Tag Archives: rare

Bird feared extinct rediscovered in the Bahamas

(University of East Anglia;23 Aug 2018; Photo Matthew Gardner)

One of the rarest birds in the western hemisphere, the Bahama Nuthatch, has been rediscovered by research teams searching the island of Grand Bahama.

The finding is particularly significant because the species had been feared extinct following the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and had not been found in subsequent searches.

But it is feared that there could only be two left — placing the species on the verge of extinction and certainly among the world’s most critically endangered birds.

The Bahama Nuthatch is an endangered species, only known from a small area of native pine forest on Grand Bahama Island, which lies approximately 100 miles off Palm Beach, Florida.

University of East Anglia masters students Matthew Gardner and David Pereira set out on a three-month expedition to find this and other endemic Caribbean pine forest bird species.

They made their way through dense forest with thick ‘poisonwood’ understorey — the layer of vegetation growing beneath the main forest canopy — in what is thought to be one of the most exhaustive searches of the island.

They worked in partnership with Nigel Collar and David Wege from Birdlife International and the Bahamas National Trust, the organisation which works to protect the habitats and species of The Bahama Islands.

Meanwhile a second team of Bahamian students, led by Zeko McKenzie of the University of The Bahamas-North and supported by the American Bird Conservancy, also searched for the bird.

The Bahama Nuthatch has a long bill, a distinctive high-pitched squeaky call, and nests only in mature pine trees. There had been a sharp decline in its population crashing from an estimated 1,800 in 2004 to just 23 being seen in a survey in 2007. The decline likely began in the 1950s due to habitat loss due to timber removal, and more recently due to hurricane damage, storm surges having killed large areas native forest.

Both teams made Nuthatch sightings in May, and the UEA team were lucky enough to capture the elusive bird on film.

Dr Diana Bell, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “The Bahama Nuthatch is a critically endangered species, threatened by habitat destruction and degradation, invasive species, tourist developments, fires and hurricane damage.

“Our researchers looked for the bird across 464 survey points in 34,000 hectares of pine forest. It must have been like looking for a needle in a hay stack. They played out a recording of the bird’s distinctive call in order to attract it.

“As well as searching for the elusive bird, they also collected environmental data to better understand its habitat preferences and surveyed the extent of hurricane and fire damage,” she added.”

Matthew Gardner said: “We were the first to undertake such an exhaustive search through 700km of forest on foot.

“We had been scouring the forest for about six weeks, and had almost lost hope. At that point we’d walked about 400km. Then, I suddenly heard its distinctive call and saw the unmistakable shape of a Nuthatch descending towards me. I shouted with joy, I was ecstatic!”

The UEA team made six Nuthatch sightings in total, and McKenzie’s team independently made five sightings, using different methods, in the same small area of forest — including a sighting of what they believe to be two birds together.

Mr Gardner said: “During three months of intensive searching we made six Bahama Nuthatch sightings. Our search was extremely thorough but we never saw two birds together, so we had thought there might only be one left in existence.”

“The other team have reported seeing two together so that is promising. However, these findings place the species on the verge of extinction and certainly amongst the world’s most critically endangered birds.”

“We also don’t know the sex of the birds. In many cases when birds dwindle to such small numbers, any remaining birds are usually male.”

“The photographs clearly show this distinctive species and cannot be anything else” said Michael Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy and a UEA alumnus.

“Fortunately this is not a hard bird to identify, but it was certainly a hard bird to find,” he added.

The Nuthatch was spotted in a small area known as Lucaya Estates. During the research project, birds were seen and heard in three distinct but nearby locations within this area.

Researcher Zeko McKenzie said: “Although the Bahama Nuthatch has declined precipitously, we are encouraged by the engagement of conservation scientists who are now looking for ways to save and recover the species.”

The UEA team however are less optimistic as the exact drivers of the precipitous decline of the bird are still unclear.

Dr Diana Bell said: “Sadly, we think that the chances of bringing this bird back from the brink of extinction are very slim — due to the very low numbers left, and because we are not sure of the precise drivers for its decline.

“But it is still absolutely crucial that conservation efforts in the native Caribbean pine forest do not lapse as it is such an important habitat for other endemic birds including the Bahama Swallow, Bahama Warbler and Bahama Yellowthroat.

“The habitat is also incredibly important for North American migrants including the Kirtlands Warbler,” she added.

Ellsworth Weir, Grand Bahama Parks Manager at the Bahamas National Trust, said: “It has been a pleasure for The Bahamas National Trust to host both Matthew and David as they conducted this very important research on Grand Bahama.”

“Their work has taken them across the length and breadth of the island in what was likely the most in depth search to be conducted. Their research, which was inclusive of bird and habitat surveys, has helped to answer questions that some residents have been asking for some time.”

“Sadly, we realize now that we are faced with a very dire situation regarding the Bahama Nuthatch. We wouldn’t have realized the extent of the issue without the persistent efforts of David and Matthew.”

Scientists Rediscover Venezuelan Bird Not Seen in 60 Years

(American Bird Conservancy 25 July 2017)

Feared Extinct, the Táchira Antpitta Has Been Found in Remote Andean Region

An international team of researchers has solved one of South America’s great bird mysteries. Working deep in the mountainous forests of western Venezuela, they have rediscovered the Táchira Antpitta, a plump brown bird species not seen since it was first recorded in the 1950s.

The 7.5-inch-long Táchira (TAH-chee-rah) Antpitta had not been spotted since 1955-56, when ornithologists first recorded and described it. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as Critically Endangered, and many feared it was lost for good.

Last year, scientists of the Red Siskin Initiative (RSI) — a conservation partnership between the Smithsonian and several scientific organizations in Venezuela — organized a team to go in search of the antpitta. The team was led by Jhonathan Miranda of RSI and Provita, and included colleagues Alejandro Nagy, Peter Bichier of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Miguel Lentino and Miguel Matta of the Colección Ornitólogica Phelps (COP). American Bird Conservancy (ABC) provided financial support through a William Belton Conservation Fund grant as part of its ongoing Search for Lost Birds.

The team set out in June 2016, knowing that several factors were likely to make the antpitta especially challenging to find, if in fact it still existed. The species inhabits dense undergrowth at altitudes of 5,000 to 7,000 feet in a rugged and hard-to-reach region of the Andes. Difficult to identify visually, the bird differs in coloration in subtle ways from related species.

Antpittas are also easier to hear than to see. But without sound recordings, nobody knew what to listen for.

The researchers had an advantage: They knew where to look.  “We followed the route described in the earlier expedition’s field notebooks to locate the original site of the discovery,” Miranda said.

To reach the remote location, part of what is now El Tamá National Park, the team traveled by foot on steep and narrow Andean trails, with a mule train to carry their gear. From their campsite, the team hiked two hours in the dark to reach appropriate habitat at dawn, the best time to hear the birds sing.

The first day there, Miranda and Nagy detected the distinctive song of an antpitta they had not heard before. “We were thrilled to re-find the Táchira Antpitta during our first day in the field,” said Miranda, “and we think they persist in more places we have not yet searched.”

Over the next week, the team was able to confirm the mysterious song as that of the long-lost Táchira Antpitta, obtaining the first photographs and sound recordings ever made of the living bird.

“The rediscovery provides hope and inspiration that we still have a chance to conserve this species,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC’s Vice President of International Programs. “We hope this rediscovery will lead to improved management of and attention for protected areas like El Tamá National Park.”

“El Tamá National Park is an important part of Venezuela’s natural heritage and recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as a critical site to protect for the Táchira Antpitta and other biodiversity,” said Jon Paul Rodriguez of Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC, the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research), Provita, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

“Jhonathan Miranda and his RSI colleagues have resolved one of South America’s great bird mysteries, and we hope their findings will contribute to a renewed effort to conserve this species,” said Lebbin.

In the coming months, the team plans to publish the full details of their findings in a scientific journal, including how the Táchira Antpitta’s voice and visual characteristics distinguish it from other similar species. Additional field work is necessary to learn more about this mysterious bird. Similar habitat can be found nearby in Colombia, and the species might also occur there. Better knowledge of the species’ vocalizations and the visual identification gathered in this study will help researchers determine the species’ full range, ecology and habitat requirements, and how best to ensure its conservation.

“This species was originally described by William H. Phelps, Jr. of the COP and Alexander Wetmore, former Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution,” said Michael Braun of the RSI and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “It is fitting that the Red Siskin Initiative, in which COP and the Smithsonian are key collaborators, has been instrumental in the rediscovery. We invite those interested in helping us learn more about this species to join us.”

The Venezuela search team owes its success to a number of individuals and institutions. Logistical support came from ABC, RSI, IVIC, COP, Provita, INPARQUES, Ascanio Birding Tours, the Smithsonian Institution, and the following individuals: Carolina Afan, Miguel Angel Arvelo, David Ascanio, Michael Braun, Felix Briceño, Brian Coyle, Dan Lebbin, Cipriano Ochoa, Tomás Odenall, Jorge Perez Eman, Jon Paul Rodriguez, Kathryn Rodriguez-Clark, and Bibiana Sucre.

Sjældne korsnæb på koglejagt i Danmark

hvidvinget kors JL 1

(Jan Skriver 4 augusti 2017; Photo John Larsen)

Hvis man hører en trompetlignende lyd fra den danske augusthimmel, kan der være tale om en sulten hvidvinget korsnæb på udkig efter lærketræer med kogler fulde af frø. I disse uger kan der ses småflokke af hvidvinget korsnæb, der fra egne mod nord og øst er trukket ind over Danmark.

Deres stemmer kan lyde som små legetøjstrompeter, når de flyver omkring og tilsyneladende trutter en fanfare for føderigdommen i de danske skove.

Trompetisterne er hvidvinget korsnæb, og netop i disse uger er der et rykind af disse normalt meget sjældne gæster fra Ruslands vidtstrakte skove.

– Særligt Skagen-halvøen har haft besøg af hvidvingede korsnæb på træk de senere uger, men arten er også set flere andre steder, dog primært i Jylland. Tilsyneladende følger korsnæbbene under det aktuelle rykind en meget vestlig rute. For eksempel er der i Norge en observation på 110 hvidvinget korsnæb, mens trækstedet Falsterbo i Sydsverige endnu ikke har haft nævneværdige forekomster. Korsnæbbenes tidligere invasioner i Danmark har givet mere spredte forekomster med flere fugle i den østlige del af landet, siger Simon Sigaard Christiansen, der er leder af Skagen Fuglestation, som bliver drevet af Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (DOF).

Flere invasioner på få år

Det er tredje gang i løbet af få år, at hvidvinget korsnæb foretager trækbevægelser til Nordvesteuropa fra artens kæmpemæssige udbredelsesområde i Ruslands vidtstrakte nåleskove langt mod øst.

I sensommeren 2011 gik historiens største invasion af hvidvinget korsnæb over Danmark, da mange hundrede, ja, måske tusinder af fugle, opholdt sig i de danske skove. Året efter blev denne normalt meget nordlige fugleart for første gang nogensinde fundet ynglende i Danmark, da der blev dokumenteret nyudfløjne unger i både Thy og Nordsjælland.

Sensommeren og efteråret 2013 blev på ny en sæson med ekstraordinært mange hvidvinget korsnæb i Danmark, hvor arten ellers tidligere havde været så sjælden, at der kunne gå årtier mellem de gode år med adskillige observationer.

Men hvorfor gæster flere og flere hvidvingede korsnæb tilsyneladende vores breddegrader med kortere tidsintervaller?

– Det er altid svært at sige præcist, hvorfor en fugleart optræder, som det er tilfældet med hvidvinget korsnæb. Som hovedregel er det en dårlig frøproduktion i yngleområderne mod nord og øst og dermed mangel på føde, som driver korsnæbbene til vores skove, siger Simon Sigaard Christiansen.

Sultne korsnæb kommer yderst vidt omkring under deres invasioner, og de rejsende når næppe nogensinde tilbage igen til deres fædrene skove mod øst. Under de seneste invasioner af hvidvinget korsnæb er fuglene for eksempel nået så langt som til Shetlandsøerne og Færøerne, hvilket er destinationer, der næppe udsteder returbilletter til finker på afveje.

Tjek himmelens trompeter

Under det aktuelle rykind i Danmark er der set flokke af hvidvingede korsnæb over Skagen og Nordmandshage ved Limfjordens østlige munding mod Kattegat. Også Blåvand-området har haft besøg.

– Det er ikke til at vide, om de aktuelle forekomster vil vokse og blive til en invasion med virkelig mange fugle, men det er værd at spejde efter korsnæbbene de kommende uger. Jeg vil tro, at der er gode chancer for at finde hvidvinget korsnæb mange steder langs vestkysten af Jylland og på nordkysten af Djursland og langs Nordsjællands kyster. Lyt efter trompetkaldet. Eller det kald som minder om den stemme, som vores hjemlige gråsisken har. I flugten vil man ofte kunne se de hvide vingebånd, der er det gode kendetegn på hvidvinget korsnæb, hvis man altså har fuglene tæt på”, siger Simon Sigaard Christiansen.

Der er særligt gode chancer for at se hvidvinget korsnæb i skove med mange lærketræer.

Korsnæbbet med de hvide vingestriber er den af de tre arter af korsnæb, som har det mindste og svageste næb. Det fungerer som et specialværktøj, som kan lirke frøene ud af de bløde kogler fra lærketræer. Næbbet er dog ikke svagere, end at det også kan lukke kogler fra rødgraner og andre nåletræer op, hvis det endelig skal være. Men lærkekogler er livretten.

Danmark får ingen unge kongeørne i år

Jan Skriver 12 juli 2017)

De fire ynglende kongeørnepar i Nordjylland, der huser den samlede danske bestand, har i år deres ringeste ynglesæson nogensinde. For første gang i knap 20 år glipper det med frugtbarhed blandt de store rovfugle. Koldt vejr, alderdom og æggetyve blandt rovdyr kan være blandt forklaringerne på den golde sæson

Efter knap to årtier med frugtbarhed og stor stabilitet på hjemmefronten blandt Danmarks ynglende kongeørne ender 2017 som en sæson uden nyt liv.

Det er formentlig et sammenfald af uheldige omstændigheder, som bevirker, at der ikke kommer unge danske kongeørne på vingerne denne sommer. Og der er næppe grund til panik på artens vegne de kommende år, mener ornitologen Tscherning Clausen, der er Dansk Ornitologisk Forenings (DOF) artscaretaker for kongeørnen. Han samler alle data om ørnene, og sammen med fire redekoordinatorer holder han et vågent øje med udviklingen i bestanden.

”Indtil i år har de danske kongeørne været usædvanligt frugtbare, hvis man for eksempel sammenligner med deres svenske artsfæller. De danske ørne har indtil 2017 fået unger på vingerne 18 år i træk. At det glipper i år, kan måske skyldes et meget koldt vejrlig netop i den periode, hvor ørneæggene klækkede. Det kan også spille ind, at alderen begynder at trykke hos i hvert fald et af parrene. Og måske spiller rovdyr som mårer en rolle som æggerøvere. Vi har på ørne-webben hos DOF set, at en husmår er i stand til at kravle op i en havørnerede og æde æggene. Det samme kan ske for kongeørne”, siger Tscherning Clausen, der påpeger, at store rovfugle ofte springer en sæson over, uden at det nødvendigvis påvirker deres tilstedeværelse året efter på et givent territorium.

Svenske ørne holder pauser

”Fra Sverige ved vi, at kongeørne ganske ofte tager en pause med ynglen. Nogle gange kan de springe en sæson over hvert andet eller tredje år. Her må vi sige, at de danske ørne til sammenligning har været ekstremt stabile og frugtbare lige siden artens indvandring. For eksempel har ørneparret i Høstemark Skov i Lille Vildmose fostret en flyvefærdig unge 14 år i træk. I år er første sæson, det glipper for parret, hvor fuglene er omkring 20 år gamle. Selv om kongeørne formentlig kan blive op imod 25-30 år i naturen og i fangenskab endnu ældre, kan alderen måske begynde at resultere i en ringere frugtbarhed hos Høstemarkfuglene”, siger Tscherning Clausen.

Lovende start, skidt finale

Tidligt på sæsonen 2017 så det ellers lovende ud for de fire kongeørnepar i henholdsvis Store Vildmose, Hals Nørreskov samt Høstemark Skov og Tofte Skov i Lille Vildmose, oplyser DOF’s artscaretaker.

Det nye ynglepar, der i 2016 etablerede sig i Store Vildmose, byggede i år en ny rede, men parret opgav tidligt 2017-sæsonen. I Hals Nørreskov, hvor ørnene har ynglet siden 2007, opgav parret i begyndelsen af juni.

Også i Tofte Skov, hvor et nyetableret par byggede rede, og i Høstemark Skov, hvor de erfarne ørne residerer, tegnede det godt tidligt på foråret.

”Fælles for alle parrene har været, at de formentlig har nået at lægge æg og ruge en tid, inden det er gået galt. På sin vis er det ikke overraskende, at de nyetablerede ynglepar i Store Vildmose og det i Tofte Skov mislykkes med familielivet. Det ser man ofte hos store rovfugle. Men vi er overraskede over, at de veletablerede og meget stedfaste ørne i Hals og Høstemark fejler i år”, siger Tscherning Clausen.

To nordjyske revirer på vej

To af fire unge kongeørne, som i forskningens tjeneste er udstyret med GPS-sendere, sender fortsat data om deres færden i landskabet.

Begge disse fugle giver på sin vis løfter om fremtidig frugtbarhed, for de opholder sig meget stabilt i velegnede yngleterræner for kongeørne.

”Den ene af de GPS-mærkede ørne har længe holdt til i moserne nord for Frederikshavn, hvor Råbjerg Moses store uforstyrrede flader må betragtes som et realistisk kommende fast revir for kongeørn. Også den anden GPS-ørn har realistiske muligheder for at etablere sig i det område, hvor den længe har holdt til. Det er nemlig i Hals Sønderskov, der ligesom Hals Nørreskov må siges at være et gæstfrit ørneteræn”, siger Tscherning Clausen.

Nye ørneterræner i sigte

Trods den ringe sæson 2017 har de danske kongeørne gjort deres til at give arten luft under vingerne. I alt er der fostret 37 udfløjne unger i Danmark i perioden 1998-2016. Der menes at være plads, føde og territorier til måske en halv snes kongeørnepar i det danske landskab.

Ovstrup Hede ved Herning og Borris Hede øst for Skjern er realistiske mulige ynglesteder. Også Randbøl Hede og Harrild Hede i Sydjylland, der tidligere har haft besøg af kongeørne, er potentielle yngleområder.

Der skønnes også at være muligheder for flere par kongeørne i Thy, Hanherred, og i de store hedeplantager i Midtjylland. Også Vendsyssel kan komme yderligere med som ørneterræn, blandt andet i Jyske Ås-området.

Researchers in Cambodia find nest of rare riverine bird

(Physorg 20 July 2017)

Wildlife researchers in Cambodia have found a breeding location for the masked finfoot, one of the world’s most endangered birds, raising hopes of its continuing survival.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society said Thursday its scientists, along with conservationists from Cambodia’s Environment Ministry and residents along the Memay river in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, discovered the only confirmed breeding location in Cambodia for the very rare species.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has placed the bird on its red list of globally endangered species because its worldwide population of less than 1,000 is declining at an alarming rate. It is found only in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Poaching and cutting down the trees where the bird lives are causing the population decline, said Eng Mengey, a communications officer at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary is one of several in Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province that are home to many endangered bird species, including the critically endangered giant ibis and white-shouldered ibis, the Wildlife Conservation Society said.

“This finding provides further evidence that the Northern Plains of Cambodia is an important biodiversity hotspot and critical area for conserving breeding habitat for globally threatened water birds,” Alistair Mould, a technical adviser for the society, said in a statement.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-cambodia-rare-riverine-bird.html#jCp

Are Australia’s native pigeons sitting ducks?

(Andrew Peters, Charles Sturt University 13 July 2017)

The word “pigeon” evokes thoughts of gentle cooing, fluttering in rafters, and poo-encrusted statues. The species responsible for the encrustation is deeply familiar to us, having ridden waves of European expansionism to inhabit every continent, including Australia. First domesticated thousands of years ago, urban pigeons have turned feral again.

Less familiar are the native species that are not your stereotypical pigeons: a posse of pointy-headed crested pigeons in a suburban park, or a flock of topknot pigeons feeding in a camphor laurel.

Australia and its neighbouring islands are the global epicentre of pigeon and dove (or “columbid”) diversity with the highest density of different columbids – an impressive 134 species – found in the region. Twenty-two of these native species are found in Australia alone, in just about every habitat.

These native species play an important role in ecosystem functioning: they forage for and disperse seeds, concentrate nutrients in the environment, and are a source of food for predators. Fruit doves for example, are zealous fruitarians, and the region’s tropical rainforests depend on them for tree diversity. Where fruit-doves have disappeared in the South Pacific, numerous plant species have lost an effective dispersal mechanism.

The future of Australia’s native pigeons however, may depend on our domestic pigeons. Australia’s domestic pigeon population—both feral and captive – is large and interconnected by frequent local and interstate movements. Pigeon racing, for example, involves releasing captive birds hundreds of kilometres from their homes only so they may find their way back. While most birds do navigate home, up to 20% will not return, of which some will join feral pigeon populations. Birds are also traded across the country and illegally from overseas. These movements, together with poor biosecurity practices, mean that captive pigeons can and do mingle with feral domestic pigeons.

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Little Blue neighbours

little-penguin.jpg(Shaun Hurrell, 6 July 2017; Photo Richard Robinson)

They can be found nesting on people’s doorsteps, or quite literally underneath them. Meet the world’s smallest penguins, unwillingly urban birds who are being given new homes by local volunteers

Wellington city, a few metres from the water. On the edge of a hot, flat tarmac car park, Kimberley Collins is removing stones from the top of a wooden box, tucked away under a bush. Hinging back the lid, inside is a slate-blue backed penguin about 35 cm long, lying on its belly looking up at her with endearing eyes and a sleek white chin.

The Little Penguin Eudyptula minor, known as kororā in Maori, is the world’s smallest penguin, and when they are not crossing dangerous roads, these unwillingly urban birds are struggling to find shady crevices to nest. Kimberley is a local volunteer who is checking the box, installed by Forest & Bird, whose head office is in the nearby city. Their “Places for Penguins” project, which started in 2007, has so far installed hundreds of nest boxes around Wellington, its harbour, nearby bays and islands, as well as producing signage, awareness work, planting thousands of native plants, and invasive predator control. Wellington’s Mayor has even lent her hand with penguin monitoring.

“Little blues”, although declining in numbers, are a Least Concern species globally (however recent evidence suggests that Australia’s could be a separate species, in which case the threat category could increase). They can often be found nesting all over New Zealand’s coastlines, on people’s doorsteps… or quite literally directly underneath them. This close relationship with humans was not always welcomed, but now most embrace their flippered neighbours – including people like Fraser Ross, who is a long time Forest & Bird member and part of local group Timaru Penguins, on the east coast of South Island. One of many volunteers, he can often be found counting nests or in friendly, explanatory conversation with scores of tourists that line the rocks as penguins arrive at dusk, preventing flash photography, and, when the need arises, checking under cars before people drive away.

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