World Bird News October 2013

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Canadian scientists publish human-related bird mortality estimates

Canadian scientists publish human-related bird mortality estimates

Yellow Warbler;- Ron Ridout

By Bird Studies Canada, Tue, 01/10/2013 - 13:46

Scientists with Environment Canada, the federal government ministry responsible for protecting the environment and conserving Canada’s natural heritage, have found that human-related activities destroy roughly 269 million birds and 2 million bird nests in Canada each year.

Most human-related bird deaths (about 99%) are caused by impacts of feral and pet cats, and collisions with buildings, vehicles, and electricity transmission and distribution lines. Over the last four years, a team of 20 Environment Canada scientists conducted extensive analyses that enabled them to release the first-ever estimates of annual direct bird mortality from human-related sources.

The results were published on October 1 in a special issue of Avian Conservation and Ecology, an open-access, fully electronic scientific journal sponsored by Bird Studies Canada (Canadian BirdLife co-Partner) and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists.

“Because birds are excellent indicators of biodiversity, the newly-released articles from Environment Canada highlight areas where broader biodiversity may be impacted”, said Dr George Finney, President of Bird Studies Canada. “These results provide a crucial first step toward understanding the relative importance of bird mortality factors, and will inform future research directions, conservation actions, and policy decisions.”

Cats appear to kill as many birds as all other sources combined. Feral and pet cats are believed to kill more than 100 million birds per year in Canada. An estimated 60% of those are killed by feral cats. Bird species that nest or feed on or near the ground are especially vulnerable to cat predation. As these findings confirm that huge numbers of Canadian birds are killed by cats annually, further research and conservation efforts are needed.

“We are deeply troubled by the disquieting research published today on the number of birds killed every year in Canada due to human-related activities”, said Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “Fortunately, there are concrete and sensible ways that people and governments can prevent the needless death of birds, especially now during the migratory season.”

Collisions with electricity transmission and distribution lines have been identified as the second-largest human-caused source of bird mortality in Canada. Between 10-41 million birds per year are killed by collisions with transmission lines; between 160,000 and 800,000 birds are electrocuted by distribution lines; and about 400,000 nests are destroyed annually due to vegetation clearing under powerlines.

Collisions with residential and commercial buildings are the third-highest of the human-related sectors, killing an estimated 16-42 million birds each year – mostly at houses. Following bird-friendly building guidelines can help individuals and building managers reduce the risk to birds.

Using commercial products, special glass, or homemade solutions to make windows more visible to birds can reduce daytime collisions. Night-time window collisions can be reduced by leaving lights off in low-rise and high-rise buildings. An estimated 13.8 million birds are killed annually by colliding with vehicles on Canada’s primary and secondary roads.

There are about 10 billion birds in Canada. The estimated total of 269 million bird deaths per year caused by human-related factors constitutes less than 5% of the overall population. Bird deaths from other causes (such as natural predation, disease, severe weather, or habitat loss) are not reflected in the estimates.

China’s rarest seabird benefits from colony restoration

By Jim Lawrence, Fri, 04/10/2013 - 03:30

Until this year, there were only two known breeding colonies of the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini: the Mazu Islands off the coast of Fujian, and the Wuzhishan Islands off Zhejiang. However, this summer an innovative tern colony restoration project has apparently established another.

Earlier this year, a small island called Tiedun Dao in the Jiushan Islands - an archipelago where Chinese Crested Terns used to breed - was chosen for colony restoration. The restoration team expected it would take some years before there was any hope of attracting the birds back. Their plan was to use decoys and playback tern calls to initially attract Great Crested Terns Sterna bergii to Tiedun Dao. It was hoped that the Great Crested Terns would initially colonise the island, their numbers would then gradually grow, and that Chinese Crested Terns, which have always been found nesting within large colonies of Great Crested Terns, might eventually follow too.

Yet by late September, and at the first attempt, a substantial new colony of Great Crested Terns had arrived on Tiedun Dao, raised hundreds of young and, among them, at least one Chinese Crested Tern chick (below) also successfully fledged.
In early May 2013, a team from the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve, the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History and Oregon State University cleared vegetation and placed 300 tern decoys on Tiedun Dao. Solar powered playback systems were installed among the decoys broadcasting contact calls of Great and Chinese Crested Terns from the Wuzhishan Islands colony.
A few Great Crested Terns visited during the first week in June and showed some initial nesting behaviour but only stayed a few days. This alone was considered a successful first season for the project. With no further signs of any visiting birds in the following five weeks, the breeding season was thought to be over and monitoring was suspended.
When another international team including members from BirdLife International, the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, the Oregon State University, the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History and the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve visited in mid-July, they restarted the playback system. To their surprise and delight, almost immediately a few Great Crested Terns were attracted in and were seen flying above the decoys. Their numbers grew to several hundred within a few days and by the end of July a high count of 2,600 Great Crested Terns had been recorded and hundreds of pairs had laid eggs and begun incubation.

Among them were 19 adult Chinese Crested Terns - the highest single count since the species’ rediscovery in 2000. At least two pairs also laid eggs and initiated incubation. Despite typhoons, that made further monitoring difficult, by late September approximately 600 Great Crested Tern, and at least one Chinese Crested Tern chick, had successfully fledged.

Commenting on the recolonisation project, Mr Yu Mingquan, Deputy Director of the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, who is very pleased with its success, said, "We will do our best to ensure good management of the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve and we also hope to receive more support for the conservation of the tern colony here in Xiangshan."

"The success on Tiedun Dao is a landmark for contemporary conservation in this region." responded BirdLife’s Senior Asia Conservation Officer, Simba Chan. "No one dared imagine that the first year of such a challenging restoration project would be so successful, it just goes to show what can happen with a good idea, strong local commitment and a bit of luck.”

Jim Lawrence, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Manager, also commented, “This is a wonderful example of the conservation success that can be achieved through coordinated international collaboration when it is backed by solid science, local enlightenment and strategic funding support. Congratulations to all concerned."

This BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme project is sponsored by several international funders including the Japan Fund for Global Environment, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Wildlife Without Borders), the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong and BirdLife International supporter - Mark Constantine. In China, the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve and the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History provided vital match funding. These three Chinese organisations also coordinated conservation action in China and provided significant logistical support there that helped make the first year of the project such a resounding success.

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