Highlights from the latest issue
January 2018 | Vol. 160, issue 1
The January issue contains one review paper,
12 full papers, three short communications, book reviews, A Checklist of Birds of Britain (9th Edition), the 48th report of the BOU’s Records Committee (BOURC) and an obituary of Sir Patrick Bateson.
Here are just four of the many highlights in this issue.
- Under-representation of avian studies in landscape genetics
Christopher P. Kozakiewicz, Scott Carver & Christopher P. Burridge
Landscape genetics is a rapidly growing discipline that examines how heterogeneous landscapes and other environmental factors influence genetic variation of populations. Christopher Kozakiewicz and colleagues from the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia demonstrate in their systematic review that birds are severely under-represented in landscape genetics research relative to their species diversity and prevalence within the scientific literature. Kozakiewicz et al. argue that the study of landscape genetics provides a means to understand, predict and mitigate the effects of anthropogenic landscape change on birds. They call for further work of this type on birds, so that we can more fully understand drivers of genetic structuring of populations and how these techniques can be applied more broadly across avian taxa.
View paper | Free to view
- Visual conﬁguration of two species of Falconidae with different foraging ecologies
Simon Potier, Francesco Bonadonna, Graham R. Martin, Pierre-François Isard, Thomas Dulaurent, Marielle Mentek & Olivier Duriez
Diurnal raptors differ markedly in their foraging tactics and this results in different demands for vision. Simon Potier from the Université de Montpellier, France and his team of collaborators compared the visual field characteristics of Saker Falcon and Southern Caracara. They found a high binocular overlap of caracaras thought to facilitate object manipulation (e.g. moving rocks) when foraging. Their precise measurements revealed two foveas (depressions in the retina where high visual resolution is expected) in the falcons but only a central fovea in the caracaras. They suggest that the presence of a shallow temporal fovea in Saker Falcons may help them fix visually upon a highly mobile prey item during pursuit. From this, Potier et al. conclude that these differences show how visual characteristics of these species are finely tuned to the demands of their foraging tactics.
- Food availability and breeding season as predictors of geophagy in Amazonian parrots
Donald J. Brightsmith, Elizabeth A. Hobson & Gustavo Martinez
Parrots of the western Amazon Basin exhibit a behaviour known as geophagy (consumption of soil). This is thought to provide extra nutritional demands during breeding or to protect against toxins from naturally toxic plant foods. Donald Brightsmith of Texas A&M University, USA and colleagues examined long-term data from lowland Amazonia to compare seasonal fluctuations in rainfall, food availability, breeding and geophagy in parrots. Here, seasonal changes in rainfall drive plant fruiting, which in turn regulates the timing of parrot breeding and breeding appears to control seasonal geophagy. They found that the peak of geophagy occurred during the breeding season in several species, strongly supporting the hypothesis that the function of geophagy is for supplementary feeding. This research contributes to a growing body of evidence that a need for sodium is driving soil consumption in avian geophagy.
- Flood avoidance behaviour in Brown Dippers Cinclus pallasii
Shiao-Yu Hong, Stuart P. Sharp, Ming-Chih Chiu, Mei-Hwa Kuo & Yuan-Hsun Sun
Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, but efforts to understand their impact on wildlife often focuses on population-level change rather than behavioural responses of individuals. Shiao-Yu Hong from the National Pingtung University of Science & Technology, Taiwan and collaborators monitored individually marked Brown Dippers in upland streams to investigate movement patterns following major typhoons. They showed that individuals moved significantly longer distances in response to these tropical storms, which involved temporary displacement to poor quality streams. From these findings they conclude that movements after flooding were not driven by food abundance but that smaller tributaries provided important refuges for birds in years experiencing these severe storms.
Wood Warbler | Steve Garvie | CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Wikimedia Commons
Southern Caracara | Andreas Trepte | CC-BY-SA-4.0 | Wikimedia Commons
Blue-and-yellow Macaw | Luc Viator | GFDL | Wikimedia Commons
Brown Dipper | Francesco Veronesi | CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Wikimedia Commons