Technological advances, along with the dedication and patience of researchers, have resulted in the recent discovery of fifteen new bird species in the Amazon rainforest. The formal description of the fifteen birds has been presented in a special edition of the Handbook of the Birds of the World, adding to the sixteen volumes already published by Lynx Edicions in partnership with BirdLife International. Entitled “Special Volume: New Species and Global Index” the book includes descriptions of 84 new species, including the fifteen from the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon rainforest, also referred to as Amazonia, covers most of South America’s Amazon Basin and includes parts of territories of nine different nations, with up to 60% of the region belonging to Brazil. Amazonia is the most species-rich region on the planet, with more than 1,300 species of birds – one in five of all of the world’s bird species – living in this region which also hosts migrating birds at different times of the year. Sadly, at the current rate of deforestation conservationists are of the opinion that the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed in the next 40 years – and birds, along with other animals that depend on this paradisiac part of the world, are paying the price.
Led by ornithologist Bret Whitney of the LSU Museum of Natural Science (LSUMNS) an international team of researchers was involved in the discovery of the new species. Noting that discovering such a large number of un-catalogued species was unexpected, Whitney went on to say that it highlighted how little is known about species diversity in Amazonia, as well as showing how technological advances are benefiting research efforts. Satellite imagery, DNA analysis, digital vocalization recordings and advance computation power have, in a way, opened up a new age of discovery. Current or former LSU students were involved in each of the fifteen discoveries, underscoring the work that Louisiana State University Museum of National Sciences has been consistently carrying out since the 1960s.
Found in most parts of the world, the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is the most widely distributed wild bird and has a conservation status of ‘least concern’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, in recent years conservationists in some parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and India, have been drawing attention to the fact that the numbers of these cheerful little birds have been dwindling, with no clear indication as to why this is the case. In order to alert the public to the plight of the Sparrow, as well as to enlist public support and participation in counteracting this trend, conservationists in London and India have joined forces to create World Sparrow Day, taking place on March 30, 2013.
Under the banner of “Rise for the Sparrow: Experience the Power of One”, World Sparrow Day is calling on citizens, educational institutions and corporate companies to do their bit for conservation and raising awareness. Individual citizens, wherever they may be, can assist by providing a regular source of food and water, eliminating poisons from their gardens and gardening organically, planting more bird friendly plants including hedges, and even putting up nest boxes for House Sparrows. Another suggestion from the organizers of World Sparrow Day is to take some grain along on outings and picnics, set it out near a thicket and wait to see if sparrows and other ground-feeding birds appear. This is a great way to teach children about the importance of birds in our environment.
Known for their life-long loyalty to their chosen mate, House Sparrows are gregarious little birds, often roosting communally with nests overlapping one another in clumps. They may regularly be seen dust-bathing or bathing in water together and they frequently join together in song. While some birds may migrate in regions with harsh winters, the majority of House Sparrows seldom fly more than a few kilometers from where they were raised. As their name would suggest, they are comfortable around humans and are often the first birds children become acquainted with. They are also very resourceful in obtaining their preferred food of seeds and grains, and are known to peck open bags of feed in warehouses and supermarkets. For this reason, some may consider them to be pests, but in general they are a welcome sight, particularly in the suburbs as they help clear gardens of aphids, snails and a variety of destructive insects. So you may want to consider getting involved with World Sparrow Day to ensure these cute little birds are still around for our children’s children.