World Bird News March 2008

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Joining-up conservation - from Canada’s boreal forest to South America

Joining-up conservation - from Canada’s boreal forest to South America

27-03-2008

Acting as a giant bird nursery ground, Canada’s vast boreal forest forms a vital component in a chain of sites which run all the way down to South America. The essential breeding habitats of the boreal are being endangered by industrial development. This is being highlighted by the ‘Save Our Boreal Birds’ campaign, which is encouraging people to sign an online petition, urging the Canadian Government leaders to protect the forest.
While the majority of the Canadian boreal is presently considered ecologically intact – and around 8% is currently protected – nearly a third of the land has been allocated for ecologically detrimental activities such as oil and gas exploration, mining and logging.
Jen Baker - Boreal Outreach Coordinator for Ontario Nature - commented: “In Ontario alone, over 45,000 migratory bird nests were lost in 2001 due to logging”. Given that development is proposed in virtually every Canadian province and territory, the future of the boreal ecosystem, and the birds that breed there, is in the balance. “Please sign our online petition today and help to stop this from happening again”, said Baker.


Click here to sign the 'Save Our Boreal Birds’ petition

Canada warblerCanada warbler
This campaign also reflects International Migratory Bird Day (10 May 2008), which celebrates the incredible journeys of migratory birds. This year’s theme ‘Tundra to Tropics’ emphasises the connections between breeding grounds - like the mighty boreal forest - and wintering areas in Mexico, Central, and South America. A brightly-coloured bird which captures the spirit of these remarkable journeys is Canada Warbler Wilsonia canadensis (right) which breeds in the boreal forest and has suffered a 45% population decline over the last forty years (Borealbirds.org). Having spent the summer breeding in the wettest areas of the boreal, Canada Warblers are one of the first birds to migrate. Leaving at night - and often travelling in pairs - they follow a chain of staging grounds along the Gulf coast and into southern Mexico; eventually reaching wintering grounds in the Tropical Andes. It is estimated that as many as 300 million boreal forest birds – including Canada Warbler - journey to the Tropical Andes region each year. At each stage of the journey, birds may face threats such as habitat loss, hunting and collisions.
A major challenge for conservationists is to reduce these dangers by preserving the key breeding, staging and wintering sites.BirdLife’s ‘Neotropical Migrants at Important Bird Areas (IBAs)’ initiative is a good example of joined-up conservation in action. “By identifying, protecting and sharing knowledge about IBA sites between North and South America, we hope that species such as Canada Warbler will be able to continue their yearly long-distance commutes” commented Dr Rob Clay (Americas Region Senior Conservation Manager, BirdLife International).
IBAs are identified on the basis of objective and globally accepted criteria. “The network of IBAs represents a unique opportunity to link important sites in the breeding, passage and wintering ranges of individual migratory species, and to conserve biodiversity”, noted Dr Clay. Since 2003, BirdLife has identified 97 IBAs in Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador which support wintering populations of Canada Warbler.
By campaigning to protect valuable breeding habitat, and joining-up our conservation programmes all along the migratory flyway, both the ‘Save Our Boreal Birds’ petition and ‘Neotropical Migrants at IBAs’ initiative are helping to protect all stages of the birds fragile annual cycle.

Albatross Task Force ‘spreads its wings’ to cover more countries

28-03-2008

Fighting to save the albatross from extinction, BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) are doubling the number of countries – from three to six - in which they work.
New research from Namibia, Uruguay and Argentina highlights these iconic seabirds are dying in large numbers within their waters. All three countries represent globally important hotspots for albatrosses. A recent report shows that Namibian longline fisheries alone kill over 30,000 seabirds, including albatrosses annually.
In response, BirdLife International and the RSPB are committing over £2million ($4million) to double the reach of the Albatross Task Force (ATF). The ATF is the world’s first international team of experts advising fishermen about ways to reduce seabird deaths by making fishing techniques more ‘albatross friendly’
The organisers of the initiative - part of the BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme - believe doubling the ATF will prevent needless deaths of birds in the three new countries.
Dr Ben Sullivan, the BirdLife Global Seabird Programme Coordinator, said: “Operating in some of the harshest seas in the world, the ATF has made outstanding first steps towards its goal of reducing seabird bycatch and stemming the decline of albatross populations.”
All albatross species are of global conservation concern, and 86% (19 species) are facing extinction. The main cause of these population declines is bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries. Existing ATF teams in Brazil, Chile and South Africa have already highlighted albatross bycatch hotspots and are working with the fishing industry to introduce measures, like streamer lines, to minimize this bycatch.Dr Ben Sullivan added: “Early results from the Brazilian Task Force suggests that the number of birds killed is more than halved when vessels are deploying streamer lines”.
“We are delighted that the Task Force is showing signs of success. Albatrosses are dying today needlessly. The increase in the Albatross Task Force will enable us to put more members on boats to prevent more albatrosses dying tomorrow”, said Dr Sullivan.

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