World Bird News for February 2011

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Red Alert from Finland – Number of Threatened Bird Species Increases

28th February 2011

December 2010 proved to be a very sad month in Finland in terms of bird protection. The new Red List, indicating which species are threatened, showed that the number of threatened bird species in Finland had increased by almost 70%.

Birds are one of the best known animal groups in Finland (which has 248 breeding species) and the only group for which long-term population trends are recorded, for each species. The number of threatened bird species is now 59 (up from 35 at the last assessment in 2000), with 30 species listed as near-threatened.
Among mire-breeding species, 8 are now listed as threatened, up from just one a decade ago. Mire drainage which took place decades ago is still affecting these species, even in protected areas. In total, almost 5 million hectares of mires and bogs have been drained by ditching – this is some 55 % of the total area of peatlands in Finland.
A large-scale restoration of mires is one factor needed to ensure a future for mire-breeding species. Mire birds also depend on wetlands during their non-breeding season, and the rapid decrease of some species such as the Ruff cannot be explained solely by habitat changes in Finland. This alarming situation thus also reflects on the condition of wetlands in wintering grounds and migration stopovers.
Common wetland-breeding birds such as the Pochard, Horned Crebe and Garganey are also decreasing.
There is a lack of political will and therefore lack of resources for inland wetland management, which reduces the relevance of Natura 2000 wetlands for birds in Finland.
Not all new from the Red List is negative however – relative to 2000, the number of threatened forest birds has decreased slightly, and common farmland birds such as the Partridge are doing much better than they were.
A current focus for Finland should be on restoration of mires and better management of wetlands. BirdLife Finland and other NGOs will aim to lobby these into political agenda. Parliamentary election takes place in Spring 2011.

BirdLife Finland website






Endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird on “Neotropical Birds”

An authoritative online life history for the Endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius xanthomus has been published on Neotropical Birds Online. The species account deals with identification, distribution, life history, conservation and future research recommendations and provides an essential resource for the conservation of this species.
The Yellow-shouldered Blackbird is threatened by brood-parasitism by Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis, greatly reducing numbers and resulting in most birds breeding on offshore cays. Additional threats are the invasion of nesting areas by Caribbean Martin Progne dominicensis, habitat loss clearance for agriculture, nest-predation by the Pearly-eyed Thrasher Margarops fuscatus and elevated mortality by introduced carnivores.
The main breeding populations of the Yellow-shouldered Blackbird are found in the Important Bird Areas: Mona and Monito (PR001) and Suroeste (PR008) in Puerto Rico. An ongoing conservation program has substantially improved its status but, until habitat loss is halted, the species will continue to qualify as Endangered.



BirdLife Pacific e-bulletin out now

Welcome to our first e-bulletin in 2011. In this issue we bring you news of some of the activities being carried out by BirdLife Partners across the Pacific region to save our most threatened bird species – and our wider biodiversity – from extinction. You’ll read about what’s being done for the Critically Endangered Crow Honeyeater in New Caledonia; the New Zealand Fairy Tern – that country’s rarest bird – and the Great Spotted Kiwi; an attempt to rediscover the elusive Pohnpei Mountain Starling in the Federated States of Micronesia; plus reports on Important Bird Areas for seabirds in the Pacific and how seabirds are returning to Fiji’s Ringgold Islands following a successful programme to eradicate rats; community efforts to restore forest habitats in Fiji; success with combating invasive vines in Vanuatu; and dismay in Australia over an extension of the duck-shooting season in the State of Victoria.

Back in the Secretariat, we received a visit in November from the Board of Trustees of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of the United States, led by the Chairman of the Foundation, Susan Packard Orr, and her sister, Nancy Packard Burnett – daughters of the Foundation’s founders – and seven other trustees and staff. The Packard party was briefed on the work being undertaken by BirdLife Pacific Partners in the region, especially on seabirds and islands restorations and was also taken on birdwatching trips around Suva. Funding grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation were instrumental in initialing seabirds’ programmes in the Pacific which are being undertaken by BirdLife Partners in Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Palau and the visit gave the trustees the opportunity to learn at first-hand the issues involved in implementing these programmes.

Following the signing of a contract with the European Union in December, in the coming weeks we shall be appointing a Regional Programme Manager Alien Invasive Species to manage our new, EU-funded regional project. We shall also be planning to host a mid-term review, on behalf of Conservation International, of projects funded under the CEPF’s Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot. That meeting is expected to be held in Fiji in early June. We shall also begin preparations for the convening, in October, in association with SOP-MANU, the BirdLife Partner in French Polynesia, of the next Pacific Partnership Meeting. All-in-all, 2011 is shaping up to be another productive and exciting year, as was 2010, for the Partnership and for all those interested in and concerned about the conservation status of birds in the Pacific. I wish all our readers the same.

Click here to download the e-bulletin.

New funding to monitor the state of Bulgaria’s farmland birds

22nd February 2011

The Bulgarian Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MFA) has commissioned the preparation of an index of the state of farmland birds from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB, BirdLife in Bulgaria).

The three-year project is funded by the EU Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.

This new funding builds upon a project for Common Bird Monitoring (CBM), which started in 2004 with funding from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). Within CBM, a national network of volunteers was established and data on the abundance of breeding farmland birds in Bulgaria was collected annually. Data from the most recent assessment suggest that farmland birds decreased by 9% between 2005 and 2009.
The new funding will allow future assessments of the state of farmland birds, and thus inform measures for farmland habitat improvement. It will also extend the activities begun under CBM, by allowing BSPB to assess the impact of agri-environmental schemes on the state of farmland birds and High Nature Value sites


Record number of Spoonbills seeking shelter from storm greeted with gunfire in Malta

21st February 2011

Starting last Friday, and continuing into the weekend, illegal hunters have been targeting rare protected Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia as a record three flocks totaling around 70 Spoonbills sought shelter in the southeast of Malta from gale force winds.

Many vehicles followed the birds, which are scarce but regular visitors to the islands, along the coast as the flocks dispersed to seek roost sites. The BirdLife Malta (BirdLife Partner) office received several reports of illegal hunting, including a report of 11 spoonbill being killed in Delimara. The reports were forwarded to the Malta police force, who sent patrols to the area.
BirdLife Malta fieldworkers sent to the area heard over 25 shots from St Thomas Bay, with several more from Delimara where a team was told the police had confiscated a shotgun.
BirdLife Malta received photos of a hunter who fired a total of 6 shots at several spoonbill, within just a few metres of residences in Marsascala. The photos were passed onto the police to help with investigations.
On Saturday at least 13 shots were heard from St Thomas Bay area. Only six spoonbill were seen leaving their roosts, one of which had a dangling leg – an injury consistent with gunshot injuries.
“These so called hunters have shot at protected species during the closed season on their migration to their breeding grounds” said Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Policy and Conservation officer.
“The Eurasian Spoonbill is listed under Annex I of the Bird Directive and is considered a rare bird in Europe. We hope that the remaining Spoonbills have made it safely off the islands.” concluded Barbara.
If you would like to help stop the illegal killing on the Maltese Islands, read more about BirdLife Malta’s international Spring Watch conservation camp here

Grauer’s Swamp Warbler mistnetted at Kibira National Park – Burundi

An Endangered Grauer’s Swamp Warbler Bradypterus graueri – so far found in the restricted range of swamps of Burundi, Rwanda and eastern part of DRC – was recently mistnetted at one of valley swamps of Kibira National Park called Mwokora.

The bird was caught during a field work as part of the BirdLife International/MacArthur Foundation project on ‘Implementing and monitoring an Adaptive Management Framework for Climate change in the Albertine Rift’’ implemented in Burundi by ABO (BirdLife Partner in Burundi). The field work took place from 24-30 January 2011 and the bird was caught (and safely released) in the net on 25th after we set the nets for approximately 4 hours form 6am.

ABO staff estimated the local population to be 30 singing individuals. The previous Burundi population was estimated as ten pairs in 1984.

The bird currently faces many environmental threats as its habitat is under high pressure by the surrounding community looking mainly for raw materials for making mats or for thatching.
At other valley swamps of the park, agriculture is growing and seriously jeopardising the suitable habitat for the species. Urgent conservation measures - targeting the valley swamps – are needed.

Spring Alive 2011 ready to fly, with some bright and brand new feathers

2nd February 2011

BirdLife and its Partners have announced the start of Spring Alive 2011: a European-wide project that invites families with young children to communicate their first personal observations of migratory birds arriving near their home.

Participants are encouraged to add their observations to the Spring Alive 2011 website, where tens of thousands of sightings will contribute to an online map, allowing visitors to track the arrival of migratory birds across Europe as the season pans out. Now in its fifth year, Spring Alive tracks five migrant species including the Common Swift Apus apus, Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus and a very colourful newcomer in 2011: the European Bee-eater Merops apiaster!

One of Europe’s most colourful birds, European Bee-eaters are doubly conspicuous thanks to their willingness to perch on wires, dead trees and other elevated areas where they spot their insect prey. Bee-eaters are particularly social, often found in large flocks when not migrating and even helping to raise each others’ chicks. Migration takes a heavy toll on this species, with scientists estimating that only one out of every three European Bee-Eaters to leave Europe in Autumn will return in Spring.

Aimed at children aged 8-12, Spring Alive is a simple and fun way for parents to involve their children in the wonder of Europe’s spring migration. The website also offers a great source of kid-friendly information for budding ornithologists.

Over 30 Birdlife Partners currently participate in Spring Alive events, contributing to enhancing a family-oriented approach to nature education by showing how attractive and engaging outdoor entertainment within family circles can be.

Spring Alive 2011’s Polish-based International Coordinator, Karolina Kalinowska, explained “What we, the ornithology organisations, are also interested in is to know the day [on which] most people first see each species each year.” Through such observation, which children can communicate in a simple way through the Spring Alive website, ornithologists hope to see whether these five bird species arrive in Europe earlier or later than usual, which might indicate a change in global temperatures. In this way, Spring Alive may additionally contribute to raising awareness of climate change issues amongst European youth.

Spring Alive would not be possible without support from its major sponsor, The Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa (MCFEA). MCFEA aims to encourage the appreciation and conservation of flora and fauna, with an emphasis on endangered species.

The campaign is also financially supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

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