World Bird News April 2008

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2008 |  World Bird News April 2008

BirdLife condemns Cypriot government's spring hunting endorsement

BirdLife International and its national Partner BirdLife Cyprus (BirdLife in Cyprus) strongly opposed today’s decision by the Cypriot government to allow spring shooting of Carrion Crow Corvus corone and Black-billed Magpie Pica pica. This is viewed as a backdoor allowing hunters to shoot European Turtle-doves Streptopelia turtur. The EU Birds Directive prohibits the shooting of wild birds in spring to ensure they get a chance to breed and raise their young. Last week the European Court of Justice ordered Malta not to open a spring hunting season for European Turtle-dove and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix.
In today’s announcement, the Cypriot government justified the decision by referring to the damage Carrion Crows and Black-billed Magpies cause to crops and livestock. BirdLife however, stressed that no evidence was produced for such damage, and that instead the government tried to provide a cover for illegal hunting of European Turtle-dove and other species protected during their spring migration such as European Bee-eater Merops apiaster and Common Quail.
BirdLife International and Birdlife Cyprus informed the European Commission when the Cyprus plans were announced. BirdLife has today filed a formal complaint, highlighting a clear breach of the EU Birds Directive.Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International commented: “This announcement of the Cypriot government is a post-election reward for the national hunting lobby and a provocation to the European Union. Cyprus, like any other Member State, needs to comply with EU law. If migratory birds are put at risk in such a way, many will be shot on their journey to Central and Northern Europe”.
When Cyprus gave permission for the spring shooting of European Turtle-dove last year, the European Commission warned that it was infringing the EU Birds Directive – which was followed by a promise of the Cypriot government not to open spring hunting of European Turtle-doves again.
Fulfilling a pre-election promise made to hunters, the government this year is going ahead under the disguise of shooting crows and magpies. It is allowing six days of shooting (May 1, 3, 4, 7, 10 and 11 2008) across the whole country at a time when European Turtle-doves are migrating and crows are unlikely to do any crop damage.
The shooting of crows for population control purposes, although not favoured by BirdLife, is not uncommon. In Cyprus it has been allowed during June and July since 2004. This is a time when European Turtle-doves are not migrating, and permission was confined to restricted areas.
“There has been no change in the birds’ behaviour in Cyprus since last year. Therefore if June and July were good enough for controlling the birds last year, and the years before that, it should good enough for 2008”, said Martin Hellicar, Executive Manager of BirdLife Cyprus.

WOW! New website helps flyway project take off...

The Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project has launched its new website. The pages give an insight into the largest international wetland and waterbird conservation initiative ever to take place in the African-Eurasian region.
WOW is fostering international collaboration along the African-Eurasian flyways, building capacity and demonstrating best practice in the conservation and wise-use of wetlands.
“Waterbird migrations are presently underway across much of Europe, as birds head back from Africa to their northern breeding grounds. The WOW project is helping to safeguard this amazing sight for future generations to enjoy”, said Dr Leon Bennun, Director of Science, Policy and Information at BirdLife International.The new website gives visitors an overview of the different components of the project. It provides information on the Critical Site Network Tool and the Flyway Conservation Training Framework. Furthermore, the website also contains pages for demonstration projects being carried out in 12 African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) countries.
Demonstration projects focus on critical issues in wetland management. These include community mobilization, management planning, ecotourism, wetland restoration, control of invasive species, transboundary management, awareness-raising and alternative livelihoods.
WOW is a joint effort between Wetlands International, BirdLife International, the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Environment Programme, the Secretariat of the AEWA, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, the United Nations Office for Project Services and a range of donors and local partners along the African-Eurasian Flyways.
The WOW Project Website can be found at

World Migratory Bird Day 10-11 May 2008

World Migratory Bird Day 10-11 May 2008


Are you fascinated by the phenomenon of bird migration? Are you worried about the threats migratory birds are facing? Do you want to help raise awareness for migratory birds or are you already planning a bird-related activity, such as a bird watching excursion, a presentation or similar?
Then join hundreds of others around the world in the upcoming World Migratory Bird Day taking place on 10-11 May.
World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is a global initiative devoted to promoting migratory birds and their conservation worldwide. The theme for this year is ‘Migratory Birds – Ambassadors for Biodiversity’.WMBD is a commemorative event celebrated throughout the world, and strongly counts on the support and contributions of interested individuals and organisations. By registering your planned activity on the WMBD website, you can help promote this global event - linking your own event to the many other activities taking place around the world that weekend.
Registering is simple and it only takes a few minutes.
Take a look at the WMBD website to learn more about the day and how to register your activity online. BirdLife International are a supporting partner of WMBD.

Critically Endangered seabird losing its pulling power

A study into one of the world’s rarest seabirds provides knowledge that could help avoid extinction. Molecular analysis of the Critically Endangered Magenta Petrel Pterodroma magentae (also known as the Chatham Island Taiko) discovered that 95% of non-breeding adults were male. This suggests that critically low population levels may be causing male birds difficulty in attracting a mate. Their calls are too spread out to attract the infrequent females which pass by. Conservationists are planning to increase the male Magenta Petrel’s pulling power by creating a new breeding colony within a predator-proof fence.
Magenta Petrel was rediscovered in 1978 on Chatham Island, New Zealand, 111 years after it was first collected at sea. The species has undergone an estimated historical decline of 80% over 45 years. The primary cause is introduced species – such as pigs, cats, Weka and rodents - which predate the petrels and compete for their nesting burrows. There are now thought to be between 8 and 15 breeding pairs left in the world.Male and female Magenta Petrels look extremely similar, and are difficult to distinguish by sight alone. Scientists collected blood samples from almost the entire known living population over a 20 year period. This allowed the team to distinguish gender accurately using DNA sexing techniques.The sex-ratio of males to females was approximately even in petrel chicks and breeding adults. However, 95% of non-breeding birds were found to be male. This finding suggests that unpaired males may be having difficulty in attracting females to burrows.
Conservationists are helping to increase the petrel’s density by focusing birds within the Sweetwater Secure Breeding Site. This is being achieved by translocating chicks, and by using calls to attract adult petrels to the refuge. Eight chicks were successfully moved and fledged last year, and The Chatham Island Taiko Trust was established in 1998 to provide legal status to the continuing work.
Scientists are hoping to use knowledge of male behaviour traits to make the plan work. “It has been found in other petrel species – such as Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus, Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, and Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans - that males return most frequently to the site where they were reared as a chick”, commented Ben Lascelles BirdLife’s Marine IBA Research Assistant. By using the DNA sexing technique to slightly favour male chicks for translocation, the team hope to increase the numbers of birds returning as adult breeders to the refuge.

Shorebird staging-sites in short supply...

Migratory shorebirds, and the wetland habitats they require to complete their annual journeys, are under threat. These are the stark results of a Biological Conservation paper which reports migratory populations wintering in south-eastern Australia have plummeted by 79% over a 24 year period. “Our grandchildren will not be able to share in the excitement of marvelling at the migratory feats of shorebirds if the current decline continues”, said Dr Graeme Hamilton (CEO Birds Australia, BirdLife in Australia).The key cause is thought to be loss of suitable feeding habitat at staging sites, where birds refuel along their epic flights. "The wetlands and resting places that they rely on for food are shrinking virtually all the way along their migration path, from Australia through Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and up through Asia into China and Russia", stated Professor Richard Kingsford (Biological Conservation paper co-author).
The news comes as nearly two million migratory shorebirds are gathering on the other side of Australia in what has been described as one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles. The birds are preparing to make an annual flight along the ‘East Asian-Australasian Flyway’ – a route which passes through 22 countries.Many birds have already set off - one of which is a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica carrying a small transmitter. The GPS tag allows researchers to follow its route from Broom in north-western Australia as it travels to breeding grounds in Alaska. The bird 'H8' was last sighted on 11 April entering the Yellow Sea in China, having already travelled around 5,000 km.
The Yellow Sea provides rich feeding habitat for more than three million migratory birds annually, and is a key refuelling stop. A total of 36 species pause their journey here to rebuild their energy reserves.
The Yellow Sea is also home to 600 million people in China and South Korea - about 10% of the world’s population. The demands of this growing human population are progressively destroying the tidal feeding grounds, crucial for migratory shorebirds.
The most important shorebird site within the Yellow Sea – Saemangeum – is currently being reclaimed for development, putting millions of migratory birds under threat. The 40,100 ha construction project on the west coast of South Korea involves damming the estuaries of the Mangyeung and Dongjin Rivers with a vast 33-km long seawall.
“Our international agreements relating to shorebird conservation (Ramsar Convention), the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA), the China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention) do not seem to be working”, warned Dr Hamilton.

Communities unite to protect White-necked Picathartes

A survey of the Western Area Peninsula Forest (WAPF) in Sierra Leone has discovered two new breeding colonies of the Vulnerable White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus, in addition to the 16 sites already known.
The survey was part of a one-year project carried out by volunteers from the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL, BirdLife in Sierra Leone), the University of Sierra Leone, and the government’s Forestry Division, with help from local communities.
The project, funded by the Disney World Conservation Fund (DWCF), also established a network of trained wardens in villages surrounding the WAPF reserve.
White-necked Picathartes is a flagship for bird and habitat conservation in Africa. Its extant population is restricted to the fragmented Upper Guinea forest in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana.
In Sierra Leone, numbers are estimated at 1,400, with populations in forest reserves close to the minimum for long-term viability, and numbers are apparently stable or declining very slowly. The survey established that the number of nests in the WAPF colonies had fallen by 20 percent in the ten years from 1997 to 2007.
Much of the project work was carried out by members of one of Africa’s longest established Site Support Groups, PAGE, the Peninsula Action Group for the Environment. “This group commands considerable respect and recognition among the local communities,” said CSSL volunteer Arnold Okoni-Williams. “Through PAGE’s influence and facilitation, the project team was able to plan and execute project activities with minimal difficulty at all village levels.”
A number of awareness-raising seminars and training sessions were held in the villages around the WAPF, which Okoni-Williams says has resulted in a common understanding and a strong commitment to conserve the species and its forest home.
The major achievements of the project include:
A complete database with details of geographic locations and ecological status of the 18 known sites, and population data. This is being used for monitoring and management purposes.
A wardening system around all known Picathartes colonies through a network of trained SSG members in 11 communities around the forest reserve.
Over 1,000 local people are now aware of the status and conservation needs of the White-necked Picathartes through village seminars, posters and brochures, and radio programmes.
Capacity of the project team, PAGE and local communities have been enhanced for sustainable site-level conservation initiatives.
“We are grateful to DWCF for their timely intervention to contribute to saving one the most isolated populations of White-necked Picathartes, for the sake of posterity and overall global biodiversity conservation,” Okoni-Williams added. “We continue to rely on their support on this and other potential conservation programmes in the future.”
The ‘International Action Plan for White-necked Picathartes’, developed by the BirdLife International Africa Partnership, sets out to address the conservation needs of the species through habitat protection and local partnership development, with the ultimate aim of stabilizing and/or increasing the population among range states.

Biodiversity conservation works... but more is needed

Conservation efforts have slowed the rate that species are slipping towards extinction, argues a paper published online today in Conservation Biology by scientists from BirdLife International and Cambridge University. Direct conservation action has saved 16 bird species from extinction since 1994 and has substantially slowed the rate of population decline for an additional 33 Critically Endangered bird species.
“Conservation action can benefit species that are on the brink of being lost forever”, stated Dr Stuart Butchart (BirdLife's Global Species Programme Coordinator) and co-author of the paper. “However, efforts have been less targeted towards, or less effective for, moderately threatened species”, Butchart added.
The study focused upon the rate at which bird species of global conservation concern – those listed by BirdLife International on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List - moved between different categories over time, from the lowest threat (Least Concern) through to the most severe (Critically Endangered) and then to Extinct. The research showed that conservation initiatives - such as habitat protection, eradication of invasive species and control of hunting pressure – have effectively slowed, or even reversed, the rate at which some of the most threatened birds have moved towards extinction.The Endangered Norfolk Island Parakeet Cyanoramphus cookii is an example of an extinction averted. Forest clearance had reduced habitat upon which the birds relied, and competition with other birds and predation by rats had taken a severe toll. By 1994 the global population of this colourful bird was estimated to be 32-37 birds, including just four breeding females, all found on the tiny Norfolk Island (Australia). Nest site protection, a captive breeding programme and control of predators resulted in the population growing to between 200 and 300 individuals within ten years.
The parakeet success story echoes the message of the Conservation Biology paper. Conservation action has succeeded in moving more species from Critically Endangered to Endangered than have become extinct.
Interestingly, an analysis focusing on Australia as a case-study showed that the positive impacts of conservation action were even more marked than at the global scale. “This probably reflects Australia’s well-developed and better-funded conservation infrastructure compared to other parts of the world” commented lead author Dr Mike Brooke (Cambridge University, UK).
The message is clear. When a species is on the edge of extinction, focussed conservation action and adequate funding can make a big difference. However, many species still face imminent extinction. Step forward the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

A total of 189 bird species remain classified as Critically Endangered – the highest category of extinction risk. The BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme aims to raise £19 million over the next five years to improve the fortunes of these birds by recruiting BirdLife Species Champions. “We have had a tremendous response already with Species Champions coming forward from all walks of life – everybody can help!”, said Jim Lawrence (BirdLife’s Species Champion Development Manager).
With a global network of national partner organisations to implement the necessary conservation action, underpinned by scientific analysis showing the successes that result, the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme is making real difference.

Avitourism 'takes off' in South Africa


Avitourism (birding’s ecotourism) is proving to be one of BirdLife South Africa’s most powerful conservation tools. Tourism has outperformed all other sectors in South Africa’s economy, with two popular ‘Birding Routes’ generating an estimated US$6.4 million annually for local people. As a result, BirdLife South Africa has announced the development of six new Birding Routes in the Western Cape and Cape Town areas.
Birding Routes provide tourists with suggested itineraries, trained local guides and birder-friendly accommodation within areas of spectacular avian diversity. This successful combination is providing sustainable conservation, increased bird awareness and vital employment opportunities for local communities.
More than 140 guides have been trained to date, creating a new generation of conservationists in some of the country’s poorest areas. The benefits speak for themselves, with many guides now speaking of the value of birds – both economically and ecologically. “I am taking bird guiding as my career path. Not only has my family benefited from bird guiding, but the whole of Nyoni village now thinks twice about birds. I am fully involved with the community conservation programme”, said Shusisio Magagula (Amatikulu).
Community projects often fail in their early years due to a lack of support and resources for marketing, managing and fundraising. Part of the Birding Routes success has been setting up of local offices which facilitate joint marketing, bookings and support of the guides, whilst also providing a single point of information and resources for the guide’s clientele.
The new routes will afford tourists guided-access to over 600 bird species, of which 28 are endemic to the Western Cape, such as Cape Siskin Serinus totta, Orange-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia violacea and Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer. A two-week trip could be expected to yield in excess of 350 species.
“The Birding Route system has worked very well in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, but the Western Cape’s wonderful variety of birds have enjoyed less of a profile than its other assets such as whales and wine. We’d like to see this change, and these routes could help to achieve it”, said Dr Anton Odendal (BirdLife SA project manager).
By expanding the number of Birding Routes, BirdLife South Africa is proving just how effective avitourism projects can be. Working alongside local people, the routes are successfully linking social, economic and environmental needs – crucial characteristics of effective sustainable development.

Lesser White-fronted Goose shot in Greece


A serious case of poaching of one of Europe's most threatened bird species has been confirmed in Greece. An adult male Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus was found dead at Lake Kerkini - a protected area in Greece where hunting is strictly prohibited. An autopsy confirmed that the bird was killed with a shotgun. The species is protected under the EU Birds Directive, and by national legislation within Greece.
The bird - known as Mánnu - had previously been individually colour-marked by scientists close to its breeding area in northern Norway. The main part of the Fennoscandian population winters in Greece, in the protected areas at Lake Kerkini and in the Evros Delta.
Loss of one adult male represents about 5% of all Fennoscandian breeding males. "This is dramatic, because loss of adult reproductive birds has a significant negative impact on the recruitment of the small population", says Dr Ingar Jostein Øien (BirdLife Norway).
"So much effort has been invested in the conservation of the species in Norway and internationally, and now it seems that poaching is jeopardizing our efforts. This is the second bird confirmed shot of seven individuals colour-marked. In 2006, another adult male was shot in Russia".
As an ultimate effort to rescue the species, various conservation actions are being implemented in Norway, Finland, Estonia, Hungary and Greece as part of the EU LIFE project entitled: ‘Conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose on the European migration route’ lead by WWF Finland.
“Greece should be a safe winter refuge for the species and be contributing to its rescue. However, the inability to prevent illegal hunting even in protected areas, the lack of law enforcement, and the lack of training for hunters make the species vulnerable to hunting, which is the main cause of the population decline”, said Petteri Tolvanen (Conservation Officer - WWF Finland).
“This is probably the most serious case of poaching in Greece in recent years and one of the most alarming cases in Europe”, commented Yannis Tsougrakis (Coordinator of the LIFE project in Greece). Greece has an obligation, based on the EU Birds Directive, to effectively protect the Lesser White-fronted Goose from poaching and accidental shooting. "In practice this will require a ban on all goose hunting at the wintering sites of Lake Kerkini and the Evros Delta”.
HOS is appealing to Greece to take immediate measures for effective wardening against poaching. In Greece, the National Action Plan for the conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose was completed by another EU LIFE project in 1999. It has never been implemented due to negligence by the Greek State.
The Greek LIFE project partner is the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS; BirdLife in Greece). In Norway, the project is being implemented by the Norwegian Ornithological Society (NOF; BirdLife in Norway) and the Directorate for Nature Management (DN).

Save the Great Cormorants of Lake Constance


Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU – BirdLife in Germany) is protesting vehemently against the planned destruction of Lake Constance’s only colony of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo.
“It is hard to believe that Freiburg local authority intends to commit such a destructive act, not only in a National Nature Reserve but especially within a European Special Protected Area (SPA)”, said Dr Andre Baumann (chairman - NABU Baden-Württemberg). “This persecution of Great Cormorants not only contradicts common sense, it also contravenes European bird protection legislation and is morally unjustifiable”. NABU is protesting to the authorities in Freiburg against the planned operations and has started an online petition.
Freiburg local authorities are planning to use searchlights to drive breeding birds from their nests during April. This will leave eggs to grow cold, and chicks to freeze to death. Experience in Brandenburg with such a massive disturbance has shown that the Great Cormorant offspring have no chance of survival.
The Great Cormorants at Lake Constance will also be shot form the first of August onwards. At that time of the year many of the young chicks will still be dependent upon their parents.
The Great Cormorants of Lake Constance became locally extinct in the 1970s. Strict conservation laws enabled the populations to re-establish. At present, over 90 pairs breed in the Radolfzeller Aachried Nature Reserve, in the western area of Lake Constance.
The colony is a cause of concern for local anglers and commercial fishermen, who have put pressure on the Freiburg local authority to drive the birds away. “The interests of a minority must not be allowed to override the rights of residents and the natural world. The persecution of Great Cormorants will ruin the reputation of the Lake Constance region as a holiday destination for nature lovers,” commented Baumann. Many other bird species like the Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, Western Marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus and the Black Kite Milvus migrans, may also suffer as a result of the searchlight attack.
Great Cormorants are accused of damage to fish stocks at Lake Constance and subsequent economic losses. These arguments lack evidence. “It has neither been proven that the Great Cormorant seriously endangers fish stocks or significantly affects the fishermen’s economic existence,” noted Manfred Lieser (chairman - NABU Radolfzell-Singen-Stockach). “Despite this, Freiburg local authority plans to erase the colony and thereby accepts the disturbance of other protected bird species in an SPA. That kind of approach calls into question the sense and purpose of legally protected areas”.
NABU is currently considering legal steps in order to stop destruction of the colony. NABU conservationists are protesting to the Freiburg authorities, and have threatened to take legal action if the “searchlight abortion” takes place. NABU has launched a protest petition on its website.
The clock is ticking - the colony is due to be destroyed this April. Please join the NABU petition and send an email to Freiburg City Council. You will find an email prepared in English and German at

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2008 |  World Bird News April 2008

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