World Bird News November 2010

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Kokako discovery in New Zealand

Threatened North Island Kokako have been discovered nesting in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges for the first time in 80 years.

The discovery on Tuesday of a nest is a triumph for the Ark in the Park open sanctuary, which is a project by Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand), the Auckland Council and West Auckland iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki.
“It’s fantastic news. When the Ark was started in 2003, this event would only have been in our wildest dreams,” said Forest & Bird North Island Conservation Manager Mark Bellingham.
The nesting pair, named Maurice and Kowhai by workers and volunteers in the Ark, were transferred from Pureora Forest in the King Country in September last year.
“They have been moving around as a tight pair for the last nine weeks, and Forest & Bird field staff found their nest on Tuesday,” Dr Bellingham said.
“The female, Kowhai, is incubating eggs. We expect them to hatch in the second week of December and the chicks should be off the nest and moving around by Christmas.”

Pest control is carried out throughout the 2,300 hectares in the Ark and volunteers are intensifying trapping efforts around the nest. The main threat from stoats and cats is likely to come after the chicks have hatched and start making a noise.

Forest & Bird staff and volunteers are now searching for other Kokako – a total of 22 have been transferred into the Ark.

One other pair has been together for about a month, and the female has not been seen much in recent days, so searchers want to see if she is building a nest.

The discovery of the nest follows the first transfer of six Kokako from the King Country in 2009 and this year 14 more came from the King Country and two from Tiritiri Matangi island in the Hauraki Gulf.
Kokako live for up to 40 years and it is hoped this will be the first of many breeding seasons for Maurice and Kowhai and other Kokako in the park. Dr Bellingham said it is hoped the population in the Ark will start growing in a self-sustaining way in the next three or four years.
The Ark in the Park sanctuary aims to restore some of the glory of the forest and wildlife in the Waitakere Ranges, west of Auckland. Possum control has allowed forest vegetation to recover and intensive control of rats, stoats and wild cats has led to work restoring some of the bird life in the forest.
Among other species reintroduced are whitehead, North Island robin, and hihi (stitchbird). This has been achieved with Forest and Bird volunteers putting in more than 8,000 hours a year managing biodiversity in the Ark in the Park project area.

Satellite Tracking Leads to Compilation of Important Conservation Data

Satellite Tracking Leads to Compilation of Important Conservation Data

A new study on Sooty Shearwaters in the California Current shows the benefit of seabird tracking data in identifying priority sites for seabird conservation at sea.

Satellite technologies, similar to those used by cell phone companies, are enabling scientists to track the sooty shearwater seabird species. The data helps to identify critical at-sea habitats for marine life and can further ecosystem-based management of the forage species on which seabirds and other marine predators rely.

Scientists James Harvey and Josh Adams of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are using the tracking data to test their hypothesis that the seabirds move based on feeding opportunities within the California Current system.

With their tracking data, the scientists determined common feeding “hotspots,” discovered when the birds visited particular locations and how often, and characterized movement patterns.

They found that these ‘hotspots’ do exist but tend to vary from year to year. In addition, the birds (when within 200 nautical miles of the coast) spent only about a quarter of their time in NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries.

Having developed an algorithm for filtering and analyzing the raw position data, the scientists will now be able to broaden their research to include other species of seabirds and evaluate the overall effects that certain types of fishing have on these birds as a whole.

For many years, environmental researchers have worried that intense harvesting of forage species might reduce food resources for marine predators. With these findings, management systems can be enhanced to ensure that enough forage species are left for the seabirds and other marine predators.

BirdLife plans to conduct similar analysis using data in the Procellariiform Tracking database to identify marine IBAs through regional projects such as the Barrow to Baja Initative, which aims to identify a network of marine IBAs on the east coast of north America, strecthing from Barrow in Alaska to Baja in Mexico. Photo Ben Lascelles

Ethiopian surveys find high densities of Prince Ruspoliís Turaco but highlight threats

Ethiopian surveys find high densities of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco but highlight threats

Recent surveys of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco ruspolii suggest that rates of habitat change have been very fast in the northern part of the species’s range, where large areas have been converted to agriculture and plantations of exotic trees.
“The results of this survey will be of immediate use for conservation, as the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society [EWNHS, BirdLife in Ethiopia], prepares to develop a Conservation Action Plan for Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco”, said Mengistu Wondafrash, Executive Director of EWNHS.
The Species Action Plan work will be made possible through recently secured financial support from the 2010 British Birdwatching Fair.
Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco (Vulnerable), is a macaw-sized bird with scarlet and navy-blue wings, long tail and green-and-white head. It was first discovered among the personal effects of Prince Ruspoli after he was crushed to death by an elephant in 1893. As the unfortunate nobleman had not had time to label the specimen, its origins remained a mystery for half a century before the species was seen in the wild by an English naturalist in southern Ethiopia.
In 1995, its population was estimated at 10,000 individuals, but alarming rates of habitat destruction in the region were feared to have had negative effects on this bird, that lives along forest edges and in woodlands with scattered Podocarpus and fig trees.
Fortunately, in the central part of Ruspoli’s Turaco’s range, the woodlands bordering Sede and Lela Lemu forests are still largely intact, and support high densities of the species. The forests themselves are inhabited by a rich avifauna that also includes the White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis. This area is clearly a key site for the conservation of the species, as it hosts the most important surviving population. However, the survey also found that rates of illegal logging and agricultural expansions are increasing in the area, and rates of habitat destruction are bound to increase as the road system will soon be upgraded to support the expansion of the mining industry, that is already flourishing in the area. Urgent actions are now needed to improve the conservation of Sede and Lela Lemu forests and of the woodland belt that surrounds them.
The surveys were organised by Addis Ababa University and funded by a group of conservation organisations led by CEPA (Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales, France) and including Zoologische Gesellchaft fur Arten- und Populationsschutz (ZGAP, Germany), Chester Zoo (UK), the International Turaco Society and the Avicultural Society (UK), Zlin Zoo (Czech Republic).
This post was written by Alazar Daka, Luca Borghesio, Jean-Marc Lernould (photograph) and Afework Bekele.


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State of the World’s Waterbirds: in trouble in Asia, recovering in ‘the West’

Erzhan helps locate important new staging site for Sociable Lapwing in Turkey

Surmeli Kizkusu - Vanellus gregarius from mustafa erturhan on Vimeo.

This autumn researchers from Doga Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey) have been actively monitoring Sociable Lapwings as they pass through Eastern Turkey.

On September 26th, DD staff searching in the north east of the country located sixty Sociable Lapwings in two separate flocks of 30 birds at a previously identified Turkish staging site on the Erzurum Plain.

On September 28th, DD researchers monitoring birds near the Syrian border in the far south-east of Turkey, then discovered a large flock of 498 Sociable Lapwings had already reached another well known staging site – Ceylanpinar. During the monitoring, one of DD’s Volunteers – Mustafa Erturhan – filmed this video of the flock.

On October 3rd, RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) received a satellite transmission from Erzhan (one of nine satellite-tagged Sociable Lapwings currently being monitored) indicating he was close to the town of Patnos some 30k. north of the Van Golu lake in central Turkey. DD staff were alerted and went straight out to search for Erzhan (and the flock he was travelling with there) but the habitat proved unsuitable and no birds could be located, so it is probable that he was just passing through.

Despite only five Sociable Lapwings being found in the vicinity of Patnos during the next few days, searches continued in the Malazgirt and Bulanlik Plain (see map below) and on October 9th DD’s efforts were rewarded when a flock of 101 Sociable Lapwings was located there.

The following day researchers were even more successful when they discovered another much bigger flock of 554 birds close by, which is the largest gathering of migrating Sociable Lapwings encountered so far this autumn. So, despite Erzhan not being relocated in this flock, he has yet again pointed the way and helped DD discover another important new staging site in eastern Turkey.

The latest news from Turkey is that with no further reports of lapwings from the Mus Plain during the past two weeks, our birds have probably now finished passing south through a central corridor in Turkey. However, birds were still passing through the south-east of the country as recently as last week. Two groups were discovered on October 20th – one in Ceylanpinar as expected and, to DD’s surprise, the other at a site in the Akcakale Plain in the north east that has previously only been known as a spring migration staging site. DD researchers hypothesize that there might be two distinct routes taken by Sociable Lapwings moving through Turkey which we hope to bring you further news about, if this can be established, in due course.

See here for up to date details on the amazing journey Sociable Lapwings are making this autumn as they migrate south from their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan.

Hope for Tasmaniaís forests

Hope for Tasmania’s forests

Birds Australia (BirdLife Partner) have just reported that there is a ray of hope for Tasmania’s beleaguered forests and the birds and other creatures that call them home.

For 30 years we have seen community conflict and the destruction of vast swathes of Tasmania’s native forests, including crucial breeding habitat for Swift Parrots, but last week an unprecedented agreement was reached between the Tasmanian Government, the forest industry, timber communities, unions and the conservation movement. This new ‘Statement of Principles’ should pave the way for the salvation of Tasmania’s native forests, stopping the logging of high-value forests by early next year. All it needs now to be put into practice is the backing of the Federal Government — and without Canberra’s endorsement, the whole process will collapse.

It is vital for us all to show our support for this historic agreement so that Canberra will heed the call. The Australian Native Forests Charter has been set up to illustrate support from the general public. To show your support, head to the Australian Native Forests Charter and sign the petition. It’s easy, and will take just a few seconds but it will have a lasting effect. Do it for Tasmania’s birds and the forests they live in.

Pic.Swift Parrot (by 0ystercatcher / Flickr)

South African birds in trouble

South African birds in trouble

Of the 10,000 bird species on Earth, 1,226 are listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Forty of these occur in South Africa and of these 20 are endemic. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, species are now disappearing from our planet at an alarming rate, and studies have shown that this is mostly driven by human activities.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species ranks plants and animals according to threat levels and risk of extinction, thus providing an indication of biodiversity loss. This has become a key tool used by scientists and conservationists to determine which species are most urgently in need of conservation attention, both on a regional and global scale, thus guiding the work of governmental conservation departments and environmental NGOs.

In South Africa, a number of birds are listed on the IUCN Red List, with several heading for extinction should some of the threats continue and should the NGOs who are implementing conservation action halt their important work.

The Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus is the most severely threatened crane on the African continent. Recent surveys in Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, countries long thought to be strongholds for the Wattled Crane, show that the global population is only half of what has been reported in recent years. Some of the greatest losses have occurred in South Africa, where a 38% decline between 1980 and 2000 left the national population Critically Endangered. Only about 250 individuals remain in South Africa, mostly concentrated in isolated pockets of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.

Kerryn Morrison of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s African Crane Conservation Programme says, “Genetic diversity studies indicate that this sub-population is genetically different from populations in other regions of Africa, making Wattled Crane conservation urgent in South Africa.” The programme works with local communities to protect the wetland habitat of this species. Through this work both the cranes and the communities benefit, as wetlands provide resources and services to these communities in the form of clean drinking water, reeds for crafts, medicinal plants and fertile land in which to grow crops.

The African Penguin Spheniscus demersus was uplisted to Endangered on the IUCN Red List earlier this year. The population has declined by 60.5% in the past 28 years, primarily due to food shortages linked to commercial fishing and recent, large-scale changes in fish distributions. The impacts of predation and competition (especially with Cape Fur Seals) is an increasing problem as penguin colonies shrink. Catastrophic oil pollution events remain a big potential threat, while chronic oiling and toxic pollutants in the oceans are increasingly problematic for African Penguins. The impacts of climate change are unknown but are a concern. Venessa Strauss, CEO of SANCCOB says, “We administer the African Penguin Chick Bolstering project and together with international and local conservation partners we aim to increase the African penguin population by bolstering existing colonies through the artificial rearing of orphaned and abandoned wild chicks. The long-term goal of this project is to collect valuable information that will inform descision makers regarding the possibility of establishing new penguin colonies.” In conjunction with this, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is investigating competition with fishing. BirdLife South Africa is supporting several research programmes towards improving our understanding of the impacts of fishing on African Penguin breeding.

Another charismatic bird in urgent need of conservation attention is the Taita Falcon Falco taita. This species is threatened primarily by habitat loss and fragmentation. “The usurpation of the Taita Falcon’s range and nesting sites by species such as the Lanner Falcon can be directly related to habitat change and the fact that the population is very fragmented,” says André Botha, Manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Birds of Prey Programme. This Programme is monitoring Taita Falcon populations in South Africa and raising awareness around its plight. The species is not currently listed in The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, but internationally it is listed as Near Threatened. However, South African raptor conservationists will be recommending an Endangered listing for the species when the Red Data Book is revised next year, as the national population numbers no more than 25 adult individuals.

The Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea inhabits short, undulating, mist-belt grasslands along the eastern South African escarpment and north-western Swaziland. The South African Blue Swallow population of approximately 50 known pairs is locally classified as Critically Endangered. The global population, estimated at less than 1 500 pairs, is considered Vulnerable. In South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province), their numbers have declined by more than 80% over the last 100 years, mostly as a result of habitat destruction caused by afforestation. The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Ian Little, Manager of the Threatened Grassland Species Programme, says, “They occur in very few formally protected areas with the bulk of the population occurring on privately owned land. Our strategy will in future focus on identifying and addressing key threats to the species, based on monitoring data collected over the years”.

Eighteen of the 22 albatross species occurring worldwide are threatened with some level of extinction. For long-lived, slow-breeding birds like the albatrosses, even apparently slow population declines can have alarming consequences over time. Dr Ross Wanless, BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force Manager, says, “Each year about 1 billion longline hooks are set, which catch and drown 300 000 seabirds, of which 100 000 are albatrosses. But we have achieved some impressive conservation gains for albatrosses. South Africa’s fisheries lead the world in implementing seabird bycatch mitigation measures. The trawl industry has mandatory measures to reduce bycatch, which is now down by 60%; longliners have mandatory measures to reduce bycatch and seabird bycatch is down by 80%. Our team has also achieved international recognition in a range of fora and is conducting cutting-edge research into new and improved measures to reduce bycatch.” Fifteen albatross species are recorded from South African waters.

Recent South African species uplistings include the Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum and Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina, uplisted to Vulnerable, the African Penguin from Vulnerable to Endangered and the Southern Ground Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered. Only one species was downlisted, the Corncrake’s Crex crex, from Near Threatened to Least Concern. For meaningful reductions in biodiversity loss to be realised, the Convention on Biological Diversity’s targets must be. While the 2010 target to “significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss” has not been met, this must serve as a driver for even stronger targets and more urgent action to reduce net biodiversity loss. Mainstreaming biodiversity is key, and to this end biodiversity values must be incorporated into national accounting.

Pic:Wattled Crane by ƒernando / Flickr

Liberia and Sierra Leone move to designate Gola Rainforest as National Park

The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone have started the formal processes of designating the Gola Rainforest as a shared National Park and Protected Area.
“There is every reason for us to protect the Gola Forest on both sides of our border, since doing so will ensure that it will continuously provide ecological services to the surrounding communities”, said presidents of Liberia H.E. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Sierra Leone H.E. Dr Ernest Bai Koroma in a joint statement presented at a recent conference in Sweden.
Gola Rainforest is part of the Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem, which is one of the world’s most biodiversity-rich ecosystems. Of the 240-250 forest dependent birds in the region – such White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides and White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus (both Vulnerable) – more than 25 are threatened or restricted-range species. It is also home to more than 50 mammal species, such as Forest Elephant Loxodonta cyclotis, Pygmy Hippo Choeropsis liberiensis and ten species of primate, including Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes.
Last year the Presidents of Sierra Leone and Liberia established the ‘The Across the River transboundary Peace Park’ project to protect the Gola Rainforest – an area covering the Gola, Lofa and Foya Forest Reserves (see map). This commitment is now being translated into actions by both countries.
In Liberia, the Government announced its intention to set aside and upgrade a portion of the Gola National Forest into a National Park. This was closely followed by a public consultation by Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority on the intention to set the Gola National Forest aside as a formally Protected Area, and to contribute to a regional effort in cross border conservation initiatives.
In Sierra Leone, Dr Sam Sesay – The Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security – recently announced: “in the coming months Gola will become Sierra Leone’s second National Park, and is the first step in the government ambitious plans to develop a Protected Area network throughout the country”.
Having recently gained Cabinet approval in Sierra Leone, actions are now focused upon tabling the Gola Rainforest National Park bill before Parliament for final approval.
“Our 20-year dream is becoming a reality now that both governments are pushing ahead with the vital processes of designating their shared Gola Rainforest as a National Park”, said Dr Paulinus Ngeh – BirdLife’s West Africa Sub-regional Coordinator.
Some of these developments form part of the Across the River transboundary Peace Park, which is a four year European Union (EuropeAid fund) grant to Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN; BirdLife in the Netherlands) aimed at securing long term conservation benefits, improved natural resources and biodiversity conservation and global carbon storage of the most critical habitats of the Upper Guinea Forest ecosystem.

The implementation of the project is coordinated by the BirdLife International Africa Partnership along with its BirdLife Partners: the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL; BirdLife in Sierra Leone ); the Society for Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL; BirdLife in Liberia and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB; BirdLife in the UK ); and Government partners comprising the Forestry Development Authority (FDA); and the Forestry Division (FD) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security.
Co-funding provided by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), and the Sustainable & Thriving Environments for West African Regional Development (STEWARD) Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Forest Service, International Programs and Basel Zoo CEPF is a joint initiative of Conservation International, the French Development Agency, the government of Japan, the Global Environment Facility, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

Birds Korea Blueprint 2010

The Birds Korea Blueprint aims to support ongoing conservation initiatives as part of the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) efforts to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss (by 2010), in line with commitments to the Millennium Development Goals. It is a collection of articles and recommendations based on the understanding that biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which people also depend for life and livelihood. The Blueprint’s focus is the conservation of avian biodiversity of the ROK part of the Yellow Sea or ‘Yellow Sea Blueprint Region’ (YSBR), and contains essential information on key sites, species and conservation initiatives divided into three main habitats (intertidal wetland, open sea areas, and islands).

The YSBR is at the heart of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway, and 34 out of c.340 annually occurring species are globally threatened. At the same time, the YSBR is a region under huge development pressure. Reclamation is the major driver of avian biodiversity decline and has reduced the national area of intertidal wetland by more than 70% to only c.106,000 ha, less than half the estimate of remaining ‘coastal wetland’ in the official Fourth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The health of remaining intertidal wetland is also threatened by pollution, estuary dams and infrastructure development along rivers, including the Four Rivers project. The majority of shorebird species and species dependent on intertidal wetlands are therefore in decline or are globally threatened. The 40,100 ha Saemangeum reclamation project, one of many ongoing projects, has already resulted in the loss of livelihood of >20,000 local people and a measurable decline in shorebirds at both the site and the Flyway level. This includes >20% of the world population of Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris (requiring its reassessment as globally Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List). Additional reclamation and mega-projects, e.g. tidal-power plants in Incheon, will cause further massive habitat loss and population declines.

There is less information on seabirds and birds on islands of the YSBR. However, the marine environment of the Yellow Sea is increasingly ’stressed’, and seabirds at sea are likely threatened by oil and other pollution, in addition to unsustainable fisheries. In addition, some seabird colonies, including of Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis, are threatened by invasive alien species. Many migrant bird species on islands, like the island-nesting Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella pleskei, also appear to be in decline. The Blueprint therefore recommends that data needs to be shared, science needs to underlie policy, and improved collaboration is required to achieve a reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss. The 2010 online version of The Blueprint will, as intended, be updated regularly and made available for participants to the 2012 IUCN World Congress (Republic of Korea).

Kenyan Important Bird Area keeps National Park status

The High Court of Kenya has reversed an order by President Mwai Kibaki to downgrade the Amboseli National Park to a game reserve. The High Court found the move to ‘de-gazette’ Amboseli was illegal.
Serah Munguti, the Advocacy manager of Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner), immediately welcomed the decision. “Nature Kenya firmly believes that the future of Kenya’s wildlife lies with citizens and the local populations who share land with wildlife”.
The downgrading of Amboseli was ordered by the President ahead of Kenya’s first Constitutional Referendum in 2005, and was largely seen as an attempt to gain support from the Maasai Community to support the new constitution.

Serah said the new High Court decision was a firm reminder that: “policies and leadership decisions likely to affect the integrity of ecosystems must be made in consultation with experts and not for political benefits.”

Amboseli National Park lies immediately north-west of Mount Kilimanjaro, on the border with Tanzania. It has been identified as an Important Bird Area, and has a rich avian fauna with over 400 bird species recorded, including over 40 birds of prey including Vulnerable Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni which uses the site during its migration period.

Amboseli National Park is surrounded by six communally-owned group ranches that are wet-season dispersal areas for wildlife, and whose management has direct influence on the ecological stability of the park.
Wildlife tourism is one of Kenya’s main sources of foreign revenue, and Amboseli brings in about $3.3m a year from park fees and related tourist activities. This money helps administer Amboseli and other National Parks in Kenya.
“Local people must benefit not only from environmental services but also from concrete financial revenues derived from conservation”, concluded Serah Munguti.

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

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