Sun Coast Exotic Bird Fair 2015

April 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Events

Head for the Sun Coast Exotic Bird Fair May 31, 2015 in Largo FL and enjoy a family friendly place to shop for your feathered friends. Bring the whole family and buy directly from breeders and bird toys manufactures. Vendors at the fair will offer you great prices on a variety of birds, bird seed, cages, toys, perches, play stands or any other product for your feathered friend.

For Information about the Sun Coast Exotic Fairs fairs call: Pedro Avila 813-361-3735 or e-mail him at mycarsound@aol.com — www.suncoastexoticbirdfair.com — www.facebook.com/Suncoast1223

The Mississippi Flyway: An Essential Migration Route

April 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

Starting in central Canada and stretching to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi Flyway is the name given to the route followed by birds migrating from their breeding grounds in North America to their wintering grounds in the south. The flyway includes Canada’s Mackenzie River which flows north through uninhabited forest and tundra into the Arctic Ocean, with tributaries reaching southwards, feeding into and out of a number of lakes, including the Great Slave Lake, Great Bear Lake and Lake Athabasca. As the name suggests, the Mississippi Flyway follows the route of the Mississippi River in the United States – North America’s largest river system. Originating in northern Minnesota, the slow-flowing river travels southwards for a distance of 2,530 miles, cutting through, or forming a border for, the states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee to before emptying into the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Audubon, nearly half of the bird species and up to forty percent of the waterfowl of North America spend part of their lives in the Mississippi Flyway. With spectacular forests, grasslands and wetlands, the route provides good sources of food and water, with no mountainous areas to navigate along the entire route. The greatest elevation above sea level along the route is below 2,000 feet. The route is used by large numbers of geese, ducks, shorebirds, sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes and warblers, the majority of which cut across the Gulf of Mexico, providing excellent birding opportunities along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.

Unfortunately, years of exploitation of natural resources by man has taken its toll on the environment, with waterways being diverted for irrigation having an impact on the habitat that birds and other wildlife rely on. A combination of dams, locks and levees have reduced the Mississippi to less than ten percent of its original floodplain with an estimated nineteen square miles of delta wetlands disappearing annually. Thanks to the efforts of Audubon, which has offices in Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, efforts to preserve habitats along the Mississippi Flyway are making a difference to the birds that make use of the route each year. Audubon is currently focusing intensive conservation efforts on twenty-seven bird species along the Mississippi Flyway, namely: Mottled Duck; Greater Prairie-Chicken; Brown Pelican; Little Blue Heron; Reddish Egret; Swallow-tailed Kite; Clapper Rail; Snowy Plover; Wilson’s Plover; Piping Plover; American Oystercatcher; Upland Sandpiper; Ruddy Turnstone; Red Knot; Sanderling; Western Sandpiper; Short-billed Dowitcher; Least Tern; Black Skimmer; Prothonotary Warbler; Swainson’s Warbler; Cerulean Warbler; Grasshopper Sparrow; Henslow’s Sparrow; Seaside Sparrow; Bobolink; and Eastern Meadowlark.

Discover the Birds of The Big Apple

April 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

Known as the “city that never sleeps” and “The Big Apple”, New York City is a vibrant bustling metropolis that has more than a few surprises for visitors – and for native New Yorkers – who choose to explore its natural resources. The New York Water Taxi service offers visitors the opportunity to see the city from the harbor and its waterways. Working with the New York City Audubon Society, in the summer months the water taxi service offers a NYC Audubon Summer EcoCruise to highlight the amazing diversity and abundance of birdlife resident on the small islands in New York Harbor.

Lasting around 90 minutes, the cruise makes its way past world-renowned monuments, under iconic city bridges and along the shoreline of islands where visitors can view some of the more than 3,000 herons that have migrated from the south, along with hundreds of cormorants, egrets, ibis and other birds. Ever mindful of the impact humans have on the habitats of birds, the fleet of vessels used by the water taxi service are fitted with low-emission engines and mufflers, while the hulls are designed to cut through the water with as little disturbance as possible. While on the tour, visitors will learn about the ecology of the harbor and the important role its islands play in the conservation of various bird species.

With more than 10,000 members, New York City Audubon has been protecting wildlife habitats and its residents in all five boroughs for more than thirty years, with the goal of improving and conserving the environment for future generations. Wild birds from more than 350 species either live or pass through the city each year – that is almost a third of all species recorded in North America. They depend on the lush, vegetated areas in Jamaica Bay, the islands of New York Harbor and Central Park for their survival. The society collects data relating to birds across New York City, using the information to monitor bird and wildlife populations, and acts as an advocate for wildlife at government policy-making level.

Education programs formulated by the New York City Audubon inform the public, both young and old, about being responsible environmental stewards. The society welcomes new volunteers to work towards the goal of protecting wild birds and natural habitats in New York City, thereby improving the quality of life for all.

Spectacular Courtship Ritual of Peafowl

April 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

Best known for the spectacular courtship display put on by the males of the species, peafowl originate in Asia and belong to the genus Pavo of the Phasianidae (pheasant) family. While the term “peacock” is often used to describe the entire species, irrespective of sex, “peacock” is the correct term for the male in the species, with the female being referred to as a “peahen” and their offspring are known as “pea chicks”. The name for a group of peafowl – pride or ostentation – is very descriptive and this colorful bird has long been associated with high social standing and royalty, particularly in Asian cultures. It also features in Hindu mythology as the mount of the god of war, Karthikeya.

The species of peafowl are the Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), the Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) and Congo Peafowl (Afropavo congensis). The Indian Peafowl is found in South Asia and is the national bird of India. The male of the species has a brilliantly blue colored body and head, which is topped by a fan-like crest of feathers. Its most prominent feature is its long train of upper-tail covert feathers covered in colorful, iridescent spots resembling eyes. During courtship, this breathtakingly beautiful tail is spread out into a fan and quivered by the male in an attempt to attract a mate. The female of the species has a duller brown plumage with its neck being a greenish color. Although they can fly and often roost in tall trees, Indian Peafowl are usually found on the ground, where they forage for berries, grains and other plant material, with lizards, snakes and small rodents also being on the menu.

While Indian Peafowl are considered to be of “Least Concern” by the IUCN, the Green Peafowl is listed as “Endangered”. Found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, the Green Peafowl is a target of predators such as Leopards, Tigers, Jungle Cats and humans. Hunting and a loss of habitat has resulted in numbers of these beautiful birds dwindling to the extent that they are now considered to be endangered. The males and females of Green Peacocks are relatively similar in appearance, with the male’s upper tail coverts being longer than the female during breeding season. After breeding season the male molts, resulting in the appearance of the two sexes being even more similar.

Found in the Congo Basin, the Congo Peacock looks like a cross between a peafowl and a guineafowl, with the male’s feathers being a deep blue, tinged with green and violet, while the female is brown with shiny green feathers over its back. Due to habitat loss and hunting, the Congo Peacock has the IUCN status of “Vulnerable”.

Bengal florican: a bustard species from the Indian subcontinent threatened with extinction in the wild

April 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

The Bengal florican or the Bengal bustard (Houbaropsis bengalensis Gmelin) is an extremely rare species of bustard from the Indian subcontinent. The current IUCN status of the species is critically endangered and estimates of wild populations within the subcontinent is grossly overestimated as <~1,000. The species is grossly data deficient in India and the actual numbers could be as low as <200-300 in the wild. The distribution or natural home range of the species is described as stretching between extreme eastern Uttar Pradesh in north India (the western most distribution point) across the Terai tracts of the sub-Himalayas to the eastern and north-eastern Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh respectively (eastern most distribution point). The species has been reported from adjacent countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh too as they occupy the continuous range distribution within the Indian subcontinent. They are officially reported to be extinct in Bangladesh now and the status of the bird in Nepal is doubtful and severely data deficient. Bhutan comparatively has a better profile of this species among the other subcontinent member countries, most possibly because of its undisturbed natural environment where the anthropogenic pressures have been reported to be significantly less. It could possibly be extinct in the wild in Nepal too, or realistically have population bases of <100-150 individuals.

Their current existence in the wild is extremely doubtful in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh (northern and eastern fringes), Bihar (northern Terai tracts) and West Bengal (Terai region in the northern districts). Sporadic observations have been reported over the last few decades with increasingly lower numbers over time. Unconfirmed reports estimate the population in these states to be as low as <50-100 individuals The best population distribution that has been recently updated is found to be restricted only to north-east Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the extreme eastern most point of distribution of their former home range in the Indian subcontinent. They are most possibly now restricted predominantly to the foothills of Bhutan Himalayas and in isolated forest pockets of north-east India; and extinct in the wild elsewhere in the subcontinent. The most frequent and best documented observation of the species in the wild has been reported in recent times from the north eastern Indian state of Assam only.  A separate sub-population group is also reported from South East Asia (Vietnam and Cambodia); and it is quite unfortunate to state that both sub populations are threatened with the risks of extinction in the wild in Asia due to severe anthropogenic pressures.

The Bengal floricans are omnivorous, sexually dimorphic and terrestrial species. The species are characterized with strong and well built muscular legs, big toes with sharp claws, a strong beak and majestic broad wings. The flight patterns of the flocks are either in straight lines or V-shaped. The species is reported to have elaborate courtship displays and has been observed to feast on smaller mammals (rodents), frogs and toads, snakes, insects etc. Territorial aggression is also reported among adult males and in defending their harems of females from other contesting males and intruders into their territory. They are also known to be devoted parents taking good care of their chicks and constantly feeding them, helping them to grow faster. They are mostly fond of grassy plains with intermediate woods and forests and in semi or sub-aquatic habitats.  These are mainly ground nesting birds that forage, nest and raise their chicks on the ground. They are capable of sustained flights and take refuge in the trees for roosting and for security from ground predators. The biggest threat to wild populations has been humans.

Extensive anthropogenic pressures on the local ecosystems overlapping with the original home range of the species have marginalized the specie to the verge of extinction. Furthermore, illegal encroachments by humans in their wild habitats have drastically resulted in disturbing their wild habitats and fragmentation negatively impacting their premier foraging ground, courtship, breeding and nesting behavior. The situation has been so alarming that none of the Indian zoos have any florican species in display since the species is so rarely found in the wild. Some recent initiatives of breeding and reintroduction to the wild in the state of Assam have been successful; but, such initiatives need to be duplicated and multiplied across its range for the purpose of the resurgence of the species. Previously, indiscriminate hunting and illegal capture and poaching on the species have been so severe; that it has impacted the wild population base dangerously beyond the natural threshold limit of maintaining stable population for the future. The severe anthropogenic pressures on the species over the decades in the subcontinent have pushed it with imminent threats of extinction in the wild. The situations of the disjunct population from South East Asia are also similarly dark and grim putting question marks on the long term survival of the species in the wild in the continent of Asia.

Among other bustard species from the subcontinent are the comparatively bigger, critically endangered endemic Indian species (with <200 individuals in the wild) widely known as the Indian bustard or the Great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps Vigors) distributed mostly in western and central India; and the smaller species called the Little bustard (Tetrax tetrax Linnaeus) also restricted in western India and has the near threatened status. The Indian bustard is also reported from Pakistan where it is critically endangered too; but the status of the current population in Pakistan is extremely doubtful due to severe hunting pressures and may be almost close to extinction in the wild due to indiscriminate hunting. Another species reported from western India is the MacQueen’s bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii J. E. Gray) and has the vulnerable status. The floricans are the bustard species predominantly from the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent. There are two species, namely the critically endangered Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis Gmelin) of eastern and north-east India (as discussed above); and the endangered, Lesser florican (Sypheotides indica Miller) distributed sporadically across the subcontinent but more common in the eastern and north eastern states. These latter two species were previously grouped together as Bengal floricans in the past, but has now been split into two distinct and separate species. Another bigger (possibly the largest) bustard species, Great bustard (Otis tarda Linnaeus) is reported in some literature sources from north western Pakistan and Afghanistan. But unfortunately, local field data on the species from these regions are difficult to obtain; and their exact current status in these regions are doubtful due to severe hunting pressure and extremely poor conservation record.

Article submitted by: Saikat Kumar Basu

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