• The problem of raptor electrocution
Dixon, A., Maming, R., Gungaa, A., Purev-Ochir, G. & Batbayar, N. The problem of raptor electrocution in Asia: case studies from Mongolia and China. Bird Conservation International DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0959270913000300 

We report a large number of raptors electrocuted on recently erected electricity distribution lines in the open landscapes of the Mongolian steppe and Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, China. Upland Buzzards Buteo hemilasius and Saker Falcons Falco cherrug, characteristic raptors of these bioregions, were among those found to be electrocuted. Raptor electrocution was a consequence of poorly designed hardware configurations on anchor poles along surveyed lines on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and, additionally, on line poles in the Mongolian steppe. The design flaws were upright pin-insulators on earthed crossarms and the use of jump wires that passed over crossarms via pin insulators on anchor poles. Targeted mitigation of anchor poles could significantly reduce the incidence of electrocution on the lines surveyed on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, whilst all poles on the lines surveyed in the Mongolian steppe require remediation to make them safe for raptors. The Mongolian steppe and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau are bioregions that hold the largest breeding and wintering populations of the globally threatened Saker Falcon. The existing and growing network of dangerous electricity distribution lines in these regions may potentially impact the Saker Falcon population, thus we suggest that preventative and/or mitigation measures are implemented.

Dixon, A., Purev-Ochir, G., Galtbalt, B. & Batbayar, N. The use of power lines by breeding raptors and corvids in Mongolia: nest-site characteristics and management using artificial nests. Journal of Raptor Research 47, 282–291.

The use of power line support structures as nesting sites enables some raptors and corvids to increase their breeding range and/or density in landscapes where alternative nest sites are limited. We report on the use of power poles for nesting by two nest-building species, Common Raven (Corvus corax) and Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemilasius), and two falcon species, Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) and Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) in the nest-site-limited steppes of central Mongolia. Various power pole designs differed in their attractiveness to nest-building species, with structures that provided stable support and shelter being significantly favored. Trials of artificial nest barrels to (i) provide alternative nest sites on favored nesting support structures and (ii) provide additional nest sites on unfavored support structures, failed to induce nest-building species to shift their nest location in the first instance or to increase overall breeding density of large raptors and corvids in the second case. However, both trials resulted in large increases in the number of nesting Eurasian Kestrels.

Zhan, X., Pan, S., Wang, J., Dixon, A., He, J., Muller, M.G., Ni, P., Hu, L., Liu, Y., Hou, H., Chen, Y., Xia, J., Luo, Q., Xu, P., Chen, Y., Liao, S. Cao, C., Gao, S., Wang, Z., Yue, Z., Li, G., Yin, Y., Fox, N.C., Wang, J. & Bruford, M.W. Peregrine and saker falcon genome sequences provide insights into evolution of a predatory lifestyle. Nature Genetics 45, 563–566

As top predators, falcons possess unique morphological, physiological and behavioral adaptations that allow them to be successful hunters: for example, the peregrine is renowned as the world's fastest animal. To examine the evolutionary basis of predatory adaptations, we sequenced the genomes of both the peregrine (Falco peregrinus) and saker falcon (Falco cherrug), and we present parallel, genome-wide evidence for evolutionary innovation and selection for a predatory lifestyle. The genomes, assembled using Illumina deep sequencing with greater than 100-fold coverage, are both approximately 1.2 Gb in length, with transcriptome-assisted prediction of approximately 16,200 genes for both species. Analysis of 8,424 orthologs in both falcons, chicken, zebra finch and turkey identified consistent evidence for genome-wide rapid evolution in these raptors. SNP-based inference showed contrasting recent demographic trajectories for the two falcons, and gene-based analysis highlighted falcon-specific evolutionary novelties for beak development and olfaction and specifically for homeostasis-related genes in the arid environment–adapted saker.
 
Full text of the article is posted here: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v45/n5/full/ng.2588.html