A new study in The Auk: Ornithological Advances links feather-degrading bacteria to damaged plumage on wild birds for the first time, offering new insights into how birds’ ecology and behavior might affect their exposure to these little-studied microbes.
Scientists know surprisingly little about the diverse community of microbes that lives on bird feathers. A few of these species of bacteria can actually break down keratin, the material feathers are made of, but few studies have looked at how feather-degrading bacteria actually affect birds in the wild. Combining data from a decade’s worth of bird-banding studies, Cody Kent and Edward H. Burtt of Ohio Wesleyan University found that tail-feather wear was strongly correlated with the presence of feather-degrading bacteria — the first time this relationship has been demonstrated in live, wild birds.
Wind turbines attract bats. They seem to appear particularly appealing to female noctule bats in early summer. In a pilot study, researchers of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin noticed this when they tracked the flight paths of noctule bats, Nyctalus noctula, using the latest GPS tracking devices. The bats managed to take even seasoned experts by surprise.
The motive behind the study is the conflict between the exploitation of wind energy and the conservation of the protected bats. The German so-called ‘Energiewende’, the full transition from conventional to renewable energy sources, causes a steady increase in the number of wind power facilities (wind farms).
Scientists have uncovered a fascinating new clue in the global mystery surrounding wild birds with grossly deformed beaks. A team of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have identified a novel virus that has been linked to Avian Keratin Disorder (AKD), a disease responsible for debilitating beak overgrowth and whose cause has remained elusive despite more than a decade of research. This new virus–identified from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest–is being investigated as a potential cause of AKD and represents a critical step in understanding the emergence of this disease in wild bird populations around the world. The results are published in the journal mBio.
“Take one look at a bird suffering from Avian Keratin Disorder, and you’ll understand the importance of stopping its spread,” says Jack Dumbacher, co-author and Academy curator of ornithology and mammalogy. “Birds must be able to feed themselves and preen their plumage by carefully spreading waterproofing oils on their feathers. When deformed beaks restrict them from these life-giving activities, birds become cold, hungry, and often die. We’re trying to understand the causes, origins, and distribution of this disorder.”
Latitude is the main factor which determines the organic pollutant concentration in Antarctic giant petrels -emblematic species in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions-, according to an article from the journal Environmental Research in which Professor Jacob González Solís, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the Biodiversity Research Institute of the University of Barcelona (IRBio) takes part.
The research, directed by experts of the Institute of General Organic Chemistry (IQOG-CSIC), analyses the impact by persistent organic pollutants (COP) -toxic compounds with a high permanency on the environment which bio-accumulate in organisms- on oceanic birds present in areas of different latitudes in the Antarctic Ocean.
Both before and after they leave the nest, baby birds face a host of challenges. A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications examining songbird survival in the nestling and fledgling stages finds that even in the same habitat, different species face different risks and survive at different rates.
Research is shedding new light on the causes of divorce in monogamous year-round territorial birds. A Monash University study of the endangered Purple-crowned Fairy-wren has discovered the females are calling the shots when it comes to breaking up.
Published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, the School of Biological Sciences’ research studied 317 breeding pairs to learn what was driving the behaviour. As many as one in five avian pairs ended in divorce over nine years, and lead researcher Associate Professor Anne Peters said they were surprised to find it was the females who were more likely to break up.
Baby songbirds in the nest face naturally tough odds. Unable to fly, they are easy prey for cats, snakes, and even other birds. But the perils don’t end when the young birds venture out from the nest. Now, new research shows that the risks baby migratory songbirds face in the nest are not necessarily the same out of the nest. The findings may have important implications for migratory songbird conservation.
Artist and pigeon trainer Duke Riley recasts a reviled bird in a transformative light.
The audience for the aerial pigeon show at the Brooklyn Navy Yard shuffled around the edge of the East River, balancing fish sandwiches and local beer, navigating stadium seating while facing a ship docked in Wallabout Bay. Two thousand Rock Pigeons mirrored the human movement, rearranging themselves in short bursts of flight, settling in to temporary perches on top of their retrofit navy vessel, the Baylander, now crowned with nine freshly constructed coops and a baby pigeon nursery. The pigeons were staring at the humans staring at the pigeons.
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