Birdie braces

Macaw beak 016For some, the word orthodontist stirs awkward teenage memories of braces and the agonising wait to be rid of mouth metal. But humans aren’t the only species requiring some orthodontic alignment.

University of Queensland Small Animal Hospital Head of Avian and Exotic Pet Service, avian specialist and exotics luminary Bob Doneley is occasionally called upon to fit what he calls “birdie braces” for beaks that have gone awry.

Wry beak, or scissor beak, as it is known among bird circles, is a condition predominantly of juvenile birds, where the maxillary beak begins to deviate laterally – usually (for unknown reasons) to the right.

As a consequence, mandibular keratin tends to proliferate, unchecked by natural wear that would occur in the case of perfect beak alignment, and pushes upwards. This places additional pressure on the maxillary beak, worsening the defect.

“It is probably more common in macaws than other species but any bird can get it,” Doneley said. This includes ostriches which, due to their sheer size, can present with spectacular cases of wry beak. (Doneley’s ostrich practice once extended from Kingaroy to Tenterfield, and from the Gold Coast to St George – so he’s seen a few ostriches in his time). Doneley has also seen the condition in eclectus parrots. Continue reading Birdie braces

Humans behind bird species’ loss

Further to the results of a study published towards the end of last year that estimated the extinction of 279 bird species and subspecies – principally from islands in the Pacific – had occurred during the last 500 years, more recent research that studied fossil records as well as evidence from mathematical modelling, has found that bird loss in the Pacific region is closer to 1000 species. The results of this study were published in the March issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and they confirm extinctions coincided with humans colonising the region approximately 4000 years ago. The research showed the subsequent disturbance of fragile ecosystems from a combination of deforestation, hunting, and the introduction of invasive species such as cats, rats, and pigs – together with the diseases they carried – drove the decline.

Co-authors of the report, Tim Blackburn, director of the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology, and Richard Duncan, professor in conservation ecology at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Applied Ecology, led the research that widened the earlier study’s scale and extent of the extinctions by incorporating the use of bird fossils to calculate the results. These were collected from 41 remote islands in the eastern Pacific that were among the last to see human habitation. The collected data was used to create a mathematical model that estimated each island’s extinction rates, and showed the islands were once home to a total of 618 populations of 193 nonpasserine landbirds. This comprised 371 populations present at the time of European contact, and 247 populations known only as fossils. Continue reading Humans behind bird species’ loss

Wildlife sentinels reveal expanding distribution of rat lungworm

A study examining the role of wildlife species as sentinels for rat lungworm suggests an expanded distribution of the parasite, and the need for pet owners and wildlife carers to take precautions in order to minimise transmission of the disease to animals in care.

Rat lungworm, or Angiostrongylus cantonensis, was the most common cause of neurological disease . . . → Read More: Wildlife sentinels reveal expanding distribution of rat lungworm

Mass depopulation of laying hens in whole barns with liquid carbon dioxide: evaluation of welfare impact

Appropriate emergency disaster preparedness is a key priority for agricultural agencies to allow effective response to serious avian disease outbreaks. There is a need to develop rapid, humane, and safe depopulation techniques for poultry that are widely applicable across a range of farm settings. Whole barn depopulation with carbon dioxide (CO(2)) has been investigated as a . . . → Read More: Mass depopulation of laying hens in whole barns with liquid carbon dioxide: evaluation of welfare impact

Endangered birds grace Peruvian stamps

Thanks to the efforts of Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos in Peru, and the Natural History Museum of San Marcos, the Peruvian Postal Service has announced two new postage stamps featuring two of the world’s most endangered birds.

The stamps depict the endangered marvelous spatuletail and the critically endangered white-bellied cinclodes, both known only to live in Peru. The marvelous spatuletail occurs only in the Rio Utcubamba Valley in the Andes of northern Peru, while the white-bellied cinclodes occurs in a few high-altitude bogs in the central part of the country. The photographs used for the stamps were provided to Peru’s Natural History Museum by ECOAN and American Bird Conservancy.

ECOAN has been a leader in promoting the conservation of the Marvelous Spatuletail, engaging local communities in establishing a reserve at Huembo and conducting a reforestation campaign to restore spatuletail habitat. ECOAN is also working with local communities and the mining industry to protect the White-bellied Cinclodes at Ticlio along Peru’s central highway. Continue reading Endangered birds grace Peruvian stamps