World Bird News September 2010

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The BirdLife International Seabird Foraging Range Database

Since 2007 BirdLife International has been compiling a database of seabird foraging ranges and ecological preferences in the marine environment. The aim of the database is to provide an authoritative global dataset that can be used as a key tool to help delimit the extent of marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs) adjacent to major breeding colonies, as well as highlight gaps in our knowledge of foraging behaviour and help identify key areas for future research.

Compiling the database has involved a comprehensive review and collation of published information. Additional information has been sought from a large number of seabird experts worldwide, who have helped identify and fill gaps via the provision of further references or of unpublished information. The results of the literature review have been transferred to the database where entries include information on: date and location of the study, stage of the breeding season, foraging distance, trip duration, dive depth, habitat associations, data quality and survey methods.

The database contains over 4000 entries for 250 species obtained from more than 1000 references, with information for every seabird family. Information contained in the database has been provided to, and used and tested by, a growing number of BirdLife Partners undertaking marine IBA analysis. Species and/or family specific fact sheets providing information from key foraging studies and references are being created to highlight how the distances can be used for marine planning purposes.

further details and Pdf here.....

African Skimmers in Botswana

For the past several years, the Independence Day fishing competition at the end of September has been held in the Okavango Panhandle, coinciding with the peak breeding time for the Near Threatened African Skimmer. This species nests on exposed sandbanks along the Okavango River, and the presence of a large number of fishermen and their boats has had a negative impact on its breeding success.

This year however, the fishing competition is under new management, and the organiser, Heather Clark from Bush Boutique in Maun has agreed to move the venue to Chanoga on the Boteti River. BirdLife Botswana (BirdLife Partner) commends Bush Boutique for this change of location, and we hope that this year’s competition is a great success. We are not against people who enjoy fishing (it’s much better than watching television!), and we believe that there is a place for birds and fishermen in the vastness of the Okavango; the upcoming fishing competition will be a test of whether this is true or not.

Incidentally, we also applaud the ‘catch and release’ approach to the fishing competition, and Bush Boutique’s efforts to guarantee that fishermen adhere to the “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing in the Okavango Delta” and other regulations introduced to protect the environment, thereby ensuring a ‘win-win’ situation for all involved.

Major population crash of Critically Endangered Taita Apalis

Major population crash of Critically Endangered Taita Apalis

Taita Apalis Apalis fuscigularis is endemic to the Taita Hills, in south-eastern Kenya. It is one of the rarest birds in the world, surviving in only five small forest fragments at altitudes of between 1,500 and 2,200 m. Its known global range is less than 600 ha. In 2001, the population of this species was estimated to only be 300-650 individuals, thereby qualifying it for the highest threat category, Critically Endangered.

Field work carried out in 2009 and 2010 with support from BirdLife International, RSPB, CEPA and Chester Zoo strongly suggests that a major population crash is underway. Compared with 2001, sighting rates in April-May 2009 had dropped by about 38%; repeated counts done in September-December 2009 and May-July 2010 showed even larger decreases, approaching 80%. This means that the global population of the apalis might now be reduced to only 60-130 individuals, almost all of which are located in a single forest, Ngangao, which is only about 120 ha.

The causes of this extremely worrying drop are unclear. Little or no illegal logging is now occurring in the Taita, and human disturbance has been significantly reduced thanks to the effort of the Kenya Forest Service and local conservation groups. The impacts of other possible factors, such as nest predation and climate change remain unknown. Nonetheless, it is clear that all the possible candidates driving this apparent crash need to be urgently studied in order to stop this species from sliding further towards the brink of extinction. Similarly, research is also urgently needed on the second critically endangered bird of the Taita Hills forests, Taita Thrush Turdus helleri, whose population has not been assessed in recent times, but might be threatened by the same factors that are already affecting the apalis.

Taita Apalis and Taita Thrush are both receiving funding from the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme. The programme 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.

Record numbers of White-shouldered Ibis counted

Record numbers of White-shouldered Ibis counted


A record-breaking 429 White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni have been recorded in Cambodia, making the known global population much larger than previously thought. With so many birds remaining in the wild the chances of conservation success are greatly improved – welcome news for this Critically Endangered bird species.
A group of conservationists came together for a coordinated survey of 37 roost sites across Cambodia. Participants came from BirdLife International in Indochina, University of East Anglia UK (UEA), the Cambodian Forestry Administration and General Department for Administration of Nature Conservation and Protection, the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF), the Wildlife Conservation Society and Worldwide Fund for Nature.
The total of 429 individuals, counted simultaneously, exceeds the 2010 IUCN Red List global estimate of 330 birds by a staggering 30%. Nevertheless, this figure may yet underestimate the true population size. Hugh Wright, a doctoral student at UEA and an expert on the species explains, "Discovering so many White-shouldered Ibis really improves our chances of saving the species. During this record-breaking count, one of our main sites actually had far fewer birds than in previous surveys. I don't believe these birds move very far and they were probably still present at that site. Considering previous counts, this means that the actual population could even exceed 500 birds."
As well as helping to understand overall population size, the roost counts are improving knowledge of where this ibis occurs. The new findings indicate that Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary, Ratanakiri province, is particularly valuable as over 170 birds were counted here. With up to 40% of the known population, this site is now the second most important in the world, not far behind Western Siem Pang IBA, Stung Treng province, which has the largest known population of over 200 birds.
White-shouldered Ibis has been considered the most endangered waterbird in South-East Asia. The population declined steeply in the twentieth century, associated with habitat loss and hunting. It is now extinct from Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and southern China, and remains primarily in dry deciduous forests of north and east Cambodia. In the wet season the ibises group together at feeding and roosting sites, making it possible to count them.

Despite the larger known population, conservationists remain very concerned for this species. Mr Sum Phearun, EAU/PRCF project assistant and organiser of counts at two sites, said: "It's unlikely that the population has actually grown or started recovering. We have put more effort into searching for ibis and we're getting better coverage of roost sites, hence our larger counts. But the species is still very close to extinction so we are continuing our efforts to understand and protect the ibis."

"The future is uncertain for White-shouldered Ibis. Much of the population occurs outside of the protected area system in Cambodia", said Jonathan Eames, Programme Manager for BirdLife International in Indochina.

This species and other waterbirds are threatened by conversion of habitat for commercial plantation, agriculture and infrastructural development projects, such as the proposed Lower Srepok 3 dam, which could flood a large area of Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary. Logging and conversion to plantation is a very significant threat at Western Siem Pang. Failure to mitigate the threats at these two sites could drive this species rapidly towards extinction.

Several donors have supported this work, particularly the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, administered by BirdLife International in Indochina. Additional funding came from Chicago Board of Trade Endangered Species Fund (administered by Chicago Zoological Society), the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme and the British Ornithologists' Union. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.

White-shouldered Ibis is one of the species benefitting from the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme. In August 2007, In Focus became a Species Champion for White-shouldered Ibis. The programme 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.

Largest seabird event ever aims high

Largest seabird event ever aims high


The world's foremost experts on albatrosses, penguins, and other marine birds are meeting in Victoria on Vancouver Island, Canada, this week for the largest seabird event ever held. With seabirds becoming increasingly threatened and at a faster rate globally than all other species-groups of birds, delegates will be discussing the urgent need for conservation action, and are setting their sights high.

"We hope to close the meeting with an announcement that we have formed a new international governing body to address and collaborate on seabird monitoring and conservation", said Professor John Croxall - Chairman of BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme.

More than 800 participants from 40 countries, representing most of the world's seabird scientists, will be reviewing the impact of oil spills on marine birds; how pollution, fishing practices and climate change are affecting seabirds; the need for marine protected areas; how to reduce the impact of invasive species on island seabird breeding colonies; and more.

The conference was opened today by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales who delivered a pre-recorded welcoming address. "As some of you may know, the plight of seabirds has long been close to my heart", he said. "They are, without doubt, some of the world's most charismatic and iconic species".

Delegates were reminded of the urgent need for action in the light of statistics such as 97 (28%) of the world's 346 species of seabird - and over 75% of albatross species - are presently languishing under global threat of extinction. "That they face such challenges to their continued survival is, frankly, terrifying", said The Prince.

BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme works around the globe to address the growing threats faced by seabirds, and is a co-sponsor of the conference. "BirdLife is playing a major role in organising the meeting, with staff and Partners making at least 24 presentations, including two major symposia and three workshops", said Dr Ben Sullivan - BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme Coordinator.

In his opening address HRH The Prince of Wales highlighted the work of BirdLife's Albatross Task Force which works alongside fishermen to reduce the toll on seabirds killed by fishing gears. For example, in South Africa for every 100 seabirds previously being killed infisheries, 85 are now being saved just four years later thanks to BirdLife's hands-on efforts with the fleets.

"Last year, I remember meeting Meidad Goren, who was working with the Albatross Task Force", said The Prince. "It was inspiring to see the work that he was doing with individual fishermen in South Africa".

Delegates at the conference will hear how BirdLife has used its practical experience of working with fishermen to develop factsheets detailing simple and inexpensive mitigation measures to dramatically reduce accidental seabird deaths.

"It is of enormous importance to disseminate more widely the knowledge that there are very simple techniques which could make the most profound difference to seabirds", concluded The Prince.

These factsheets can be downloaded from BirdLife's website by clicking here

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

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