World Bird News May 2007

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2007 |  World Bird News May 2007

1,221 and counting: More birds than ever face extinction


The latest evaluation of the world’s birds has revealed that more species than ever are threatened with extinction, and that additional conservation action is critical to reversing current declines.
BirdLife International’s annual Red List update –which takes into account population size, population trends and range size for all 10,000 bird species worldwide- states that 1,221 species are considered threatened with extinction and are to be listed as such on the 2007 IUCN Red List.
The latest update also shows an additional 812 bird species are now considered Near Threatened, adding up to a total of 2,033 species that are urgent priorities for conservation action.
The overall conservation status of the world’s birds has deteriorated steadily since 1988, when they were first comprehensively assessed. Now, more than a fifth (22%) of the planet’s birds is at increased risk of extinction.
The 2007 update has highlighted the deteriorating status of the world’s vultures: five more species have been ‘uplisted’ to higher categories of concern as a result of numerous threats. These include habitat loss, conversion and degradation (which remains the principal threat to all the world’s birds, impacting on 86% of Globally Threatened species), fewer feeding opportunities (as a result of declining wild ungulate populations on which to scavenge) and poisoning by the veterinary drug diclofenac – a factor behind rapid population declines in vultures across Asia in recent years.
Bird species restricted to oceanic islands continue to be among the world’s most threatened birds due mainly to the introduction of alien invasive species.
This year has seen St Helena Plover Charadrius sanctaehelenae uplisted to Critically Endangered, having suffered considerably in recent years from habitat degradation due to a proliferation in invasive plants and predation from cats, another invasive species. Likewise, Po’o-uli Melamprosops phaeosoma (known only from the Hawaiian island of Maui), has also become categorised as ‘Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)’ after the death in captivity of the last known individual in 2004, and the failure to find any other individuals in the wild.
Another island-nesting species, Waved Albatross Diomedea irrorata (which breeds only in the Galapagos islands), has been categorised as Critically Endangered, as new evidence shows it is declining, primarily because of harvesting for human consumption, plus perhaps the expansion of commercial long-line fishing, in which birds attracted to bait are hooked and drown.While the number of bird species included on the Red List increases, there is cause for encouragement: where conservation actions are put in place, species have shown signs of recovery.
Mauritius Parakeet Psittacula eques, which survives in south-west Mauritius (having become extinct historically on Réunion) has been downlisted (to Endangered) due to a highly successful recovery programme that has included release of captive-bred birds, measures to control predators and the provision of artificial nest sites. The programme has been led by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, a conservation NGO that has worked closely with the Mauritian government.
Further good news is provided by Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata, downlisted from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable, after an increase from an estimated 1,000 pairs in the 1980s to some 10,000 pairs in 2006. The population increase is part of a long-term recovery largely in response to removal of pigs from its only breeding site, Inaccessible Island, Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, and has occurred despite losses to long-line fisheries.
Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Species Programme Coordinator said of this year’s Red List update:
“There are two sides to this story: whilst conservation efforts have been successful in recovering some species, there are more and more species slipping towards extinction. The challenge becomes greater each year.”
“But where efforts, resources and political will are directed, species can recover. Conservation works,” he said. “We just need much more of it in order to turn back the tide of impending extinctions.”
The results of BirdLife’s Red List update will be incorporated into the 2007 IUCN Red List, released in September 2007.
BirdLife’s revisions to Red List categories, and the associated documentation, including factsheets for all the world’s 10,000 bird species, can be found on the BirdLife website: visit

Stunning new hummingbird species needs immediate protection

Stunning new hummingbird species needs immediate protection


The flamboyantly coloured Gorgeted Puffleg Eriocnemis isabellae, a new species of hummingbird, has been discovered in Colombia. But there are concerns over its future safety because the Serrania del Pinche mountains where it was discovered are unprotected.
Ornithologists Alexander Cortés-Diago and Luis Alfonso Ortega made three sightings of the new hummingbird during surveys in 2005 of montane cloud forest in the Serrania del Pinche, south-west Colombia.
“We were essentially following a hunch,” said Alexander Cortés-Diago of The Hummingbird Conservancy (Colombia) and co-discoverer of Gorgeted Puffleg. “We had heard that a new species of plant had been discovered in the region in 1994. This discovery and the isolation of the Serrania led us to believe there could also be new species of vertebrates.” (Picture Alex Cortes}


“Though we expected to find new species of amphibians and new ranges for birds, the discovery of a new hummingbird was completely unexpected.”
The highly distinct new species is characterised by an enlarged, bicoloured iridescent throat patch (hence ‘Gorgeted’) in males and white tufts above the legs which are characteristic of ‘Puffleg’ hummingbirds.
Further surveys in 2006 brought more sightings and photographs which were sent for identification to Prof. Karl-L. Schuchmann, curator of ornithology at Zoological Research Museum A. Koenig (Germany).
Dr André-A. Weller of the Brehm Fund for International Bird Conservation/Zoological Research Museum A. Koenig, co-author of the scientific description published in Ornitologia Neotropical noted: “We immediately suspected the bird as a new species. Further study has shown that this is certainly the most spectacular discovery of a new hummingbird taxon during the last decade or more.” The mountainous Serrania del Pinche region may hold other new species but their future isn’t secure.
“The isolated nature of the Serrania del Pinche within the biodiverse Choco region makes it likely that further new species await discovery,” said Luis Mazariegos-Hurtado of The Hummingbird Conservancy. “Yet a major threat to these forests exists: the increase in coca fields and ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. It is estimated that 500 hectares are lost each year.” commented Mazariegos-Hurtado.
The species has been heralded by BirdLife International as one of the most significant new discoveries of recent years.
“This is an important discovery for bird conservation and further evidence of how much more there is to learn about the world’s forests, and how much we stand to lose if they are allowed to be destroyed.” said Ian Davidson, Head of BirdLife International's Americas Programme based in Ecuador. “Gorgeted Puffleg is a flagship species for the biodiversity of Serrania del Pinche, which must be conserved,” he added.
“To go undiscovered for so long, the bird’s range must be extremely small and fragile – hence conservation action is undoubtedly a priority for the Serrania del Pinche.”
A number of conservation organisations are now looking to ensure the region is secured further protection. The Hummingbird Conservancy has started a conservation initiative with local communities and governmental organisations, whilst Fundación Ecohabitat (Colombia) is working to reduce the relentless expansion of agriculture into the forests by promoting use of legal crops and sustainable agriculture.

The Hummingbird Conservancy is proposing the site become an Important Bird Area to Colombia's Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, working in collaboration with BirdLife International.
“This is a discovery with mixed emotions: the indescribable happiness of finding a new hummingbird and the harsh reality that this may be one of the most endangered species outside of an unprotected area.” said Luis Alfonso Ortega of Fundación Ecohabitat, co-discoverer of the hummingbird.

World Migratory Bird Day 2007

World Migratory Bird Day 2007


This weekend (12-13 May) sees the launch of World Migratory Bird Day 2007 (WMBD 2007) – a global celebration of migratory birds, aiming to raise awareness of their plight and promoting conservation worldwide.
The first World Migratory Bird Day took place last year and incorporated 68 activities in 46 countries and territories around the world, many of them BirdLife Partners.
This year, the organisers are hoping for even more involvement and are calling for further people to register their WMBD events on the World Migratory Bird Day website,


The goal of WMBD 2007 is to focus international attention toward the plight of migratory birds and to highlight the issues responsible for their global declines.
Migratory birds face a multitude of threats during migration. Human alteration of their wintering habitats is a crucial factor; forests are being converted to plantations, savannas are affected by desertification, wetlands are drained, converted to agriculture or heavily used by tourists. In many countries, millions of migrants may also be trapped and shot every year. Migratory birds may suffer further from hazardous weather, lack of food or water, or predators.
The theme for WMBD 2007 -‘Migratory birds in a changing climate’- highlights the additional impact of climate change on migratory birds and also accentuates the need for focus on global conservation efforts.
“There is overwhelming evidence that our planet’s climate is changing, disrupting vital ecosystems and the key services they provide for us all. For migratory birds, all of which are dependent on a multitude of habitats, climate change is of immense concern.” said Dr Mike Rands, Chief Executive of BirdLife International.
“Facing these concerns is an issue for all countries and territories. As a result, the global BirdLife Partnership is delighted to be part of World Migratory Bird Day 2007 – and we encourage as many people as possible to take part.”
Climate change is likely to impact migratory birds in a number of different ways including increased storm frequency, lowered water tables, higher drought frequency, sea level rise and habitat shifts.
World Migratory Bird Day is being organised by the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (UNEP/AEWA) together with the Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS) – two United Nations administered environmental treaties working to conserve migratory animals.

Tumbesian region celebrated in new online book

Tumbesian region celebrated in new online book


One of the most important books to cover bird conservation in Ecuador and Peru has today been re-launched online.
First published in 1995, Biodiversity and Conservation in Tumbesian Ecuador and Peru was described as a “major milestone” for conservation in the Tumbesian region - one of the world’s most important Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs), holding numerous species that exist nowhere else on Earth.
Authored by Brinley Best and Michael Kessler, the new downloadable version of the book has been made possible through DarwinNet (, BirdLife´s ecoregion web-based information portal dedicated to improving knowledge in the region. The work was undertaken by project-partner Naturaleza y Cultura Internacional, based in Sullana, north Peru.
“The book was the result of five years' work into the ecology of the Tumbesian region carried out by teams of European scientists working in partnership with Ecuadorian counterparts,” said Brinley Best, Author.
The Tumbesian region, which stretches from northern coastal Ecuador south to just north of Lima in Peru, holds exceptional numbers of endemic bird species.
In terms of Globally Threatened Birds, the region holds 24 threatened species and 8 near-threatened species. Additionally there are 61 endemic species not classified as threatened.
Heavy deforestation in recent years has posed an increasing threat to many of these species, making conservation efforts a priority in the region for BirdLife and a number of other conservation organisations working locally.
“When we first set foot in these forgotten forests in 1989 the future seemed bleak. Now, thanks to the work of local groups in Ecuador and Peru, things are looking much brighter,” said Best.

Crucial to much of this work has been BirdLife’s Important Bird Areas programme, with a total of some 68 sites catalogued.
“New information has become available on sites and species, new reserves have been declared and overall there is greater awareness amongst the people of Peru and Ecuador as to the region’s importance,” said Jeremy Flanagan of DarwinNet in Peru.
Such information, incorporated into Biodiversity and Conservation in Tumbesian Ecuador and Peru, is now being used at local and regional levels to better protect sites within the region.
In recognition of the regions’ global importance, the British Birdwatching Fair, the Lottery Foundation, IUCN Netherlands and the Darwin Initiative have each committed valuable funds amounting to over US 1 million in support to vital conservation and development work in this globally important ecoregion.
Learn about the key habitats and species of this Endemic Bird Area, discover more about the threats and find out what needs to be done to safeguard the region…
You can download Biodiversity and Conservation in Tumbesian Ecuador and Peru from this page: click here for a copy (PDF, 2MB).

Grenada’s “crown jewels” up for sale

The Grenadian government has passed an amendment to the Grenada National Parks and Protected Areas Act, giving the Governor General the right to sell national parks land (and other protected areas) to private developers.
The amendment to the National Parks Act allows the sale of the Mount Hartman National Park – the last stronghold of the Critically Endangered Grenada Dove Leptotila wellsi – for a massive hotel and villa complex.
Half the global population of Grenada Dove –just 120 individual birds- are found within the Mount Hartman Estate, with the majority currently finding safe haven inside the Mount Hartman National Park.
Conservationists have also expressed concern over recent claims from the Grenadian government that the developer responsible for the proposed Four Seasons development has been given time to undertake a full Environmental Impact Assessment, and that “no final decision on the development has yet been made” on the hotel development.
Photographic evidence suggests otherwise. Approximately half of Hog Island – a critical part of the Four Seasons project – has been cleared ready for building work to commence.
Since news of the potential sale of the park was announced, a number of ornithologists, conservation organisations and high-profile supporters have lent their voice to the campaign to ensure the Grenada Dove is adequately protected.
Noted author Graeme Gibson, who alongside Margaret Atwood is a co-patron of BirdLife’s Rare Bird Club, has created a website offering advice and information to those who are interested in supporting the campaign and lobbying both Grenada and Four Seasons. The website can be found at:
"By paving the way for the sale of the Mount Hartman National Park, the Grenada government seems to have gone back on its word that the park would remain intact," commented David Wege, BirdLife's Caribbean Programme Manager.
As recently as the end of February, the Hon. Ann David-Antoine, Minister of Health, Social Security and the Environment stated in a letter that “the Government has not abolished the sanctuary [Mount Hartman National Park] nor will it do so”.
"With foreign investors and developers apparently driving the development process in Grenada, the loosening of the National Parks Act is potentially devastating for the protection of Grenada’s rich natural heritage." said Wege.

“Indefensible” Cyprus Spring Shooting permit shocks conservationists across Europe

Today’s shock decision by the Cyprus government to permit shooting of European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur this spring poses an unacceptable threat to a declining species and is indefensible under the EU Birds Directive, say conservationists throughout Europe.
The Cyprus government’s decision will allow for European Turtle Dove -a species declining across Europe- to be shot in certain coastal areas on Sunday May 6 and Wednesday May 9.
“It will be a case of targeting a threatened bird species at the most vulnerable stage of its life-cycle,” said Executive Manager of BirdLife Cyprus, Martin Hellicar.
“These threatened doves will be hit as they pass through Cyprus at the tail-end of their long migration from Africa to their breeding grounds in mainland Europe. The EU Birds Directive bans shooting during migration towards nesting areas in order to ensure birds can successfully produce young to replenish their numbers,” said Hellicar.
Spring hunting is prohibited by EU law -the Birds Directive- in order to protect wild birds during their migration from Africa to breeding grounds in Europe.
BirdLife International in Brussels have informed the European Commission about this step and is to ask Commissioner Dimas for immediate and firm reaction, asking the Cypriot government to revoke this decision.
“This step by Cyprus represents a serious and unacceptable infringement of European law, and BirdLife International will ask national governments and EU decision makers to express their protest to the Cypriot government.” said Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife in Brussels.
“This decision represents a very serious step backwards for both bird conservation and hunting in Cyprus. We are not opposed to legal, sustainable hunting - but this is not what we are faced with here.” said Hellicar.
Malta, another EU country which permits spring hunting, is currently the subject of legal action from the European Commission. Cyprus would have to expect a European Court case -with similiar EU wide embarrassment- if the country doesn’t revoke its decision, conservationists have warned.

Red List Index to become UN development indicator


The changing conservation status of birds and other species is to be used to track progress towards the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which range from halving extreme poverty to ensuring environmental sustainability, are targets for the year 2015 agreed by all the world's governments and development institutions.
The Red List Index, which was initially designed and tested by BirdLife International using data on all bird species from 1988-2004, is to be the basis of a new MDG “indicator”. To be known as the Proportion of Species Threatened with Extinction, it will be used alongside other MDG indicators, such as the proportion of population with an income below $1 per day, the rates of infant and maternal mortality, the proportion of children in primary education, and the prevalence of diseases such as malaria. The new indicator is the only species-based indicator in the UN set.
The Red List Index is based on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List, which uses quantitative criteria based on population size, rate of decline, and area of distribution to assign species to categories of relative extinction risk, such as Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered. The index is based on the proportion of species in each category on the Red List, and changes in this proportion over time resulting from genuine improvement or deterioration in the status of individual species.
Birds remain the best-known class of organisms worldwide, and have the longest history of comprehensive assessment for the IUCN Red List. Birds are useful indicators for other biodiversity, and the bird Red List Index will represent the best available species-based biodiversity indicator in many developing countries for years to come. BirdLife's unique partnership of national NGOs plays a key role in collecting and providing the on-the-ground data that are used in global Red List assessments.
"I am delighted that the UN has recognised the value of species in measuring progress towards achieving environmental sustainability,” said Dr Mike Rands, BirdLife’s Chief Executive. “ The likely adoption of 'The Proportion of Species Threatened with Extinction' as one of around 50 global indicators to assess progress in achieving the MDGs highlights the issue of extinction, the enormous value of species data and the importance of biodiversity to sustaining livelihoods.”
“Yet again it's really good to see birds and BirdLife playing such a leading and catalytic role in this process."
Although the new indicator is likely to be incorporated into an annexe to the Millennium Development Goals report for 2007, it will not be formally adopted into the MDG framework until 2008.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2007 |  World Bird News May 2007

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