World Bird News January 2016

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2016 |  World Bird News January 2016

Critically Endangered parrots killed by rats at breeding facility

Critically Endangered parrots killed by rats at breeding facility

Orange-bellied Parrot (Image (c) Chris Tzaros, Rare Birds Yearbook

Captive breeding efforts to save the Critically Endangered Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster - Australia’s rarest bird with perhaps as few as 50 individuals in the wild - have suffered a major setback.

Fourteen Orange-bellied Parrots were killed by rats during late 2015 at the Taroona (Hobart) captive-breeding facility, which is run by Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

The affected birds were being held separately in quarantine from the main breeding stock, as they were suffering from Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). Following the killing of two parrots during October and November, in early December a more serious incident led to the death of the remaining birds. (In May 2013 two Orange-bellied Parrots in the same facility were killed by a cat that breached the perimeter fence.)

The Australian Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, labelled the latest incident as "deeply disturbing", prompting Matthew Groom, Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage for Tasmania to defend his government department: "The deaths of birds within the captive population has been taken seriously by the Tasmanian Government.” He stated that he has been assured that since the incident security standards at Taroona have been significantly enhanced.

Paul Sullivan, Chief Executive of BirdLife Australia commented: "These incidents clearly show the danger of allowing wild bird populations to decline until they rely on captive insurance programs. It’s tragic to lose any Orange-bellied Parrots; we need to learn from the incident and pull together to keep this bird from going extinct."

BirdLife Tasmania has called for a wide-ranging enquiry into the deaths of the parrots. Its Secretary, Sue Drake, said: "Clear transparency on the management of the Orange-bellied Parrot crisis is needed if we are to save this bird."

Orange-bellied Parrot is a small, attractive ground-feeding parrot, slightly larger than a Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus, with rich-green plumage and a small patch of orange on its belly that gives it its name.

The parrot is known to breed at just one site, Melaleuca in the south-west of Tasmania, before migrating to the Australian mainland to winter on saltmarshes in Victoria and South Australia (historically, the species has also been recorded from New South Wales).

Since 2005, when the wild population was estimated at around 150 individuals, the species has undergone a rapid decline, with surveys in 2010 finding fewer than 50 birds at Melaleuca, and no birds at other historical breeding sites. The main reason behind the decline is thought to be the fragmentation, degradation and loss of the species’ wintering mainland habitat as a result of increased grazing, agriculture and urban/industrial development. With such a small, remnant population the species is also susceptible to disease; an outbreak of PBFD in 2015 affected 19 out of 26 wild Orange-bellied Parrot nestlings tested. Other threats include invasive mammalian predators such as foxes and cats, competition from introduced birds including Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris, and degradation of breeding habitat in Tasmania.

To try and mitigate these declines there is a well-established captive-breeding programme, with just over 200 Orange-bellied Parrots held at various facilities on Tasmania and the mainland as of July 2012. The aim is to grow this to at least 350 birds by 2016–17.

More-promising news has recently come from the wild population at Meleleuca, where 21 birds had returned by the end of October 2015, including two birds ringed as fledglings at the site in 2014 – indicating that they had successfully undertaken their arduous migration for the first time.

Decade-long Citizen Science project counts China’s waterbirds

Decade-long Citizen Science project counts China’s waterbirds

More than 5,000 Far Eastern Curlew, out of an estimated global population of 32,000 individuals, were counted during the census (Image: Li Zai)

Since 2005, more than 150 volunteers have taken part in the China Coastal Waterbird Census, which, in November 2015, published its third report on the state of the country’s coastal waterbirds

The coastal wetlands of China constitute some of the most important migratory, passage and wintering sites along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Unfortunately, the area also faces some of the world’s most serious conservation challenges. In order to protect and manage important sites along the flyway effectively, reliable data are desperately needed, making the China Coastal Waterbird Census – and the work carried out by its volunteers – of critical conservation importance.

“We discovered at least 10 sites of international importance for birds, yet still without proper protection", said Bai Qingquan, one of the coordinators of China Coastal Waterbird Census Team

The latest report, which covers the period from 2010–11, presents a huge amount of information about China’s coastal avifauna. A total of 161 species were recorded during the survey, including 21 globally threatened species.

Peak counts occurred during April’s northward migration period, when almost 266,000 individual waterbirds were logged from 111 species. Twenty per cent or more of the entire population of the following globally threatened birds were recorded during the latest census: Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (Critically Endangered: 103), Saunders’s Gull Saundersilarus saundersi (Vulnerable: 5,451), Relict Gull Larus relictus (Vulnerable: 6,005), Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor (Endangered: 561) and Siberian Crane Leucogeranus leucogeranus (Critically Endangered: 700).

“The China Coastal Waterbird Count, which is organised and implemented solely by volunteer bird watchers has lasted for 10 years and is a great example of Citizen Science”, said Vivian Fu, Assistant Manager of Hong Kong Bird Watching Society/BirdLife International China Programme. “The findings of the census not only display significant scientific value, but also contribute to the conservation of sites and species of international importance. We hope that more and more people will join us in future.”

The report, which is written in Chinese, with an English summary and annotations, can be downloaded here (PDF, 55 MB).

The China Coastal Waterbird Census has been coordinated by the The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife Hong Kong) and over the years has received support from the following donors: the Darwin Initiative; Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong; Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust; the Tolkien Trust; the Asian Waterbird Conservation Fund; and Ford Green Awards.

Hard work not over yet for seabird protection in the Pacific

Breakthrough for saving seabirds from longline fishing mortality in the north Pacific, but there’s a catch

Along with saving seabirds on-board with fisherman as the Albatross Task Force, BirdLife’s Marine Programme also gives seabirds a voice in the international policy arena.

Accidental capture of birds by longline fishing vessels is one of the biggest threats to albatross survival worldwide. Karen Baird, seabird supporter from Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) and BirdLife International Marine Programme, attended a meeting strongly advocating for measures to protect seabirds in both the north and south Pacific from accidental bycatch due to longline fishing.

The jurisdictions of the world’s five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) overlap with for example 80% of global albatross distribution. As such, the meeting of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (an RFMO) in Bali, Indonesia, was a vital opportunity to help keep seabirds off hooks.

Large fishing vessels have been required to use two methods of bycatch mitigation to reduce seabird deaths since 2014, however the numerous smaller boats have alluded these measures.

“We achieved a breakthrough in the northern hemisphere,” said Karen Baird.

“Now small vessels less than 24m long are required to use one seabird bycatch mitigation method, so species that migrate there from New Zealand such as Flesh-footed Shearwater will be better protected, alongside North Pacific albatrosses.”

The new measure for smaller boats will come into effect from January 2017. However, the meeting was a mixed result.

“Despite this positive progress in the north, no gain in the southern hemisphere this time round”, said Karen.

Two proposals were submitted to improve the Conservation and Management Measure for seabirds at this year’s Commission meeting. Both were the result of two years of work by BirdLife International, supported by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, aimed at filling gaps where the available science indicates that mitigation is needed.

“Unfortunately, agreement could not be reached on acceptable measures to protect vulnerable seabirds between 25°S and 30°S in the Southern hemisphere,” said Karen.

“I think there may be practical issues in particular for some Pacific island countries to adopt mitigation measures at this time, however we hope these can be resolved over the coming year and a measure can be introduced for adoption at the next Commission meeting”.

“BirdLife is very pleased to finally have protection for seabirds required on all vessels in the north Pacific,” said Karen. “But long term we would like to see two measures required on small vessels and it’s not over yet.”

There is more work to do for all participating countries to reach agreement, and ensure seabirds are protected from accidental by-catch.

Thanks to the David & Lucile Packard Foundation for their ongoing support to BirdLife International for engaging with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and high seas fishing fleets.

National Bird Day - time to take pride in your birds

Everyone has some sort of pride in his or her roots —family, city, area, nation— and for some it may be that birds are the means. National birds are flagships for shared values, which typifies the country, and which we have a duty to protect.

So, to celebrate National Bird Day here is a list of national or state birds from around the world. Although many nations have not yet taken the step of selecting a national bird, we have a long list here.

And what a menagerie it is!

The Common Loon Gavia immer is the national bird of Canada, each of whose states has its own bird (Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus for Alberta, Steller’s Jay Cyanocitta stelleri for British Columbia, Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa for Manitoba, Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla for New Brunswick, Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica for Newfoundland, Gyrfalcon for the Northwest Territories, Osprey for Nova Scotia, Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus for Nunavut, Blue Jay C. cristata for Prince Edward Island, Snowy Owl Nyctea scandica for Quebec, Sharp-tailed Grouse Tympanuchus phasianellus for Saskatchewan and Common Raven Corvus corax for Yukon)—Ontario double-dipping by having the Common Loon.

Bald Eagle is the national bird of the USA. The individual states prize several birds equally. Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis and Northern Mockingbird must be two of the most widely recognized birds in the USA, and they are the “official birds” of no fewer than twelve states between them—Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia for the former, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas for the latter. Also high as a common choice is Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta, claiming Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming, followed by American Robin Turdus migratorius for Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin, American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis for Iowa, New Jersey and Washington, Mountain Bluebird Sialia currucoides for Idaho and Nevada, Eastern Bluebird for Missouri and New York, and Black-capped Chickadee for Maine and Massachusetts. More ruggedly independent are Alabama with Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus, Alaska with Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus, Arizona Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus, California California Quail Callipepla californica, Colorado Lark Bunting Calamospiza melanocorys, Delaware Blue Hen (chicken variety), DC Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina, Georgia Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum, Hawaii Nene Goose Branta sandvicensis, Louisiana Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis, Maryland Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula, Minnesota Common Loon, New Hampshire Purple Finch Carpodacus purpureus, New Mexico Greater Roadrunner, Oklahoma Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus, Pennsylvania Ruffed Grouse Bonasa umbellus, Rhode Island Rhode Island Red (chicken), South Carolina Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus, South Dakota Ring-necked Pheasant, Utah the rather inappropriately named California Gull Larus californicus and Vermont Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus.

In the Caribbean both Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands have the Mourning Dove, Antigua & Barbuda the Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens, St Kitts & Nevis the Brown Pelican, both the Bahamas and Bonaire the Caribbean Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber, Bermuda the White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus, Cayman Islands the White-headed Amazon Amazona leucocephala, Jamaica the Red-billed Streamertail Trochilus polytmus, Cuba the Cuban Trogon Priotelus temnurus. On Hispaniola, the Hispaniolan Trogon Temnotrogon roseigaster is the “National Bird” of Haita and Palmchat Dulus dominicus of the Dominican Republic, while in Dominica it is the Imperial Amazon Amazona imperialis, Montserrat the Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi, St Lucia and St Vincent the respective endemic amazons A. versicolor and A. guildingii, and Grenada the Grenada Dove Leptotila wellsi. Puerto Rico, despite its huge struggle to save the Puerto Rican Amazon Amazona vittata, chooses the Puerto Rican Woodpecker Melanerpes portoricensis, while Trinidad & Tobago assigns the Scarlet Ibis to Trinidad and the Rufous-vented Chachalaca Ortalis ruficauda to Tobago.

Mexico chooses the Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway because in AD 1325 it gave the sign to commence work sought by the prospective founders of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital where Mexico City now stands. In Guatemala the title of national bird is held by the Resplendent Quetzal, in Honduras by the Yellow-naped Amazon Amazona auropalliata, in Belize by the Keel-billed Toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus, in Nicaragua by the Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa and in Costa Rica by the Clay-coloured Thrush, something of which some of the country’s more permissive inhabitants may be extravagantly proud if ever they learn about the private life of this species. Panama goes for the all-powerful Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja. Peru selects the Andean Cock-of-the-rock Rupicola peruviana and Paraguay the Bare-throated Bellbird Procnias nudicollis. In Brazil, a group of cagebird fanciers proposed the Rufous-bellied Thrush as the national bird, although they were ultimately thwarted by a counter-proposal for something more colourful, if less pleasant to listen to, the Golden Parakeet Guarouba guarouba. The Andean Condor is on the coat of arms of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile! Argentina settles for the more modest but characterful Rufous Hornero Furnarius rufus, Venezuela chooses the Troupial Icterus icterus and Guyana the bizarre and wonderful Hoatzin Opisthocomus hoazin.

The Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa is the national bird of the Netherlands. The European Robin iwas voted the national bird of the United Kingdom in 2015. Iceland has the Gyrfalcon, Belgium the Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, Luxembourg the Goldcrest Regulus regulus, Denmark the Mute Swan Cygnus olor, France the cockerel, Germany and Lithuania the White Stork, Poland the Golden Eagle, Austria and Estonia the Barn Swallow, Latvia the Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba and Hungary the Great Bustard Otis tarda. Norway has the White-throated Dipper, Sweden the Common Blackbird, Finland the Whooper Swan and Malta the Blue Rock-thrush Monticola solitarius, while Turkey has, for some reason, the Redwing Turdus iliacus. Jordan has the Sinai Rosefinch Carpodacus sinoicus, Iraq and Pakistan the Chukar Alectoris chukar.

Africa has fewer crane species than Asia, but it makes better use of them. Nigeria has the Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina as its national bird, Uganda the Grey B. regulorum, with South Africa selecting the graceful Blue Crane Anthropoides paradisaea. Namibia has the Crimson-breasted Shrike Laniarius atrococcineus and Botswana the Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori, while Zambia and Zimbabwe both plump for the African Fish-eagle Haliaeetus vocifer. Liberia chooses the Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus, while São Tomé e Príncipe follow Trinidad & Tobago in democratically selecting a bird for each island, the Black Kite Milvus migrans for São Tomé and Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus for Príncipe.

Pheasants naturally rank highly in the national birds of Asia. India has the Blue Peafowl, Sri Lanka the Sri Lanka Junglefowl Gallus lafayeti, Nepal the Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus, Myanmar the Grey Peacock-pheasant Polyplecron bicalcaratum and Thailand the Siamese Fireback Lophura diardi, leaving Bangladesh rather out on a limb in South Asia with the Oriental Magpie-robin; moreover, Japan has the Ring-necked (“Green”) Pheasant and China, while not having a national bird itself, assigns its provinces Ningxia the Blue Eared-pheasant Crossoptilon auritum and Shanxi the Brown Eared-pheasant C. mantchuricum, while Shaanxi takes the Crested Ibis Nipponia nippon. Singapore has the Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja. The Rhinoceros Hornbill is the national emblem of the Malaysian State of Sarawak, and appears prominently on its coat of arms. In Indonesia, whose national bird is the Javan Hawk-eagle Spizaetus bartelsi, the Knobbed Hornbill Aceros cassidix is the emblem of South Sulawesi Province and the Helmeted Hornbill that of West Kalimantan Province. South Korea the Black-billed Magpie Pica pica. The Philippine Eagle is the symbol of the Philippines, the Kagu is that of New Caledonia. Papua New Guinea sports the Raggiana Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea raggiana. Australia has the Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae, with ACT having the Gang-gang Cockatoo Callocephalon fimbriatum, New South Wales Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae, Northern Territory Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax, Queensland Brolga, South Australia White-backed Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen, Victoria Helmeted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops and Western Australia Black Swan Cygnus atratus; New Zealand of course has the Brown Kiwi Apteryx australis.

List originally compiled for Birds and People

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2016 |  World Bird News January 2016

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