution. Compared to dippers that hail from rural environments, they say, the birds living downstream from cities are not doing so well. Continue reading

Chernobyl’s birds are adapting to ionising radiation

 Mist nets strung along a pasture near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Credit: T.A. Mousseau, 2011

Mist nets strung along a pasture near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Credit: T.A. Mousseau, 2011

Birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl are adapting to – and may even be benefiting from – long-term exposure to radiation, ecologists have found. The study, published in the British Ecological Society’s journal Functional Ecology, is the first evidence that wild animals adapt to ionising radiation, and the first to show that birds which produce most pheomelanin, a pigment in feathers, have greatest problems coping with radiation exposure. Continue reading

Chris Packham: Malta is a bird hell

BBC nature presenter Chris Packham. Photograph: Steve Meddle/ITV/REX

When Chris Packham announced he was heading to Malta to report on the island’s annual spring bird shoot as if he was a war correspondent covering a conflict, even his admirers probably thought he was guilty of hyperbole.

But after a week in which the naturalist has detained by police for five hours, shoved to the ground by gunmen and witnessed the illegal killing of dozens of endangered birds, his mission to raise awareness of the annual slaughter of migratory birds has been more like a battle than he imagined. Continue reading

Birds migrating through Toronto face tough flight

The Canada warbler is on the endangered species list. (QMI Agency file photo)

The Canada warbler is on the endangered species list. (QMI Agency file photo)

The Fatal Light Awareness Program geared up for this spring’s bird migration through Toronto with the hopes that fewer of their feathered friends will die flying into skyscrapers.

The charity, with a league of volunteers, has been working for more than two decades to highlight and reduce the plight of the 1 million rare birds that die in the city’s downtown every spring and fall. Continue reading

Scottish research needed to save endangered bird

 Ring Ouzel (turdus torquatus) female. Picture: Contributed


Ring Ouzel (turdus torquatus) female. Picture: Contributed

THE SURVIVAL of one of the UK’s rare and endangered upland birds may hinge on important research carried out in the Scottish hillsides.

Scotland is home to two thirds of the UK’s ring ouzels, popularly known as mountain blackbirds, but numbers have dropped by a massive 36 per cent in the past 15 years. Continue reading

Researchers find first evidence of fat-regulating hormone in avian species

Researchers have found leptin in the rock dove, or pigeon.

Researchers have found leptin in the rock dove, or pigeon.

Since leptin was discovered 20 years ago, more than 115,000 papers have been published on this protein in humans, and another 5,000 have appeared on leptin in mice.

Leptin’s popularity is not surprising, as the hormone is the principal marker for the development of morbid obesity in humans. Leptin and its receptor play critical roles in the control of food intake and energy expenditure, thereby affecting body weight, abdominal fatness, thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism. Continue reading