Volume 46 - N. 1
June 2022

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Volume 46 - N. 1
Volume 46, Issue 1, June 2022 (Cover photo by Giorgio di Gennaro)



  1. Editorial - Do ornithologists still play a role in reversing the crisis of farmland biodiversity?

    Giacomo Assandri

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    An interesting point of view by our Editor Giacomo Assandri, an expert on farmland biodiversity

  2. Feeding habits of the Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus during the breeding period in Central Italy

    Federico Cauli, Matteo Riccardo Di Nicola, Paolo Audisio, Francesco Petretti & Francesco Paolo Faraone

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    Abstract – Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus is the only snake eagle that nests in the Palearctic. Its diet has been studied in several European countries and it is essentially based on reptiles. The aims of this work were to characterise the feeding habits of Short-toed Eagle breeding in the Tolfa Mountains (Central Italy) including a comparison of the diet with that of other populations. Moreover, we assessed changes in the diet of the former population using published data collected more than 35 years ago. We monitored five nests and three
    roosts between 2020 and 2021. Using camera traps and the collection and analysis of feeding remains, a total of 247 prey items were identified. The diet of the sampled nests/individuals was clearly snake-based (93.5% of prey spectrum). We found no significant differences between the diet of nestlings and adult individuals. The main prey was the Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridiflavus (83% of snakes captured), probably due to its high availability in the environment and its average size, which is positively selected by the Short-toed Eagle. Long-term comparison with previous data shows an over time contraction of the diet breadth with a relative increase of Western Whip Snake compared to other prey. The same pattern is observed in long-term studies on the snake community of our study area and is probably linked to both local anthropogenic impacts and global warming, which tend to favour thermophilic and generalist snake species During the reproductive period our population showed a narrower diet breadth when compared to the diet of other Mediterranean sites, but a similar overall structure, with a comparable frequency of snakes. The populations with the wider diet breadth are those located in areas with a greater abundance of thermophilic snake species of medium to large size, such as France, Spain and Greece.
  3. Studies on the Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri colony of Genoa (Liguria, NW Italy)

    Valeria Gereschi, Loris Galli & Enrico Borgo

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    Taking into account that the previous quantitative data relating to the Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri of Genoa (Liguria, Italy) dates back to 2009 and considering the potential impact that an alien species can have on native ones and the environment, the Genoese population of this species was studied during the years 2016-2018 to quantify its size and trend in recent years. Counts at roost resulted in a total of approximately 630 individuals, allowing us to outline the increase of the population since the first records in the 1970s: the number of individuals has rised from 46 in 1993 to more than 600 today. Data on food resources used were collected and the list of plants that parakeets feed on has been expanded. Interactions with local fauna were investigated: they turned out to be few and related to Jackdaw Corvus monedula and Urban Pigeon Columba livia var. domestica. Impacts on citizens and their activities were more consistent: damages to vegetables and garden crops were observed and the presence of roosting sites caused filth and noise. The main travel
    routes to and from the main dormitories were also detected during the censuses. We could also confirm the disappearance from the territory of Genoa city of the Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus.
  4. Short Communication  - Unplanned restoration: Pallid swifts recover twenty years after rat removal from a Mediterranean island

    Jean-Louis Martin, Jean-Claude Thibault

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    Results from an experimental study from 1994 suggested that Black Rats, introduced on small Mediterranean islands, restricted Pallid Swift nesting to a small number of sites inaccessible to rats. We report here that the removal of rats in 2000 to restore a seabird population was followed by an unplanned increase of nesting Pallid Swifts through an increase in the number and variety of nest sites used, including low and easily reachable sites.
  5. Short Communication - Age at first reproduction and longest-lived individuals in the Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

    Giovanni Boano & Marco Cucco

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    Swifts are long-living birds with delayed maturation; however, the age at first reproduction and their maximum life span is known for a few species. We discuss here some data about these parameters, using observations collected during our long-standing study on Pallid Swift Apus pallidus in Northern Italy. The longest-lived bird in our dataset was still recovered breeding 19 calendar years after maturity, and the youngest confirmed age at first breeding was 3 years (i.e., bird in 4th calendar year). No breeding attempts have been verified for individuals in their second and third calendar year.
  6. Short Communication  - Evidence suggests an opportunistic entomophagous diet of the White Stork Ciconia ciconia in Sicily during breeding and post-breeding periods

    Salvatore Surdo, Concetta Francesca Zapparrata, Renzo Ientile & Bruno Massa

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    Insects are known to represent a critical part of the White Stork Ciconia ciconia diet throughout its breeding range. Yet, the composition of the diet in the storks breeding in the Mediterranean regions remains poorly explored. Here, we investigated the diet of a population of white storks from Sicily through pellets collected in 2003, 2007, and 2020. A total of 1,928 prey items were identified and classified into six categories. Insects dominated the diet in all years and represented 99.06% of the whole prey number. Two orders of insects were mainly consumed, namely Orthoptera, which were the most frequent prey, followed by Coleoptera. Within these, carabid beetles were dominant, followed by tenebrionids. Aiming to extend the study of the diet to the post-breeding period, we carried out direct observations on migratory Storks in September 2021, during the migration period. In this period, White Storks were observed feeding in arable lands with high concentration of small crickets Grylloderes brunneri. Altogether, our study provides new insights on the diet of White Storks in the Mediterranean range and highlights how conserving areas that support high diversity of insect species may also favor organisms at higher levels of the trophic chain.
  7. Forum - Conservation Experiences, evidence and opinions - Italian zoos and birds: May them be a ‘missing link’ to improve public interest in birds?

    Spartaco Gippoliti

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    Zoos are well-known for conservation efforts benefiting wildlife, including some European bird species such as the Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus and Waldrapp Ibis Geronticus eremiticus. In Italy there has generally been a lack of scientific interest towards zoos, and ornithology is no exception. Yet, zoo collections not only may present valuable research opportunities, but also may offer valuable insight into psychological mechanisms that make some bird species attractive to visitors while others are practically of zero exhibit value. The lack of specialized bird parks in Italy seems to suggest indirect evidence of the lack of interest in most birds by the general Italian visitor, a fact that in the long-term could have consequences for public attitudes towards bird conservation. Zoos’ experiences in species selection for attractiveness may be useful for conservation campaigns, but greater efforts toward neglected taxa should certainly be useful to increase public interest in biodiversity and ecosystem conservation with particular reference to birds.
  8. Bird News - June 2022

    Gaia Bazzi (ed.)

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    The most recent Bird News, reviewed by our editor Gaia Bazzi, edition June 2022

  9. Columns - Book Review

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    Reviews of the following books:

    The peregrin falcon in Italy. Brunelli M and Gustin M 
    Raptors of Italy and Europe. Cauli F, Galeotti P and Genero F.
    The Eurasian African Bird Migration Atlas. Spina F et al.
  10. Short CommunicationEuropean Roller thief nailed by DNA found in a bird carrier

    Luisa Garofalo, Rita Fanelli, Annalisa Brucoli, Sebastian Cannarella, Rita Lorenzini

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    In 2018 a bird poacher, who used to remove chicks illegally from their wild nests in Central Italy, was the focus of a complex investigation by law-enforcement. Several clues were found suggesting his illegal activity against wildlife, and some items were seized by the authorities from his home, including a carrier probably used to restrain birds. The bird carrier was delivered to the Forensic Genetics Laboratory (Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Lazio e della Toscana “M. Aleandri”) where evidence of the offence was looked for through
    molecular tools. To identify the species of origin for the poached birds, portions of two mitochondrial markers (Cytochrome b and Cytochrome Oxidase I) were amplified and sequenced using the DNA isolated from biological traces that were found inside the carrier. Sequences from the evidence samples were compared for homology with those lodged in online genetic repositories. The results revealed that at least one individual of European roller Coracias garrulus, a protected bird species listed as vulnerable in the Italian Red List, had been restrained in that pet carrier. Species identification was further confirmed through comparison with sequences from an in-house C. garrulus sample. Eventually, the suspect and seven more people were formally charged with poaching of protected species, and a long list of further crimes.