World Bird News April 2013

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Nesting site of Endemic, Endangered Clarke’s Weaver found!

Dark-backed Weaver (Ploceus bicolor) male

Clarke’s Weavers, Ploceus golandi, are only found in Kilifi County, Kenya. They live in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, and in Dakatcha Woodland to the north. Clarke’s Weavers are usually in small flocks, feeding on insects and fruits in forests of Brachystegia spiciformis. Their nesting site had never been found ….until now. Monitoring teams from Nature Kenya and Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group, a site support group working with Nature Kenya, made the discovery after years of searching.

A team comprising Fleur Ng’weno, Albert Baya, Julius Mwambire, Japhet Garama, Kazungu Thuva, Samuel Kenga, Samson Katisho, Samson Barisa, Jonathan Kalama, Maxwel Issa, Annet Sifa, Faith Mbago and George Odera, first found a flock of Clarke’s Weavers in a seasonal wetland within a grassy glade on January 6.

Not wanting to disturb the birds, the team could not see any nests. On March 23, 2013, the team of Fleur Ng’weno, Jonathan Mwachongo, Patrick Changawa, Julius Mwambire, Japhet Garama, Kazungu Thuva, Samuel Kenga, Samson Katisho and Peter Wario found a larger flock of Clarke’s Weavers in a different seasonal wetland about 7 km away. It was an area of grasses and sedges the size of a football field, surrounded by trees and bushes.

Clarke’s Weavers, males and females, were perching in the sedges and flying back and forth. The brownish, rounded shapes of nests could be seen. One male was weaving more sedge strips onto a nest. It was the breeding site! Over 700 Clarke’s Weavers were in the small seasonal wetland. The bird’s total population is currently estimated to be between 2000 to 4000.

Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group (DWCG), with support from Nature Kenya, is taking active steps to protect this first known breeding site. DWCG members visited the area the same week to talk to local elders, and informed government representatives. When people living near the seasonal wetland realize the importance of these birds, we hope they will take steps to see the wetland and forest are conserved.

Plan to save New Zealand seabirds heralds changes to fishing practises

Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) is welcoming the release of a government-approved statement of intent to save native seabirds, including endangered albatrosses and petrels, from being killed by commercial and non-commercial fishing activity.

The National Plan of Action for Seabirds (NPOAS) has been released by the Ministry for Primary Industries. Forest & Bird was part of the stakeholders’ committee that formulated the NPOAS, along with representatives of the fishing industry.The latest assessment estimates that over 15,000 seabirds die annually from coming into contact with commercial fishing operations inside New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone alone.

Six species in the new risk assessment are considered to be at “very high risk” from fishing activity, including the Flesh-footed Shearwater.

“Forest & Bird is pleased that the Minister for Primary Industries has decided that an initial priority is to create a species-specific action plan for the black petrel. This species only breeds on Great Barrier and Little Barrier islands, and is at risk from commercial and recreational fishers, particularly in the Hauraki Gulf,” says Forest & Bird’s Seabird Advocate, Karen Baird.

Forest & Bird believes it should be standard practice for bottom longliners to use weighted lines, which quickly sink beyond the reach of diving birds. Forest & Bird says it is also important that fish waste and unused baits are not thrown overboard while fishing, so as to reduce the risk of birds swallowing hooks.

“Most New Zealanders don’t realise that we have more native seabirds than landbirds that breed only in New Zealand,” says Karen Baird. “Every one of New Zealand’s 10 endemic albatross species is under severe threat from the fishing industry. These birds are as unique to this country as Tui and Kakapo, and New Zealanders would want to see them protected as much as is possible.

“It should also be remembered that for every albatross or petrel that dies there’s a real chance that a chick will also die in a nest, waiting for one of its parents to return with food,” Karen Baird says.

“I am heartened that the industry and the Government have finally agreed that we have a major problem. Now that the plan has been approved we need some action.

“There is a lot of hard work to come, to make sure that the plan’s goals, to protect seabirds, are met.

“This will require everyone involved in the industry to start acting responsibly, and start doing what is needed. If we don’t, we will lose a lot more of what makes New Zealand such a special place. But I am cautiously optimistic,” Karen Baird says.

Celebrate World Penguin Day -and the world penguin tracking database

April 25th is World Penguin Day, possibly because this marks the start of the return of Adelie Penguins to their breeding grounds, possibly because it provides an excuse to dress up in tuxedos and celebrate these popular and endearing birds.

Whatever the reason, penguins need all the public support they can get. Of the 18 species, 15 are considered globally threatened or Near Threatened. Work to conserve them is hampered by the patchy nature of the data on where penguins go when away from their breeding grounds. To fill in these important gaps, BirdLife International and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research have joined the British Antarctic Survey to compile a “tracking database” on six penguin species. The project is funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative.

There have been numerous penguin tracking studies, but the results have never been brought together in one place. The database will collate existing data on Chinstrap Pygoscelis antarcticus and King Aptenodytes patagonicus, Adélie Pygoscelis adeliae and Gentoo Pygoscelis papua (both Near Threatened), Macaroni Eudyptes chrysolophus and Southern Rockhopper Eudyptes chrysocome (both globally Vulnerable) penguins in the Weddell and Scotia Seas of Antarctica, as well as the waters around South Georgia.

BirdLife already manages the world’s largest seabird tracking database. The Global Procellariiform Tracking Database, which brought together the work of all the world’s experts on albatrosses and petrels, has been crucial in informing marine management decisions, particularly in relation to longline fisheries.

Penguins are excellent indicators of key marine habitats. The places where they forage are, generally speaking, also important for other marine predators like seals and whales. Once identified, areas on the high seas that prove to be important for penguins can be added to BirdLife’s directory of marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs). In turn, they may be added to the list of ecologically or biologically significant areas for conservation (EBSAs), as candidates for marine Protected Areas.

“Some penguin species have undergone declines of up to 80% in recent years”, said Ben Lascelles, BirdLife’s Global Marine IBA Officer. “Better protection of their marine habitats is vital to build resilience into hard-hit populations. By bringing the existing penguin tracking data together and identifying candidate areas for protection, this project should be able to deliver major bangs-for-the-buck in marine conservation terms”.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2013 |  World Bird News April 2013

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