Global protection for migratory birds agreed by conservationists

 Common Cranes, such as these birds migrating north over Spain, may be more robustly protected after this week's international agreements. Photo: Antonio (commons.wikimedia.org).

Common Cranes, such as these birds migrating north over Spain, may be more robustly protected after this week’s international agreements. Photo: Antonio (commons.wikimedia.org)

Two new international agreements have been reached by conservationists to help save migratory bird species across continents.

The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) has agreed a set of guidelines to tackle some of the causes of poisoning and ratified a ground-breaking action plan to save more than 400 bird species.

In top of this, the Poisoning Resolution to reduce and minimise poisoning of migrating birds includes a ban on veterinary diclofenac, the phasing out of all lead ammunition, and action on lethal rodenticides, insecticides and poison baits. These five groups of toxic substance were identified as the most significant poisoning risks to migratory birds and the agreement marks a milestone in ending this threat. 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

Retaining forests where raptors nest can help to protect biodiversity

 Goshawk adult. Credit: Daniel Burgas

Goshawk adult. Credit: Daniel Burgas

Raptors can affect the distribution of other species and they can also be used to find forests with high biodiversity value.

Predators influence decisions on conservation actions because they awake a remarkable interest in the society. However, favouring just predators in conservation can also mislead the scarce funding invested in nature conservation.

Researchers in the University of Helsinki and Novia University of Applied Sciences studied two common raptor species in Finland, the goshawk and the Ural owl. Researchers visited raptor nests and surrounding forests on two large forested areas and recorded the amount of biodiversity such as birds, flying squirrel and polypores around them. Continue reading

NZ battles pests to save native birds

New Zealand’s largest pest control programme has been given the go ahead to protect native wildlife from a plague of rats and stoats, Conservation Minister Nick Smith says.

Dr Smith outlined the “battle for our birds” programme in January. The final programme has now been determined.

Some new areas have been added, such as D’Urville Island in the Marlborough Sounds, some expanded like in the Kahurangi National Park, and some may not proceed due to pest count numbers not yet reaching thresholds. Continue reading

Limiting lake development key to preserving water birds

 The western grebe prefers deep, large, fish-filled lakes—the same places that vacationers choose for their summer havens. Credit: Mara Erickson

The western grebe prefers deep, large, fish-filled lakes—the same places that vacationers choose for their summer havens. Credit: Mara Erickson

A declining bird species recently listed by the Alberta government as threatened in status is managing to survive as it shares heavily developed lake habitat with humans—but care must be taken to preserve its breeding grounds, say University of Alberta researchers.

A study by U of A co-authors Mara Erickson and professor Mark Boyce indicates that the western grebe is able to persist on lakes with shoreline development, while at the same time showing a definite link with the preservation of bulrushes as cover for nests and quiet nesting waters. Continue reading

Scientists work to help rare Virginia bird

Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, extracts a 7-day-old red-cockaded woodpecker out of its nest May 20 to put bands on a leg at Piney Grove Preserve in Sussex County.(Photo: AP)

Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, extracts a 7-day-old red-cockaded woodpecker out of its nest May 20 to put bands on a leg at Piney Grove Preserve in Sussex County.(Photo: AP)

WAVERLY – Flopping around on a towel on the floor of a pine forest, a tiny chick represented hope — if hope can be blind, pink and naked.

This object of optimism, no more than a blob with a beak, was a baby red-cockaded woodpecker, one of the rarest and most peculiar birds in Virginia.

Using climbing gear and an aluminum ladder that he stacked in three 10-foot sections, biologist Bryan Watts had reached the chick’s nest hole in an old-growth pine and extracted the bird with a snare-like tool. Continue reading