Avian Edutainment at Weltvogelpark Walsrode

April 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Covering more than 24 hectares, with more than four thousand birds representing 675 species from all around the world, Weltvogelpark Walsrode is a birding enthusiast’s paradise. Promoted as the largest bird park in the world, both in land area and number of species, Weltvogelpark is located near the town of Walsrode in Lower Saxony, Germany. The park is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012 with a host of events and special displays, one of which is more than three million spring flowers – a picturesque palette of vibrant color.

With special emphasis on conservation, Weltvogelpark offers an outing that is both entertaining and educational. The walk-in free-flight aviaries allow visitors to observe the birds in their natural habitat, while flight demonstrations demonstrate the amazing skills of birds, and feeding times provide insight into the needs of various species, including pelicans, penguins, vultures and flamingoes. The park offers special events and classes for school groups, while ensuring that visitors of all ages and levels of mobility have access to the features of the park. Experienced rangers are on hand for guided tours, and boards detailing interesting facts about the Weltvogelpark’s feathered residents are placed throughout the spacious reserve.

The park is also involved in research and conservation projects, and has had a measure of success in breeding some endangered species, including the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), and Shoebill stork (Balaeniceps rex). While breeding is generally allowed to take its natural course at Weltvogelpark, sometimes it is necessary to intervene, particularly with rare and endangered species. In these cases the eggs are artificially incubated and the birds are hand-raised, ensuring that they bond with their own species as soon as possible to avoid being imprinted by humans. In 2011 more than 600 young birds hatched out – clearly they are happy in their environment.

In addition to the outstanding facilities for the park’s birds, Weltvogelpark Walsrode boasts one of the largest botanical gardens to be found in Northern Germany. More than 70 species of roses and 120 different species of rhododendron are features of the botanical gardens, with hundreds of different trees, flowers and shrubs, both indigenous and exotic, providing color throughout the year.

Macaw Mountain Bird Park – A Haven in Honduras

January 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Consisting of nine-acres of old growth forest, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve offers visitors the opportunity of viewing a wide variety of tropical birds in their natural environment. Located near the town of Copan Ruinas in Honduras, the large flight aviary is home to just about all the species of parrots and toucans to be found in this beautiful South American country, and many of its feathered inhabitants are so tame that visitors are able to interact with them at leisure.

While providing a haven for rescued, abandoned and endangered birds, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park is dedicated to educating the public about these beautiful animals and their vulnerability caused mainly the by destruction of their natural habitat. In a region known for its excellent birding opportunities, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park offers an unforgettable bird watching experience. Visitors to the park will enjoy strolling along the network of pathways which allow easy access to the entire area throughout the year. Interaction with the park’s birds allows visitors to appreciate their beauty and intelligence, while at the same time being made aware of the obstacles and dangers they face in the wild, which have brought many species to the brink of extinction.

Quite a number of the parrots and macaws found in the park were at one time household pets, but oftentimes people who buy these birds have no idea how long they live – parrots have a lifespan or 50 to 60 years and macaws can live for a century – or that because of their intelligence they require a lot of attention. So, when the birds become too much to handle at home, they are donated to sanctuaries such as the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve. Birds to be seen in the park include the scarlet macaw, buffon’s macaw, green-winged macaw, yellow-lored Amazon, white-fronted parrot, red-lored parrot, mealy Amazon, yellow-crowned Amazon, white-crowned parrot, olive-throated conure, red-throated parakeet, keel-billed toucan, chestnut-mandibled toucan, grey hawk and great-horned owl.

The Copan region of Honduras is home to more than 330 species of birds representing 51 families, and has become a popular destination for keen birders from around the world. Although birds can be seen in the wild in the vicinity of the park, bird watchers should include Macaw Mountain Bird Park in their itinerary to experience up-close interaction with the birds of Honduras.

Black-throated Robin Rediscovered in China

December 20, 2011 by  
Filed under News

The Black-throated Robin (Luscinia obscura ), also referred to as the Black-throated Blue Robin, or simply the Blackthroat, is a species in the Muscicapidae family of small passerine birds found mainly in the Old World – Europe, Asia and Africa. Primarily due to decimation of its preferred habitat of bamboo thickets and high altitude coniferous forest, this elusive little bird has become quite a rare sight in recent decades. So when a team of Swedish and Chinese researchers discovered a community of breeding Blackthroats in the Qinling Mountains of north-central China’s Shaanxi province, it was a newsworthy event.

With their distinctive song consisting of short, sharp, varied strophes including harsh notes and whistles, seven singing males were counted in Foping Nature Reserve, with another seven observed in the Changqing National Nature Reserve. Being the more vocal of the sexes, males are easier to find, and it is considered to be almost certain that each male has a mate. The majority of the birds were seen in bamboo thickets and coniferous-broadleaf forests at an altitude of around 2400 to 2500 meters above sea level. Recordings have been made of the Blackthroat’s song, which will made identification easier in the future.

Resembling a European Robin Erithacus rubecula in size and general shape, the Blackthroat male has a jet-black throat and breast, and while it is believed that the female has a light-brown throat and breast, this has not been confirmed. They were first recorded in the late 19th century, and between the time of first being observed and into the early 20th century, ten of these birds were collected during their breeding season of May to August, in two different localities in China’s Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Subsequent Blackthoat sightings include unconfirmed records from China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, as well as a few birds spotted in captivity at markets. The most recent reported sighting of a Blackthroat was at the Sichuan University campus in May 2011, with reports of a Blackthroat being captured in Thailand during the winter months, which is a possible migration destination or stop-over point.

Astounding Research into Great Snipe Migration

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

There are twenty-five species of wading birds that fall under the Scolopacidae family, and the great snipe is one of them. Generally recognized by their long bills and plumage coloring that allows it to blend in with its surroundings, there is a magnificent talent that the snipe possesses that has been recently been uncovered. This beautiful shore bird is quite small and its stocky body, which they ensure carries enough fat by August, assists them in their migration. But until recently, their migration patterns were a mystery, and the information revealed by a project started in 2009 has uncovered breathtaking details.

Raymond Klaassen, a biologist from the Lund University in Sweden, captured ten great great snipes and managed to tag them to collect information in regard to their migration. Captured and let go on the western coast of Sweden, three birds returned and were recaptured to have their tags removed, revealing the most staggering information. For the first time ever, the migration of great snipes could be put on record, but even for scientists and biologists, the information received from the tags was overwhelming. It seems the great snipe tops all other birds when it comes to migration as it is able to fly an impressive four thousand miles without making any stops to eat, drink or sleep. Not only was the flight astounding, given that the great snipe is able to fly ninety-six hours non-stop, but they also averaged speeds of fifty miles per hour. The flights were compared to wind charts showing that the birds had almost no tail winds during their migrations, meaning that they are able to make the flights and maintain high speeds on their own.

One of the recaptured tagged birds completed a migration of three thousand eight hundred miles, while the other two had migrations of two thousand eight hundred miles and four thousand two hundred miles. The first trip took eighty-four hours, while the others took forty-eight hours and eighty-four hours. Klaassen commented that the reason why the great snipes do not stop on their flights is unknown, but it is suspected that this is the unique migration strategy of the great snipe. Even though there are other birds that are also able to travel vast distances, it is the speed the great snipes are able to travel at that has astonished researchers, as their wings are not the most aerodynamic of the bird kingdom. But it seems the fat they store before a migration gives them enough energy to maintain speed and cover large distances. According to this new information and studies, the great snipe can officially be called the king of bird migrations.

Rat Poison a Danger to Birds

May 10, 2011 by  
Filed under News

It is a fine line between getting rid of pesky rodents and in doing so, attributing to the deaths of birds of prey. Researchers have been working tirelessly to try and determine which bird species are more susceptible to the poison and which birds are affected immediately, as well as trying to find ways to curb the accessibility of poisoned rodents to birds of prey. Their studies have had some remarkable and disturbing results, showing that less poison than previously thought is enough to cause serious damage.

It has been an ongoing study to figure out exactly how much rat poison is fatal for birds, and it seems that it does not take much to cause major harm. For years it has been known that wildlife is exposed to rat poisons through affected rodents. As rats were becoming resistant to the old poison formulas, new ones were created, but these poisons also pose a great risk. To understand the risks, a group of scientists from Environment Canada, with Philippe Thomas leading, began researching the effect rat poison had on birds by analyzing the livers from dead red-tailed hawks and great horned owls that they had found across Canada. It was important to the group to try and determine an estimated mortality rate for the birds, the rats and the population. It seems that some poisons do not kill rats immediately. Rats are still able to function for several days after poisoning, but as the poison begins to take its toll, rats become disorientated and easier prey for birds such as the great horned owl and the red-tailed hawks.

While studying the great horned owls, it was found that they were at serious risk of being fatally effected by the secondary digestion of rat poisons. The owls that were analyzed showed a higher percentage of poison in their livers than the red-tailed hawks, and their livers showed the presence of bromadiolone and brodifacoum. Scientists speculate that this result could be due to the different feeding habits and dietary needs of the birds. The lethal poisons that are in question are SGARs, or Second-Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides. While it is understood that rats are pests and should be controlled, the team has stressed the urgency of educating the public on how to use these poisons safely, to pose as minimum a threat to wildlife as possible.

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