Conservation of the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

There are more than 338 recorded hummingbird species worldwide, and many birding enthusiasts would agree that they are top of the list as the most interesting little birds of the nearly 10,000 bird species found around the world. With their brilliant iridescent coloring, wings flapping in a blur and ability to dart in all directions, or hover in one spot, hummingbirds are extremely entertaining to watch.

Interestingly, the color of a hummingbird’s gorget (throat feathers) is not a result of feather pigmentation, but of light refraction caused by the structure of the feathers. They are unable to hop or walk, but can move sideways while perching. The smallest species is the bee hummingbird, endemic to the main island of Cuba and weighing only 1.6-2 grams with a length of 5-6 cm. Up to 30 percent of the hummingbird’s weight is in the muscles used in flight – the pectoral muscles. With wings that beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second and an average heart rate of more than 1,200 beats per minute, a hummingbird uses an amazing amount of energy and must consume up to half of its weight in sugar daily. They harvest nectar from flowers with fringed, forked tongues that lick 10-15 times per second.

The rufous hummingbird migrates a distance of more than 3,000 miles from its Alaskan and Canadian nesting grounds to its Mexican winter habitat – the longest migration of all the hummingbird species. Some hummingbird species such as the rufous, calliope, broad-tailed, Anna’s, black-chinned and Costa’s are known to inter-breed and create hybrid species, making the birder’s identification task more challenging.

Following the completion of a species status review in 2012, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the Honduran Emerald hummingbird be listed as endangered. Endemic to five small valleys in the Central American country of Honduras, it’s estimated that the Honduran Emerald hummingbird population has decreased to fewer than 1,500. With loss of habitat being the primary cause of the decline in numbers, it is feared the decline will continue as land is cleared for establishing plantations and pastures for cattle. The good news for the brightly colored little bird is that the Honduran government is aware of the problem and has formed the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird Habitat Management Area which includes dry forest habitat suitable for the Honduran Emerald hummingbird and may very well turn the decline around.

Florida Scrub-Jay Festival

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

The Florida Scrub-Jay Festival is a free family event that focuses on this threatened bird species. During the day visitors will find out more about the bird’s habitat, enjoy presentations and join in on guided nature walks.

Date: 4 February 2012
Time: 10 am
Venue: Oscar Scherer Park
Town: Osprey
State: Florida
Country: United States of America

Six Foreign Species Fall under Endangered Species Act

August 16, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Many bird species across the world have been placed under protection, as the importance of conserving them has become necessary. Due to their declining numbers, ornithologist have been submitting requests for at least seventy species to be noted in the Endangered Species Act since the 1980s. These species were submitted from all over the world, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that most of these bird species submitted would come under the Endangered Species Act. Now six foreign bird species have been entered onto this database.

To speed up the process of getting the suggested list of endangered bird species recognized, the Centre for Biological Diversity began legal proceedings in the years 2004 and in 2006, and by 2008 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a list that featured proposals for five bird species, but noted that an additional forty-five foreign species deserved to be listed as well. The Center for Biological Diversity once again put pressure on the department in 2009, which led to the agreement to extend the list and six species recently received their permanent place under the protection act. These species are the Jerdon’s Courser, Cantabrian Capercallie, Eiao Marquesas Reed Warbler, Slender Billed Curlew, Marquesan Imperial Pigeon and Greater Courser.

One would wonder why the Center for Biological Diversity could be campaigning for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recognize foreign species, but the answer is quite simple: the restricting of the selling and purchasing of wildlife that are endangered. Once on the list, funding for conservation will increase, and it will also increase the scrutiny on areas that are at risk of development programs, preventing vital habitats to be destroyed. Agencies such as the World Bank would be required to ensure that prospective project land is not the habitat of the birds on this list.

The attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, Justin Augustine, commented that they are pleased that the birds that are bordering on extinction will now receive the protection they deserve, and that being under the Endangered Species Act gives these species a better chance of survival and will also bring attention to the urgent need to conserve the bird species that find themselves under threat of human intervention and development.

The Endangered Florida ScrubJay

October 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

Entered onto the endangered list as a threatened species in 1987, the Florida Scrub Jay populations have dramatically decreased in numbers over the last few years. Encroachment on their natural habitat and their unique breeding and survival habits could lead to the extinction of this magnificent bird that is endemic to Florida. Fortunately, researchers have been keeping a close eye on these birds for more than thirty-five years and have come up with a solution to ensure that the Florida Scrub Jay will continue to frequent the landscapes of Florida and hopefully increase their numbers.

The Florida Scrub Jay is noticeable by its blue wings, tail, head, nape and bib, and their underparts and backs are a light shade of grey. They have black bills, feet and legs, and grow to approximately twenty-eight centimeters in height. It is the unique scrub in Florida that has ensured that the Florida Scrub Jay has remained within this state, in ecosystems filled with Myrtle Oak, Sand Pine, Florida Rosemary, Eastern Prickly Pear and Chapman’s Oak. They live on a diet of mice, frogs, acorns, peanuts, lizards and insects, and are known to store acorns throughout the year. It was observed by the late Glen Woolfenden in 1969 that these extraordinary birds take part in what is known as cooperative breeding, meaning that more than one bird tends to a nest. An intern, John Fitzpatrick, joined Woolfenden three years later, and has continued his work in regard to the study and conservation of the Florida Scrub Jay.

One vital aspect that will help to save the Florida Scrub Jay is to ensure that there is enough scrub to encourage the birds to move to larger areas, like stepping stones from one area to the next. It has been found that Florida Scrub Jays do not move to unfamiliar habitats, and the divisions between habitats will eventually cause birds to be isolated from one another and become extinct. Wildfires are also a major threat to this bird’s habitat. Research has also shown that the different Scrub Jay species have various different needs, and each population should therefore be treated and conserved individually. Fitzpatrick hopes that by sharing his knowledge of the Scrub Jays, positive changes will be made to conserve and protect these socially dependant birds throughout the state of Florida.

The Americas IBA Directory

May 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Features

The conservation of rare birdlife has been the focus of Birdlife International for many years. In 1995 they began a project by the name of IBA, or Important Bird Area Program, to pinpoint areas across the globe that are home to endangered species, identifying the various species and protecting those areas to assist in conserving vital birdlife. At present, more than ten thousand of these areas have been identified, and conservation and environmental initiatives have been implemented. Now a new program has been established, namely the Americas IBA Directory.

Hundreds of bird species will benefit from the Americas IBA Directory, as it will be a guideline for both conservationists and for authorities. The directory covers 57 different countries and has 2 345 of the most significant areas listed that need to be protected at all costs. Authorities will be able to refer to the directory to find out which of their areas are vital to the survival of birdlife, which bird species are located in that area and the biodiversity of the area, to enable them to take the right steps in protecting the natural habitat and the birds. Some areas that have been listed are significant in the migratory patterns of certain species, while others are crucial nesting sites for numerous endangered birds. Due to a number of these areas being inhabited by local communities, also relying on the natural resources such as water, authorities can assist these communities with sustainable development that will not only benefit the communities but the birdlife as well.

Hundreds of organizations have provided support and assistance in the compiling of the Americas IBA Directory. President of Bird Studies Canada, George Finney, explained: “From breeding grounds in Canada, to wintering sites in the south, and all points in between, it is imperative that we understand what is happening to bird populations and the forces that drive change. Bird Studies Canada is proud to work closely with our international partners on this issue, so that better management decisions and conservation actions can be taken.” A large number of agencies will be working together as IBA Caretakers, tracking migratory patterns and data in regard to bird populations, to note changes being made by the birds, and keeping the IBA Directory as up to date and accurate as possible.

Uzbekistan Birdwatching Tour 2010

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

Uzbekistan is a bird watching paradise, with a variety of birds such as Alpine Swifts, Wheatears, Bearded Reedlings, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Rose-coloured Starlings, Common Mynas, Hume’s Short-toed Lark and Paddyfield Warblers, to name but a few, being found throughout the country. The Uzbekistan Birdwatching Tour 2010, which takes place from the 23rd to the 29th of May 2010, will provide visitors with a guided tour to various birdwatching hotspots, including Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and Chimgan. Tour packages can be arranged around the requirements of bird watching visitors, and is an unforgettable experience.

For more information in regard to this colorful adventure, contact tour organizers on info@birdwatching-uzbekistan.com.

Date: 23 – 29 May
Venue: Various
City: Various
Country: Uzbekistan Birdwatching Tour 2010

ScrubJay Festival 2010

January 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The Scrub Jay Festival 2010, will take place on 20 February, and is an initiative that is hosted by the Lyonia Environmental Center to raise awareness for the plight of the Scrub Jay. It is a bird that is only found in Florida, and nests in habitats where scrub is in abundance. They are currently a threatened species, with encroachment on their habitat being a major threat, and the festival hopes to educate the public on this unique bird. Guided walks, talks to promote conservation, live music performances and activities for children will keep festival goers entertained and amazed throughout the day.

To find out more about the festival and its activities, contact the Lyonia Environmental Center direct, of visit their website at http://lyoniapreserve.com/LEC1-6-10.htm.

Date: 20 February 2010
Venue: Lyonia Environmental Center
City: Deltona, Florida
Country: United States of America

Farmers Could Save Endangered Ibis

October 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

The elegant white-shouldered Ibis is a critically endangered wading bird that is found in the southern regions of Laos, Vietnam, the eastern region of Kalimantan and in the northern areas of Cambodia. Its natural habitat includes wet grasslands, sand and gravel bars at the water’s edge, marshes and forests that do not consist of dense vegetation. The coloring is quite distinctive with dark plumage covering the bird’s body, red legs and a bald black head. Its name is derived from a unique feature which can be found on the inner forewing of the white-shouldered Ibis, a light, almost white, colored patch of plumage.

This beautiful bird has found its way onto the critically endangered list, the IUCN Red List, of bird species and it is estimated that there are fewer than 250 birds remaining in the world. Recent studies have revealed that there could be ways to save this wonderful bird, as they began to investigate the reasons behind the speedy decline in the species. The University of East Anglia has recently published their results.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds funded the project and studies were concentrated in Cambodia, as the biggest collection of the white-shouldered Ibis is found here. Watching and studying the approximately 160 to 200 birds, has revealed that they prefer open areas, with open sand areas and ground level vegetation, as it makes access to prey easier, makes it easier for the birds to see oncoming danger and assists them in landing and take off as there are less obstacles. What has made the study even more fascinating is the fact that human interaction almost always plays a negative role in the survival of animal and bird species, but in the case of the white-shouldered Ibis, human activity is playing a vital role in the protection of the remaining birds. Open fields where livestock graze and areas that are burnt down by farmers to create more open fields, in turn accommodate these birds and opens more habitats to them. As the white-shouldered Ibis seems to be dependant on the farmers for their existence, it is hoped that this relationship between farmer and Ibis can assist in the survival of the species and hopefully increase white-shouldered Ibis numbers.

Niceforo’s Wren to Enjoy Increased Protection

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Many people have not even heard of the Niceforo’s Wren – and without help, it is unlikely that that will change any time soon. The species is listed as being Critically Endangered with just fifty of these birds still remaining in the wild. Now, it seems, there may just be a sliver of light on the horizon – a new project designed to increase the bird’s natural habitat and provide it with further protection.

American Bird Conservancy has been working with partner Fundacion ProAves (Colombia) and World Land Trust (US) to secure 3 200 acres of dry forest in the Chicamocha Valley found in Colombia’s eastern Andes. The land, which includes some of the highest quality dry forest still remaining in the region, is to be turned into a reserve that will serve, not only to protect the wren, but also to secure the futures of several more endemic species. Other birds that should benefit from the new arrangement include the endangered Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and the Apical Flycatcher.

At present there are fewer than 25 pairs of Niceforo’s Wren – 14 of which are living in the area, their lives threatened daily by the destruction caused by man-made fires, while intensive goat grazing continues to destroy their habitat. Knowing this, it was decided that the only way to preserve the species was to acquire the farms where these birds are found and create a safer, more stable environment that should ultimately help them to repopulate. The task means not only acquiring the land, but removing more than 500 goats and 50 heads of cattle. However most will agree that the effort is worth it. George Wallace, the Vice President for the American Bird Conservancy’s International Programs, said: “To be able to give a species that is so close to extinction another chance at survival is a thrilling opportunity, and we are tremendously indebted to the supporters who have made this a reality.” He added: “Now begins the work of protecting the habitat on the ground as well as on paper,” – a task which will most likely prove to be no small feat.

The new reserve will be located near Zapatoca, a small town about one hour from Bucaramanga. Any visitors and students interested in learning more about the project and the animals it aims to protect are invited to visit the reserve if they are able to do so.

The Albatross Task Force Project

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

South Africans are fast gaining recognition for taking initiative and trying new things. Most recently they have enjoyed a lot of success in efforts aimed at minimizing the number of endangered albatrosses killed in fishing nets annually. Conservationists are now looking at how the project can be expanded.

Albatrosses do not generally receive a lot of public attention, but they are certainly no less important than other birds. This large sea bird is currently facing a huge dilemma – as many as three quarters of albatross species are at the brink of extinction. The main cause for their demise is the fact that they are easily entangled in long fishing lines which are dropped into the water to catch fish such as tuna. The bird then swoops down on the baited lines to which it is attracted, quickly becomes entangled in the lines and it is then eventually pulled underwater where it drowns. It would seem to be such a simple problem to solve, but up until now conservationists have not have much success in helping to stem the number of fishing industry-related deaths.

Fortunately a South African initiative called the Albatross Task Force (ATF) project has now found a way to make the lines safer and so reduce the probability of the birds being drawn to them and becoming entangled. The project’s main preservation technique involves attaching brightly colored streamers to the back of the vessels. These streamers, known as tori lines, flap in the wind and scare the birds away, so helping them to avoid becoming entangled. The initiative also looks at educating fishermen so as to help them avoid catching albatrosses. They share specialist knowledge with the fishermen and also encourage them to fish at night when activity is low. Finding more effective ways to keep the lines down under the water is also encouraged. While changing entrenched attitudes takes time, new laws stipulating that no more than 25 birds may be caught during fishing trips is a very powerful motivator.

So far the Albatross Task Force project has been incredibly successful in helping these endangered birds to avoid premature deaths. The project was launched in 2006 and in 2008 the number of birds killed by fisheries in South Africa dropped by an incredible 85%. Expanding the project to encompass other countries is simply the next logical step, and the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is very supportive of the move. Hopefully this creative and forward-thinking initiative will save yet another bird species from extinction.

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