World Bird News May 2009

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2009 |  World Bird News May 2009

Bird migrations set to increase

Bird migrations set to increase


Bird migrations are likely to get longer according to the first ever study of the potential impacts of climate change on the breeding and winter ranges of migrant birds. The length of some migrations could increase by as much as 400 km. “The predicted future temperature changes and the associated changes in habitat could have serious consequences for many species”, said lead-author Nathalie Doswald of Durham University (UK).
A team of researchers - led by Durham University and with funding from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and Natural Environment Research Council – looked at the migration patterns of European Sylvia warblers, a group of birds that are common residents and visitors to Europe, like Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis (right) and Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla.
“Our findings show that marathon migrations for some birds are set to become even longer journeys”, said Dr Stephen Willis – team leader from Durham University. “This is bad news for birds like the Common Whitethroat”.
Some 500 million birds are estimated to migrate to Europe and Asia from Africa. Birds weighing as little as nine grams undertake the annual migration of thousands of miles between the two continents to find food and suitable climate.
“Most warblers come here in spring and summer time to take advantage of the surplus of insects, and leave for warmer climes in the autumn”, added Dr Willis. “From 2071 to 2100, nine out of the 17 species we looked at are projected to face longer migrations, particularly birds that cross the Sahara desert”.
Co-author of the research paper, Professor Rhys Green of Cambridge University and RSPB said: "These tiny birds make amazing journeys, pushing themselves to the limits of endurance. Anything that makes those journeys longer or more dependent on rare and vulnerable pit-stop habitats used for refuelling on migration could mean the difference between life and death.”
"We have already seen evidence that birds' ranges are moving north to track suitable climate conditions in the way predicted by past modelling”, noted Professor Green. “This latest research suggests they will face an increase in the length of an already arduous journey.”
In response to worrying declines of many migratory species, BirdLife has launched the Born to Travel Campaign to protect migratory birds along the African-Eurasian flyway. “These birds face many threats during their incredible annual journeys”, said Richard Grimmett – BirdLife’s Head of Conservation.
“BirdLife and its Partners are working to provide a safer journey for migratory birds”, added Mr Grimmett. “We have BirdLife Partners in over 70 countries across the migration routes between Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and are working together to tackle threats to migratory songbirds like agricultural intensification, desertification, deforestation and climate change”.

Will Cyprus spring shooting be banned forever?


After a successful campaign led by BirdLife International and BirdLife Cyprus (BirdLife in Cyprus), the Cypriot Government has decided to stop the shooting of birds during the month of May on the island. “Banning hunting during May will greatly help to save migratory birds that pass through Cyprus”, said Martin Hellicar, Executive Manager from BirdLife Cyprus.
Prior to the new law, hunting was allowed in 2008 for eight days in May to control crows – particularly Carrion Crow Corvus corone and Black-billed Magpie Pica pica. This initiative was then seen as an excuse to allow hunters to also shoot migratory species like European Turtle-doves Streptopelia turtur. However, this year the ‘corvid control decree’ has been reduced to just three days in June when the risk to migratory species is deemed to be low.
When the measure was issued last year, BirdLife reacted immediately by contacting the European Commission to denounce it. The Commission heeded BirdLife’s call and contacted the Cypriot Government; as a result the ‘crows control decree’ has been recently modified.
However this was not the first incident related to this measure. In 2007, BirdLife managed to ban spring hunting after another derogation from the EU Birds Directive related to the shooting of European Turtle-doves wrongly justified as ‘crop damage control’. The European Commission sent a letter of formal notice - a first warning - to Cyprus, who promised not to repeat this practice.
Three years of continuous vigilance by BirdLife and its Partner in Cyprus finally paid off this year as now, not only European Turtle-dove, but also other migratory species such as European Bee-eater Merops apiaster and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix can fly more safely over the island.

“Flying High” conserving the Spanish Imperial Eagle

The Flying High Programme, (Alzando el vuelo in Spanish), was created by SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) in 2006 and has just begun its second phase. The first phase involved national authorities, local communities and private landowners in protecting habitats where Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti lives.
Spanish Imperial Eagle is a flagship species in Spain, with a population of 253 breeding pairs it occurs in only five Spanish regions and also in Portugal. Spain holds 99% of the world breeding population. The Alzando el vuelo programme focused its activities in Campo de Montiel and Eastern Sierra Morena in the Ciudad Real province, one of the most important breeding and dispersal areas for the species. A “land stewardship programme” has signed agreements with 17 private properties in which it has invested near €100,000 in habitat management.
Conservation action for this impressive bird of prey has been developed to address the main threats, of poisoning, collision with power lines and habitats loss. More than 2,000 people participated in activities organised by SEO/BirdLife which raised their awareness and involved them in the protection of Spanish Imperial Eagle.
The second phase of the Programme, which runs from 2009 until 2012, is based on a large land stewardship network. This will be divided in three groups: a network of municipalities, a network of private landowners and a network of schools. The aim of this network is to extend the success of the first phase to cover the species’s entire distribution. While municipalities and properties networks will channel and focus on habitat management and species conservation, the network of schools will be in charge of organising awareness and information activities.
“So far, 54 municipalities have joined the network and SEO/BirdLife hopes that many more will follow, as they are the main players who could involve local authorities and common people in biodiversity conservation actions”, said Beatriz Sánchez, Responsible for the Alzando el vuelo Programme.
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Could do better! Why EU Rural Development Policy is failing to reach its biodiversity potential

Could do better! Why EU Rural Development Policy is failing to reach its biodiversity potential


New study reveals poor implementation is undermining a biodiversity friendly policy

On 7 May 2009 BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), with the support of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, launched their new study at an event held in Brussels. The study ‘Could do Better, How is EU Rural Development Policy delivering for biodiversity’ reviews the potential effects on biodiversity of the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programmes across the European Union – and underlines the need for fundamental agriculture policy reform for the post 2013 period.
At the event BirdLife blamed national governments for not using the environmental opportunities the Rural Development Policy provides.
The main findings of the report show that, although EU Rural Development policy has the potential to tackle the decline of biodiversity, only a very small proportion of current Rural Development spending is benefiting Europe’s nature, while many potentially harmful investments such as irrigation expansion, drainage and extension of road networks, are still funded without appropriate safeguards.
If the Rural Development policy is to genuinely benefit EU wildlife, then much better implementation is needed by Member States. Funds must be channelled towards efficient schemes which are based on scientific data instead of meaningless schemes designed mostly to please particularly powerful farm lobbies. There is also a need for detailed and explicit environmental safeguards such as proper impact assessments for all investments in order to prevent the depletion of water resources, increased carbon emissions, and fragmentation or degradation of habitats.
Ariel Brunner, Senior EU Agriculture Policy Officer at BirdLife International, stated: “Rural development is the way forward for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. When implemented well, it can help solve many of the huge problems we face in the countryside, like soil degradation, wildlife decline and climate change. The problem is that at the moment, national implementation is often shameful: many governments seem more interested in channelling money towards well-connected farm lobbies than delivering on their own stated objectives”.
The presentation of the study was followed by a lively panel debate, which included Martin Scheele from DG Agriculture, Klaus Stern from the European Court of Auditors, Ariel Brunner from BirdLife and Alexandre Meybeck from the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Ariel Brunner added: "Almost all Member States now have some good agri-environment schemes capable of saving our declining wildlife, but funding is still systematically biased in favour of ineffective schemes that are really just hidden income-support for farmers. Both the Commission and national governments must make urgent and profound changes if Rural Development is to remain a credible model for public spending on agriculture”.
In the study, BirdLife presented a number of case studies illustrating best and worst practice. Good examples included schemes that pay farmers for conserving biodiversity-rich landscapes such as steppe-lands and dehesas (cork oak grazed woodlands), or to restore wetlands and grasslands. Among the negative examples were ill-designed schemes that pay farmers to plough up hilly slopes causing increased erosion (in Cyprus), use the same amount of fertilizer they would be using anyway (in Finland), or to establish super-intensive olive plantations (in Spain).
In some cases, Rural Development investments are actively subsidising environmental destruction as in the case of Portugal where 200,000 ha of biodiversity rich drylands are earmarked for conversion to irrigated farming with heavy impacts on threatened species and an increase of unsustainable water use.

Download the full report here......Pdf

Soaring high: BirdLife launches new migratory bird project

Soaring high: BirdLife launches new migratory bird project

BirdLife’s newest flyways project is being launched this week at an inception workshop in Jordan. “This marks a significant increase in our efforts to conserve migratory soaring birds in one of world’s most important migratory flyways”, said Dr Jonathan Barnard, Senior Programme Manager at BirdLife International.
Government and NGO partners from eleven countries across the Middle East and Africa have come together in Amman, Jordan, to discuss and launch the UNDP-GEF / BirdLife International ‘Migratory Soaring Birds’ project.
“We need to acknowledge the importance of international and regional conservation to reduce threats to significant populations of Globally Threatened migratory soaring birds”, said H.E Eng. Khaled Irani - Minister of Environment of Jordan.
Soaring birds migrate by spiraling upwards within areas of rising hot air and then gliding downwards to their next thermal. This method cannot be used over large water bodies or high mountains, and therefore concentrates birds into migratory corridors known as flyways; making soaring migrants highly vulnerable to localised threats.
However, many parts of the flyway are undergoing a period of rapid development. At the migration bottlenecks, expanding urban, industrial, agricultural and tourism development are creating hazards to birds in areas where previously no threats existed.
Migratory raptor species in the African-Eurasian flyway are particularly at risk from threats to their survival. “More than two-thirds of migratory soaring bird species which glide through the Rift Valley and Red Sea flyway have an unfavourable conservation status”, added Jonathan Barnard.
Hazards include direct threats from development, habitat alteration, pollution, and the construction of barriers such as power lines that obstruct the flyway resulting in fatal collisions. Soaring birds are also directly threatened by illegal and unsustainable hunting.
The nature of the threats to soaring birds and their pattern of migration, means that their conservation can only be achieved by considering land-use beyond the boundaries of protected areas, and by working alongside key industries to create safer flyways.
The Migratory Soaring Birds project is seeking to ensure that soaring bird conservation is incorporated into the energy, agriculture, waste, development and tourism sectors within the Rift Valley and Red Sea Flyways. “By focused collaboration with these industries BirdLife’s newest flyways project will help to make one of world’s most important bird migration flyways safer for soaring birds”, added Jonathan Barnard.
“The government of Jordan will work with other regional governments, ministries and BirdLife International partners in the implementation process”, said H.E Eng. Khaled Irani. “We are looking forward to cooperate regionally and internationally to ensure that the Migratory Soaring Birds Project proceeds as successfully as possible … with the aim to make the flyway system ‘soaring bird friendly’”.
Delegates had the chance to visit the Mujib Important Bird Area to witness one of nature’s greatest miracles. “Here in the Great Rift Valley, we’ve been enjoying the incredible sight of large migratory birds gliding overhead”, said Dr Abdelkader Bensada, the regional project manager. “The Migratory Soaring Birds project will help to ensure that our grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same spectacle”.
BirdLife has for many decades championed the protection of birds of prey from illegal and indiscriminate hunting, and advocated the full implementation of European Union laws. Campaigns have highlighted this issue at bottleneck sites in the Mediterranean, and these site are now much safer places for migratory birds.
‘Mainstreaming Conservation of Migratory Soaring Birds into Key Productive Sectors along the Rift Valley / Red Sea Flyway’ project is being executed by BirdLife International in partnership with national NGO partners and government agencies in Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The project is funded through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Successful translocation sees first petrel chick

The first Bermuda Petrel Pterodroma cahow chick to be born on Nonsuch Island, Bermuda, for almost 400 years, has recently hatched, the result of a successful translocation programme.
"The birth of this chick is an extraordinary achievement for those who have dedicated their lives to saving this rare bird from the brink of extinction", said Glenn Blakeney, the Bermuda Minister of the Environment and Sports.
Bermuda Petrel (also known as the Cahow) once numbered in the tens of thousands before the island’s discovery by the Spanish in the early 1500s. The Cahow changed Bermuda’s history, as the ghostly sounds made at night by the island’s huge Cahow population so frightened the superstitious Spanish sailors that they thought Bermuda was inhabited by devils and never settled there. However, although they didn’t settle, they left pigs on the island as food for shipwrecked sailors.
Over the next hundred years, the pigs destroyed almost 90% of the Cahow population, rooting up the bird’s nest burrows and eating eggs, chicks and adult birds. By the time the English settled Bermuda in 1609, the Cahows only survived on remote islands.
Due to predation by rats, cats and dogs brought to Bermuda by the early settlers, and hunting by the settlers themselves, the remaining Cahows disappeared very quickly, and were thought to be extinct by the 1620s. No Cahows was seen between 1620 and 1951, when a few breeding pairs were discovered nesting on some of the smallest and most remote rocky islands.
"I can not think of a more appropriate success story appropriate for the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Bermuda as the Cahow practically saved the early settlers but then they almost became extinct because of them!", said Dr David Wingate.

Dr. Wingate's interest in the Cahow began in 1951, when the species was rediscovered and he ended up devoting 50 years of his life to saving the species.
After removing all the rats from Nonsuch Island, 105 Cahow chicks were moved there between 2004 and 2008 in the hope of establishing a new predator-free breeding population.
In 2008, the first of these now fully-grown Cahows returned to nest burrows on Nonsuch. Four Cahows, identified by their tags as leaving from Nonsuch in 2005, were recaptured ‘prospecting’ new nests and now a pair has successfully bred.

"I'm hopeful that next year we will see more chicks born on Nonsuch and we will then truly have secured a major victory in ensuring the future survival of this most extraordinary bird", said Jeremy Madeiros, Conservation Officer for the Department of Conservation Services.
Seabirds, particularly albatrosses, are becoming increasingly threatened at a faster rate globally than all other species-groups of birds. Seabirds face a variety of threats, both on land and at sea. Currently the most critical conservation problem facing seabirds is thought to be bycatch caused by mortality in longline fisheres. It is estimated that over 100,000 birds – including tens of thousands of albatrosses – are killed annually by pirate fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean alone.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2009 |  World Bird News May 2009

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