World Bird News May 2010

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

Wetland aliens cause bird extinction

Wetland aliens cause bird extinction


BirdLife International has announced, in the 2010 IUCN Red List update for birds, the extinction of Alaotra Grebe Tachybaptus rufolavatus. Restricted to a tiny area of east Madagascar, this species declined rapidly after carnivorous fish were introduced to the lakes in which it lived. This, along with the use of nylon gill-nets by fisherman which caught and drowned birds, has driven this species into the abyss.

"No hope now remains for this species. It is another example of how human actions can have unforeseen consequences", said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife International's Director of Science, Policy and Information. "Invasive alien species have caused extinctions around the globe and remain one of the major threats to birds and other biodiversity."

Another wetland species suffering from the impacts of introduced aliens is Zapata Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai from Cuba. It has been uplisted to Critically Endangered and is under threat from introduced mongooses and exotic catfish. An extremely secretive marsh-dwelling species, the only nest ever found of this species was described by James Bond, a Caribbean ornithologist and the source for Ian Fleming's famous spy's name.
And it's not just aliens. Wetlands the world over, and the species found in them, are under increasing pressures.
In Asia and Australia, numbers of once common wader species such as Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris and Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis are dropping rapidly as a result of drainage and pollution of coastal wetlands. The destruction of inter-tidal mudflats at Saemangeum in South Korea, an important migratory stop-over site, correlated to a 20% decline in the world population of Great Knot. Huge flocks of these birds once visited northern Australia, but annual monitoring by scientists have found corresponding declines in numbers.
"Wetlands are fragile environments, easily disturbed or polluted, but essential not only for birds and other biodiversity but also for millions of people around the world as a source of water and food", said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Research and Indicators Coordinator.
Turning the tide

However, the Red List update shows that we now know, more than ever, that conservation works. Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina has been downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered as a result of conservation work to restore natural vegetation on its island home. SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) have worked together with others to turn around the fortunes of this species in what is a model for other projects.

"This is a clear example of conservation action succeeding in turning the tide for a highly threatened species", said Andy Symes, BirdLife's Global Species Programme Officer. "Where there is commitment and financing we can save species. We have the knowledge and will, but there needs to be better funding globally to address the loss of species."

In Colombia, Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis has also been the beneficiary of conservation. Protection of its nest sites and education programmes in local communities telling people about its uniqueness has lead to a steady increase in numbers, resulting in downlisting to Endangered.

"These successes show what is possible, and they point the way forward to what needs to be done by the global community", said Dr Butchart. "2010 is the International Year of biodiversity; world leaders failed to stem the decline of biodiversity. We cannot fail again."

"The monitoring of bird species is a key contribution to the monitoring of biodiversity worldwide. We must praise BirdLife International, their Partners and all ornithologists around the world for their massive effort to better understand the current extinction crisis and also their efforts to save some of the most threatened species", said Dr Jean-Christophe Vie, Deputy Head of IUCN's Species Programme. Birdlife International

Binoculars and Bodyguards - Looking for Iraq's Birds

Binoculars and Bodyguards - Looking for Iraq's Birds


In recent years, many people have been struggling to survive in Iraq. Even now the country's far from safe. However, since 2005 Nature Iraq (BirdLife Partner) staff have been doggedly surveying the rich biodiversity found within their country, taking them to some of the most dangerous spots in search of elusive species like Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius.
"We received fresh sightings and GPS co-ordinates which indicated a Sociable Lapwing was sitting in an area near Haditha which is an extremely dangerous place", said Nature Iraq's Omar Fadil.
Omar is part of a team from Nature Iraq who conduct annual winter surveys of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) across the country. "It took us about 6 hours to drive from our base in Tikrit to where the bird was sitting".
In order to visit the area safely, Omar convinced a group of Iraqi army bodyguards to join his quest. "I was impressed that the Iraqi army understood what we were doing, and supplied me with three patrols with five armed soldiers in each of them. All of us were looking for the Sociable Lapwing, which was an amazing experience".

Sadly, despite their best efforts, the team could not locate the bird. "However, we now have a better understanding of the habitat, the feeding resource and the migratory places that the lapwing are looking for in Iraq".

Nature Iraq's KBA project has sought to locate and assess potential areas of biological diversity, and to install a programme of monitoring. Omar's team have been working in the centre and western desserts of Iraq. In 2010, they recorded raptor migrations including over 450 Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (Vulnerable), and mixed flocks of Black Kite Milvus migrans and Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus up to 500 strong. Furthermore, they recorded the first breeding Mourning Wheatear in the country.
This year's winter KBA surveys outlined again the global importance of the Mesopotamian Marshes in the south of Iraq for wintering waterbirds. "We observed around 41,000 Vulnerable Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris this winter", remarked Mudhafar Salim - leader of Nature Iraq's KBA surveys in the marshes and birding section leader.
The world's population of Marbled Duck is estimated to be between 14,000 and 26,000. Consequently, when Nature Iraq's Chief Executive - Azzam Alwash - heard about the counts, he was keen to check them himself.
"Azzam insisted to go there to see them, and asked 'where are your Marbled Duck?'", noted Mudhafar. "When we arrived at the spot, we were very happy to see huge 'dark clouds' of Marbled Duck. Yes, the figure we wrote was correct".

In Kurdistan, Northern Iraq , ten areas were surveyed by Korsh Ararat and his team who recorded over 72,000 birds of 125 species. "Of these 19 are Globally Threatened", noted Korsh. "For example, we observed around 3% of the world's population of Vulnerable Lesser White-fronted Geese Anser erythropus".
Sadly, the three teams recorded a number of threats during their work. Omar reports seeing hunting of Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata (Vulnerable) and trapping of Saker Falcon Falco cherrug (Endangered). Mudhafar observed wildly fluctuating water levels in the marshes, and Korsh reported poisoning, hunting and habitat destruction incidents in Kurdistan. The Nature Iraq teams continue to work in extremely difficult circumstances to tackle threats to biodiversity throughout the country.Birdlife International

Biodiversity in Africa's Protected Areas declining Fast

Biodiversity in Africa's Protected Areas declining Fast


The status of Biodiversity is progressively declining in African Protected Areas according to BirdLife International. This was unveiled during a side event today hosted by BirdLife during the on-going CBD SBTTA 14 meeting attended by Government delegates from all over the world at UNEP Gigiri in Kenya.
In total, BirdLife is working in 22 countries in Africa in over 1,200 IBAs. While all countries have increased efforts to conserve biodiversity, much more is still to be done. The side event in Nairobi, Kenya, shared results from a monitoring project of Protected Areas at 117 sites, across seven African countries, implemented by BirdLife and RSPB (BirdLife in theUK) and funded by the European Commission.
The monitoring results clearly show that the state of biodiversity in Protected Areas is declining. Sites identified as being in a poor state increased from 43% in 2001, to 57% in 2008.
At the same time there has been a general increase of threats facing Protected Areas. "The results of our monitoring indicate that the pressures on biodiversity have been increasing falling far short of the target to reduce biodiversity loss", said Dr. Muhtari Aminu Kano - BirdLife International's Global Policy and Advocacy Advisor.

Delegates at the meeting heard how BirdLife used a simple 'State, Pressure, Response' Model for the monitoring of the over 1,200 African Important Bird Areas (IBAs), of which about 46% are Protected Areas.

The data from the monitoring have been used to develop indicators to show trends over time within IBAs. These results form important components of the suite of indicators suitable to track biodiversity progress towards the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) target, and wider sustainable development around the globe.
"The results also show that if proper management responses are put in place it is possible to improve the state of biodiversity and reduce pressures", said Achilles Byaruhanga - Executive Director of Nature Uganda (BirdLife Partner).
"This was well demonstrated through the sites monitored in Botswana - Central Kalahari Game reserve, Okavango Delta and Mannyelanong - where comprehensive and effective use of existing management plans have been instituted".
BirdLife told delegates that it is important for policies to be implemented and alternative livelihoods be provided for to reduce the pressures facing Protected Areas to ensure that governments start moving towards meeting their biodiversity target under the CBD.

"BirdLife's monitoring tool is useful and can be used by Governments to identify threats, assess their impacts while at the same time helping to develop solutions", said Dr Julius Arinaitwe - BirdLife Africa Partnership Director.
"BirdLife supports a post 2010 commitment by Governments (2020 target) that calls for urgent action to halt biodiversity loss; to reduce pressure on biodiversity, prevent extinctions, restore ecosystems while equitably sharing the benefits, thus contributing to human well being and poverty reduction", concluded Dr Arinaitwe. Birdife International

Migratory birds in crisis


This coming weekend, thousands of people are attending World Migratory Bird Day events which highlight migratory birds in crisis. BirdLife Partners around the world are celebrating bird migration, whilst also stressing the plight of some the world's most threatened species.
World Migratory Bird Day is a global initiative to raise awareness for the need to conserve all migratory birds. Events range from bird festivals, education programmes and birdwatching trips to watch bird migration in action.
Every year it focuses on a different topic. This year's theme 'Save migratory birds in crisis - every species counts!' - is raising awareness about Globally Threatened migratory birds, with a particular focus on those on the very edge of extinction - the Critically Endangered.
Around 11% of migratory birds are Globally Threatened or Near Threatened according to BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List. Of these, 31 are classified as Critically Endangered. Examples include, Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus in Europe, Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius in the Middle East and Africa, Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini in Asia, Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster in the Pacific, and Kittlitz's Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris in the Americas.
BirdLife Partners around the world know the value of migratory birds, and are best placed to help. We operate in over one hundred countries and territories worldwide, and work together to raise awareness about migratory birds and implement conservation projects.

"International collaboration is the only way to conserve migratory birds as they pass along their flyways", said Dr Marco Lambertini - BirdLife's Chief Executive. "That's why the BirdLife Partnership, with over 100 national organisations across the continents, can make a great difference in providing safer routes for migratory birds, as well as promoting the crucial inter-governmental co-ordinated efforts needed to address the growing threats along the flyways".

With 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity, this year's World Migratory Bird Day theme also highlights how migratory birds are part of the natural diversity of our world. It also illustrates how the threat of extinction faced by individual bird species is a reflection of the larger extinction crisis threatening other species and the natural diversity that underpins all life on earth.
"We know that migratory birds are part of the biological diversity of our world and are often used as indicators for the biological health of our ecosystems", said Bert Lenten - Executive Secretary of AEWA and initiator of the World Migratory Bird Day campaign. "We rely on this variety of life to provide us with the food, fuel, medicine and other essentials we simply cannot live without and it is in our power to protect these resources and to safeguard biodiversity".

Jamaica's petrels reveal some of their secrets

Jamaica's petrels reveal some of their secrets


Searches at sea off the eastern coasts of Jamaica in November 2009 have revealed the presence of significant numbers of Pterodroma petrels. The pelagic expedition was part of the global Tubenoses Project coordinated by Hadoram Shirihai and Vincent Bretagnolle and was supported by BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme with funds from the British Birdwatching Fair. Its primary aim was to look for the Critically Endangered (and possibly extinct) Jamaica Petrel Pterodroma caribbaea. This mythical seabird – known locally as the 'Blue Mountain Duck' – has not been recorded since 1879 when the last specimens were collected in Jamaica's Blue Mountains.

Although there have been several recent but unsuccessful land-based searches for this species, a targeted pelagic search – using fish-based 'chum' to attract petrels – was considered worthwhile. After all – other tubenoses (such as Fiji Petrel Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi and Beck's Petrel Pseudobulweria becki) have recently been rediscovered or observed at sea for the first time in this way. At-sea chumming positions were carefully chosen in an effort to attract petrels in the vicinity of or en route to the Blue and John Crow Mountains, which are cloaked in forest with deep 'leading' valleys suitable for breeding petrels. Between 17 November and 1 December almost 100 hours were spent at sea at various points off north-east and eastern Jamaica.

No Jamaica Petrels were found. However, 46 individual Black-capped Petrels Pterodroma hasitata – an Endangered species – were seen and photographed. This species had previously been recorded just once in Jamaican waters (it is known to breed only in Hispaniola and possibly eastern Cuba). Although it is impossible to be sure that these Black-capped Petrels were Jamaican breeders, their behaviour suggests they are and that their nesting area lies in the John Crow Mountains. They were observed coming close to the island during the late afternoon and evening, in small numbers, and sometimes in pairs (including one case of a displaying pair). They nearly always flew toward the island or would mill around at sea below the mountains, as if waiting for darkness before flying inland. If these Black-capped Petrels were indeed breeding on the island, it is also possible that, just maybe, the Jamaica Petrel also clings on in these same mountains.
"Although no Jamaica Petrels were found, the numbers and behaviour of the Black-capped Petrels we discovered suggest that Jamaica supports a breeding colony of this Endangered species and if this petrel has survived hunting and invasive predators, the Jamaica Petrel might just survive too", said Hadoram Shirihai.

A number of other seabirds, rarely seen in the Caribbean, were recorded during the pelagic searches off Jamaica last November. Three Band-rumped Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma castro were seen on separate days (the species was previously known in the Caribbean only from records in Cuba and Antigua); one Leach's Storm-Petrel Oceoanodroma leucorhoa was found, as were two Pomarine Skuas Stercorarius pomarinus and one Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus – all considered vagrants in Jamaican waters.

"There is still much to discover about seabirds in the Caribbean, but these targeted searches off Jamaica made some exciting and important discoveries which could have important conservation implications", David Wege, Senior Caribbean Program Manager, BirdLife International.
Further work in these areas around Jamaica and in the Blue and John Crow Mountains should assist regional efforts to conserve the Black-capped Petrel, and may eventually lead to the rediscovery of Jamaica Petrel too.
To download the full expedition report click here

A cartography of hope for biodiversity in the Americas

A cartography of hope for biodiversity in the Americas


Bird species in the Americas are getting a helping hand at sites across the Western Hemisphere, with the launch today by BirdLife International's Important Bird Area (IBA) programme of a roadmap for conservation, the Americas IBA Directory. This publication identifies 2,345 top-priority conservation sites in all 57 countries and territories. The IBA program not only provides a blueprint for policy makers to make informed decisions on habitat protection and restoration but is already helping the conservation of both threatened and common species as well as a wealth of wider biodiversity. The launch has been generously hosted by Inter-American Development Bank in Washington D.C.
"IBAs are becoming a formidable tool to help governments, the private sector, investment banks and donor organisations to direct conservation funding towards clearly defined priorities", said Dr Marco Lambertini, Chief Executive of BirdLife International. "Many of the people that live in and around IBAs also depend on them for natural resources and ecosystem services such as protection of water sources and driving sustainable economic development."
IBAs cover almost 8% of the land area of the Americas. They vary in size from less than one hectare (2.5 acres) in Barbados to a single site of about 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) in Brazil. Nearly a third of the sites are in fully protected areas, with another 20% enjoying partial protection.
The programme has brought together thousands of dedicated supporters from across the continents representing a huge network of 20 national NGOs in the Americas and at least 150 other collaborating organisations, and is already delivering tangible benefits and attracting greater investment in biodiversity conservation.
Many bird species such as Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus (above), Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni, Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis and Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda need a network of sites covering their breeding grounds, migration stopover sites and wintering areas.
"For a species such as Swainson's Hawk the connection leads from the U.S. through central Veracruz Mexico", said Frank Gill of Audubon. "There they join every fall with 27 species of raptors — millions of individual birds — in what's known as the River of Raptors. It’s an amazing spectacle and the heart of the world’s most important migratory flyway."

That's why Birdlife Partners from Pronatura in Mexico and Audubon in the U.S.are working with others to protect the last 9% of vital native forest that remains.

These birds then continue until they reach South America, where they reach different countries and different BirdLife Partners

In the pampas region of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, the Grasslands Alliance is protecting this habitat for wild birds whilst maintaining farming methods compatible with biodiversity conservation. For Ronaldo Cantão, president of the organisation, APROPAMPA, bringing together cattle ranchers in southern Brazil, the Alliance is more than just sharing a vision, "We want those who buy our beef not only to take home a good steak, but also the peace of mind that an area of the pampas is being conserved".
By working together with grassland ranchers the IBA program attempts to ensure a balance between livelihood needs and conserving critical habitat. Actions already being implemented at sites include natural grassland management for cattle and set-aside areas for wild birds.

By offering an inventory of real sites with well-defined boundaries and reliable assessments of their biodiversity value, IBA directories help ensure that development projects are truly sustainable.
Janine Ferretti, Chief of the Environment Safeguards Unit at the Inter-American Development Bank, said the bank uses IBAs to identify natural habitats or areas of known high ecological and conservation value. "They provide critical data for incorporating sustainable development in project investment decisions." Birdlife International

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

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