DTI001 19_07_17

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Appreciating avian interlopers

BILL NAYLOR says it’s time to stop stigmatising ‘alien’ bird species

Public enemy: the ruddy duck eradication programme is due to finish in MarchTHE several pairs of eagle owls living in the UK, some of which have bred, have recently been the subject of a risk assessment by DEFRA. The conclusion was that while there are no immediate plans to cull them, they should be managed. Many, however, interpret this to mean that a future cull cannot be ruled out.

Unlike most non-native species established in the UK, the eagle owl is native to Europe and was once native to Britain, though it died out here some 9,000 years ago. This is disputed by some owl experts, who believe it has colonised Britain more recently. Since eagle owls have been kept in captivity since the 17th century and have regularly escaped, the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU) does not admit the species to its official list of British birds. Read more...

A million eggs in one basket

This week RON TOFT visits the world’s biggest collection of birds’ eggs at the Natural History Museum at Tring

Natural perfection: eggs of the Turkestan tit (Parus bokharensis)       © Natural History MuseumEVERY week, the Natural History Museum’s Hertfordshire-based Bird Group is offered at least one collection of birds’ eggs dating back to the first half of the 20th century or the last half of the 19th century. That was the era when egg-collecting was a popular hobby in Britain.

All too often, however, such collections – usually discovered by chance stored away in a long forgotten corner of a loft – are virtually worthless from a scientific standpoint because they lack vital information, such as where, when and by whom the eggs were collected. Sometimes even the species’ names are missing.

“The saddest part of my job as a curator of eggs is that the scientific use to which we can put the vast majority of collections we are offered is quite limited because there is no accompanying data,” says Douglas G.D. Russell, who is responsible for looking after the NHM’s huge repository of birds’ eggs from around the world. Read more...

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