Chris Packham: Malta is a bird hell

BBC nature presenter Chris Packham. Photograph: Steve Meddle/ITV/REX

When Chris Packham announced he was heading to Malta to report on the island’s annual spring bird shoot as if he was a war correspondent covering a conflict, even his admirers probably thought he was guilty of hyperbole.

But after a week in which the naturalist has detained by police for five hours, shoved to the ground by gunmen and witnessed the illegal killing of dozens of endangered birds, his mission to raise awareness of the annual slaughter of migratory birds has been more like a battle than he imagined. Continue reading

Environmental history key to the future of England’s wildlife

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Protecting and enhancing our wildlife for future generations will need radical new policies informed by history as much as science, according to an academic at the University of East Anglia.
Landscape historian Prof Tom Williamson suggests that far from being ‘natural’, nature and the countryside have for centuries largely been the result of the activities of humans. Because of this, we need a better understanding of the human history of important habitats in order manage them into the future. Continue reading

How Northern Ireland’s endangered birds are getting the space to thrive

Many of Northern Ireland’s bird species are heading for the brink – but the RSPB is celebrating after a bumper summer delivered a hugely successful breeding season.

Numbers of breeding common terns rocketed by 45% on its Northern Ireland reserves in just one year, while the threatened lapwing is up 38%.

Curlew and redshank, which are included on the ‘red list’ of species of conservation concern, rose by 18% and 22% respectively, while black-headed gulls are up 29%. Breeding pairs of amber-listed snipe are up 36% since summer 2012. Continue reading

Little bird strikes fear in hearts of orchardists

A silver-eye foraging. Photo: Allen Newton

A silver-eye foraging. Photo: Allen Newton

It might be one of Perth’s smallest birds, but the tiny cry of the silver -eye is enough to send shivers down the spines of local fruit growers.

One of the metropolitan area’s most common small birds, the silver-eye – officially titled the grey-breasted white-eye – was known as “julwidilang” to the Noongar. Continue reading

Meet the Maleo, the bizarre bird that can fly the moment it hatches

You’ve probably never heard of the Maleo – the endangered creature is found exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. But it is a fascinating animal.

This New York Times piece calls the maleo a “chickenlike bird,” which, sure, we suppose is a decent enough comparison, in the sense that they’re both egg-laying vertebrates with feathers, beaks and wings. But the juxtaposition seems a strange one once you’ve spent some time getting to the know the maleo.

Consider, for example, that when a maleo chick emerges from its egg (which is about five-times the size of a chicken egg), it is completely flight-ready, taking wing and alighting at once in the canopy of a nearby forest to avoid being eaten by would-be predators. Once safely hidden away, the chicks forage for themselves and even regulate their own body temperatures – they’re remarkably independent creatures.

See, mature maleo pairs do not look after their young once they’ve hatched, let alone while they’re developing in the egg. Rather, the female buries her eggs deep in the ground, like a sea turtle, covers them up and goes on her merry way. For maleos, incubation is presided over not by the mother, but by the geothermal energy of Sulawesi’s volcanic soils.

Your typical maleo also has a helmet-head, blue-grey feet, and black plumage – save for its belly, that is, which looks like it’s been dipped in a vat of peach-colored paint. So yeah, you know, pretty much a chicken.

Outside of Indonesia, the only place to find a maleo is at the Bronx Zoo. There, conservationists are toiling to preserve the endangered species, which is threatened by humans and invasive species in its native habitat. The zoo recently welcomed three new maleo chicks, bringing their total tally to nine.

[Wildlife Conservation Society via Ark in Space]

India Naga tribe pledges to protect falcons

India’s Naga tribespeople have pledged to protect a falcon which they have traditionally hunted for meat.

The Amur falcons are hunted for meat in India's Nagaland state

The Amur falcons are hunted for meat in India’s Nagaland state

Three villages in Wokha district in Nagaland state have signed a resolution to penalise offenders who hunt Amur falcons.

They are located in the Doyang area, which is the main roosting site for the birds during their flight from Siberia to Africa.

Tens of thousands of these falcons have been hunted every year for their meat.

Hunters use fishing nets near a reservoir in Doyang to trap the birds when they come to roost.

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has signed an agreement with a local non-governmental organisation and leaders of Pangti, Asshaa and Sungro villages to protect the migratory birds.

“This is a significant milestone for conserving these birds who have been threatened because they are hunted in thousands when they pass through Nagaland,” says Sunil Kyarong, regional head of WTI.

Under the agreement, local tribespeople will set up groups to keep a watch on the roosting or foraging sites of the falcon, build watch towers to curb poaching and begin an awareness campaign to protect the birds.

Those who hunt and kill the bird will also be fined up to 5,000 rupees ($80, £48).

A local NGO, Natural Nagas, has also helped over 30 families involved in hunting falcons for a living to set up poultry farms as an alternative source of livelihood.

In a report last year, wildlife NGO Conservation India estimated that 12,000 to 14,000 Amur falcons were being killed in Nagaland every year.

“India is a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species and is duty bound to prevent this massacre, provide safe passage, as well as draw up appropriate action plans for the long-term conservation of this bird,” the group said.