World bird news April 2006

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2006 |  World bird news April 2006

Birds sound alarm over habitat fragmentation

Bird song can be influenced by habitat fragmentation, according to a study published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology (42: 1183 1193).

Analysis of songs of more than 200 Dupont's Larks Chersophilus duponti in Spain and Morocco found that in fragmented habitats there was increased mimicry between neighbouring birds, resulting in an intensification of the differences between non-neighbouring individuals. Sharing song types when a male replies to a rival’s song with the same song sequence is common in birds, and is thought to act as a threat signal between males.

"This suggests that males from fragmented habitats perceived as rivals only the close neighbours with which they engaged in counter-singing," say the study’s authors, Dr Paola Laiolo and Dr José Tella of Spain’s Estación Biologica de Doñana. "Bird vocalisations could become an early warning system for detecting the effects of habitat fragmentation before other indicators such as genetic markers show any change," they conclude.

Dupont's Lark was uplisted last year to Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, largely due to declines in Spain, the only European country in which it occurs (making the species one of Europe's rarest birds). Little is known about its numbers or distribution in North Africa.

Rare Bird Club names new Honorary Presidents

Noted Canadian authors and conservation activists Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson have accepted a joint role as Honorary Presidents of BirdLife International’s Rare Bird Club.

A couple for the past thirty-five years, they presently live in Toronto, Canada, but have also lived in Australia, France, the US and the UK. They are internationally recognized figures with extensive interests in and experience of wider nature conservation who are noted for their generosity in time and effort on behalf of other writers, social causes and conservation. They are both avid birders.

"I look forward to having two such passionate and enthusiastic individuals of international stature to work with in support of BirdLife’s programmes on behalf of birds and biodiversity." Dr Michael Rands, Director & Chief Executive, BirdLife

Margaret Atwood is an award-winning novelist, poet, literary critic and one of the world's best known and best-selling authors. She has written more than 40 books, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, Cat’s Eye and the Booker-Prize winning novel The Blind Assassin.

Graeme Gibson is one of Canada’s foremost contemporary writers and editors and is the acclaimed author of Five Legs, Perpetual Motion and Gentleman Death. His most recent work is The Bedside Book of Birds: an Avian Miscellany (2005), hailed by Globe and Mail as "the most spectacular bird book of the year". Mr Gibson has played an active role in bringing North American and Cuban ornithologists together to provide training in field techniques to Cuban ornithologists. He is also chairman of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory in Ontario, Canada.

"We are thrilled to have been asked to fill this crucial position, and we look forward to working with BirdLife International, and to doing what we can to help it in its vital work." —Margaret Atwood & Graeme Gibson

As joint Honorary Presidents, Atwood and Gibson will represent BirdLife's Rare Bird Club at the highest level, advising on its growth and development, and engaging members in supporting programs for the benefit of bird conservation.

The Rare Bird Club was founded in 1988 by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. Since that time members have provided support that enables BirdLife to conduct scientific research, priority international projects and advocacy work. Members come from all walks of life including heads of state and industry, distinguished international citizens, concerned individuals and families. The Rare Bird Club is for nature lovers, keen birders and conservationists from all over the globe.

Fifth festival for Caribbean birds


Conservation organisations throughout the Caribbean are launching the fifth annual month-long celebration of the region’s unique bird life this weekend.

The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival runs from April 22nd, "Earth Day," until May 22nd, "International Biodiversity Day," and is coordinated by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB), which works closely with BirdLife's Caribbean Programme. Activities will range from exhibitions of drawings and paintings by local schoolchildren, public lectures, photographic exhibitions, church services, bird-watching excursions, and theatrical productions in celebration of the region's rich bird life.

In the first four years of the annual Festival, more than 17,000 persons participated directly, while thousands of others have learned about the bird life and overall biodiversity of the Caribbean through regional media houses, magazines, and the internet.

Dr. Lisa Sorenson, Caribbean Ornithologist and Professor in the Department of Biology, Boston University, USA and Vice-president of the Society said, "The Caribbean is blessed with an amazing diversity of birdlife. More than one in five Caribbean bird species are found nowhere else on the planet. In addition to these many endemics, the islands also provide a home for many migratory species, which may spend up to nine months of the year here. The residents and migrants all depend on the food, water, and shelter that is provided in our forest, scrub and wetland habitats. It is the responsibility of every Caribbean national to cherish and protect these beautiful birds and their habitats. The festival is a wonderful opportunity to call attention to and celebrate our collective natural heritage."

"This Festival is a celebration of the Caribbean's birds - a unique and irreplaceable aspect of our collective life and culture. In the face of climate change and other ominous environmental threats, both wide-scale education and conservation action is imperative to secure our biodiversity." —Andrew Dobson, President of SCSCB

Members of the international conservation community have called the Festival an unprecedented opportunity for education and the generation of pride in what is uniquely Caribbean biodiversity. They have also noted that this is an important call for greater responsibility to safeguard the wider Caribbean environment’s valuable natural assets, to prevent wide-scale extinction and support sustainable development.

The month-long annual Festival is highlighting the fact that the Caribbean islands are recognised as one of the top three areas on the planet for biodiversity conservation, because of the high number of endemic plant and animal species. Sadly, the birds of the region are today more threatened than they have ever been in their history, primarily due to destruction of their habitats and climate change.

BirdLife leads Iraq project


Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshes thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden, and the site of brutal habitat destruction during the Saddam Hussein era – are the focus of a pioneering BirdLife International project to monitor and improve the status of wildlife in the Middle East.

Funded by the Canadian government, BirdLife's Middle East Conservation Advisor Richard Porter has been travelling to the region to train local biologists in skills to survey, monitor and improve Iraq’s marshes for the wildlife that live there. He will be leading a team from BirdLife International’s regional headquarters in Jordan to train biologists from Nature Iraq, a new non-governmental organisation established in the region to help protect the country's environment.

Eighteen globally threatened species of bird occur in the marshes between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, alongside three types of bird that are found almost nowhere else in the world. The region is also home to Iraq’s Marsh Arabs.

Drained of water during the Saddam Hussein era, 90% of the marshes became almost devoid of wildlife. Since the collapse of the regime, a rehabilitation programme has begun. Water has started to return to the internationally important wetland, restoring a vital habitat that is critical for the survival of several bird species in the region.
"My hope is that that project will make a difference in the region by training young Iraqi biologists to take good care of the spectacular wetlands that make up Iraq’s marshes. If more people both internationally and locally can realise the biological significance of the region, they will be able to help conserve this wonderful area." Richard Porter, BirdLife

Another member of the team – a local Iraqi biologist trained by Richard has created a photographic exhibition that records the wildlife, landscapes, people and the way of life of the Marsh Arabs who live in the area

In summer 2006, BirdLife International and Nature Iraq will publish a Field Guide to the Birds of Iraq in Arabic. All 400 species that occur in the country will be included in full colour. The illustrations and text have been taken from Birds of the Middle East (in the Helm Field Guide series), which has recently been translated into Arabic.

Campaign for palms and parrots


With the slogan ¡Si vuelan las Palmas, palman los loros! ("If the palms fly away, the parrots will too!"), a national campaign was launched in Ecuador on 30 March for the conservation of the Wax Palm, the Yellow-eared Parrot and the Golden-plumed Parakeet. The campaign is being organised by Aves&Conservación (BirdLife in Ecuador) and the Jocotoco Foundation, and has received official support from the Ecuador Ministry of Environment.

The Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis was once a common parrot in the northern Andes provinces of Ecuador, where Aves&Conservación is focusing its conservation efforts; while the Golden-plumed Parakeet Leptosittaca branickii was formerly common across the whole country but is now confined to the southern Andes provinces, where the Jocotoco Foundation is leading the work.

¡Si vuelan las Palmas, palman los loros!
("If the palms fly away, the parrots will too!")

The main threat for these two parrot species is the disappearance of the wax palm which is being exploited in an unsustainable fashion each year for the celebration of Palm Sunday. Thousands of wax palms are "harvested" every year to fulfill the demand for palms at this Easter Catholic celebration (the great majority of Ecuadorians are Catholics and very attached to such traditions). The extraction of the central leaves of the palm prevents its development and often causes the death of the specimen. Wax palms need around 25–30 years to reach their reproductive stage and more than 75–100 years to die off naturally and become suitable places in which the parrots can rest and build nests.

Aves&Conservación has established links with the Catholic Church in Ecuador and is lobbying to receive its official endorsement to promote the use of alternatives, such us corn leaves and eucalyptus, instead of wax palm.

Materials produced by Aves&Conservación and the Botanical Gardens of Quito (with the support of several other organisations), are being distributed before Easter at the Botanical Garden as well as outside Churches in the three main cities of the northern Andes Provinces (Imbabura, Pichincha and Tungurahua).

Failure to identify Scotland’s H5N1 swan highlights need for better data


UK Government officials have confirmed that the H5N1-positive swan discovered in Cellardyke, Scotland was a Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, not as previously thought a Mute Swan Cygnus olor.

In contrast to the mainly resident/sedentary Mutes Swan, Whooper Swans are migratory. The Icelandic breeding population winters in North-west Europe, including Britain and Ireland, the low countries and the Baltic.

H5N1 was confirmed in several Whooper Swans in the Baltic during February and March. It seems plausible that the bird found in Scotland may have originated in this region and was attempting to migrate back to Iceland to breed, before becoming too sick to continue and alighting on the sea, said Andre Farrer of the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).

However, it would be foolish at this stage, to dismiss the alternative theory that the swan was wintering in the UK, either in Fife or elsewhere, and contracted the virus locally from another species of waterfowl. For this reason the current restrictions should be kept in place and further surveillance of wild birds carried out, he added.

It wouldn’t be acceptable to report that a mallard duck died of a virus yet reporting that a wild bird has died of H5N1 is often all the information that is released by public authorities Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife International’s Director of Policy

Initial identification in this instance had been hampered by the advanced state of decay of the carcass, and the species was only confirmed through DNA profiling. But according to Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife International’s Director of Policy, studies of the aetiology of this disease world-wide have been held back by slack identification of the birds involved.

It wouldn’t be acceptable to report that a mallard duck died of a virus yet reporting that a wild bird has died of H5N1 is often all the information that is released by public authorities, Dr Bennun explained

Better quality data collection, and reporting of both positive and negative avian influenza surveillance, are crucial to understanding general patterns in outbreaks, possible routes of transmission, and the potential impacts on migratory bird populations. This information can be used to focus contingency efforts, to predict future outbreaks, and to guide effective policy to reduce the economic and conservation impacts of avian influenza.

BirdLife has prepared a document, Surveillance of wild birds, which provides guidance on appropriate sampling, data collection and reporting strategies to monitor avian influenza in wild bird populations.

Migratory birds need our support now!

Migratory birds need our support now!


Participate in World Migratory Bird Day and register your activity online!

The African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement AEWA, together with the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and other partner organizations, is launching the first World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) on the weekend of 8/9 April 2006. To help make this a truly global initiative we would like to ask you to take part in this upcoming event. We are therefore appealing to all stakeholders to engage in activities to help highlight that on this weekend and from this year onward, people throughout the world will be concentrating on the phenomenon of bird migration.

At a time when migratory birds are being unfairly portrayed solely as the harbingers of death and disease, they need our support more than ever! World Migratory Bird Day is the first worldwide initiative to raise awareness, to educate and to inspire about the need to protect migratory birds and their habitats.

This year the WMBD will be launched with a special event called "WINGS" taking place at the edge of the Great Rift Valley in Laikipia, Kenya. It will be an artistic and cultural show reflecting the wonders of bird migration, hosted by the well-known author, nature conservationist and future CMS Ambassador Ms Kuki Gallmann. WINGS will be attended by a wide variety of local and international guests, bird experts and the media.

A number of these experts will also be attending the "Scientific Seminar on Avian Influenza, the Environment and Migratory Birds" directly following the WMBD event on 10/11 April at UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. The Seminar will give leading scientists, decision makers and other stakeholders a platform to review and discuss the latest scientific studies concerning the spread of Avian Influenza and its impact on wild birds and the wider environment.

While WINGS and the Scientific Seminar will be taking place in Kenya, the goal and vision of WMBD is to make it a truly global event. In order for WMBD to become a commemorative event throughout the world we are strongly counting on the support and contributions of conservation-minded individuals, Government agencies and NGOs alike. All stakeholders are therefore encouraged to hold WMBD-specific events and activities on the second weekend of April this year, and to register and advertise these on the WMBD Web site.

By linking existing bird related activities such as birdwatching excursions, exhibitions, lectures or film screenings to WMBD on 8/9 April you will be making a valuable contribution towards helping to ensure the success of WMBD.

Supporting the World Migratory Bird Day with your own activities and registering these on the WMBD Web site is a great opportunity to share your contribution and to tie into the global efforts being made to conserve migratory birds.
Click here to find out how you can help

Two new species discovered, bolster case for Philippine conservation

Two new species discovered, bolster case for Philippine conservation

7th April 2006
Scientists have discovered two new species , a parrot and a mouse that live only on a small island in the Philippines. This island, Camiguin, is the smallest Philippine island, of which there are 7,000, known to support a bird or mammal species that is endemic (lives nowhere else).

The scientists’ research, which is embargoed, is described in the April 5 issue of Fieldiana: Zoology, a peer-reviewed, scientific journal about biodiversity research published by The Field Museum.

These new discoveries and the biological diversity they document strengthen the case for preserving the small area of natural rain forest still found on the island.

Knowing that at least 54 species of birds and at least 24 species of mammals live on Camiguin, and that some of these animals are found nowhere else on earth, makes us realize how important this island is in terms of conservation, said Lawrence Heaney, Curator of Mammals, at The Field Museum and a co-author of several of the reports in this publication. For these animals to survive, we’ve got to save the dwindling forests where they live.

EU in bittersweet budget deal


While BirdLife has today welcomed the European Parliament’s success in obtaining an additional EUR 100 million for Natura 2000 over the period 2007-2013, it has expressed its concerns that the overall budget deal will fail to halt biodiversity declines across the European Union.

Natura 2000 protects Europe’s most important sites for nature, covering around 17 per cent of the EU’s territory. The network provides essential ecosystem services, supports local economies and benefits communities in terms of health, education, employment and quality of life.

While the European Commission estimates that at least EUR 6.1 billion are required per year to finance Natura 2000, the levels of funding that will be available following the final deal on the EU’s budget 2007-2013, reached last night between the European Parliament and the representatives from the twenty-five Member States, are likely to fall far short of this figure.

"MEPs have highlighted Natura 2000 as being a top priority for EU funding programmes. We urge Member States and the Commission to respond to this call by allocating sufficient funding to Natura 2000 and by ensuring that its financial needs are fully taken into account at the review of the EU’s budget in 2008." —Clairie Papazoglou, Head of BirdLife’s European Division

Although the move to increase the environment budget (LIFE+) has been welcomed by BirdLife, significant cuts to funding for rural development and environmentally friendly farming mean that the EU is still way off track in meeting its target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2006 |  World bird news April 2006

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