Eagle research soars via GPS trackers

 A wedge-tailed eagle is being tracked by a solar GPS satellite transmitter. Credit: Simon Cherriman

A wedge-tailed eagle is being tracked by a solar GPS satellite transmitter. Credit: Simon Cherriman

A world first study tracking wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax) via GPS satellite transmitters has led one researcher into uncharted territory after a female appeared to have her partner stolen by a new bird, challenging a long-held belief that this species mates for life.

Perth Hills-based ornithologist Simon Cherriman used the solar GPS technology—Platform Terminal Transmitters (PTTs)—to track the birds to map out new inroads into raptor research.

Each PTT was programmed to record a GPS fix at almost every hour of daylight and was fitted to two adult and two juvenile eagles at the Lorna Glen proposed conservation reserve in the Murchison. Continue reading

Urban ecologist conducts research for the birds

 Research on how and when birds collide with buildings could inform future construction plans.

Research on how and when birds collide with buildings could inform future construction plans

Dead birds might be the last thing you would think of collecting, but they were the target of a recent campus-based research initiative.

This October, six undergraduate students and one professor spent 21 consecutive days searching for newly deceased birds that have crashed into campus buildings.

“Window strikes are pretty common. They can survive, but it depends on how fast they’re going,” says project leader John Withey, an assistant professor of biology. A victim brought to him recently was an ovenbird, a warbler with black speckles on a white chest that commonly winters in Florida. Continue reading

Crimson rosella uses beak to sniff fellow birds and potential mates, Deakin research finds

 Scientists previously thought birds had no sense of smell, until crimson rosellas proved them wrong.

Scientists previously thought birds had no sense of smell, until crimson rosellas proved them wrong.

Researchers at Deakin University have found an iconic Australian bird uses it beak to sniff out its own species, and even potential lovebirds.

Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology found that crimson rosella parrots can recognise each other by a distinct smell left over from their feathers. The finding proves that the colourful creatures are more reliant on their sense of smell than previously thought. Continue reading

Technology tracks the elusive Nightjar

European nightjar | Bbc Nature

European nightjar | Bbc Nature

Bioacoustic recorders could provide us with vital additional information to help us protect rare and endangered birds such as the European nightjar, new research has shown.

The study, led by Newcastle University, found that newly developed remote survey techniques were twice as effective at detecting rare birds as conventional survey methods.

Using automated equipment to record the nightjars at dawn and dusk, when the birds are most active, the team found a 217% increased detection rate of the nightjar over those carried out by specialist ornithologists. Continue reading

Research on bird beaks delivers powerful insights on variation

 Arkhat Abzhanov (left), associate professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, and Michael Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, co-lead authors of a new study that looks at how developmental mechanisms both allow for great variability and create powerful constraints on the shape of the beaks of song birds. Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Arkhat Abzhanov (left), associate professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, and Michael Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, co-lead authors of a new study that looks at how developmental mechanisms both allow for great variability and create powerful constraints on the shape of the beaks of song birds. Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Evolutionary biologists have long held up songbirds, particularly the Galapagos finches first described by Charles Darwin, as an example of natural selection at work. In order to exploit different environments and food sources, the birds developed a startling variety of beak shapes—from short, blunt beaks ideal for cracking seeds and nuts to long, slender beaks designed to sip nectar from flowers. The assumption was that natural selection was the primary, if not the sole, cause for the variation. Continue reading

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