Birdnappers Plan Fails

Posted by ardeidae on February 07, 2005

A pair of birdnappers were partially successful in their attempt to steal eight birds from the Newport Aquarium near Cincinnati, OH. The “Hidden Treasures of the Rainforest Islands” exhibit allows people to feed free-flying birds. The couple seduced eight of the birds and stashed them in their oversized coats and proceeded to leave. On their way out, a pair of lorikeets escaped in the gift shop, tipping off aquarium staff. The couple managed to take off with four Green-Naped Lorikeets, a Forsten’s Lorikeet, and the endangered Chattering Lory.

The two people got away, but not before the security cameras got a good shot of them. The police managed to track down their residence. About the same time, aquarium biologists realized there was an exotic bird show nearby and decided to make a visit. Sure enough, the culprits were there. Police confronted them and they admitted to stealing the birds. After a visit to their residence, the birds were safely recovered.


Nesting Time for the Puerto Rican Parrot

Posted by ardeidae on February 06, 2005

It’s breeding time for the Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata), one of the world’s ten most endangered birds. There’s an estimated thirty to thirty-five birds left in the wild. A captive breeding program was set up over thirty years ago in Puerto Rico and the population hit its lowest point in 1975, with only thirteen birds being recorded. Since then, conservation efforts have been moderately successful, and in 2000 forty birds were released back into the wild. Another release is planned for next year to establish a second population in the island’s western Rio Abajo forest.

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Bird Brain

Posted by ardeidae on February 06, 2005

It was announced earlier this week that birds aren’t so…birdbrained after all. An international consortium led by neurobiologist Erich Jarvis of Duke University determined that avian brains are less primitive and more mammalian than originally thought. The previous system, developed in the 19th century by Ludwig Edinger, suggested that the avian brain was mostly capable of primative and instinctive behaior. But with the recent discoveries, it has been shown that birds are much more intelligent than that and now scientists are proposing sweeping changes(PDF) to the nomenclature of bird neurosystems to define the true power(PDF) of the avian brain.

NPR’s Day to Day has an excellent audio program talking about the recent study. PBS’s “Bird Brains” gives great examples as to how smart birds can be.

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Tricolored Blackbird Refused Protection Review

Posted by ardeidae on February 03, 2005

The California Fish and Game Commission rejected a recommendation — by its own biologists — to temporarily extend endangered-species status to the Tricolored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor). Their evaluation cited a 2003 report that stated the bird is “North America’s most rapidly declining songbird.”

The Department of Fish and Game scientists endorsed an April 2004 petition(PDF) by the Center for Biological Diversity to make the Tricolored Blackbird a candidate for the state’s endangered species list, which would have granted the blackbird protection while the year-long study was conducted.

But farmers and landowners opposed the petition, stating that there was insufficient evidence to show that numbers were reaching a critical point. They believed that voluntary conservation efforts were sufficient. And, unfortunately, the Fish and Game Commission sided with them.

The Tricolored Blackbird is on the Audbon WatchList, where numbers are estimated at 233,000. It is critical that the state moves to protect the Tricolored Blackbird, as California is home to 99% of the population.

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UK Collector Wipes out Bird Species at Reserve

Posted by ardeidae on February 03, 2005

In November 2004, UK authorities discovered Daniel Lingham’s collection of eggs that he displayed in his home near Norwich, UK. This collection consisted of 3,603 illegally gathered eggs, 226 from rare species protected by the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. He recently pleaded guilty to seven charges filed against him. He has also been blamed for wiping out an entire population of Nightjars (Caprimulgus europaeus) in Alderford Common, a reserve in Norfolk.

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The Eagle Odyssey a Great Success

Posted by ardeidae on January 26, 2005

BirdLife International reports that The Eagle Odyssey, a documentary by its UK sibling, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, has become the “most successful and acclaimed RSPB film ever made”.

Released in April 2004, the 50-minute documentary covers three years of the lives of White-Tailed Eagles, Red Kites, and Ospreys. Availablility is limited. It can be found in the UK at RSPB’s reserve shops, but it doesn’t seem to be available for ordering online. If you find any websites that have it, let me know.

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Vulnerable Albatross Racks Up Frequent Flier Miles

Posted by ardeidae on January 17, 2005

The Grey-Headed Albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma, also Diomedea chrysostoma) has been found to travel around the world in 46 days. A recent study conducted by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge revealed that Grey-Headed Albatrosses can travel more than 25,000 miles in the 18 months between their breeding seasons. Of the 22 birds successfully tracked using electronic leg monitors, they found that 12 of the birds circled the globe at least once, travelling east at a latitude just south of South America and Africa. Three of those made the trip twice.

The 18-month study was designed to help conservationists protect the albatross by imposing tighter restrictions on commercial fishing, as these birds are being trapped, caught in fishing lines, and snagged by baited hooks, where they’re dragged under and drowned. With 19 of the 21 subspecies on the Red List as high risk of endangerment, BirdLife International estimates that 100,000 albatrosses die each year through longline fishing and has determined them the bird family most threatened with extinction. Check out their campaign, Save the Albatross.

For results of the study, see “Global circumnavigations: Tracking year-round ranges of non-breeding albatrosses” by John P. Croxall, Janet R.D. Silk, Richard A. Phillips, Vsevolod Afanasyev and Dirk Briggs, published in Science on January 14, 2005.

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Campbell Island Teal Hatches at Wellington Zoo

Posted by ardeidae on January 12, 2005

A pair of critically endangered Campbell Island Teals (Anas nesiotis) has a new addition to their family. With less than a hundred birds in captivity, Wellington Zoo has successfully hatched a new duckling. As first-time parents, the rare breeding pair laid five eggs. One survived and has been granted permission for public viewing. More ducklings could be on the way as the second clutch of eggs is now being incubated and are expected to hatch by the end of the month.

It’s been a difficult recovery for the small flightless, nocturnal bird. The Cambell Island Teal was though to be extinct until a small population was found in the mid-70s. The New Zealand Department of Conservation’s reintroduction plan(PDF) will hopefully give a boost to allowing these birds to thrive once again on Campbell Island and bring themselves back from extinction.

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Greater Sage Grouse Denied Endangered List Protections

Posted by ardeidae on January 10, 2005

The Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) has been denied federal protection. After a formal review, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it will not gain protection under the Endangered Species Act. A population and habitat status survey was conducted in the eleven US states that the Greater Sage Grouse ranges. Most information was based on monitoring done since 1965. It was found that between 1965 and 1985, populations decreased an average of 3.5% per year. Since 1986, the decline has slowed to 0.37%.

Some feel this omission is purely political and that the Greater Sage Grouse is being sacrificed.

The historic range of the Greater Sage Grouse included 16 US states and three Canadian provinces. Currently, this has dwindled to 11 US states and two Canadian provinces. It is estimated that in 1800, about 1.1 million birds existed. Today, the USFWS estimates the population to be 100,000 to 500,000. The National Audubon Society has their own count, currently at 142,000.

Population decline is greatly attributed to the devastation of habitat. Fires, agriculture, well drilling, plant invasion, and urbanization have all contributed to a decline in sagebrush, which is heavily depended on for food and cover.

Since there will be no federal protection for the Greater Sage Grouse until a further review process, recovery plans are being coordinated at the state level. Canada has already taken action: the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) declared this bird endangered in 1998, and it was listed in the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Public Registry in 2000. The Western Governor’s Association has more information on each state’s conservation efforts.


England’s Hen Harrier Faces Extinction

Posted by ardeidae on January 06, 2005

One of England’s rarest raptors, is facing extinction. Circus cyaneus, commonly known as the Hen Harrier (and other names), is being reported in “disastrous decline” by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). In 2003 there were 22 pairs in England. Last year only eight were recorded, all located in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire.

The count was so low in 2002 that English Nature set up the Hen Harrier Recovery Project. Their efforts led to a slight increase in population in 2003, but numbers have since declined. The hen harrier faces opposition from landowners and hunters because it eats chicks of the red grouse, a heavily-hunted game bird. English Nature has had reports of hen harriers being shot, some sustaining wing injuries.

The Association of Chief Police Officers launched Operation Artemis to provide information and help enforce current laws protecting the hen harrier. Anyone spotting one of these birds should use their website to report the sighting.

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