Editor’s picks

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Highlights from the latest issue

October 2023 | Vol. 165, issue 4
We’re pleased to deliver the fourth issue of 2023 containing 2 review papers, 19 full papers, 4 short communications, a Forum article plus our regular book reviews.

Here, Editor in Chief, Jenny Gill, has selected four of her highlights.

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    Functions of avian elongated tails, with suggestions for future studies
    Wenyi Zhou (周文仪), Rebecca T. Kimball, Yang Liu (刘阳), Scott K. Robinson
    Among the elaborate plumage features displayed by many bird species, elongated tails are perhaps the most striking, and their evolution has proved to be a long-running source of fascination. As carrying an elongated tail often appears costly, sexual selection is generally considered the most likely hypothesis for their presence, but alternative hypotheses have also been proposed. Here, Zhou and colleagues review the evidence supporting the competing hypotheses and highlight that elongated tails could have novel, unexplored functions and could serve multiple functions simultaneously.
    Snow cover constrains the behavioural flexibility of a winter-adapted bird
    Amy A. Shipley & Benjamin Zuckerberg
    For birds that spend the winter months at latitudes where harsh weather is common, finding safe and warm roosting locations can be hugely important. In this study, Shipley & Zuckerberg radio-tracked Ruffed Grouse to locate and measure their winter roosting sites. Over three winters of tracking, 754 roosts were located, revealing that roosts under snow are warmer than surface or tree roosts, but snow burrows only occur in deep, powdery snow. Warming winters and loss of snow cover are likely to reduce opportunities to roost in warm snow bowls, with potentially important energetic and survival implications.
    Estimating Little Penguin population sizes using automated acoustic monitoring and citizen science
    Diane Colombelli-Négrel
    The development of automated acoustic recorders has presented exciting opportunities for tricky-to-monitor bird populations, such as burrow-nesting seabirds. In this short paper, Colombelli-Négrel uses recordings from two Little Penguin breeding colonies to show that call rates increase with numbers of active nests, and call detection is largely unaffected by wind speed and moon illumination. The use of automated recording devices in monitoring is likely to increase and studies like this help to demonstrate their effectiveness.
    The need for a flyway approach in defining the onset of prenuptial migration of huntable bird species across Europe
    Alessandro Andreotti, Arianna Aradis, Giacomo Assandri, Gaia Bazzi, Jacopo Giuseppe Cecere, Andrea Ferri, Simona Imperio, Andrea Marcon, Riccardo Nardelli, Simone Pirrello, Elisabetta Raganella Pelliccioni, Fernando Spina & Lorenzo Serra
    Across EU member states, hunting of wild birds must be conducted in compliance with the EU Birds Directive. Of particular importance is the date on which hunting seasons end in spring; a date which is intended to avoid hunting of birds returning to their breeding grounds. Currently, each member state defines these dates separately, using guidance from the EU, and the lack of a coherent approach means that many discrepancies have arisen. In this Forum article, Andreotti and colleagues describe these discrepancies, and encourage use of the recently published Eurasian African Bird Migration Atlas to provide a flyway-wide approach to identifying migration timings of huntable species.
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Image credits
From top:
White-tailed Tropicbird | Max Aliaga CC BY 4.0 Wikimedia Commons
Ruffed Grouse | Mdf CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons
Little Penguin | Magnus Kjaergaard CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons
Song Thrush | Zeynel Cebeci CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons