Bird News archive for South America

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Argentinean albatross and petrels get boost


The Argentinean Federal Fisheries Council (CFP) has passed a resolution to adopt the use of mitigation measures that reduce the seabird bycatch in all vessels that operate longlines in Argentinean waters.
The established measures aim to reduce the mortality of seabirds in longline fishing and include: the addition of weight to the main line, obligatory night setting, use of bird-scaring lines (tori lines), and the release of any bird captured live during hauling. It is hoped that these measures have a swift effect in reducing the current levels of seabird mortality plus that caused by any future increase in the fleet. Various people, institutes and NGOs have worked for over five years to achieve these measures to reduce of seabird bycatch in Argentinean fisheries.

Recently, Drs. Marco Favero and Patricia Gandini developed a technical document that was presented to Government Agencies with the aim of bringing about the preparation of the National Plan of Action (in agreement with FAO guidelines) to reduce the bycatch of albatross and petrels.
“This is the result of work from many people, each of whom has contributed to ensure this becomes concrete. This encourages us to keep working between all the sectors for the conservation of seabirds”, said Dr. Patricia Gandini, CONICET researcher and current vice-president of the National Parks Administration.
The next step is to look at the jiggers and trawl fleets. Preliminary evidence exists of seabird mortality as a consequence of these fishing operations with the net and trawl warp cables. In Argentina, the trawl fleet is composed of over 400 vessels.
“We know that the effort to take on this enormous fleet will be considerable, but we are supported by various key government bodies, plus the collaboration of investigative researchers in the field to ensure we can tackle this challenge. We are already working in the trawl fleet and shortly we will provide valuable information to facilitate the necessary arrangements to reduce the seabird mortality on trawl vessels”, commented Fabian Rabuffetti, coordinator of the ATF in Argentina and Aves Argentinas’ Seabird Programme.

The Albatross Task Force – ATF in Argentina, locally lead by Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in Argentina) and with the support of local researchers and government bodies, have will begin the evaluation and reduction of seabird mortality on trawl vessels.

“Considering that the Argentinean sea is one of the most important regions on earth in terms of abundance and diversity of albatross and petrels, the CFP resolution and its effective implementation will be crucial in improving the conservation status of various species under the Agreement. This news was more than welcome for the seabird conservation community during the recent 4th Advisory Committee of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP –, which took place from August 22-25 in Cape Town, South Africa”, said Dr Marco Favero, current President of the ACAP Advisory Committee.

BirdLife’s ATF is the world’s first international team of mitigation instructors working with fishermen and government agencies in global bycatch ‘hotspots’, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Namibia, South Africa and Uruguay. ATF instructors routinely show that the adoption of mitigation measures are both operationally and economically effective. To support the work of the ATF, please click here to donate today.

New guide to Falkland bird sites

Falklands Conservation (BirdLife in the Falkland Islands) launched its latest publication, Important Bird Areas of the Falkland Islands, in London last week (25 July 2006).

The book describes 22 sites in the Falklands, which are of global importance for bird conservation. These Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are priorities for conserving the natural heritage of the Islands for generations to come.

The Falkland Islands are a remote sub-Antarctic archipelago in the South Atlantic particularly significant for their bird life. They are home to vast colonies of breeding seabirds, including albatross and penguins. They contain two endemic birds, found nowhere else in the world—Cobb’s Wren Troglodytes cobbi (Vulnerable) and the Falkland Steamerduck Tachyeres brachypterus. There are 13 Falkland races, or sub-species, and a number of other birds with their stronghold in the Islands—in particular the Striated Caracara Phalcoboenus australis (Near Threatened).

The 22 Important Bird Areas cover 717 km2 of the Falkland land area (5.9%). Only five are on the main islands, the other 17 consist of islands and island groups—altogether 186 islands and dependent islets. Most are in private ownership and many are uninhabited.

"The publication of this Directory marks another major step forward for the conservation of biodiversity in the Falklands." —Grant Munro, Falklands Conservation

Grant Munro, Falklands Conservation Director, said, "The publication of this Directory marks another major step forward for the conservation of biodiversity in the Falklands. IBAs are very effective in capturing a high proportion of other threatened, endemic and representative wildlife species. The Directory now provides us with an excellent tool at the local level to focus on conservation action. It is also an invaluable reference for all those that have an interest in the future of the Falkland Islands."

Neotropical migrants in the Tropical Andes

Each year over 340 species of bird leave their breeding grounds in North America to spend the northern winter in the Neotropics, to the south of the Tropic of Cancer. For one third of these “Neotropical migrants” their wintering range and/or important stopover sites lie within the Tropical Andes of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.

This region is one of the biologically richest yet most threatened areas in the planet. Covering just 3% of the world it nevertheless holds 28% of the world’s bird species, many of them endemic, and 130 in imminent danger of extinction. However, it is not just the endemic species which are threatened with extinction. The populations of many migratory species are also undergoing marked population declines. Of the 130 migratory species that regularly occur in the Tropical Andes, 29 are considered as “Birds of Conservation Concern” (16 species of landbird and 13 waterbirds), and five species are of global conservation concern. These are the globally threatened Cerulean Warbler Dendroica cerulea, and the near-threatened Elegant Tern Sterna elegans, Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis, Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi and Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera.

To expedite the conservation of the unique biodiversity of the Tropical Andes, BirdLife International and Conservation International together with partner organizations in each country have identified a network of 455 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – sites of global significance for the conservation of birds. With support from USFWS, BirdLife has recently completed an analysis of the importance of these IBAs for the conservation of Neotropical migrants. Information for the occurrence of Neotropical migrants was obtained for 383 of the 455 IBAs, with sufficient data available to evaluate the importance of 201 of these. Particular geographic information gaps included the Colombian Amazon and central Peru.

A total of 114 IBAs were identified as important for the conservation of migratory (92 for landbirds and 24 for waterbirds). IBAs of conservation importance were found in all five countries, though for landbirds they were primarily concentrated in the northern Andes in Colombia and Venezuela, and for waterbirds along the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and the Pacific coast of Colombia and Ecuador. However, 43 (or 37%) of all important sites are entirely unprotected, underlining the need for new site-based conservation measures to ensure the long-term conservation of both endemic and migratory species.

A pragmatic guide for action to save Brazil's Atlantic forests


Brazil has more globally threatened birds than any other country on Earth. Of the 111 species at risk of extinction, 98 live in Brazil’s Atlantic forest. But the Atlantic forest is already the most seriously reduced habitat in Brazil, and the last remnants are vanishing fast.

Now a groundbreaking book from BirdLife International describes the 163 most important sites for birds in the 15 Brazilian states that contain Atlantic forest. The book Áreas Importantes para a Conservação das Aves no Brasil (Important Bird Areas in Brazil), with text in Portuguese and English, is the first in a series which will ultimately describe all the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Brazil.

Published on 22 March 2006 by SAVE Brasil (BirdLife in Brazil), the book will be launched during the Conference of the Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Centro de Convenções Expotrade in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil.

The book also covers three other habitats found in the 15 states: cerrado, caatinga and pampas.

Brazil’s Atlantic forest includes nine Endemic Bird Areas, home to species found nowhere else. In one state alone, Bahia, 33 restricted-range species are found in the Atlantic forest. Since 1994, 15 previously unknown endemic species have been discovered, hinting at the still unexplored riches of this fast-vanishing habitat.

The sites vary in size from around 600 hectares to more than half-a-million hectares. In total, they cover three per cent of the land area of the 15 states.

"The solution is not just to create new protected areas, but to manage existing ones more effectively." —Jaqueline Goerck, SAVE Brasil

While 73% are in protected areas or private reserves, the remaining 27% have no official protection. But Jaqueline Goerck, SAVE Brasil’s Director says that many officially protected areas of Atlantic forest suffer severe habitat degredation and hunting, and have lost bird species in recent years. "The solution is not just to create new protected areas, but to manage existing ones more effectively," she says.

With this in mind, BirdLife International and SAVE Brasil were determined that this book should not be just another exercise in identifying priority areas for conservation, but should a pragmatic guide for action.

"Some areas are considered irreplaceable, since they contain the largest proportion of one or more species whose extinction is imminent," said Jaqueline Goerck. Ten per cent (16) sites have been chosen as priority areas for action. SAVE Brasil is already working at seven of these, projects are at initial stages in another three, and two more are scheduled for 2006.

Efforts launched to protect Peru's 'forgotten' forests

Unless the international conservation community moves quickly, species will continue to become extinct in the "forgotten" forests of the Tumbesian region of northern Peru, BirdLife warns today.

In flower, these deciduous dry forests once blazed a broad arc of yellows and reds from south-western Ecuador southward along the Peruvian coast to Huacho and inland to Catamayo. Today, less than 7% of original cover remains. As a result, many species are relegated to isolated and fragmented forest patches, often in remote and inaccessible areas. Of the more than 800 bird species recorded in these forests, 82 are found nowhere else on Earth and of these endemic species, eight are considered at extreme risk of extinction.

Seven of the affected species are classified by BirdLife for the IUCN Red List as Endangered. These are the Grey-cheeked Parakeet Brotogeris pyrrhopterus, Blackish-headed Spinetail Synallaxis tithys, Slaty Becard Pachyramphus spodiurus, Peruvian Plantcutter Phytotoma raimondii, Long-whiskered Owlet Xenoglaux loweryi, Ochre-fronted Antpitta Grallaricula ochraceifrons and the Marvellous Spatuletail Loddigesia mirabilis. The White-winged Guan Penelope albipennis is classified as Critically Endangered, the highest risk category.

David Thomas/BirdLife
Dry forest habitat in the Tumbesian region
Zoom In | Hi-Res
"Enigmatic species like the endangered Marvellous Spatuletail, a hummingbird species whose pendulum-like tail feathers have attracted thousands of bird watchers from around the world, and the critically endangered and much hunted White-winged Guan, are just two of eight globally threatened birds that may disappear in our lifetime." —Dr. Amiro Perez, BirdLife's project leader in the region

In 2004, BirdLife International and Conservation International joined forces and mapped 33 globally Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in northern Peru as part of a massive inventory of 430 sites throughout Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia – an area referred to by Conservation International as the "Tropical Andes Hotspot".

Recognising the global importance of the dry and humid forests of northern Peru and the urgency of the situation, in 2004 the British Bird Watching Fair (Birdfair) raised an initial $300,000 to support immediate on-the-ground conservation action aimed at supporting the conservation of eight of the most critical IBAs previously identified.

Together with a number of national and international non-governmental organisations, BirdLife will support a variety of pilot projects ranging from the re-introduction of the White-winged Guan into Chaparri and Laquipampa (where it had been extirpated), habitat restoration in Pomacochas (one of the few sites in the world for the Marvelous Spatuletail), and the construction of an interpretative centre to raise local awareness of the Long-whiskered Owlet (one of the rarest and most secretive owls in the Americas).

Local community engagement and support is critical to the project's success. So to address the needs of communities in and adjacent to the IBAs, BirdLife with support from the Birdfair, has created a fund to support activities that promote alternative practices that are less harmful to the habitat and species of these sites.

Fuel spill on Chilean coast


On 31 October at 01:00 AM, a cargo vessel ironically named EIDER, registered in Hong Kong, came aground on the rocky shores of Antofagasta City in northern Chile. A large amount of diesel was discharged into the sea, along with heavy mechanical lubricant hydrocarbons.

Around 7 km of coastal shore has been directly impacted by the resulting oil slick. The Chilean authorities have been preventing oil entering small bays known as "caletas", using floating booms.

Working with volunteers of the Wild Fauna Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre of the University of Antofagasta, a number of stricken seabirds and several migratory Franklin Gulls were captured, although access to the birds proved difficult. In addition at least 80 oiled Brown Pelicans, several Gray, Band-tailed and Kelp Gulls, and Red-legged and Neotropic Cormorants have been sighted, but have not been rescued. Peruvian Boobies are regularly feeding within the affected are but none have been recovered to date. Green Turtles Chelonia mydas were among the other significantly affected wildlife. Further casualties are expected.

Contingency action undertaken by the Chilean Navy to date has been limited to the use of floating booms and the application of dispersant and degreaser solutions, which while reducing oil at the surface has resulted in spreading it throughout the water column.

This stretch of coast is of global importance for Humboldt Penguins, Peruvian Boobies, Brown Pelicans, various endemic gull and tern species as well as three species of cormorant (Guanay, Neotropic and Red-legged Cormorant).

For further information please contact Carlos Guerra Correa, Director of the Wild Fauna Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and CREA (Regional Center for Environmental Education, University of Antofagasta, Chile),

BirdLife covers Brazil’s Atlantic Forest with chocolate


BirdLife has received US$2 million of European Union funding for its programme to restore the Atlantic Forest in Brazil’s Bahia region. The project combines forest conservation with long-term poverty reduction, aiming to produce shade-grown organic cacao to meet growing international demand for environment-friendly chocolate.

The Atlantic Forest once covered 1 million km2 of Brazil, but has been reduced to isolated fragments, particularly in the north-east where only 1-2% of the original habitat remains. Most of what survives is in southern Bahia, and is largely unprotected.

The project area includes two Important Bird Areas (IBAs), the Una Biological Reserve and Serra das Lontras. These IBAs fall within Brazil’s Central Biodiversity Corridor, an area of high endemic biodiversity. A large number of endemic, globally threatened bird species occur within the region.

Bahia is the primary cacao (cocoa) growing region in Brazil. The project aims to restore the traditional cabruca method, which uses the shade of native forest trees to protect the crop.

"The multi-layer structure of cabruca mimics natural forests, and creates buffers and biological corridors between fragments of Bahia’s remaining Atlantic Forest." —Jaqueline Goerck, BirdLife in Brazil

Most of the two million people of the region depend on agriculture, but following a drop in world cacao prices in the 1980s, cabruca was progressively abandoned.

"As farmers convert to slash-and-burn agriculture, or environmentally destructive and economically unproven alternatives such as coffee and pasture, the remaining forest is being lost without any lasting benefits to the rural poor," Jaqueline Goerck of SaveBrasil (BirdLife in Brazil) explained. "With an upturn in the cacao market, the rejuvenation of cabruca lands using organic agroforestry offers an alternative source of sustainable income for the forest/farming communities."

The scheme will lead to an increase in protected forest, since organic certification requires growers to preserve or restore at least 20% of the forest habitat. The project will promote the creation of Reservas Particulares do Patrimônio Natural (Natural Heritage Private Reserves) in the Serra das Lontras-Una forest region.

The project will investigate and develop markets for cacao and other organic agroforestry products, and provide a local base for expansion of organic cacao-growing in southern Bahia and beyond.

Serra das Lontras is home to a number of globally threatened species of birds including the Bahia Tyrannulet Phylloscartes beckeri and the Pink-legged Graveteiro Acrobatornis fonsecai (both discovered in the 1990s), as well as two completely new species still awaiting formal description.
This project has been developed in partnership with the local NGO, IESB (Instituto de Estudos Socio-Ambientais do Sul da Bahia), who have been working in the region to increase organic cacao production and numbers of officially protected areas.

Two-thirds of Argentina's IBAs are unprotected

Aves Argentinas (Birdlife in Argentina) has today launched the country's first national inventory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) during its 11th Annual Ornithological Meeting held in the Buenos Aires Natural Science Museum.

Argentina has a large variety of habitats ranging from the High Andes, to tropical rainforests and glaciers. A team of almost 200 ornithologists and volunteers identified 273 Important Bird Areas covering 12% of this large country and forming a vital network for birds and other biodiversity.

Worryingly however, around two-thirds (64%) of these sites are not included in Argentina's protected areas network.

Key Andean wildlife sites under threat


The most comprehensive inventory to date of some of South America's globally important areas for birds and biodiversity reveals that more than half have no legal designation.

Important Bird Areas in the Tropical Andes, published today by BirdLife International and Conservation International, identifies 455 sites that cover 17% of the region's total land area, of which 250 (55%) are unprotected.

An astonishing 2,681 bird species - more than a quarter of the world's total - are found in the five tropical Andean countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Such diversity occurs because of the great contrasts in habitats, which range from snow capped mountain peaks and the high Andean Puna to rich humid lowland rainforests of the Amazon, dry tropical forests and scrub and marine habitats. The area also supports 180 species of North American migratory birds.

"We believe that the Tropical Andes IBA inventory provides a sound basis for the development of national conservation strategies and protected areas planning. Experience in other regions has highlighted the vital role that IBAs play in both conserving a wealth of other plants and animals as well as providing sustainable resources for local communities." - Ian Davidson, Head of BirdLife's Americas Division

An estimated 60,000 plants are also known from the region, as well as 686 mammals (208 of them endemic) and 1,383 amphibians (1,009 of them endemic) - all this in just 3% of the world's landmass.

The inventory warns that 201 of these species (13%) are threatened with extinction unless these vital areas are adequately protected and managed. 23 of these are Critically Endangered, requiring immediate conservation action.

The book has been a major scientific undertaking. Over the last eight years, around 600 ornithologists and volunteers have been involved in gathering data from the five countries. The end result is a network of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) that covers 17% of the land area including all the region's major biomes.

First curassow sighting for 36 years


Earlier this year, a team from Asociacion Armonía (BirdLife in Bolivia) saw one and heard three more Southern Helmeted Curassows Crax unicornis koepckeae in the Sira mountains of central Peru; the first time the distinctive endemic Peruvian race of this Endangered species has been seen since 1969.

An environmental awareness project, supported by the Nuttall Ornithological Club Charles Blake Fund Grant, has informed local people about their unique bird and T-shirts and school notebooks have been distributed that depict a curassow painting by Waldo Huaman along with the words "Cuidemos al Piuri porque está desapareciendo. Sólo vive en los cerros de El Sira - Peru. Nuestros hijos también quieren conocerlo." ["Protect Piuri (the curassow's local name) because it is disappearing. It only lives in Sira Mountains - Peru. Our children also want to know it."]

Local people reported hunting the curassow in the past, but there was genuine enthusiasm to protect their special bird now they appreciated its global significance. The team hopes to develop a long-term conservation project in the Sira mountains, to continue their awareness work, educate local people about sustainable use of natural resources, and contract a team of park guards, and will return to the area this October thanks to a grant from Sweden's Club 300.

Longline fishing threatens Galapagos


Proposals to start longline fishing in the Galapagos could have a drastic impact on the number of globally threatened Waved Albatrosses which breed on the islands. The Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata is officially listed by BirdLife as Vulnerable, primarily due to deaths caused by longline fisheries off the coast of Peru.

While it is possible to limit the impacts of longline fishing on seabird populations by adopting damage-limitation measures, such as setting the lines at night or below the water's surface, this requires a serious commitment by governments and fisheries management bodies and has only been achieved in a handful of fisheries worldwide.

The Government of Ecuador (which is responsible for Galapagos) is a party to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP), and as such, has a duty to protect the conservation status of albatrosses and petrels.

"It would be a crime to allow longline fishing to decimate populations of many marine species, particularly the seabirds, sharks and turtles that would be killed if longline fishing is allowed to start unhindered in one of the world's most unique and exotic environments." - Ben Sullivan, BirdLife Global Seabird Programme Co-ordinator

Trials of longline fishing in the Galapagos last year have apparently shown extremely high levels of 'bycatch', particularly sharks and turtles, for which there are currently very few proven avoidance measures beyond reducing the amount of fishing.

If longline fishing needs to progress for social reasons it should only do so under stringent conditions to ensure the adoption of best practice mitigation measures and control of how and where longline fishing is allowed.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World News archive. |  Bird News archive for South America

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