World Bird News June 2016

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

New report shows alarming state of North-American birds

Since the seventies, millions of North American birds have disappeared and a third of species are now of high regional conservation concern, a new report reveals. Experts agree that their long-term conservation will only be achieved by building transnational partnerships and involving local communities in citizen science projects.

Migratory birds connect the North American continent as millions of birds move across the US, Canada and Mexico every year. An estimated 350 North American bird species share their distribution across more than 2 countries, underlining the importance of coordinated action to protect them.

Until now, the vulnerability score of over a thousand native North-American bird species was incomplete. ‘”The State of North America’s Birds’’ fills the gaps. Published on the 100th anniversary of the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds between the US and Canada, it is the first assessment of its kind.

The report reveals that of the 1154 native bird species that occur in continental North America, one third require urgent conservation action. The species in need of most urgent action are those that depend on oceans and tropical forests.

Specifically, the most regionally endangered group are seabirds – more than half of them are of high conservation concern and affected by a mix of pollution, overfishing, impacts from energy extraction, predation by invasive species in islands and climate change. The seabirds with the highest concern score are the Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata, Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni and Townsend's Shearwater Puffinus auricularis.

The situation is not much better for tropical birds. Canada’s migratory songbirds winter in Mexico’s tropical forests and stopover in the US, which is why the impact of deforestation in Mexico has such a huge impact throughout the continent (see Photo 2). Other tropical birds with high concern scores are Azure-rumped Tanager Tangara cabanisi, Bearded Wood-Partridge Dendrortyx barbatus and Belted Flycatcher Xenotriccus callizonus.



Magnolia Warblers rely on an area of tropical forest in Mexico for the winter. The map is based on complex computer models, making use of millions of Citizen Science records contributed to eBird. Infographic by BSC Andrew Couturier

This unprecedented continent-wide analysis also reveals how grassland birds are facing some of the steepest population regional declines of any group because of changes in land use. In recent years the vast prairies of North America have mostly been turned into agricultural land or developed. Only a few islands of original land remain, making it very difficult for wildlife to survive. Some of the grassland species with the highest concern score include Sierra Madre Sparrow Xenospiza baileyi, Worthen's Sparrow Spizella wortheni and Lesser Prairie-chicken Tympanuchus pallidicinctus.

Bird Studies Canada President Steven Price explains some of the outcomes of the study in this interview.

“Our research and conservation work is supported by countless generous bird lovers. This report reflects the contributions of tens of thousands of dedicated volunteer Citizen Scientists” , said BSC President Steven Price.

The report was put together by the North American Conservation Initiative and was built using data collected by volunteers and citizen scientists across the continent. Despite the alarming findings, the report demonstrates how the power of many can help us understand conservation needs and drive positive change. The results are a call to action to public and private sectors to come together to save migratory birds.

Three BirdLife Partners, Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and the Audubon Society, were among the North American Bird Conservation Initiative partners who collaborated on the new report. View the report online at

High-seas heroes saving albatrosses from extinction: a decade of success

In 2004, 19 of the world’s 22 albatross species were threatened with extinction, due largely to commercial fishing practices. An international team of expert instructors has since spent a decade working with fishermen refining techniques to prevent these magnificent seabirds from needlessly dying behind fishing boats and has had great success!

A snapshot of ten years of the ATF: the smell of squid, the sound of the roaring waves, spending weeks at sea, building relationships with fishermen, being seasick, the agony of watching albatrosses drown on hooks knowing that there are chicks back on land waiting for them, the joy of watching such massive graceful birds soaring above the waves, seeking funding, teaching fishermen about birds, being laughed at, being respected, meeting in ports, meeting in board rooms, testing bird-scaring lines, testing them again, the pride in watching fishermen use the lines voluntarily, or ministers adopting them as law. It has been quite a ride.

But as Clemens Naomab, Albatross Task Force Instructor in Namibia, puts it:

“When you find out your work is going to save 30,000 birds a year in Namibia, it’s a wonderful experience.”

On World Oceans Day, the Albatross Task Force (ATF) is celebrating a decade of conservation success. The effort put in is paying off in saved seabirds.

Led by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) for the BirdLife International Partnership, the ATF was launched to reduce the number of albatrosses and petrels accidently killed by fisheries in the Southern Ocean.

The ATF has been highly successful in that time – almost eliminating bycatch in some fisheries – through the introduction of bird-scaring lines, a simple solution which prevents seabirds from interacting with fishing equipment.

Thanks to their work, 7 out of the 10 fisheries originally identified as seabird bycatch hotspots have now adopted regulations to protect seabirds during fishing.
The ATF continues to work with local governments to ensure all target fleets are complying with the recommended mitigation methods, and is a large part of BirdLife’s Marine Programme.

Measures include the use of bird-scaring lines, setting baited hooks under the cover of darkness and weighting hook lines to help them sink rapidly out of reach of foraging birds.

“Albatrosses are magnificent seabirds and it’s a truly breath-taking experience to see them at sea", says Oliver Yates, ATF Programme Manager. "They are among the largest flying birds and have the largest wingspans of any bird in the world, reaching up to an incredible 3.5m.”

Albatrosses are one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world. Every year, an estimated 100,000 albatrosses are incidentally killed on longline fishing hooks and trawl cables. This fishery mortality is the main driver of albatross population declines, and 15 of the 22 species of albatross are still threatened with extinction today.

A new report shows that since its launch in 2006, the Albatross Task Force has been extremely successful. Albatross bycatch has been reduced by 99% in the South African hake trawl fishery and experimental trials demonstrate at least 85% reductions in seabird bycatch are possible in six other fisheries where regulations that require the use of bird-safe methods on their boats are now in place.

“BirdLife has proven this works with a decade of research, refining solutions and working with fishermen”,

said Patricia Zurita, Chief Executive of BirdLife International.

“Now it is time to expand this model worldwide so we can ensure no bird is needlessly caught by fisheries ever again in the future.”

Spix’s Macaw reappears in Brazil

It was Grandpa Pinpin’s dream: to see his favourite bird, Spix’s Macaw, fly again over the skies of Curaçá, a small town of about 30,000 in the dry Caatinga area of Bahia, Brazil, where goat herding is the main activity. Pinpin Oliveira passed away last year, aged 94, his wish unfulfilled. But the baton was passed to his 16 year old grand-daughter, Damilys, who not only saw the macaw, not seen in the wild since 2000, but also managed to film it with her mobile phone.

Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii is Critically Endangered and possibly extinct in the wild, primarily as a result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss. Does this vibrant blue bird look familiar? The species also became the star of the animated film ‘Rio’, as main characters ‘Blu’ and ‘Jewel’. 130 Spix’s Macaws remain as part of a captive breeding programme.

The bird was first sighted on 18th June by local farmer Nauto Sergio de Oliveira. On the following day, his neighbour Lourdes Oliveira and daughter Damilys woke up before dawn to look for the macaw in Barra Grande creek’s riparian forest. At 6:20 AM they found and filmed it.

With the video Lourdes contacted the biologists from the Society for the Conservation of Birds in Brazil (SAVE Brasil, BirdLife Partner), one of the organisations that make up Projeto Ararinha na Natureza (Spix’s Macaw in the Wild Project) which aims to bring the bird back from extinction. The video and the distinctive vocal calls killed all doubts: it was indeed a Spix’s Macaw. Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil’s Director, immediately told other project members and organised an emergency trip to Curaçá to locate the bird.

“The local people were euphoric,” said Develey.

“They set up a WhatsApp group to coordinate and maximise the search for the bird, and ensured no potential dealers could enter the area.”

The people of Curaçá are extremely proud of the Spix’s Macaw. It is a symbol of their town, and they are aware of its importance, thanks in part to two years of community work from SAVE Brasil.

This individual’s origin is uncertain, but was quite possibly released from captivity. Conservationists have had a large presence in the area where it would likely have been seen, and recent patrols and project warning signs against trapping might have prompted a panic release.

That said, Spix’s Macaw can live for 20-30 years in the wild (more in captivity) and the area is very large with some parts difficult to access.

“We don't know yet,” said Develey. “And that makes it even more interesting."

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

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