World Bird News May 2013

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State of Fijiís birds report launched

State of Fiji’s birds report launched

Fiji’s first ever State of Birds report ‘Fiji: State of Birds 2013’ has been launched by NatureFiji-MareqetiViti with the assistance of BirdLife International, the Department of the Environment and local ornithologists.

Birds are by far Fiji’s most conspicuous form of terrestrial wildlife – they are inspirational, they sing, they are fairly easy to observe and identify, and there is a limited number of species.

Biodiversity conservation in Fiji requires the support of landowners and the populace, who can better understand, participate in and support conservation if they are familiar with and knowledgeable about the species of concern.

The new report provides an overview of the issues and critical considerations facing Fiji’s birds and emphasises how useful birds are as flagships for other elements of our biodiversity. Birds have long been used as indicators of the state of the world’s ecosystems, providing insights into habitat loss, deterioration, pollution and, increasingly, for climate change.

All of Fiji’s birds are special but some are particularly important. These are our endemic birds – those that are found only in the Fiji Islands. Fiji has 27 endemic birds, comprising nearly half of our landbirds. There is just one endemic seabird, the Critically Endangered Fiji Petrel.

To emphasise how special our avifauna is, there are few countries in the world with a higher proportion of endemic birds than Fiji. Indeed the island of Kadavu, with four endemic birds, has the highest number of endemic birds per land area in the world.

“While our state of knowledge of Fiji’s birds is better than for many other groups, it is still relatively poor, and we have yet to introduce any form of national monitoring”, said Dick Watling, the report’s author.

“Some species such as the Fiji Petrel and the Red-throated Lorikeet [both Critically Endangered] remain amongst the rarest birds in the world. We have a good idea of the reasons why they are so rare – largely due to invasive predators but there are no national resources to undertake conservation action”.

Migrant shorebirds and voyaging seabirds are a distinctive and culturally important component of the Fijian avifauna. In September each year, the Bar-tailed Godwits arrive at Suva Point. As far as we know, they fly direct from Alaska to Suva, a non-stop journey of eight to nine days. Some fly direct from Alaska to New Zealand, an 11-day non-stop flight.

The migrations that our dilio (Pacific Golden Plover), Bar-tailed Godwits and other shorebirds undertake twice a year are marvels of the natural world.

“Unfortunately, one of the most important feeding sites for these shorebirds – the mudflats of Suva Point are under consideration for reclamation”, noted Dr Watling. “Where then will these shorebirds rest and prepare for their return journey?”

‘Fiji: State of Birds 2013? is the latest in a growing collection of national BirdLife reports from around the globe. These publications draw on national survey and monitoring data to provide a detailed and authoritative insight into the status of and pressures faced by birds and biodiversity in specific countries, with inspiring examples of conservation actions being undertaken by BirdLife Partners and others.

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Click here to download Fiji Bird Report Pdf (PDF file)

World Migratory Bird Day 2013 highlights importance of site networks for migratory birds

World Migratory Bird Day 2013 highlights importance of site networks for migratory birds

This weekend 11-12 May World Migratory Bird Day 2013 is being celebrated in over 65 countries, including events held by BirdLife Partners around the world from Paraguay to Lebanon to China.

“I fully support the global campaign to raise awareness about the threats to migratory birds from habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution and climate change,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I call for greater international efforts to restore and preserve migratory birds and the network of sites they need to survive as an important part of the environment on which we all depend.”

“Very often migrant birds are under huge pressure at the exact points where they are most vulnerable,” said Dr Marco Lambertini, Chief Executive, BirdLife International.

“Birds battling to reach the sea-shore descend into a limitless line of nets. Tiny falcons funnel through forests to be trapped in their thousands. Exhausted shorebirds find that the mudflats where they once refueled are now a sea of concrete, or circle wearily because their roosting sites have vanished.”

The Yellow Sea of north-east Asia is a very important araa for migratory shorebirds and is of particular concern to BirdLife International. The rates of decline in the region are among the highest of any ecological system in the world. At least 24 waterbird species using the East Asian-Australasian Flyway are heading towards extinction. The decline is mainly caused by the fast pace of coastal land reclamation occurring in this densely populated region, particularly around key coastal staging areas in the Yellow Sea. As much as 50% has been lost in the past 25 years due to human activities.

Another migratory bird hotspot is the capital of Paraguay, Asuncion and also faces increasing pressure.

“Sadly, the bay currently faces major environmental changes, which might severely alter habitat suitability for migratory birds which will affect their survival along the migration route network,” said Dr Alberto Yanosky Guyra Paraguay CEO (BirdLife in Paraguay).

“Guyra Paraguay is working in both conservation projects and educational campaigns in order to raise awareness on the importance of of the conservation of sites appropriate for birds, including celebrating World Migratory Bird Day. My hope is that we can create a true network across the Americas for migratory birds.

Similar to a human transport system of harbors, airports and roads, these migratory birds depend on international networks of natural sites for food, safety, breeding and moulting—as well as for stopover areas which act as refueling stations between breeding and non-breeding areas.

Whooper Swans chose HeidelbergCement gravel pit to spend the winter

The Dixförda gravel pits south of Potsdam in Germany are a very important night roosting place for the Whooper Swans. Up to 1120 individuals have been recorded, which makes them one of the biggest inland concentrations in Europe.

But what are the reasons for these concentrations? Perhaps it is the good combination of a relatively undisturbed wetland surrounded by agricultural landscape? How do the swans use the lake and the surrounding area? What are the conditions that attract them there and how can these conditions be maintained in the future by the management of the gravel quarry?

To find answers to these and similar questions, NABU (BirdLife in Germany) and Heidelberger Sand und Kies are starting a new project which involves:

- The usage of satellite transmitters to study the movements of the swans and to help find answers to specific questions about their usage of the area;

- In order to catch the wintering swans canon nets will be used in feeding places around the gravel pit;

- The resulting knowledge can be used to improve the protection in nature reserves, which will benefit the Whooper Swans and by implication also other species

- Development of a management measures / management plan for the gravel pits / plant: protection and habitat maintenance measures to ensure favourable conditions for the birds in the long term

- Environmental education actions/public relation (excursions with school classes, the locals community, employees from HC, NABU and Ornithologists; elaboration of flyer/brochure; information materials; presentation; publications etc.)

- Field studies of the gravel pits and around the gravel pits (e.g. mapping, counting, conditions, etc.)

Calling for volunteers in New Caledonia

STOT-NC is a program for monitoring the birds of New Caledonia led by the Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie (SCO – BirdLife in New Caledonia).

Launched in 2010, STOT-NC uses a network of trained volunteers to count land-birds across the country. The ultimate goal is to assess and improve the conservation status of terrestrial bird populations in New Caledonia.

In order to establish the volunteer network, SCO offer an intensive training program in the identification (visual and auditory) of birds. Courses are free and open to all, regardless of the initial level of knowledge about birds, and run until September. If you are interested in participating in this training or if you want more information please Click here.

Plight of wetland bird recognised in Australia

Why is the Australian Painted Snipe being placed on the national Endangered List good news? It means that the beleaguered shorebird can finally receive the level of protection that it needs to survive.

It’s ironic that being listed as ‘Endangered’ is good news for the endemic Australian Painted Snipe. Fewer than 1500 of the birds are left in the wild and this week Australia’s Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke added it to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act’s ‘Endangered’ category following a nomination by researchers at BirdLife Australia.

“Wetlands are critical to the species’ survival. Over the last 50 years important wetlands have been disappearing from our landscape because of inappropriate water management and development,” said BirdLife Australia (BirdLife Partner) CEO, Paul Sullivan. “The population has nose-dived and this crucial listing will help us to protect remaining wetlands and restore important ailing wetlands to their former glory.”

Of immediate concern is a proposed expansion of a coal terminal at Abbott Point, near Bowen in Queensland, will cause significant degradation of important Australian Painted Snipe habitat. Up to 24 snipe were seen there last year.

“This is a large number for a bird that’s a bit of a loner” said Paul. “It highlights the importance of this internationally significant wetland for the species. It would be irresponsible to sit back and watch its destruction without a fight — the EPBC listing provides us with good ammunition. That’s what it’s there for.”

The Australian Painted Snipe is a nomadic species which occurs only in Australia. It has been recorded dispersing to swamps in all mainland states and territories in search of habitat, though its stronghold remains the Murray–Darling Basin.

Australian Painted Snipe relies heavily on temporary wetlands that provide a rich source of food after good rains. Once these dry out, the birds can be forced towards more permanent coastal wetlands.

With the long-term outlook pointing to more frequent and more severe droughts, coastal wetland refuges such as Abbot Point will become increasingly important in the fight to stop the species from becoming extinct.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2013 |  World Bird News May 2013

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