World Bird News October 2008

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2008 |  World Bird News October 2008

Report warns of shorebird extinctions

A report presented in South Korea today outlines the country’s importance as a key refuelling stop for Globally Threatened migratory birds. It provides clear evidence that substantial declines are taking place in shorebirds populations in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, and that the world’s largest reclamation project could be driving Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus towards extinction.
The joint Birds Korea / Australasian Wader Studies Group report entitled ‘Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program Report’ was presented in Changwon, South Korea today at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The Australasian Wader Studies Group is a Special Interest Group of Birds Australia (BirdLife in Australia).
Saemangeum is one of the most important shorebird sites within the Yellow Sea and is being reclaimed for development, putting hundreds of thousands of migratory birds under threat. The 40,100 ha construction project on the west coast of South Korea involves damming the estuaries of the Mangyeung and Dongjin Rivers with a vast 33-km long seawall.
“The results of three years survey work clearly shows that there have been massive falls in shorebird numbers at Saemangeum”, warned Nial Moores – Birds Korea. “Saemangeum used to support the largest-known congregations of Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Endangered Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer, and its destruction could be a major factor in driving these birds towards extinction.”
“The report presents evidence that the reclamation at Saemangeum alone may have caused a 20% drop in the global population of Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, which winter in Australia, meaning that another shorebird species could soon become globally threatened”, said Alison Russell-French, Birds Australia’s President. The report also warns that there have also been severe impacts on the livelihoods of the many local people who relied on the fisheries at Saemangeum.
“We urge the governments of South Korea and China to carefully assess the findings in this report, and fully consider the impacts of coastal development on wetland biodiversity”, said Dr Mike Rands – BirdLife’s Director & Chief Executive.
“There are still opportunities to mitigate the impacts of the Saemangeum project and restore much of its biodiversity for the benefit of people and all life on Earth”, commented Nial Moores. “Action must be taken soon. Once these magnificent mudflat habitats are lost, the biodiversity they support can never be recovered”.
Birds Korea is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats in South Korea and the wider Yellow Sea Eco-region. The Australasian Wader Studies Group aims to ensure the future of waders and their habitats in Australia through research and conservation programs and to encourage and assist similar programs in the rest of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
This news is brought to you by BirdLife's Flyways Programme.
Credits: Birds Korea / Australasian Wader Studies Group

Irish birds in alarming decline


A new report published by Birdwatch Ireland (BirdLife in Ireland) and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) has identified alarming declines in a number of bird populations across the island of Ireland.
Information on Ireland’s bird populations has been collected by both professional and amateur birdwatchers and 199 species were assessed. Bird species have been placed on either Red, Amber or Green Lists with the Red List containing those bird populations that have declined by over 50% or those that are globally threatened. The Irish Red List identifies 25 species which require urgent action to secure their future, this is seven more than in 1999, and the Amber list contains 85 species, the remaining 89 being on the Green list.
Losing out are wintering populations of Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus, Northern Pintail Anas acuta, Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, and Red Knot Calidris canutus, all having declined by more than half during the last 25 years. The reduction in the number of these species wintering in Ireland has been linked to climate change.
Nesting populations of Eurasian Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Common Redshank Tringa totanus, Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus and Herring Gull Larus argentatus have also all declined by more than half over the same time period.
"Since our last report in 1999, the situation has worsened for many of Ireland's birds. Twenty-five species are now allocated to the Irish Red List. We will lose many of these birds from our shores if concerted and immediate action is not taken. It is only a few short years since Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra went extinct as a breeding species here. Many others are now in danger of following suit”, said Dr Stephen Newton, co-author of the report from BirdWatch Ireland.
The news is not all bad. Both Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii and Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus have moved from the Irish Red List to the Amber List, demonstrating that nature conservation can work. Both species have benefited from the work of RSPB Northern Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland and government bodies. Others, such as Corncrake Crex crex and Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, should follow suit as work continues to improve their fortunes.
Dr James Robinson from the RSPB, a co-author of the report, said: "This report confirms that we must redouble our efforts to secure the future for many of our most threatened birds. Most of the birds that appear on the Irish Red List have suffered from long-term changes to or loss of the habitats they need to survive. However, for some migratory birds, we believe milder winters on the continent are reducing the numbers that visit the island of Ireland in the colder months of the year. This is the first time that changes in climate have been identified as a factor leading to appearance on the Irish Red List."

Credits: BirdWatch Ireland, RSPB

Poison blamed for Critical deaths

Three Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita have been found poisoned in a remote Jordanian desert, hundreds of kilometres from their breeding grounds in Turkey. The three birds were being tracked by satellite after leaving Birecik, south-eastern Turkey, where one of only four colonies of Bald Ibis remains.
The birds were found 32 kilometres from the Jordanian capital, Amman. Autopsies have ruled out electrocution and shooting. Scientists are investigating the source of the poison and believe it may have been laid by chicken farmers in order to kill rodents.
“The deaths are heartbreaking but they may not have died in vain. They came from a semi-captive population and the fact that they left the colony proves they haven’t lost their migratory instincts”, said Jose Tavares, the RSPB’s (BirdLife in the UK) Country Programme Officer for Turkey. “The birds flew via Palmyra in Syria, where a tiny colony hangs on, which means birds we release from Turkey next year could join the group in Syria.”
“It was sad news for RSCN to discover that these Bald Ibis were poisoned in Jordan. RSCN and BirdLife in the Middle East are cooperating with specialist labs in Jordan to identify the poison. Based on the results we will take this up with the Ministries of the Environment and Agriculture to try and control the use of this poison”, said Yehya Khaled, RSCN (BirdLife in Jordan).
The Northern Bald Ibis’s migratory habits have baffled conservationists for years but in 2006, BirdLife International and the Syrian Government, tracked the 3,800-mile round trip of adult birds from Syria, finding new wintering grounds in Ethiopia. But young birds were never seen on migration and scientists fear they face mystery threats on an entirely different over-wintering route.

Sharif Al Jbour of BirdLife in the Middle East, who found the dead birds, said: “We know where the adults go but it’s crucial we follow the young birds’ migration route so that we can protect them in winter and help them return to Turkey and Syria to breed.”

To solve the riddle, more Turkish birds will be tagged next year by Czech expert Lubomir Peske. These birds will be followed to see if they join and boost the numbers of the tiny colony in Palmyra. The tracking project has boosted hopes for Northern Bald Ibis in the Middle East with conservationists now more optimistic that they can re-establish a completely wild population in Turkey.

“The people of Birecik have been hugely supportive. The bird is cherished and celebrated by all those who live there and is the gleaming symbol of the town council. Hopefully we will now be able to return these birds to the wild there”, said Dr Ozge Balkiz from Doga Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey).
"A huge effort has been made to reveal the mystery of these lovely creatures’ migration, and we are a few steps from a significant and outstanding discovery", said Khaldoun Alomari, Protected Areas Program Officer, IUCN.
In response to the threat to so many bird species, BirdLife has launched the Preventing Extinctions Programme. This is spearheading greater conservation action, awareness and funding support for all of the world’s most threatened birds, starting with the 190 species classified as Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat.

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Palau publishes IBA directory

Palau publishes IBA directory

The Palau Conservation Society (PCS, BirdLife in Palau) has recently published the book Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Palau. The Republic of Palau is a small island nation in the tropical western Pacific, and the westernmost island group in the sub-region known as Micronesia.
The book, which describes the eight IBAs that have been identified by PCS and partners, will be distributed to decision-makers, traditional leaders, communities, land-owners and visitors. The identification of IBAs is expected to contribute to the on-going identification and management of protected areas in Palau.
“The eight IBAs identified in the new book cover about 47% of Palau’s total land area. Two of these sites, the remote southwest islands of Fana and Helen, are significant for their congregations of seabirds, especially Great Crested Terns Sterna bergii and Black Noddies Anous minutus”, said Dr Elizabeth Matthews, PCS Chief Program Officer.


“Three of the other sites are on Babeldaob, Palau’s largest island. These sites are important habitats for endemic forest birds”, noted Dr Matthews. Ngeriungs, an island in the Kayangel atoll, has Palau’s largest known population of Endangered Micronesian Megapodes Megapodius laperouse. The Rock Islands, Palau’s primary diving and recreation destination, was identified as an IBA for the presence of Micronesian Megapodes, as well as restricted-range, endemic forest birds.
Ngeruktabel, one of the largest of the Rock Islands and Peleliu (another IBA) were the only two places in Palau where all of the country’s nine endemic species were found. This included Near-Threatened Palau Ground-dove Gallicolumba canifrons, Palau Fruit-dove Ptilinopus pelewensis, Palau Scops-owl Otus podarginus, Palau Swiftlet Collocalia pelewensis, Palau Fantail Rhipidura lepida, Palau Bush-warbler Cettia annae, Near-Threatened Giant White-eye Megazosterops palauensis, Dusky White-eye Zosterops finschii and Morningbird Colluricincla tenebrosa.
The efforts that led up to the publication of this book began in 2003 when the Palau Conservation Society launched the Palau IBAs Programme. “The publication of Important Bird Areas in Palau is a milestone in protecting Palau’s unique biodiversity”, said Dr Lincoln Fishpool, BirdLife’s Global IBA Coordinator.
The IBAs Programme in Palau was initiated in collaboration with the BirdLife International Partnership, and through financial assistance from the European Commission for the implementation of a regional project to test the Important Bird Area approach in islands in the Pacific. Other islands that initiated similar projects include Fiji, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia. Important Bird Areas in Palau was published by the Palau Conservation Society, with support from BirdLife International, the European Commission, the Darwin Initiative and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Credits: Palau Conservation Society

American seabirds thrown a lifeline

President George W. Bush has presented The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) to the US Senate for approval. “I believe the Agreement to be fully in the U.S. interest”, wrote President Bush.
ACAP is an international treaty between nations. “Its provisions advance the U.S. goals of protecting albatrosses and petrels. I recommend that the Senate give early and favorable consideration to the Agreement and give its advice and consent to accession”, stated President Bush.
"Albatrosses and petrels are facing growing threats, but if we move quickly on the provisions contained in this treaty, they stand a chance for survival," said Betsy Loyless, Audubon's (BirdLife in America) Senior Vice President for Policy.
"Seabirds tell us much about the health of the world's oceans and ACAP offers a united approach to seabird conservation. President Bush's recommendation for the United States to approve ACAP is welcome support for this urgent legislation", commented Dr Stephen Kress, Audubon's Vice President for Bird Conservation.
The USA will join twelve countries which are currently parties of the treaty. These are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Ecuador, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Republic of South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“Seabirds are among the most magnificent and threatened birds on earth, yet are often overlooked,” said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy. “We applaud the President for extending his support of migratory birds to this vulnerable group.”
The next steps are for the U.S. Senate to ratifying the treaty, and produce laws which will implement the agreement. "We strongly urge the Senate to approve the treaty as quickly as possible", commented John Croxall, Chair of BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme. “U.S. participation in ACAP offers an important opportunity to engage other countries in the protection of seabirds when they range outside of U.S. waters”.
The United States has been an active participant in the work of the Agreement, attending both preparatory meetings and subsequent meetings of ACAP’s Advisory Committee and Meeting of the Parties. “It has been, and continues to be, very influential in international efforts to conserve these magnificent global wanderers,” said Warren Papworth, ACAP Executive Secretary. “By joining the Agreement, the United States will send a clear message to the international community of its resolve to prevent the extinction of albatrosses and petrels.”
Ten out of the 22 albatross species are Critically Endangered or Endangered, and another eight are considered to be Vulnerable to Extinction, according to the Red List of Threatened Birds – which BirdLife maintains on behalf of the IUCN. The most important threats to these species are accidental deaths in longline and trawl fisheries, and loss of eggs and chicks to introduced predators on breeding islands. Solving these problems requires coordinated efforts by governments, scientists, fishermen, and conservation organisations.
“Migratory species such as seabirds cannot be protected by the actions of one country alone”, added Ben Sullivan BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme Coordinator. “International coordination, such as that offered by ACAP, is the only way to ensure that our future generations will also be able to enjoy these birds.”
BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force (ATF) is a major grass-roots contribution to meeting ACAP’s goals. The ATF is the world’s first international team of mitigation instructors working with fishermen on land and on deck, along with government agencies, to reduce seabird bycatch. ATF instructors routinely show that the adoption of conservation measures are both operationally and economically effective. To support the work of the ATF,
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Malta protects Important Bird Areas under Natura 2000

On Sunday October 12 BirdLife Malta (BirdLife in Malta) congratulated the Maltese government on the recent declaration of protection areas in the Maltese islands under the European Natura 2000 network.
“The government’s recent decision to fully protect all the eleven Important Bird Areas (as identified by BirdLife International) of the Maltese Islands as Special Protection Areas for birds as well as the important Ta’ Cenc habitat under the EU Natura 2000 network is an excellent move to safeguard Malta’s wildlife and will be beneficial for people and tourism. We congratulate all staff of the Maltese Environment & Planning Authority for all the hard work they put in to realizing these designations”, said Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director.
BirdLife Malta has identified eleven Important Bird Areas, the majority of which include important seabird colonies. Initially, only four of these were fully included in the Natura 2000 network. Of the remaining sites, six were given partial protection and one, the cliffs from Wied ix-Xaqqa to Wied Moqbol, had been completely excluded. But now the government is giving these areas the protection they deserve, BirdLife Malta said.
Konstantin Kreiser, BirdLife International's EU Policy Manager added: “Several EU Member States had to be brought before the European Court before they designated sufficient sites under Natura 2000. We are very glad to see that Malta is following a more pro-active approach. In Natura 2000 economic development is not excluded, but can be reconciled with nature conservation.”
“The next step is to prepare management plans for all these sites so that the Maltese people and tourists can enjoy and benefit more from Malta’s unique nature” concluded Temuge.
Credits: BirdLife in Europe

Fascinating birds migration at EuroBirdwatch 2008


Over the past weekend, 50,000 adults and children from over 30 European countries took up EuroBirdwatch 2008, BirdLife’s invitation to observe the fascinating migration, as birds move south across Europe for the winter.
BirdLife Partners across Europe were involved - from Portugal to Turkey; Malta to Norway - between them putting together 2,700 different events.
And once again birds didn’t disappoint: attendees counted 2.3 million of them passing overhead.
EuroBirdwatch - BirdLife’s annual birdwatching event in Europe - works to raise awareness of the issues relating to bird migration, and promotes efforts needed to save threatened bird species and their habitats. For many BirdLife Partners the event provides an opportunity to reach new audiences and to attract potential supporters.
This year, BirdLife Partners organized various events to encourage people of all ages to go out, observe, explore and enjoy birds. At various observation posts at each event people counted birds and the collated records (including attendees) for each event and country were referred to a European Centre, coordinated by SOS/BirdLife Slovakia.
Ornithological highlights included the first observation of the Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba in Estonia.

EuroBirdwatch 2008

EuroBirdwatch 2008

Over the 20 past years, Eurasian Starling Sturnus vulgaris has always been the number one in the list of observations in the Netherlands, but not this year, when there has been a massive movement of Eurasian Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs, probably from Sweden. In Lithuania a boat trip was organized for the first time in the Nemunas delta, in order to allow the public to better observe the migrating birds.

The most frequently observed species were Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris, Common Coot Fulica atra and Eurasian Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs.


Notable accolades go to RBCU (BirdLife Russia) who coordinated 1,719 events; SEO/BirdLife Spain who drew in a fantastic 22,000 participants; and VBN (BirdLife The Netherlands), who counted 584,219 birds.

BirdLife International just closed its World Conservation Conference in Buenos Aires, where delegates from 112 countries agreed on a new four-year programme to strengthen the efforts to save bird species, protecting important sites and conserving their habitats. In 2009, BirdLife International will launch a new Flyway initiative on the European-African birds migration route.

New sightings of the Ibadan Malimbe in Nigeria's newest proposed IBA


Surveys of the Ifon Forest Reserve, Nigeria, in November 2007 and March 2008 provided confirmed sightings of Endangered Ibadan Malimbe Malimbus ibadanensis, which is endemic to south-west Nigeria. These and earlier sightings have led Ifon Forest Reserve to be proposed as Nigeria's newest Important Bird Area.
"The sighting of the Ibadan Malimbe in Ifon Forest Reserve indicates an extension of the earlier range, and have raised interesting research questions about the distribution of Ibadan Malimbe in south-western forests", said Ademola Ajagbe of Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF, BirdLife Partner Designate in Nigeria),
Ibadan Malimbe was known only from a small area circumscribed by Ibadan, Ife, Iperu and Ilaro in south-western Nigeria. In December 2006, the species was first discovered in Ifon Forest Reserve of Ondo State, where six sight records were obtained during a ten-day survey. Foraging pairs were seen on two separate occasions and lone males were recorded twice. Records of this species from Kakum National Park, Ghana, in February 2002, September 2004 and February 2005 are yet to be confirmed.One male was identified during the eight-day survey in 2007, while two males were identified at two different locations during the eight-day 2008 survey in the central and northern portion of the reserve. It was difficult to ascertain the presence of female Ibadan Malimbe during the 2008 survey as the males were observed in the company of several Red-headed Malimbe M. rubricollis pairs.
Widespread forest clearance for subsistence agriculture is cited as a possible cause of the Ibadan Malimbe's decline since the 1970s, and human pressure on forests within its range is ongoing. Most of the forest patches within the species's current range are community-owned forests and their preservation is dependent upon local communities.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2008 |  World Bird News October 2008

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