World bird news January 2006

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Studies highlight danger of poor breeding years

27-01-2006

New papers published in the latest edition of Bird Conservation International, BirdLife's quarterly ornithological journal, highlight the challenges a poor breeding season can pose to threatened species conservation.

A group of scientists studied the breeding success of the critically endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea throughout the September 2001 to May 2002 breeding season in Manupeu-Tanadaru National Park, Sumba (Indonesia).

Within a 6 km2 study area, which supported c. 60 birds, actual nesting attempts by the species were made at only eight cavities, fledging just a single chick. Breeding activity during the period studied coincided with the heaviest rainfall for at least ten years, and it is very possible that adverse weather conditions were to blame.

Another paper in the journal also examines poor breeding success, this time thought to be attributable to infestation by botfly larvae.

Central Brazil's Campo Suiriri Suiriri affinis and Chapada Flycatcher S. islerorum were monitored between June-December 2003. The simple percentage of successful nests was 32% for Campo Suiriri and 10% for Chapada Flycatcher, among the lowest recorded for Neotropical tyrant flycatchers.

This low reproductive success experienced by both species, particularly Chapada Flycatcher, which is a rare and locally distributed species, causes concerns about their conservation status. However, only long term demographic studies, with a larger sample size and at other locations, will allow scientists to determine if such low reproductive success may represent a threat to the species.

Both these studies in very different parts of the world seem to show how different natural conditions can lead to low reproductive output - something that is very difficult for conservationists to mitigate against. Clearly this can have devastating consequences for species already in trouble and facing numerous other threats.

Fortunately, in the case of the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, there have recently been more successful breeding seasons and, despite illegal bird capture, numbers on Sumba seem to be increasing slowly. Clearly though, good breeding years can never be taken for granted.

Ridgway's Hawk

Ridgway's Hawk

16-01-2006

Ridgway's Hawk Buteo ridgwayi is a forest raptor endemic to the island of Hispaniola. Once commonly distributed throughout the island, the hawk has been reduced in the last century to a single declining population of 80 to 120 pairs, confined to less than 208 km2 of native rainforest in the Dominican Republic's Los Haitises National Park.

In 2004, York University (Canada) and the Sociedad Ornitológica de la Hispaniola initiated a research project to examine the nesting ecology and conservation genetics of Ridgway's Hawk. This is the first time that nests have been monitored in detail since the species became Critically Endangered.

Twenty-one active nests were monitored in 2005. Nineteen were in royal palms and two in emergent endemic hardwood trees. Nineteen fledglings were produced from 11 successful nests, with one nest successfully fledging three young. Observations have revealed previously unknown breeding traits for the species, including the participation of males in incubation.

Four nests were destroyed by human activity during the nestling stage. A fifth nest was abandoned during incubation when two local men flushed the female off the nest during a rainstorm. They then attempted to kill the female with a slingshot. Human disturbance was also likely, but not confirmed, for another five failed nests.

Although human disturbance was the main cause of nest failure, of far greater concern is the loss of habitat through clear-cutting and burning for agriculture. The boundaries of the National Park exist on paper only, and new valleys well within the park boundary were cleared for root crops during the study period. This annual burning is the most critical factor to be addressed if the hawk is to survive.Photograph Lance Woolaver.

new stamp

new stamp

nuthatch

Although currently treated as a race of Brown-headed Nuthatch Sitta pusilla, new research suggests that the Bahamas form S. p. insularis could be a separate species, the Bahama Nuthatch S. insularis

Bahama Nuthatch

A new set of stamps highlights one of the Bahamas rarest birds. The stamps are produced by Crown Agents and depict the Bahama Nuthatch. Although previously regarded as a form of Brown-headed Nuthatch Sitta pusilla, recent research has suggested that the form found on Grand Bahama could be a distinct species, known as S. insularis.

Whatever the taxonomic consensus turns out to be, it is clear that the nuthatch is under threat. At best its population is estimated to be around 1,800 individuals, found only in Caribbean Pine Pinus caribaea, one of the most critically threatened habitats in the West Indies. Continued logging and development poses a very real threat to the nuthatch, as well as to other rare Bahamian wildlife. The most important next step for the future of the nuthatch is the formal protection of its habitat.

The Bahamas National Trust (BirdLife in the Bahamas) manages 25 National Parks and Protected areas in the Bahamas, four of which - Abaco National Park, Lucayan National Park, The Rand Nature Centre, and Central Andros National Park - protect large acreages of Bahamian Pine Forest. However, all of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) where the nuthatch occurs need protection if this unique Bahamian bird is to survive long-term.

Rice paddies proposed as Cuban IBAs

05-01-2006

Two rice paddies with neighbouring coastal areas are unusual candidates among the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) proposed for Cuba.

IBAs are normally located in natural areas, and single-crop cultivation is not what typically comes to mind when one thinks of bird conservation. However, in Cuba, rice cultivation goes through a wet and dry cycle, and since rice is grown constantly over large expanses, there are always fields in varying stages of flooding and draining, leading to high levels of vertebrate and invertebrate biodiversity.

Another important factor is that in the last 15 years chemical use has been reduced by c. 50%, which has turned the rice paddies into important bird feeding areas, while neighbouring wetlands are resting and nesting areas.

The first of these proposed IBAs is the Costa Sur de Sancti Spiritus. It encompasses the Sur del Jíbaro, one of the country's most important rice paddies and a place widely held to host large concentrations of aquatic birds. To the south, it includes a coastal strip of wetlands composed of several important lagoons, such as El Basto and La Limeta, and a strip of mangroves that is several kilometres wide at some points. The area is c. 60,593 ha and 107 species of birds have been recorded there. Numerous migratory species also gather here, especially wading birds and ducks.

The second IBA has a similar environment and is located in the south of Pinar del Río province. It includes a group of natural coastal wetlands and the adjacent rice paddies between Los Palacios and Consolación del Sur. The area has more than 101 species of bird, with a notable abundance of aquatic birds, particularly herons and an estimated 20,000 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus. There are thought to be more than one hundred of the globally threatened West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea in the area.

A conservation project titled Rice Paddies and Natural Wetlands as Conservation Sites for Aquatic Birds is being developed in both areas. Financed by the Whitley Fund for Nature and implemented by the group Ecología de Aves from the Universidad de la Habana's Biology Department, this effort has gathered the information needed to propose IBA status.

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

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