Monday, December 31, 2007

ENV: The Year in Returning Birds

From BirdLife International

The Mauritius Parakeet was not the only bird to benefit from a captive breeding and reintroduction programme in 2007. Twenty seven Rimatara Lorikeets Vini kuhlii were released on the island of Atiu in the Cook Islands after an absence of almost two centuries, using money raised at the 2006 British Birdfair. And Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) announced that the Stitchbirds (or hihi) Notiomystis cincta which were returned to the mainland earlier this year, after an absence of more than a century, have hatched chicks.

A 3,000-strong flock of Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius has been discovered in Turkey – the largest seen for more than 100 years. The birds were found in the Ceylanpınar district of south-eastern Turkey after a satellite tag was fitted to one of the birds migrating from breeding grounds in Kazakhstan earlier this year. The finding represents another significant rise in fortune for the Critically Endangered bird: five years ago, as few as 400 Sociable Lapwing were thought to exist globally.

BirdLife Canadian co-Partner, Bird Studies Canada, expressed delight at news that a pair of Kirtland’s Warbler Dendroica kirtlandii have bred in Canada for the first time in over 60 years. Further south in the Americas, a string of recent sightings of Recurve-billed Bushbird Clytoctantes alixii in Venezuela and Colombia have found this species to be more widespread than previously thought.

The only recorded breeding population of Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis outside Iraq came back to Israel for a second year. Meanwhile ornithologists across the world celebrated the news that a wetland bird that has eluded scientists ever since its discovery in India in 1867 has been rediscovered. The Large-billed Reed-warbler Acrocephalus orinus was found and ringed (banded) at a wastewater treatment centre near Bangkok, Thailand; while coincidentally, six months later, another Large-billed Reed-warbler specimen was discovered in the collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring, in a drawer of Blyth’s Reed-warblers (Acrocephalus dumetorum) collected from a different part of India to the original specimen.

Five years after the search began, a survey team tracked down the wintering grounds of Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola, in Senegal. Work can begin to ensure that the wintering area gets the same level of protection as the breeding grounds of Europe’s rarest songbird.

A team from the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) established the first confirmed nesting of a pair of Wreathed Hornbills Aceros undulatus in the Temengor section of the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, Malaysia. Belum-Temengor is the only place where all ten hornbill species occurring in Malaysia can be found together. But while the Belum state park has been gazetted, the Temengor Forest Reserve remains unprotected.

South-East Asia’s only known Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris breeding colony was discovered in Cambodia, highlighting Cambodia’s role as a stronghold for Asia’s plummeting vulture populations. Vultures were once common in parts of South and South-East Asia but in recent years population have declined sharply, some estimates suggesting by as much as 99.9% for some species, due to the veterinary use of the drug Diclofenac. As the year drew to a close, Birdlife’s Africa Partnership were horrified to discover that Diclofenac has been licensed for use in Tanzania, and perhaps other African countries. Some lessons have yet to be learnt.

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