Habitat loss, not poison, better explains grassland bird decline


Contrary to recent well-publicized research, habitat loss, not insecticide use, continues to be the best explanation for the declines in grassland bird populations in the U.S. since the 1980s, according to a new study by ecologists.

Last year, a pair of researchers linked the drop in the populations of grassland bird species, such as the upland sandpiper and the Henslow’s sparrow, to insecticide use, rather than to a rapid decline of grasslands, a more commonly accepted theory. However, after re-examining the data, Penn State and U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers now believe that the loss of habitat continues to be the best explanation, said Jason M. Hill, a postdoctoral research associate in ecosystem science and management, Penn State. Continue reading

Study reveals decline of 16 birds species in the UK

willow-by-David-Merrett-via-flickr-241x260Conservation charities have warned that numbers of 16 out of the 107 most common birds in Britain have declined because of habitat loss, while 32 species are facing extinction in overseas territories.

The annual State of the UK’s birds report by the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and the UK Government’s statutory nature conservation bodies, has provided an insight into the plights of the country’s most common bird species. Continue reading

Capercaillie: Scotland’s unluckiest bird?

Capercaillie became extinct in Britain in the mid-18th century but were reintroduced almost a century later

Capercaillie became extinct in Britain in the mid-18th century but were reintroduced almost a century later

Threatened by habitat loss, numerous predators and collisions with deer fences, capercaillie are said to be facing extinction in Scotland for a second time. Is this Scotland’s unluckiest bird?

In Gaelic its name means great cock of the wood.

But there is nothing magnificent about the fortunes of the world’s largest grouse. Continue reading

Endangered bird spotted in new Cambodia habitat

This handout photo released yesterday by the World Wildlife Fund-Cambodia of a giant ibis walking in a pond in Mondulkiri province, some 500km northeast of Phnom Penh.

This handout photo released yesterday by the World Wildlife Fund-Cambodia of a giant ibis walking in a pond in Mondulkiri province, some 500km northeast of Phnom Penh.

Jubilant conservationists yesterday expressed hope for the survival of the critically-endangered Giant Ibis after a nest of the bird species was discovered in a previously unknown habitat in northeastern Cambodia.

Habitat loss and poaching has pushed the Giant Ibis to the edge of extinction, with around only 345 of the reclusive creatures – distinctive for their bald heads and long beaks – left anywhere in the world, 90% of them in Cambodia.

A farmer in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province discovered the nesting site a few kilometres inland in the biodiverse Mekong Flooded Forest area last month, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement.

An inspection team from the WWF later saw an adult bird sitting on the nest with two eggs.

“The discovery of the Giant Ibis nest on the Mekong is extremely significant because it provides hope for the species’ survival,” said Sok Ko, Forestry Administration official and Bird Nest Project officer with WWF.

The Giant Ibis – or Thaumatibis gigantea – was listed on the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1994 as critically endangered, the group said, with its habitat limited to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
“For Giant Ibis to survive … it is key to secure breeding groups in more places.

This one nest is part of securing the future for the species,” Gerry Ryan, WWF’s Research Technical Advisor, told AFP.

The group warned that threats remain as the species’ lowland forest habitats continue to be drained and stripped for agriculture, while its eggs are sometimes poached by villagers.

But conservation efforts in the Mekong area where the nest was discovered have brought some reward, Ryan added.

“Giant Ibises don’t like to be disturbed and are very shy – they tend to live far from human settlements,” he said.
“The presence of Cambodia’s national bird is further proof that efforts in managing and conserving the area and its biodiversity are worthwhile and having an effect.”

Source: Gulf-times.com

Rajasthan launches last-ditch effort to save the Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard

NEW DELHI – Habitat destruction and illegal hunting have pushed one of India’s most iconic birds to the brink of extinction with fewer than 200 left in the country.

A last-ditch effort to save the Great Indian Bustard, once a candidate for the national bird of India, was launched last week in Rajasthan, with a budget of tens of millions of rupees.

Known for the distinctive black plume on its crown and its long legs, a Great Indian Bustard adult male stands approximately a metre tall, weighs 15 kilograms and has a wingspan of 2.5 metres – making it one of the largest birds capable of flight. The mostly terrestrial bird is found only in India and Pakistan, where the World Wildlife Fund says only a few remain.

In 1972, the renowned ornithologist Salim Ali championed the choice of the Great Indian Bustard as India’s national bird. However, officials picked the peacock because, as one story has it, the mispronunciation of the word “bustard” might cause embarrassment.

While they numbered about 1,500 in the mid-1980s, the population has rapidly declined. There were 600 in 2000, between 300 and 350 in 2010 and fewer than 200 today. The birds live in nine sanctuaries in six states and nearly half of the remaining population is in Rajasthan, where the Great Indian Bustard is the state bird.

On Wednesday, state officials announced a plan to spend 120 million rupees (Dh7.72m) to conserve its bustard population.
The expenditure appears modest, but it is a start, said Ramki Sreenivasan, co-founder of Conservation India, an advocacy group, told The National.

“Even seeing a budget to protect a specific bird – I would see that as dramatic,” Mr Sreenivasan said. “We should be super-thrilled that the Rajasthan government is doing this and should applaud it.”

Conservation India launched a campaign to persuade the Rajasthan government to protect its bustards. More than 1,000 people wrote letters to the Rajasthan chief minister, and these efforts were supplemented, Mr Sreenivasan said, by various conservation groups lobbying politicians.

The primary reason for the dwindling numbers of the bird has been the degradation of India’s arid and semi-arid flatlands, which include the birds’ natural habitats of grassland and desert.

A 2010 report by three conservation scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society and the Wildlife Institute of India, published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, pointed to a loss of habitat “in areas where human-induced changes … are most rapid due to intensive agriculture and industrialisation”.
“Traditionally, grassland and scrub have been considered as ‘wasteland'”, so no policy to conserve these habitats has been implemented, the scientists wrote.

Although the Rajasthan government’s conservation programme was a good start, bustards should be a concern for the national government, Mr Sreenivasan said.

“There is a need to better manage the grasslands, to treat them for their ecological value,” he said. “Once they are given over to agriculture or industry, we lose them irreversibly.”

On Thursday, a committee of the National Board of Wildlife met in New Delhi to discuss broader efforts such as grassland preservation and the possibility of breeding the Great Indian Bustard in captivity.

Breeding the bird could prove difficult, said Kedar Gore, the director of the Corbett Foundation, a Mumbai-based conservation non-profit.

“The Great Indian Bustard has very specific requirements as far as breeding grounds are concerned, and it is easily disturbed,” Mr Gore said. “In fact, this is why the Gujarat government has banned even photography during the bird’s breeding season, which starts in June.”

While captive breeding is “definitely an option”, he said, “I would always prefer that the habitat be secured first.”

“That is the fundamental necessity,” he said. “If we can’t secure the habitat, there’s no point having even 10,000 bustards in captivity, because there will be nowhere to release them.”
Another possible reason for the depletion of the Great Indian Bustard has been a spate of hunting tourism in Pakistan. In India, it is illegal to hunt the birds.

Many of Rajasthan’s bustards reside in the Desert National Park, near the border with Pakistan, and the birds frequently flit back and forth between the countries.

Pakistan’s policy of selling licences to foreign hunters, including several from Arab countries, may be imperilling the Great Indian Bustard, Mr Sreenivasan said.

“The licences are really for the Houbara Bustard, a related bird,” he said. “But I find it likely that the hunters also shoot the Great Indian Bustard, and given Pakistan’s uncertain conservation climate, it is difficult to press for the protection of the Great Indian Bustard in that country.”
source: thenational.ae

Namibia: Habitat Loss Threatens Migratory Birds

The loss and degradation of natural habitats is blamed for threatening migratory birds and pushing these bird species towards possible extinction.

The World Migratory Bird Day 2013 that was celebrated recently highlighted the importance of ecological networks for migratory birds and the need for a greater international response. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the annual migration of an estimated 50 billion birds, which is about 19 percent of the world’s 10 000 bird species, is one of the world’s great natural wonders.

Yet the critical staging areas migratory birds need to complete these journeys are being degraded or are disappearing completely, according to the UN body. These increasingly vulnerable sites, which act as stepping stones on migration routes, serve as a place for the birds to rest, feed and breed during their annual migration cycles.

However, as a result of the degradation, some bird species could be extinct within a decade, while others are facing population losses of up to 9 percent each year. Celebrated annually in over 65 countries on May 11, World Migratory Bird Day highlights the important human networks dedicated to their conservation, the threats migratory birds face, and the need for more international cooperation to conserve them.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon supports the global campaign to raise awareness about the threats to migratory birds from habitat loss, overexploitation, pollution and climate change.

“I call for greater international efforts to restore and preserve migratory birds and the network of sites they need to survive as an important part of the environment on which we all depend,” he said.

Launched in Kenya in 2006, the day is organised by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), two intergovernmental wildlife treaties administered by the UNEP.

Many migratory birds such as cranes, storks, shorebirds and eagles travel thousands of kilometres across flyways that span countries, continents and even the entire globe.

Yet pressures resulting from a growing human population, rapid urbanisation, pollution, climate change and unsustainable use of natural areas are causing the loss, fragmentation and degradation of natural habitats along the birds’ migration routes and threatening their survival.

Stopover sites of international importance for migratory water birds include the Wadden Sea, shared by Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, Banc d’Arguin on the west coast of Mauritania, Bahia de Santa Maria in Mexico and the Saemangeum tidal flat in the Yellow Sea in South Korea.

Migratory water bird species that depend on a network of intertidal habitats along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) are showing rapid decline and are amongst the world’s most-threatened migratory birds.

According to a 2011 report commissioned by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the rates of decline in the region are among the highest of any ecological system in the world. At least 24 water bird species using the flyway are heading towards extinction and many others are facing losses of 5 to 9 percent per year.

According to the IUCN report, species such as the spoon-billed sandpiper could become extinct within a decade. “Migratory birds and the challenges they face in many ways underline the ambition of multilateralism in a globalised world. It is only when countries work together in common cause that the survival and conservation of these species can be ensured,” UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner says.

This year, World Migratory Bird Day events were celebrated in countries that share the African-Eurasian Flyways. In Kenya, for instance, a regional event took place on the shores of Lake Elementaita, which is part of the Kenya Lakes System, a network of sites that supports 11 globally threatened bird species.

source: allafrica.com