World bird news July 2006

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Seychelles Magpie-robin success

A team from Nature Seychelles (BirdLife in the Seychelles) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust visited Fre´gate Island from the 28 June to 6 July 2006 to conduct a full population survey of the globally threatened Seychelles Magpie-robin Copsychus sechellarum, and to ring un-ringed robins in order to maintain identification of all individual on the island.

A minimum population of 82 individuals was recorded—ten more than the previous census in April 2005 and the highest number of robins ever recorded on Fre´gate.

The Seychelles Magpie-robin population is now at an all-time high of 178 birds with 82 on Fre´gate, 46 on Cousin, 32 on Cousine and 18 on Aride. There are also future plans to translocate birds to Denis Island. The species was downlisted by BirdLife to Endangered in the 2005 IUCN Red List.

Pink-headed blank


A fourth joint BirdLife/Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA - BirdLife in Myanmar) survey in Kachin State, northern Myanmar, has failed to find evidence of the continuing existence of the Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea.

"We followed up local reports, but all proved to be White-winged Ducks," said expedition leader Jonathan Eames of BirdLife in Indochina. "If the Pink-headed Duck was resident in Kachin, we surely would have found it by now. Perhaps it is indeed extinct or is only a visitor to the region."

The team used elephants and boats to search the floodplain grasslands and ox-bow lakes along the Nat Kaung River, north of Kamaing and south of Shadusup. Although no Pink-headed Ducks were found, several globally threatened species were recorded, including Green Peafowl Pavo muticus, White-winged Duck Cairina scutulata, Masked Finfoot Heliopais personata, White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps teniurostris, White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis and Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus.

Large areas of apparently suitable habitat have now been surveyed in Kachin State, through a project funded by the UK government’s Darwin Initiative. Undaunted, the team hope to survey areas further south in Myanmar where Pink-headed Ducks were historically recorded.

Pelicans bounce back


A decade ago, things looked bleak for the Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis in South India. Excellent community-based conservation work by NGOs in the region, coupled with improved protection of breeding sites, has turned the pelican’s fortunes around.

In the 1920s, more than a million Spot-billed Pelicans were believed to exist in South and South-East Asia. But by the 1990s the number had dropped to fewer than 12,000 birds, and the species was listed as Vulnerable. The decline was largely caused by conversion of wetlands and loss of nesting sites.

In South India, a slow recovery of the pelican population is taking place. Between them, the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu support 21 breeding colonies, and numbers are on the increase.

The pelicanry at Kokkare Bellur, Karnataka, has doubled in size to 400 pairs in recent years, and two new small breeding colonies have been established in the state. In Tamil Nadu the number of nesting colonies has increased from six to 14 in recent years, several of them with more than 250 nests. In Andhra Pradesh, pelicanries at Nelapattu and Uppalapadu each support more than 300 nests.

This recent increase is largely due to better levels of protection for the species. In Tamil Nadu most colonies are found on partially submerged stands of Acacia nilotica grown in village irrigation tanks under the Social Forestry Programme. Eight of them enjoy State protection.

Coupled with this has been community-based conservation work at several pelicanries, like those at Kokkare Bellur (Mysore Amateur Naturalists, Mysore, Karnataka, headed by K. Manu) and Uppalapadu (Care for Nature’s Creatures, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, headed by K. Mrutyumjaya Rao). Overall, pelican numbers in South India have risen from fewer than 4,000 individuals, to perhaps 6,000 birds—a welcome success story.

Predator control key to Chatham successes


In early June 2006, the first Chatham Petrel Pterodroma axillaris chick for more than a century fledged on Pitt Island, New Zealand.

Previously this Critically Endangered species, numbering fewer than 1,000 birds, was confined to Rangatira Island, a small island off Pitt Island, but efforts began in 2002 to create a second insurance breeding population. Over four years, 200 chicks were transferred to the 40 ha Ellen Elizabeth Preece Conservation Covenant (Caravan Bush) predator-free enclosure on Pitt. Four birds have returned so far, and this year a pair successfully reared a single chick.

“It’s the first time this has been achieved with Pterodroma petrels in New Zealand,” said Dave Houston, technical support officer for the Chatham Islands from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC). “DOC staff, volunteers and Pitt Islanders are rapt.”

The world population of the critically endangered Chatham Island Taiko now numbers between 120 and 150 individuals
Zoom In
"A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work to achieve these successes." Dave Houston, New Zealand Department of Conservation

It follows hot on the heels of a record 11 Chatham Islands Taiko Pterodroma magentae fledging, thanks to sustained predator control in the Taiko’s breeding area on Chatham Island. The world population of this Critically Endangered species now numbers between 120 and 150 individuals.It is the highest number of chicks to fledge since this formerly presumed extinct species was rediscovered by ornithologist David Crockett in 1978, said Houston. A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work to achieve these successes.

Although fledging of the chicks is a milestone in the recovery of both species, there is still a long way to go. The Chatham Petrel chick is likely to return to breed when around three to five years of age, but the Taiko are unlikely to breed until six to nine years old.

Rare warbler breeds in Israel


One of the Middle East's most threatened species, the Basra Reed-warbler, has received a welcome boost.
Normally restricted as a breeding bird to the Mesopotamian marshes of southern Iraq (and probably also southwest Iran), a research team from SPNI (BirdLife in Israel) trapped and ringed four birds in Israel's Hula Valley in June 2006. The two males, a female with a brood patch, and an almost fully-grown juvenile, are the first of the species ever to be discovered breeding in Israel.
Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis was listed by BirdLife as Endangered on the 2004 IUCN Red List, due to an 80% decrease in the species' breeding population—largely a consequence of the draining of the Mesopotamian marshes by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
However, this news from northern Israel raises hopes for the species, as do recent improvements to its marsh habitat in Iraq.
Although the warblers will soon return to their African wintering grounds, the Israel Ornithological Center is to initiate a monitoring scheme in future years to collect more information on the species' occurrence in the region and promote its long-term survival.

Tiger trap goes cuckoo


A camera-trap operated by a joint Indonesian and British team of scientists surveying for tigers in a former logging concession close to Kerinci Seblat National Park in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, has photographed a Sumatran Ground-cuckoo Carpococcyx viridis, one of Asia’s rarest birds. The endemic ground-cuckoo has only been recorded once previously in the last 90 years, when a bird was trapped in southern Sumatra in 1997. Prior to that, only eight specimen records existed.

"We’ve photographed Rhinoceros Hornbills and Great Argus before but we couldn’t believe it when we photographed a Sumatran Ground-cuckoo," said Yoan Dinata, field team leader of Fauna & Flora International’s Indonesia Programme.

"This exciting discovery highlights the importance of conserving formerly selectively logged concessions around national parks. Sumatra’s lowland rainforests will be destroyed through illegal and unsustainable logging activities unless we protect them now." —Sukianto Lusli, Executive Director of BirdLife Indonesia

"Re-finding this Critically Endangered species close to Kerinci Seblat is especially exciting,” said project manager Dr Matthew Linkie of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent.

"We’ve recently shown how critical Kerinci Seblat is for the long-term survival of Sumatran tigers [a reference to a study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology], but finding the Sumatran Ground-cuckoo gives me hope, because it was photographed in disturbed forest that had been left to recover near the national park," he added.

Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)

Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)

Belgian terns go online!


Birdwatchers can now visit the largest breeding colony of terns in Western Europe with a simple mouse click, thanks to two new sophisticated web cams installed by Natuurpunt (part of BirdLife Belgium).

The expansion of the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium has not only attracted shipping, but also large numbers of terns. In less than 10 years, the peninsula at the east side of the port has been colonised in large numbers by three species. In 2004, over 7,000 pairs of terns bred at the port: 4,067 Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis (around 2% of the world population); 3,052 Common Terns S. hirundo; and 172 pairs of Little Terns S. albifrons.

The location of the tern peninsula may be a blessing for the birds (situated in the port's security there is no public access), but nature lovers have had to wait until now to admire the birds.

Besides live video pictures of the terns, the web site also contains a wealth of other useful information. For further information please contact Bart Slabbinck, Coastal Manager at Natuurpunt
Click here for further details.....

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

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