122 species of Colombian bird face extinction, says new report

 Chestnut-capped Piha was only discovered in 1999, but despite having a reserve dedicated to its preservation is still Endangered. Photo: Andres Cuervo (commons.wikimedia.org)

Chestnut-capped Piha was only discovered in 1999, but despite having a reserve dedicated to its preservation is still Endangered. Photo: Andres Cuervo (commons.wikimedia.org)

A new study, The State of the Birds in Colombia 2014 – produced by a leading conservation group in Colombia, Fundación ProAves – reports that decades of deteriorating ecosystem conditions have led to 122 of the country’s 1,903 bird species now facing extinction.

“Our findings are troubling because these deteriorating avian conditions are occurring in Colombia, an area viewed by many as perhaps the richest country for birds in the world,” said Alonso Quevedo, Executive Director of ProAves. “Of equal importance, these findings provide an important warning about threats to our water, air and other natural resources and suggest that the health of our environment has clearly diminished.” Continue reading

Birds can sense storms days in advance, say scientists

  A golden-winged warbler, perhaps taking shelter from a storm. (Photo: Andy Reago/Wiki Commons)


A golden-winged warbler, perhaps taking shelter from a storm. (Photo: Andy Reago/Wiki Commons)

 

Do some animals have a “sixth sense” that allows them to predict things like earthquakes or the weather? According to scientists who are studying the migration patterns of the golden-winged warbler, the answer is yes, at least in regards to the weather, reports the Guardian.

After retrieving trackers that were fitted to a group of warblers, researchers noticed an odd pattern in the data. As the birds approached the southern United States on their way back from wintering in South America, they took a sharp detour, as if to avoid some invisible obstacle in their path. Continue reading

New bird species discovered in forests of Indonesia

The Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii). Image credit: © Martin Lindop.

The Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii). Image credit: © Martin Lindop.

An international group of ornithologists from the United States and Indonesia led by Dr Berton Harris of Princeton University has described a new species of flycatcher from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The new species, named the Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii), has awaited formal scientific description since 1997, when it was originally spotted in a patchy remnant of forest.

At the time, the bird was thought to be the migratory Gray-streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta).

Dr Harris and his colleagues traveled to Central Sulawesi in the summers of 2011 and 2012 to observe the bird and prove that it’s in fact a new species. Continue reading

Scientists shed new light on how species diverge

 Macaws flying over the rainforest canopy at dawn. The study found that bird lineages that inhabit the forest canopy, such as these macaws, accumulate fewer species over evolutionary time than do bird lineages that inhabit the forest understory. Credit: Mike Hankey.

Macaws flying over the rainforest canopy at dawn. The study found that bird lineages that inhabit the forest canopy, such as these macaws, accumulate fewer species over evolutionary time than do bird lineages that inhabit the forest understory. Credit: Mike Hankey.

Birds that are related, such as Darwin’s finches, but that vary in beak size and behavior specially evolved to their habitat are examples of a process called speciation. It has long been thought that dramatic changes in a landscape like the formation of the Andes Mountain range or the Amazon River is the main driver that initiates species to diverge. However, a recent study shows that speciation occurred much later than these dramatic geographical changes. Researchers from LSU’s Museum of Natural Science have found that time and a species’ ability to move play greater parts in the process of speciation. This research was published today in the print edition of Nature. Continue reading

Stress is good apparently for birds!

Zebra finch

Zebra finch

Stress makes young birds fly the nest sooner – and encourages them to be more sociable in later life, new research has shown.

A study published yesterday by scientists at the universities of St Andrews and Oxford found zebra finches which were stressed as nestlings were less choosy about who they visited bird feeders with in later life, and so had more associates.

This made them better placed for finding food in winter when supplies became scarce.

Neeltje Boogert, who led the study, said the research could have important implications for determining how populations respond to increasingly disturbed and variable environments. Continue reading

How can we help endangered vultures?

 We might have to get very creative in our conservation approaches if we are to boost declining numbers of vultures, zoologists say.

We might have to get very creative in our conservation approaches if we are to boost declining numbers of vultures, zoologists say.

Zoologists from the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin are proposing an ingenious idea to help conserve populations of African white-backed vultures. The iconic birds, which play a critical role in sustaining healthy ecosystems, may need to dine for free in human-staffed ‘vulture restaurants’ if they are to survive spells of food scarcity in Swaziland and neighbouring countries.

Throughout Africa, vulture populations have suffered an alarming collapse in numbers in recent years. In rural parts of West Africa some species have declined by over 95%, while the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve has lost an average of 62% of its vultures over the past three decades. Aside from poisoning – both targeted and incidental – vultures are threatened by wind turbines, electricity pylons, habitat destruction, food loss and poaching. Continue reading