World Bird News March 2010

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Thai local group urges Ramsar designation for Spoon-billed Sandpiper site

Thai local group urges Ramsar designation for Spoon-billed Sandpiper site

25-03-2010

One of the most important non-breeding sites for Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus in the Inner Gulf of Thailand, Khok Kham, has taken a major step towards Ramsar designation, thanks to an appeal by Local Conservation Groups.
"It is rather surprising that good sites still exist there, as it lies just at the outskirts of the mega-city of Bangkok", said Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Officer at BirdLife's Asia Division.
Between 1979 and 1996, up to 90% of the mangroves were converted to shrimp ponds. But after ten years, the shrimp industry crashed. "The decline in catch made many fishermen understand the importance of mangroves, and that a balanced ecosystem is vital to their fishery", Simba Chan added.
As a result, a local grassroots environmental movement started in the late 1990s. Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST, BirdLife Partner) supported this movement from the beginning. To date, there are four Local Conservation Groups (LCGs), working in coordination with BCST on the conservation of the Inner Gulf.
On World Wetlands Day 2010, local people sent a petition to Mr Suvit Khunkitti, Thailand's Minister of the Nature Resources and Environment, requesting that Khok Kham be designated a Ramsar Site. Their petition was welcomed by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), the Ramsar Administrative Authority in Thailand.

Ramsar Site designation in Thailand is a bottom-up process. "Only when local communities see the benefits and commit themselves to safeguarding their local wetland, can it be successfully designated a Ramsar Site", said Gawin Chutima, Chairman of the BCST. Local people have said they seen Ramsar designation as a defence against unsustainable development.
Many Inner Gulf sites are still unprotected and under threat. BCST's efforts to conserve and protect this huge area have been supported over the past three years by the Darwin Initiative through a project entitled 'Strengthening partnerships for Ramsar implementation in South-East Asia', and will continue into the future.
"With cooperation and support from the Local Conservation Groups as well as other BirdLife Partners along the East Asian-Australian Flyway, we are certainly not alone", Gawin Chutima concluded.

'State of the birds 2010' highlights threats to migrants

'State of the birds 2010' highlights threats to migrants

15-03-2010

Climate change threatens to further imperil hundreds of species of migratory birds, already under stress from habitat loss, invasive species and other environmental threats, concludes a new report released by United States' Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change, follows a comprehensive report released a year ago showing that that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline.
"For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other impacts of human development", Salazar said. "Now they are facing a new threat - climate change - that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction."
The report is the product of a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, between federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organisations including partners from National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the U.S.), the American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It shows that climate changes will have an increasingly disruptive effect on bird species in all habitats, with oceanic and Hawaiian birds in greatest peril.
"Just as they did in 1962 when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, our migratory birds are sending us a message about the health of our planet", Salazar said. "That is why - for the first time ever - the Department of the Interior has deployed a coordinated strategy to plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change on the resources we manage."
Audubon President, Dr Frank Gill commented, "This groundbreaking report must be a rallying cry for the millions of people who care about birds and nature. It took countless citizen and professional scientists to gather the data that made the report possible and it will take even more committed people to address the peril it reveals. Together we can alter the future, just as Audubon has done for more than a century."
Key findings from the 'State of the Birds' climate change report include:

Oceanic birds are among the most vulnerable species because they don't raise many young each year; they face challenges from a rapidly changing marine ecosystem; and they nest on islands that may be flooded as sea levels rise. All 67 oceanic bird species, such as petrels and albatrosses, are among the most vulnerable birds on Earth to climate change.
Hawaiian birds such as endangered species Puaiohi Myadestes palmeri and ’Akiapola’au Hemignathus munroi already face multiple threats and are increasingly challenged by mosquito-borne diseases and invasive species as climate change alters their native habitats.
Birds in coastal, arctic/alpine, and grassland habitats, as well as those on Caribbean and other Pacific islands show intermediate levels of vulnerability; most birds in aridlands, wetlands, and forests show relatively low vulnerability to climate change.
For bird species that are already of conservation concern such as the Golden-cheeked Warbler Dendroica chrysoparia, Whooping Crane Grus americana, and Spectacled Eider Somateria fischeri, the added vulnerability to climate change may hasten declines or prevent recovery.
The report identified common bird species such as the American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus, Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor and Northern Pintail Anas acuta that are likely to become species of conservation concern as a result of climate change.
"The dangers to these birds reflect risks to everything we value: our health, our finances, our quality of life and the stability of our natural world", said Audubon's Glenn Olson. "But if we can help the birds weather a changing climate, we can help ourselves."
The report offers solutions that illustrate how, by working together, organisations and individuals can have a demonstrable positive impact on birds in the U.S. Specifically, the report indicates that the way lands are managed can mitigate climate change and help birds adapt to changing conditions. For example, conserving carbon-rich forests and wetlands, and creating incentives to avoid deforestation can reduce emissions and provide invaluable wildlife habitat.

To read the report click here

Pic: Lance and Erin; flickr

Caribbean's first Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve designated

Caribbean's first Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve designated

12-03-2010

The Cabo Rojo Salt Flats – within Puerto Rico's Suroeste Important Bird Area – have been designated as the Caribbean's first site of regional importance for shorebirds by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN, an international shorebird conservation strategy). The nomination was submitted by Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña (SOPI, BirdLife in Puerto Rico) and supported by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), North Carolina State University and the BirdLife Caribbean Program.
"This designation represents a significant step for the conservation of shorebirds in the Caribbean as it helps demonstrate the importance of wetlands on islands throughout the region for the conservation of both migratory and resident shorebirds", said Xicoténcatl Vega, subdirector of the WHSRN and Shorebird Recovery Program, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.
The Cabo Rojo Salt Flats is a 500 ha National Wildlife Refuge managed by the USFWS, and it supports over 5% of Caribbean breeding population of 'Snowy' Plover Charadrius alexandrinus tenuirostris and 2.5% of the Caribbean's Wilson Plovers C. wilsonia. Over 20,000 shorebirds representing 28 species congregate at this special site. This includes large numbers of Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla, Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes, Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus, and Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres.
"Shorebird conservation at these salt flats is a priority for the Service and this habitat is managed to protect and conserve populations of important shorebird species", said Oscar Díaz, Refuge Manager, USFWS.
The Suroeste IBA is also important for globally threatened and island-endemic species such as the Endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius xanthomus (with almost 80% of the known population occurring in the IBA) and the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar Caprimulgus noctitherus, and also as a nesting site for the Least Tern Sternula antillarum.
"Simply put, the designation of the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats, an important component of Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve provides a foundation for the promotion of shorebird conservation locally and regionally", Jaime A. Collazo, Professor and Assistant Unit Leader, North Carolina State University.
The nomination of Cabo Rojo Salt Flats as a WHSRN site, submitted by SOPI, was an outcome of the BirdLife International project Saving the treasures of the Caribbean: sustainable livelihoods, management and restoration for the Suroeste IBA, Puerto Rico – funded by the Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation. SOPI established a collaborative Cabo Rojo stakeholders' network including the Site Support Group Comité Caborrojeños Pro Salud y Ambiente (CCPSA), Empresas Padilla, Inc., the USFWS and professors and students of the University of Puerto Rico (Mayagüez and Aguadilla campuses).
"Good government–NGO collaboration has enabled us to achieve some important conservation and sustainable development outcomes for this unique site that provides essential ecological services to both shorebirds and people", said Gabriel Lugo, President of SOPI.
Other conservation actions implemented by the network as part of this catalytic project include the construction of a (shorebird-friendly) brine shrimp farm, administered by CCPSA, to generate income in support of research, education, sustainable development and management of the IBA.
Pic.Verónica Méndez

Black-faced Spoonbill numbers up again as Action Plans are launched

Black-faced Spoonbill numbers up again as Action Plans are launched

05-03-2010

BirdLife International has compiled International Action Plans for three globally Endangered and Critically Endangered migratory waterbirds in Asia, under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species.
The action plans for Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus and Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini were launched recently at the fourth meeting of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP). On 5th March, the action plan for Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor was launched at the International Symposium on Ecology, Migratory and Conservation of the Black-faced Spoonbill.
“A key objective of the EAAFP is to develop, especially for priority species and habitats, flyway-wide approaches to enhance the conservation status of migratory waterbirds”, said Roger Jaensch, Chief Executive of the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership. “As partners of EAAFP, BirdLife International and the Convention on Migratory Species have made good progress on meeting this objective by producing the latest species action plans. Now the challenge for us all is to work with governments, industries, NGOs and the wider community in making these plans deliver real conservation outcomes.”
The Black-faced Spoonbill symposium was co-organised by Kyushu University with support from BirdLife Asia Division, and included representatives from most Black-faced Spoonbill range countries.
The result of the international joint census of the Black-faced Spoonbill was also announced at the symposium. A new high of 2,346 birds was recorded between the 8th and 10th January 2010, a more than 10% increase on 2009’s census. The census has been coordinated by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife Partner) since 2003, and has shown a steady increase in numbers, and a real recovery of this once Critically Endangered species.
The dire situation of the Black-faced Spoonbill was raised in the early 1990s by the Chinese Wild Bird Federation (BirdLife Partner), which coordinated drafting of the first International Action Plan in 1995. With support from all BirdLife Partners and programme offices, together with other NGOs in the region, significant progress was made within the first few years, and the Black-faced Spoonbill, largely unknown to the public in the 1980s, had become everyone’s favourite by the late 1990s. Some of the most important sites have also been protected.
“However, this species is still far from being saved from extinction,” said Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Officer at BirdLife’s Asia Division. “It is dependent on tidal flat habitats throughout its life cycle, and tidal flats are being reclaimed at an alarming rate throughout eastern Asia.”
The tendency of Black-faced Spoonbills to be concentrated at a few sites has also raised concerns about disease and natural disasters. An outbreak of botulism killed 73 Black-faced Spoonbills in Tainan, almost 10% of the global population, in the winter of 2002.
Protection of more sites along the Black-faced Spoonbill’s flyway is regarded as one of the most important actions in the CMS action plan.
“Black-faced Spoonbill has become an important flagship species in eastern Asia,” Simba Chan added. “It is a symbol for the conservation of the tidal wetlands in eastern Asia, and it should also play an important role in promotion of international cooperation in migratory bird conservation.”

picture copyright andy Li

Saving rockhopper penguins

Saving rockhopper penguins

02-03-2010

Rockhopper penguin populations are in serious decline worldwide, and the causes have been largely unknown. BirdLife is launching a new report which identifies the key threats, and outlines the steps which must be taken to help save rockhopper penguins. "At last, in this new report we have an international action plan to address the catastrophic declines of rockhopper penguins", said Professor John Croxall - Chairman of BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme.
Rockhopper penguins live in the Indian, South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There are two distinct species: Northern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes moseleyi (Endangered) and Southern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes chrysocome (Vulnerable). Both these species have been disappearing from the southern oceans.
In the past 37 years alone, Northern Rockhopper Penguin has decline by 57% and Southern Rockhopper Penguin by 34%.

(pic Sarah Crofts).

"With a catastrophic 95% loss of Northern Rockhopper Penguin since the 1950s, the new BirdLife report comes just in time to give hope that the downward trend in numbers of this charismatic bird might be reversed", announced Professor Croxall.
Experts from across the globe met in Edinburgh (Scotland) to discuss the declines and to outline the research and conservation actions which are urgently needed. The results are presented in the new publication which provides all the latest scientific information in a comprehensive review which highlights potential causes of the declines such as climate change, pollution, changes in the marine food web, disease and fishery interactions.
Importantly, the report sets out the steps which must be taken to help save them. "Gaps in knowledge on many aspects to the rockhopper penguin's life cycle have to be resolved for effective conservation steps to be taken in order to reverse its population decline", added Prof. Croxall. "These need tackling as a matter of urgency."
International action is called for so that the actual and potential impacts of these factors can be properly researched and addressed. Regional priorities for action are outlined for Tristan da Cunha, the Patagonian and Pacific Ocean regions and Chile. These include population counts, research on survival, breeding, and diet and potential interaction with priority threats in the marine environment such as pollution, fisheries, shifts in nature and location of resources.
The authors outline that the recommendations cannot be implemented unless adequate funding is provided. "Implementation of this report will require long term funding, particularly for demographic research and international collaboration", concluded Professor Croxall.
Governments, institutions, scientists and all individuals concerned about penguins need to read this report and help undertake its recommendations, ideally by supporting an international programme to safeguard the future of these very special penguins.
A Plan for Research and Conservation Action to Investigate and Address Population Changes can be downloaded from here (.pdf, 1.63 MB).

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2010 |  World Bird News March 2010

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