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Lockdown reduced urban parakeet and crow activity
The researchers examined more than 250,000 bird calls recorded during Israel's first COVID-19 lockdown.
Research highlights links between wildlife and humans.

The amount of activity by urban ringneck parakeets and hooded crows fell when the number of people in their habitat was lower during the first COVID-19 lockdown, a study has found.

The researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU), Israel, placed 17 microphones in Yarkon Park and the surrounding streets in Tel Aviv during the first few days of lockdown in March 2020. The park, which is about double the size of Hyde Park in London, normally has millions of visitors each year.

Yossi Yovel, head of the Sagol School of Neuroscience and a member of the School of Zoology at TAU, said: "When the first COVID-19 lockdown began, we, like many researchers, in many fields, identified a rare opportunity to conduct field experiments that would examine how animals behave in the absence of humans.”

The equipment continuously recorded the sounds of birds in the park until 10 days after the lockdown ended in May 2020. In total, the recordings included around 250,000 bird calls spread over 3,234 hours.

Analysing the recordings with the assistance of artificial intelligence, the scientists found that calls from crows in the park fell by around 50 per cent, and the calls of the parakeets decreased by about 90 per cent.

Prof Yovel explained: “The crows and ringneck parakeets, which usually subsist on leftover food from people in the park, searched for other avenues.”

However, in contrast, the calls of another species, the graceful prinia, increased by around 12 per cent.

Unlike the hooded crow and the ringneck parakeet, the graceful prinia does not eat leftover food from people and is relatively shy of humans, despite having adapted to live in an urban environment.

Prof Yovel added: “These findings highlight the fact that there are animals that depend on us in the city, as well as the flexibility of these animals and the complexity and diversity of the urban ecosystem.”

The study has been published in the journal eLife.


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RCVS Knowledge appoints Veterinary Evidence editor-in-chief

News Story 1
 RCVS Knowledge has welcomed Professor Peter Cockcroft as editor-in-chief for Veterinary Evidence.

A world-renowned expert in evidence-based veterinary medicine, Prof Cockcroft will lead the strategic development and editorial quality of the open-access journal. He was previously in the role from 2017-2020.

Katie Mantell, CEO of RCVS Knowledge, said: "We are excited about the extensive knowledge of evidence-based veterinary medicine and clinical veterinary research that Peter brings, and we look forward to working with him over this next phase of the journal's development." 

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Defra to host bluetongue webinar for vets

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be hosting a webinar for veterinary professional on bluetongue on Thursday, 25 April 2024.

Topics covered will include the transmission cycle, pathology and pathogenesis, clinical signs (including signs seen in recent BTV-3 cases in the Netherlands), and control and prevention.

The session, which will take place from 6pm to 7.30pm, is part of Defra's 'Plan, Prevent and Protect' webinar series, which are hosted by policy officials, epidemiologists and veterinary professionals from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The bluetongue session will also feature insights from experts from The Pirbright Institute.

Those attending will have the opportunity to ask questions. Places on the webinar can be booked online.