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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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Reporting service for dead wild birds updated

News Story 1
 The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has updated its online reporting service for dead wild birds.

The new version allows those reporting a dead bird to drop a pin on a map when reporting the location. It also includes a wider range of wild bird species groups to select from when describing the bird.

The online service, which helps APHA to monitor the spread of diseases such as avian influenza, can be accessed here

Click here for more...
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NI chief vet urges bluetongue vigilance

Northern Ireland's chief veterinary officer (CVO) has urged farmers to be vigilant for signs of bluetongue, after the Animal and Plant Health Agency warned there was a very high probability of further cases in Great Britain.

There have been 126 confirmed cases of bluetongue virus serotype 3 in England since November 2023, with no cases reported in Northern Ireland. The movement of live ruminants from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is currently suspended.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the virus is most likely to enter Northern Ireland through infected animals or germplasm (semen or ova) being imported.

Brian Dooher, Northern Ireland's CVO, said: "Surveillance for this disease within Northern Ireland has been increased to assist with detection at the earliest opportunity which will facilitate more effective control measures."

Farmers should report any suspicions of the disease to their private veterinary practitioner, the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or their local DAERA Direct Veterinary Office.