Launched by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in January 2007, the EDGE of Existence program is a global conservation initiative that focuses on threatened species with unique evolutionary characteristics. EDGE is an acronym for Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered, which sums up some of the criteria for being included on the EDGE list. Recently scientists from the ZSL and Yale University assessed the 9,993 recorded bird species in the world and listed the top 100 according to various scientific parameters. The top ten on the list, from one to ten, includes the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea); the New Caledonian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles savesi); the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus); the kakapo (Strigops habroptila); the kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus); Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis); the Forest owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti); the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi); Christmas Island frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi); and the Sumatran ground cuckoo (Carpococcyx viridis).
As the world’s largest ibis, the giant ibis measures up to 106 cm in length with an upright standing height of up to a meter and weighing 4.2 kg on average. They have long, curved beaks that they use for foraging in shallow waters and between vegetation, with their diets including aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, small reptiles and amphibians, as well as earthworms, locusts, mole-crickets, cicadas and other insects. Their feathers are dark gray-brown in color, with silver-grey wing tips and black crossbars. Their heads are dark grey in color and devoid of feathers and their eyes are dark red. Their legs are orange and they have yellow-brown beaks. There are thought to be only 230 pairs of giant ibis left in the wild, and these are all located in northern Cambodia, although there have been unconfirmed sightings in southern Laos and in Vietnam’s Yok Don National Park. Because of their remote location, not much is known about the lifespan and breeding patterns of these giant birds, however, it is known that they nest in trees, generally away from human settlements, and the female lays two eggs which both parents tend to.
As is the case with many endangered bird species around the world, the greatest threat to the giant ibis is humans who clear the wetlands for cultivation and decimate forests for timber, while the increase in human populations results in domestic settlements encroaching on previously unoccupied land. Conflict in the region has also wreaked havoc on bird populations, and the giant ibis is hunted as a food source.
There are some ecotourism initiatives in the region which draw attention to the plight of the giant ibis, but the fact remains that it is considered critically endangered and is in need of protection to prevent it from becoming extinct. Programs such as Edge bring the plight of these endangered birds to the attention of the public, increasing their chances of becoming the focus of conservation efforts.
Domesticated centuries ago, canaries were popular in the courts of Spanish and English royalty in the 17th and 18th centuries because of their beautiful singing. Over the years selective breeding has focused on creating a variety of colors and shapes, but one of the most desired traits of canaries remains their ability to enthrall their audience, and hopefully a mate, with a repertoire of sounds and songs that are very pleasing to the human ear. Wild canaries are generally yellowish green in color, but domesticated canaries are available in a range of colors, including yellow, orange, black, brown, white and red, as well as mottled blends of these various colors.
Prospective owners of pet canaries need to be aware that they are not generally companion birds, as one would consider a parrot, budgerigar or cockatiel to be. Nonetheless, their cheerful disposition and amazing singing abilities make canaries a popular choice as pets. It should also be noted that only male canaries sing as this is how they attract a mate (although some owners have reported their female canaries can sing). Also, they tend not to sing when molting in summer. So, if you are considering getting a canary specifically for its singing, you’ll need to get a male and he would have to remain a bachelor. However, as they are territorial and not particularly social birds, canaries apparently do not need feathered companions to be happy.
As they like flying horizontally from perch to perch, canaries need a cage that is at least 20 inches or longer, by about 10 inches high and 10 inches wide, for them to get enough exercise. Place a perch on both ends of the cage, and maybe one midway. This will encourage your canary to keep fit and healthy. Tall or small cages are not at all suitable for canaries. They don’t need a lot of accessories in their cages, and may see their reflection in a mirror as an intruder or threat. Position the cage in a room where there is some activity and preferably some morning sun, but not in a kitchen and not in a draft.
Pet shops generally stock seed mixes specifically for canaries, as well as soft food in dehydrated form. Ensure that you canary has fresh seed every day and a teaspoon of moistened soft food, as well as some fresh green food such as carrot tops, parsley or spinach. You can offer your canary a slice of fresh apple or pear twice a week as a treat. Fresh water for drinking and splashing around in should be provided each day. Canaries also require grit, obtainable from the pet shop, and enjoy a cuttlebone. For your canary’s good health, ensure that his food and water bowls are cleaned every day. A healthy, happy canary will reward you with cheerful, chirpy activity, and hopefully hours of beautiful singing.