Siberian Ice Age horned lark discovery


This video from the USA says about itself:

A video portrait of a singing Horned Lark, gathered just before sunset near Columbia, Missouri at the University’s Bradford Farm Experimental Station. The male has a high-pitched tinkling song that cascades to a jumble at the end. At the end of the video, the male sings a more complex, extended song that goes on for nearly ten seconds before ending with the typical jumble.

© 2010 Lang Elliott

From Stockholm University in Sweden:

Frozen bird turns out to be 46,000-year-old horned lark

February 21, 2020

Scientists have recovered DNA from a well-preserved horned lark found in Siberian permafrost. The results can contribute to explaining the evolution of subspecies, as well as how the mammoth steppe transformed into tundra, forest and steppe biomes at the end of the last Ice Age.

In 2018, a well-preserved frozen bird was found in the ground in the Belaya Gora area of north-eastern Siberia. Researchers at the Centre for Palaeogenetics, a new research center at Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, have studied the bird and the results are now published in the scientific journal Communications Biology. The analyses reveals that the bird is a 46,000-year-old female horned lark.

“Not only can we identify the bird as a horned lark. The genetic analysis also suggests that the bird belonged to a population that was a joint ancestor of two subspecies of horned lark living today, one in Siberia, and one in the steppe in Mongolia. This helps us understand how the diversity of subspecies evolves,” says Nicolas Dussex, researcher at the Department of Zoology at Stockholm University.

The result has significance on another level as well. During the last Ice Age, the mammoth steppe spread out over northern Europe and Asia. The steppe was home to now extinct species such as the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros. According to one theory, this ecosystem was a mosaic of habitats such as steppe, tundra and coniferous forest. At the end of the last Ice Age, the mammoth steppe was divided into the biotopes we know today — tundra in the north, taiga in the middle and steppe in the south.

“Our results support this theory since the diversification of the horned lark into these subspecies seems to have happened about at the same time as the mammoth steppe disappeared,” says Love Dalén, Professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History and research leader at the Centre for Palaeogenetics.

In the slightly longer term the researchers´ ambition is to map the complete genome of the 46,000-year-old lark and compare it with the genomes from all subspecies of horned larks.

“The new laboratory facilities and the intellectual environment at the Centre for Palaeogenetics will definitely be helpful in these analyses,” says Love Dalén.

The researchers at the Centre for Palaeogenetics have access to plenty of samples from similar findings from the same site in Siberia, including the 18,000-year-old puppy called “Dogor” which the researchers are are studying to determine if it is a wolf or a dog. Other findings include the 50,000-year-old cave lion cub “Spartak” and a partially preserved woolly mammoth.

Rare pine bunting in the Netherlands


This 1 March 2018 video shows a pine bunting. This Siberian species is very rare in western Europe. An eastern wind, which brought cold weather to the Netherlands, brought this individual to near the Dutch Goedereede village. Only the second pine bunting ever in South Holland province. Luuk Punt made the video.

This is another pine bunting video (not about the Goedereede bird).

Slender-billed curlew, extinct or alive? New research


This video says about itself:

Slender-billed curlew compared to whimbrel and curlew

25 June 2009

The only known video footage and sound-recording of Slender-billed Curlew! The recordings were made at Merja Zerga, Morocco. The video is by Andy Butler, January 1994. The call was recorded by Adam Gretton, January 1999 with subsequent edits, to remove background noise, by J P Gautier and J P Richard at the laboratoire d’Ethologie de Rennes, as publis[h]ed in Oiseax d’Afrique 1 by Claude Chappuis, and by Magnus Robb.

For comparison, footage and calls of Whimbrel and Eurasian Curlew follow. Does anyone have any footage of the orientalis or sushkini subspecies of Eurasian Curlew or the alboaxillaris subspecies of Whimbrel?

For more information about the race to find the Slender-billed Curlew visit www.slenderbilledcurlew.net.

The Slender-billed Curlew call can also be downloaded from this website and makes the ultimate mobile phone ringtone! The more people who become familiar with this call, the higher the likelihood that they will be alert to hearing such a call in the field. It is the distinctive Slender-billed Curlew call described as Eurasian curlew-like immediately followed by 6-7 very short notes “ti-ti-ti…” becoming progressively higher in pitch and reminiscent of certain larger raptors.

The Eurasian curlew-like part of the call is softer, sweeter, faster and higher in pitch, consisting of four identical cour-lee calls with 0.25 seconds pause in between, second syallable distinctly higher in pitch than first. The tittering part of the call is higher pitched than the distinctive ‘bi, bi, bi, bi, bi, bi, bi’ of the Whimbrel. It was given by a single Slender-billed Curlew flying into a feeding area with a small group of Eurasian Curlews (Gretton 1991). This call was not heard during the previous year and as this individual had been shot and wounded in early December 1989 it is possible that the call is atypical.’

With thanks to Paul Doherty of Bird Images DVD Guides www.birdvideodvd.com for making this possible.

From BirdLife:

18 Apr 2017

Chasing ghosts: how technology is helping track the bird that mysteriously disappeared

The Slender-billed Curlew hasn’t been seen since 1995, and could very well be extinct. But before we write it off for sure, we need to scour its vast, inhospitable breeding range for straggling populations. A groundbreaking new technique, which studies tiny atoms left in the feathers of long-dead specimens, is telling us where we should look first.

How do you look for a Critically Endangered species’ final few nesting sites, when you were never really sure where they bred in the first place?

That’s the magnitude of the task facing conservationists who are attempting to chase the tail feathers of the world’s final remaining Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris population. That is of course, if any such population even still exists at all.

In an attempt to narrow the search for this lost species, a new paper published by BirdLife’s journal, Bird Conservation International, involving staff from, or linked to, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), has used data gleaned from tiny atoms, harvested from the feathers of deceased specimens, to pinpoint where in the vast Siberian wilderness we should begin our search.

How do you look for a possibly extinct species, when you didn’t even know where it bred when it was plentiful?

We didn’t always need to resort to such elaborate measures to catch a glimpse of this medium-sized wader. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was a somewhat common bird that wintered all across the Middle East, North Africa and central and eastern Europe.

But even in these bountiful times, the species’ breeding habits were poorly understood. We knew they retreated to remote Central Asia in spring, but not much more beyond that. To date, the only fully-documented Slender-billed Curlew nests are a handful that were discovered in the 1910s and 1920s, near the town of Tara in Omsk, Siberia.

Also poorly understood are the exact reasons for its rapid decline, although we can make a few educated guesses. Widespread hunting across its wintering grounds in the late 19th and early 20th Century had a noticable impact, and the extensive drainage of wetlands across the Mediterranean and North Africa only served to put further pressure on this migratory species. However, the threats the species faces across its breeding grounds, wherever they may be, are largely unknown.

Either way, eventually things got so dire that the Slender-billed Curlew stopped appearing at its wintering grounds altogether. The last fully-verified sighting was in Morocco in February 1995, and although there have since been claimed sightings in places as far apart as France and Ukraine, the species’ visual similarity to more common birds such as Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata and Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus means they are difficult to verify.

Curlew crisis deepens: vital Australian wetlands under threat. The curlews are one of the most widespread and far-travelling of all the bird families — and also one of the most threatened. It seems that wherever they roam, habitat loss and human encroachment follows. We can’t let the Far Eastern Curlew go the same way as its fellows: here.

Great knot video


This video is about the Siberian bird species great knot.

Siberian accentor video


This is a Siberian accentor video. These North Asian birds are rare vagrants in Europe. Once, last year, one was spotted in the Netherlands.

Dusky thrush video


This is a dusky thrush video. Very rarely, these Siberian birds come to the Netherlands.