Birds in the News 148

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These Northern fulmar chicks, Fulmarus glacialis, are from the northern end of the Isle of Lewis (aka the Butt of Lewis) in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
Image: Dave Rintoul, August 2008 [larger view].


Birds in Science
U.S. and Costa Rican scientists say their research suggests parrots — with more than 90 species facing extinction — might be more adaptable than thought. Donald Brightsmith, a Texas A&M University bird specialist, and Greg Matuzak from Amigos de las Aves USA, studied six parrot communities in Costa Rica to determine feeding and habitat use patterns in areas that had been partially cleared for use by farmers. The scientists found the parrots fed primarily on seeds, fruit, pulp, leaves, bark and flowers found in their native tropical habitats of Central and South America. But when habitats were damaged and exotic, non-native tree species were planted, many parrots were quick to exploit the new food resources.
People Hurting Birds
Populations of more than 25 species of Irish birds, including the barn owl, quail and nightjar, have dropped by more than 70 per cent in the last 10 years, according to a newly published report by BirdWatch Ireland and RSPB Northern Ireland. Scientists also note that, for the first time on record, climate change has played a part in the depletion of bird populations migrating here. Data show that, of the 199 bird species assessed, 25 have been designated as “Red List” species, which names birds that require urgent action to secure their future. “This report confirms we must redouble our efforts to secure the future for many of our most threatened birds,” Dr James Robinson from the RSPB said.
A £1m project to remove hedgehogs from the Hebrides (Scotland) has been hit by two prickly problems. Since 2003 more than £950,000 of public cash has been spent on trapping the spiky predators and removing them from North Uist and Benbecula to prevent them from eating the eggs of native birds. But a report has revealed numbers of protected waders such as oystercatchers, dunlins and ringed plovers have actually declined despite the huge operation. And conservationists, who have overseen the rehousing of more than 1,000 hedgehogs, are threatening to withdraw from the scheme.
People Helping Birds
Fourteen young whooping cranes are learning their migratory route by following a small ultralight airplane, piloted by team leader, Joe Duff. Duff is the Canadian Co-founder of Operation Migration (OM), CEO and senior pilot of OM, the WCEP partner that leads the ultralight migration. This website contains interesting stories and images, and also has some mathematical “story problems” that kids will enjoy due to their real-life applicability.
I know this sounds completely shocking, but George Bush recently presented The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) to the US Senate for approval (ACAP is an international treaty between nations). “I believe the Agreement to be fully in the U.S. interest”, wrote Bush. “Its provisions advance the U.S. goals of protecting albatrosses and petrels. I recommend that the Senate give early and favorable consideration to the Agreement and give its advice and consent to accession.” No doubt, George Bush suffered a stroke that has partially damaged the “rape and plunder the environment” portion of his brain.
Eighteen years ago, the puaiohi was a diminishing species in the Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve, the 10,800-acre rain forest on the Hawai’ian island of Kaua’i. But the tiny endangered, brown birds are making a comeback with the assistance of scientists who are repopulating the preserve with the captive-bred offspring of the once-plentiful species. Recently, juvenile puaiohi have been introduced into the preserve for the eleventh time, an effort that those guiding the project say is showing success. A total of 23 captive-bred and raised young birds who were born and raised at the San Diego Zoo are scheduled to be released in two groups over the next two weeks. “The superstars in this conservation effort have been the puaiohi themselves,” said Alan Lieberman, the zoo’s conservation program manager. “This beautiful forest bird has been our most reliable breeder, producing nearly 300 chicks since the beginning of the program.”
President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa has signed into law a bill to ban the capture and export of Mexican wild parrots. The bill, introduced one year ago by the Environment Commission of the Deputy Chamber, was passed in the Mexican Senate on 22 April, 2008 with near unanimous support (66 votes in favor, 0 votes against, and 1 abstention). The bill was originally drafted after a presentation of the 2007 report “The Illegal Parrot Trade in Mexico: A Comprehensive Assessment” [PDF english or Espanol] by Defenders of Wildlife and Teyeliz, A.C. The report revealed for the first time the volume of the illegal trade of parrots within Mexico. An estimated 65,000 -78,500 wild parrots and macaws are captured illegally each year, with more than 75 percent of the birds dying before ever reaching a purchaser. Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 parrots die this way each year in Mexico alone.
On Sunday, October 12, BirdLife Malta (BirdLife in Malta) congratulated the Maltese government on the recent declaration of protection areas in the Maltese islands under the European Natura 2000 network. “The government’s recent decision to fully protect all the eleven Important Bird Areas (as identified by BirdLife International) of the Maltese Islands as Special Protection Areas for birds as well as the important Ta’ Cenc habitat under the EU Natura 2000 network is an excellent move to safeguard Malta’s wildlife and will be beneficial for people and tourism. We congratulate all staff of the Maltese Environment & Planning Authority for all the hard work they put in to realizing these designations”, said Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director.
A guide to support law enforcement officers investigating wildlife crimes was launched by the Secretaries General of INTERPOL and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The manual, jointly produced by the two organizations, provides guidelines on how to carry out Controlled Delivery of illegal items in order to identify individuals connected with criminal activity and to gather evidence against them using techniques primarily developed in combating drugs trafficking. “This manual represents the essence of what we strive to do everyday at INTERPOL, which is to provide operational support to police around the world, identify any critical gaps in the capacity of law enforcement and devise practical solutions to address those gaps,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.
Rare Birds News
Cockney sparrows have all but disappeared from London’s East End and other parts of England’s capital city. But a colony of the tiny birds is thriving in a small area of the Thames waterfront on the Southbank, ornithology experts have discovered. House sparrows have been disappearing from parks and gardens, with the population dropping 68 per cent between 1994 and 2007. “Central London is like a desert for house sparrows,” said Tim Webb from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. “It used to be full of them chirping and cheeping away.
Tasmania has deferred logging an area important for the breeding of the endangered swift parrot. Forestry Tasmania will defer harvesting the coupe in the Wielangta State Forest, in the state’s east, pending further monitoring of swift parrot behaviour in the area. Resources Minister David Llewellyn said a lot of swift parrot activity had been reported in the Wielangta area. “It has now become clear that a significant number of swift parrots will nest in Wielangta this season. “We are keen to make sure the habitat of the parrot is conserved right through its migratory cycles.”
Biologists working for SalvaNATURA (BirdLife in El Salvador) have netted and ringed a young male Golden-cheeked Warbler, Dendroica chrysoparia, at the bird monitoring station at Montecristo National Park, northwestern El Salvador. SalvaNATURA has been monitoring birds at Montecristo each month for nearly four years, funded by money raised by the Bird-a-thon, a bird race organised to coincide with the World Bird Festival during October. “We had observed the species in the trees near the nets each winter”, said Roselvy Juárez, the biologist who supervised the monitoring station. “We had been hoping to catch this species every year, but it took us 47 visits, more than 18,000 net hours, and we captured more than 1,700 birds of other species before this one flew into a net.” Story includes image of the captured bird.
Surveys of the Ifon Forest Reserve in Nigeria, during November 2007 and March 2008 provided confirmed sightings of Endangered Ibadan Malimbe, Malimbus ibadanensis, which is endemic to south-west Nigeria. These and earlier sightings have led Ifon Forest Reserve to be proposed as Nigeria’s newest Important Bird Area. “The sighting of the Ibadan Malimbe in Ifon Forest Reserve indicates an extension of the earlier range, and have raised interesting research questions about the distribution of Ibadan Malimbe in south-western forests”, said Ademola Ajagbe of Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF, BirdLife Partner Designate in Nigeria).
Avian Diseases and Zoonotics News
The discovery of the virus, Avian Adenovirus Group 1, was revealed on recently by a team of veterinarians from a university’s veterinary medicine’s diagnostic unit in Nakhon Pathom province in Thailand. The unit maintained that the virus, which causes inclusion body hepatitis in poultry, could not be transmitted to humans. Chicken meat and eggs are also safe to eat. The virus was detected in breeder chicks, aged 3-7 days, which looked drowsy and exhausted. Many of them suffered convulsions and died in 12 hours. The chicks were sent to the unit for examination in April. Besides young chickens, the disease can be found in pigeons, geese, turkeys and partridges. Possible disease carriers include rats, flies and cockroaches.
The Japanese government will dispatch a medical team to Indonesia to start monitoring possible outbreaks of a new type of influenza. The Foreign Ministry will send five doctors and one medical worker from the International Medical Center of Japan to Indonesia on October 20 in an attempt to survey new cases of flu as part of a project to support Indonesia’s medical surveillance system. Under the project, which comes in response to a request by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will conduct medical surveillance in southern Sulawesi in central Indonesia for three years, using about 380 million yen from Japan’s ODA budget.
Streaming Birds
On BirdNote, for the week of 19 October 2008. BirdNotes is really taking off! As of this week, BirdNotes can be heard seven mornings per week at 8:58-9:00am throughout Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia, Canada, on KPLU radio in Seattle, KOHO radio in Wenatchee, WA, WNPR radio in Connecticut, KWMR radio in West Marin, California, KTOO radio in Juneau, Alaska, and KMBH radio in Harlingen, Texas. All episodes are available in the BirdNote archives, both in written transcript and mp3 formats, along with photographs, so you can listen to them anytime, anywhere. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [Podcast and rss].
Bird Book News
This week’s issue of the Birdbooker Report lists ecology, evolution, natural history and bird books that are (or will soon be) available for purchase. This report discusses the new National Geographic field guides to both Eastern and Western birds.
Would you like an avian anatomy book — free? If so, you can download one, two or all three books as PDFs by going to this entry, where you can read about the books that are available and choose your free copies. Note that each book must be uploaded to someone’s computer at least once every 90 days, or the file will be automatically deleted by RapidShare, so please share this link with your friends.
Miscellaneous Bird News
One of the favorite autumn pastimes of the naturalists at Hilton Pond is wading into their local Goldenrod patch to see what sorts of creatures lurk within. “We always expect to be delighted by something we’ve never seen before — an insect or spider or other food chain constituent — and this year was no exception,” writes Bill Holton. “There were pollinators and predators galore.” For an up-close peek at what dwells in their lovely Goldenrod patch, please visit their “This Week at Hilton Pond” photo essay for 1-14 October 2008. As always, they include a tally of all bird banded and recaptured during the period, plus some miscellaneous notes and a personal commentary about a longtime friend who’s now in need.

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The Fine Print: Thanks to Natasha, Kathy, Bill, Ellen, Jeremy and Ron for sending story links. Thanks in advance to Ian Paulsen for catching my typos; as you probably know by now, I put a few typographical errors in these documents just so Ian can find them!

About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Birds in the News 148

  1. Bob O'H says:

    No doubt, George Bush suffered a stroke that has partially damaged the “rape and plunder the environment” portion of his brain.

    I suspect someone strategically mis-spelled petrel.