World Bird News February 2015

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Asian songbird migrants in trouble

Asian songbird migrants in trouble

By Martin Fowlie, Mon, 16/02/2015 - 09:25

Migratory songbirds in East Asia are in trouble, according to new research. The study calls for national action and international cooperation to deal with threats, as well as more monitoring and research to help understand and protect this unique migration system.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway, running from Siberia and Alaska down to South-East Asia and Australia, supports the greatest diversity of migratory birds on the planet, with 170 long distance migrant songbirds and over 80 short distance migrants. However, it is also one of most poorly studied of the world’s major migration routes. Remarkably little is known about the populations and ecology of many of its songbird migrants, which rely on habitats along the migratory route for their survival.

Lead by scientists from the Australian National University and Sun Yat-sen University and published in BirdLife’s journal Bird Conservation International, ‘Migratory songbirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway: a review from a conservation perspective’ draws together what is known and highlights gaps where more study is urgently required.

Flyway-scale protection

The study reveals many migratory songbirds are declining in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, owing to a range of threats operating across many countries. The paper makes a strong case that both national action and international cooperation are needed for effective conservation.

“The flyways concept can help promote collaborative conservation actions between many countries”, said Becky Rush, BirdLife’s Asia Flyways Policy Officer. “More governments are recognising that conservation in their own territory is not enough and that they need to encourage protection for species throughout their migratory range”.

According to Ding Li Yong, the paper’s lead author, migratory songbirds in Asia have received less attention from conservationists compared to waterbirds even though many songbirds have lost considerable wintering habitat and are in decline. “Ecologically, these songbirds are important because they connect the ecosystems of Asia’s boreal, temperate and tropical biomes”, he said.

Small birds, large threats

Migration is tough enough for birds, and especially for small birds weighing only a few grams and needing to refuel often, so any threats that affect them along their migratory route can add up and take their toll on whole populations. Currently available evidence suggests that habitat loss and hunting are the two most significant threats on the East Asia flyway, while other threats like invasive species, climate change and collision with man-made structures can also have a big impact.

Some species, like the Vulnerable Izu Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus ijimae and Pleske’s Grasshopper-warbler Locustella pleskei are particularly at risk not just because of their small breeding ranges, but that their entire wintering ranges remain unknown to scientists, thus hampering effective conservation. The Endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola used to be abundant, but have drastically declined as large numbers are trapped annually for food in South-East Asia and southern China.’

Dealing with the threats

The study highlights ways in which these declines can be stopped. Conservation of key habitats, better protection of key breeding, migration and wintering sites, and better enforcement of national legislation will all be needed. Additionally, international and national treaties and legislations need to be extended to include migratory songbirds.

One priority identified in the paper is to expand and standardise monitoring and increase research to better understand populations and threats in more detail. This will need to target some of the most poorly known migratory songbirds in Asia, including the Vulnerable Rufous-headed Luscinia ruficeps and Black-throated Blue Robin L. obscura.

“There is a need for more monitoring, and especially more coordinated monitoring, across Asia,” said Rush. “The number of birdwatchers in Asia is increasing rapidly, and in some cases their data are already contributing to our understanding of songbird distribution and status”. One promising development is a new project which BirdLife Asia is helping to develop in China, South Korea and Japan, to promote international cooperation on the monitoring and conservation of migratory landbirds.

While data from citizen science and more formal monitoring schemes will definitely help to improve knowledge, conservation action is needed now to address the immediate threats to migratory songbirds that have already been identified.

Massive boost for BirdLife's Marine work

Massive boost for BirdLife's Marine work

by Martin Fowlie, Sat, 07/02/2015 - 14:33

BirdLife’s Marine Programme has a received a huge boost from the world’s largest event for nature.

The British Birdwatching Fair’s Tim Appleton and Martin Davies presented a record-breaking cheque for £280,000 to Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s Chief Executive at an event held at the London Wetland Centre.

The funds will be spent on ensuring that marine protected areas cover critical at-sea habitats for seabirds and other marine species, around Europe, Africa, Antarctica and the high seas.

These sites will protect critical breeding and feeding areas, as well as areas vital for seabirds on migration.

Patricia Zurita, said, “BirdLife International and our Partners working in marine protected areas are very grateful to the Birdfair. This cheque will enable us to work with national governments to create a network of areas that will conserve threatened seabirds, marine mammals, fish stocks and other species.

At the event it was also announced that the 2015 event will raise funds to reduce the scale and impact of illegal killing of migratory birds in the Eastern Mediterranean. . The aim of the project will be to reduce the scale and impact of illegal killing of migratory birds, and to improve protection and laws throughout the region.

The Eastern Mediterranean is used by hundreds of millions of migratory birds twice yearly on their migration between Europe and Africa, each spring and autumn. The Africa-Eurasia flyway is used by more than 25 species of bird facing the threat of global extinction

“Your support this year will help our partners in the Mediterranean basin tackle the illegal killing of migrant birds, addressing a key threat that our partnership has prioritised", said Zurita.

The British Birdwatching Fair is jointly organised by the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust and the RSPB. A wide range of fantastic conservation projects have been supported by Birdfair over the last 26 years..

The support from the Birdfair has enabled BirdLife to make some remarkable conservation achievements, including the creation of several new national parks. We’ve helped birds under real threat of extinction, from albatrosses to White-winged Guans.

Who will save the ugly duckling?

Who will save the ugly duckling?

By Elodie Cantaloube, Mon, 16/02/2015 - 17:11

You probably know the story about the ugly duckling. This fairy tale tells the story of a young duckling treated like an outcast by its siblings because of its strange appearance. This ugly duckling then grew into a large and majestic bird that everyone admired for its beauty... and we finally discover the secret: it was not an ugly duck but a Swan.

Just this past 16th January, Lush, the fresh handmade cosmetic brand, BirdLife Europe and its Partners in Italy (LIPU) and Spain (SEO/BirdLife) launched a campaign to defend another ‘ugly duckling’: the vulture - the largest bird that flies across European skies. It is currently under threat from Diclofenac, a veterinary anti-inflammatory that is extremely toxic to the species.

Because they are not very pretty or graceful, vultures do not enjoy great popularity. However, vultures play a crucial role in nature and provide a great service to society. These street sweepers remove, clean and recycle the remains of dead animals and by doing so prevent the spread of disease. They also save authorities and farmers a lot of money by avoiding the need for collection, burial, incineration, and disinfection.

Today, European vultures are threatened by the use of Diclofenac, especially Spain and Italy which host the most important populations of the species. The use of this drug on cattle in South-Asia is particularly threatening because it is known to be responsible for 99% decline of the region’s vulture population. Here, affected birds were poisoned after eating the carrion of animals treated with the anti-inflammatory drug.

The campaign “Who will save the ugly duckling?” aims to raise awareness about the truth around vultures and the threats they face. Lush’s stores in Spain and Italy, and the chain’s magazine and e-newsletter, will send the message to its tens of thousands of followers. An online petition was also set up, which calls upon the European Medicines Agency and the European Commission to ban the veterinary use of Diclofenac, easily replaceable with equivalent drugs not harmful to vultures or other large birds of prey.

The petition will be available for only 1 week only so please take a moment and sign now

Bay of Panama saved from destruction

“There’s no way we would have been able to get to that day by ourselves...” writes Rosabel Miró, Executive Director of Panama Audubon Society in an emotional written message to the rest of the BirdLife Partnership. “We need to heal our wounds and show to our friends that are going through similar situations like the ones we went through, that it is possible to achieve your goals. We found strength in unity.”

Panama Audubon Society (BirdLife in Panama) is celebrating after winning a hard-fought effort to reverse the Panama government’s 2012 decision to withdraw protected status for the Bay of Panama Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), a site of international importance for migratory birds. Its protected status had been pulled because of short-term economic pressure for urban and resort development, including hotels and golf courses. At the same time, regulations on mangrove cutting had also been relaxed.

The legislative bill to reinstate full protection of the Bay of Panama was signed by Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela on February 2th 2015, World Wetlands Day. The new bill also includes recognition by law that the protected area is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.
The Bay of Panama is one of five vital stopovers and wintering areas for migratory shorebirds in the Americas. The extensive mangrove forests play a vital role in supporting fisheries, filtering pollutants in runoff and protecting the City from floods and possible impacts of climate change.

“Many of the people that helped us in so many ways were at the signing ceremony”, said Panama Audubon Society’s Rosabel Miró in her correspondence. “Among those fighting shoulder to shoulder with us were NGO’s, community associations, business associations, politicians, allies from government institutions - they were celebrating, hugging us and smiling with us.”

Under the new Panama government, spearheaded by President Juan Carlos Varela, the outlook for the site appears positive. “The protected area, the Bay of Panama wetlands, not only belongs to our country, but belongs to the world, so we must show that we are able to maintain it, so we can enjoy its natural wealth and future generations continue to receive its many benefits”, commented government representative Emilio Sempris, part of Panama’s National Environmental Authority (ANAM).

“Through BirdLife we are part of a partnership that works for you when you need it the most”, finishes Miró in her message to BirdLife. “Even though our Partners can be geographically far far away we always felt somehow protected. We never felt alone. Thank you all. We really appreciate it.”

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2015 |  World Bird News February 2015

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