World Bird News April 2010

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South Atlantic becomes more seabird-friendly

South Atlantic becomes more seabird-friendly

16-04-2010

BirdLife International and WWF South Africa recently achieved a major conservation success by improving the methods used by commercial fishermen in the south-east Atlantic Ocean to avoid killing seabirds.
Seabirds, particularly albatrosses, are becoming threatened and at a faster rate than all other groups of birds. By far the biggest threat faced is death on longline fishing hooks.
"A single demersal <Actinic:Variable Name = 'seabed'/> vessel may use a line extending for 10 km, from which can hang as many as 20,000 hooks", said Dr Ross Wanless - Southern Africa Coordinator for BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme. "Globally we estimate that around 300,000 seabirds grab baited-hooks and drown each year".
The south-east Atlantic Ocean is a particularly important area where large numbers of seabirds and commercial fisheries overlap; fisheries which are managed by The South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO).
SEAFO covers a vital area for seabirds. Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos and Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys are just two of the thirteen Globally Threatened seabird species found within SEAFO's region.
Working alongside WWF South Africa, BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme recently reviewed SEAFO's seabird conservation measures, and presented a number of improvements to result in fewer birds being killed. "Using BirdLife's Seabird Mitigation Fact-sheets, we suggested ways in which SEAFO's conservation measures could meet current best practice", said Ross.

BirdLife's freely-available Seabird Mitigation Fact-sheets describe a range of potential mitigation measures to reduce seabird bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries. The sheets assess the effectiveness of each measure, highlight their limitations and strengths, and make best practice recommendations for their effective adoption. They are designed to help decision-makers choose the most appropriate measures for their longline and trawl fisheries.
SEAFO subsequently accepted the BirdLife / WWF recommendations, and have now incorporated them into their new seabird conservation measures. "We were delighted", noted Ross. "Thousands of seabirds could be saved each year as a result of this decision. SEAFO now sets the gold standard for other regional fisheries management organisations around the world to follow".
If you want to download BirdLife's Seabird Mitigation Fact-sheets, please Click here

Western Siem Pang - Land of the Giants

Western Siem Pang - Land of the Giants

13-04-2010

Western Siem Pang in Cambodia is one of the few sites in the world that supports five Critically Endangered bird species. It is perhaps best known as the home of the world's largest population of White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davidsoni. However, its importance for another species of ibis is now becoming clear.
A recent BirdLife survey team recorded an astonishing 16 Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea over a ten day period during a rapid survey of the western sector of the site.
"At the height of the dry season one would expect a greater encounter rate as Giant Ibis along with other wildlife become concentrated at seasonal wetlands (trapeangs) in the forest and grasslands, but to record so many birds in such a short period from such a small area suggests the population at Western Siem Pang is much larger than we previously thought", said Jonathan Eames, Programme Manager for BirdLife International in Indochina.
This is good news for Giant Ibis, Cambodia's national bird, which has an estimated global population of only 200 individuals. The global range of Giant Ibis has shrunk and it now only occurs in southern Laos and northern Cambodia.
Giant Ibis has declined as a result of hunting, wetland drainage for agriculture, and deforestation. The destruction of dry dipterocarp forest and the associated wetlands in Thailand and Vietnam during the 20th Century, lead to its extinction in those countries and the same processes continue in Cambodia.
It relies on seasonal pools, which in the past were created by the now much depleted megafauna. The species appears to be very sensitive to human disturbance, particularly during the dry season when birds are concentrated around available waterholes, and this is almost certainly the greatest threat, rendering much apparantly suitable habitat unusable.
"The Giant Ibis shuns people", continued Eames, "it is a magnificent bird, that with its evocative call, will only be saved from global extinction when more people recognise that the economic values of the dry dipterocarp forests of Cambodia extend beyond cassava plantations and poorly conceived biofuel projects." Birdlife International



A Ruddy Long Way to Fly

A Ruddy Long Way to Fly

09-04-2010

A technological breakthrough has enabled researchers from the Australasian Wader Studies Group - a special interest group of Birds Australia [BirdLife Partner] - to study the amazing migratory routes of Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres. Four birds fitted with ultra-light geolocators took just six days to fly from Australia to Taiwan before continuing on to northern Siberia. One bird then completed its return trip back to Australia via the Central Pacific - a total round-trip of 27,000 km!
Ruddy Turnstone is a small, highly-migratory wading bird with a large global range. It breeds in northern latitudes in open tundra habitat often close to water. Outside the breeding season it is found along coastlines, particularly on rocky or stony shores. It is the only species of turnstone in much of its range and is often called Turnstone.
"We have been amazed at the feats of Bar-tailed Godwit tracked by satellite from Australia and New Zealand to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic and back", said Dr Clive Minton from the Australasian Wader Studies Group. "Unfortunately the size of the satellite transmitters, and the batteries required to power them, precluded their use on smaller shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstone".
The researchers therefore decided to use new 1 gram light-sensor geolocators - supplied by British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England - and fitted them to eight Ruddy Turnstone spending their non-breeding season in south-east Australia in April 2009. Four geolocators were eventually retrieved from birds between 20 October 2009 and 8 January 2010.

"All four birds flew 7,600 km non-stop to Taiwan in just over six days, with three apparently travelling together", said Dr Clive Minton. They then flew on to northern Siberia, following separate paths and stopping over at different sites. "By early August, two had moved to Korea and south-eastern Siberia, respectively, but another bird returned to Australia via the Central Pacific!"
The Pacific bird spent 26 July -15 October on the Aleutian Islands before flying 6,200 km across the Pacific in four days to Kiribati, and then it made another four-day, 5,000-km flight to eastern Australia. "Five days later it was back in south-east Australia having completed a 27,000-km round trip", added Ken Gosbell - Chairman of the Australasian Wader Studies Group.
On some of the longer flights it was possible for the team to calculate the flight speed achieved. For the flights from Australia to Taiwan and the flight back from the Kiribati to Australia the average speed was 50 to 55 km per hour. "A higher speed of 65 km per hour was achieved during the flight from Alaska to Kiribati, indicating possible assistance by tail winds", noted Ken Gosbell.
Spurred by these exciting results from the initial trials of geolocators a further 60 have been applied by researchers from the Australasian Wader Studies Group, the Victorian Wader Study Group and Deakin University. Geolocators have also been applied to 30 Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii and four Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata.
"The 2010–11 wader season will be eagerly anticipated as we retrieve these geolocators from returned waders”, said Professor Marcel Klaassen of Deakin University. “These data will elucidate the physiological and ecological constraints these birds are facing during migration, hopefully adding to the protection of the many Australasian migratory waders that are currently facing dramatic declines”.Birdlife International



Preventing Extinctions Programme

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