ENDANGERED SPECIES FRIDAY: PTILINOPUS CORALENSIS | ATOLL FRUIT DOVE
This Friday’s Endangered Species Post brushes up on a species of bird that many of you may never have heard of. The atoll fruit dove, that’s listed as (near threatened) is unfortunately nearing extinction within its endemic wild. Image: Atoll Fruit Dove, credits, Steve Smith.
Endemic to French Polynesia, the species was formally identified back in 1848 by Dr Titian Ramsay Peale (November 2, 1799 – March 13, 1885) who was an American artist, naturalist, entomologist, and photographer. He was the sixteenth child and youngest son of noted American naturalist Charles Willson Peale. He is sometimes referred to as Titian Ramsey Peale II to distinguish him from his older brother with the same name who was a favorite of their father and who died at age 18 in 1798.
From 1988 the atoll fruit dove was previously listed as lower risk/least concern, data from that period showed no reasonable justification for the bird to be listed as threatened due to the species being heavily populated throughout the French Polynesia islands. Unfortunately things have drastically changed since the the late 1980’s. French Polynesia is now home to many French and non-French citizens, all of which are gradually threatening the atoll fruit doves habitat – and many other animals too.
Data records prove that from the 1980’s right through to the new millennium the species did live a pretty undisturbed life. However come 2004 the atoll fruit doves habitat and their existence took a turn for the worse. From 2004-2016 the species was (re-listed as near threatened). Populations are still decreasing, and from what we are aware of to date, there has been no official records kept that can prove the current population size which we do find rather strange. French Polynesia isn’t exactly your largest island on the planet.
What does near threatened mean though? Below I’ve extracted a paragraph from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature that will help you understand more about this ‘category‘.
“A taxon is Near Threatened when it has been evaluated against the criteria but does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future“
Scientifically identified as Ptilinopus coralensis, the species is widespread throughout the islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia. It is likely to occur at low densities throughout its range as its preferred food resources are scarce. In a recent survey it was found to be uncommon on five out of eight islands visited, but others have found it to be abundant on some atolls which have remained free from the ravages of introduced predators.
Scientists haven’t as located any ‘sub-populations’, however have confirmed that there is a ‘continuous decline of mature individuals on the island examined’ however as yet we still don’t know to what extent other than a 30% drop in populations have been recorded.
The atoll fruit dove is the world’s only dove in the tropical Pacific that has adapted exclusively to low coral atolls. It lives in forests and abandoned coconut plantations. It mainly feeds on insects and seeds, usually on the ground. This species also eats the leaves of the “tafano” or “kahaia” (Guettarda speciosa ) trees with odorous flowers.
Predation by introduced rats (particularly black rat Rattus rattus) is a threat on a small number of atolls and the species is vulnerable to habitat destruction including the exploitation of coconut plantations. The species is also reported to be rather tame, and is rare on inhabited islands, so hunting may also be a threat.
Although the species is commonly known throughout the French Polynesian islands – there is still to date very little known about the bird. The issue with coconut plantation/exploitation has always been somewhat of a concern for myself and the team. In a sense its no different to be honest than the palm oil trade (however in this case, its coconut farming that is placing the species in danger to some extent!).
I am working with a number of conservationists on the French Polynesia islands that are keeping me updated on this issue overseas, as well as the cruel and barbaric dog and cat meat trade. For now our main priority is to ensure that we undertake a census in relation to the current atoll fruit dove population, examine the threats, and work how to minimize them threats (Etc).. ..Unfortunately though I cannot provide any further up to date information relating to this bird and whether the specie will be extinct soon.
Dr Jose Carlos Depre: PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M
Master of Environmental, Botanical & Human Science.
Chief Environmental Officer and CEO.
WELCOME TO THE CYPRUS KILLING FIELDS
Just over a week ago, while walking through the local woodland gardens, I noticed a little European robin that just happened to perch next to a fence no more than a few meters in front of me. I was taken aback because, this was the first robin sighting in as many years, today its actually quite rare to spot them, and while I embraced the moment, it dawned on me, why wasn’t I witnessing more of these beautiful birds within the wild?.
Robins normally head south to winter on the Continent, joining other robins passing through in the autumn on their way from Scandinavia and northern continental Europe. Interestingly, it has been shown that many migrating robins are faithful to both their summer and winter territories, which may be many hundreds of kilometers apart. Regardless of where they migrate though I myself and many other conservationist’s are seeing fewer and fewer robins and other song birds.
Every day when I awake I spend a few minutes trying to identify the number of songbirds singing within the wild within the confines of my garden. One can normally identify each individual species of bird by its unique signature melody. As a young boy it was almost difficult to identify more than a handful due to so many songbird species inhabiting the local areas. Today I can identify no more than two or three if that, and in relation to the rare sightings of robins and songbirds – this tells me only one thing – we’re losing our songbirds at an alarming rate!.
Its estimated every year that a staggering TWENTY SEVEN MILLION songbirds are slaughtered on the Mediterranean. Songbirds are unfortunately ending up on the plates of many Cypriots – to the tune of some 1.3 million, of which this number is increasing every year. Cyprus like every country hosts a wide range of traditional and culinary delights. However this culinary tradition must come to an abrupt end – very soon across the entire Mediterranean (not just Cyprus), failing this mass songbird extinctions will occur.
Image: Poached robin, (inset) ambelopoulia song bird delicacy.
Unfortunately one of them so called ‘traditional culinary delights’ is that of boiled songbirds. And please don’t for one minute think I’m singling out Cyprus here. My own country hosts a number of nauseating traditional foods that sees ducks, geese even swans butchered to provide Foie Gras and, songbirds too. Germany sells a number of robin dishes, while Malta is an even bigger offender killing hundreds of thousands of birds every year just to provide a so called “traditional food” for the locals and foreigners. Songbirds are vanishing from the Mediterranean, and the rate at which they’re being eaten is very likely to push many species into extinction in the next decade.
Cyprus has a plethora of customs due to its long history and tradition and numerous distinctive dishes for visitors to taste. The best place to do this is in one of the many traditional tavernas dotted around the island’s attractive villages, where one could order a selection of Cyprus dishes such as koupepia, souvla, kolokasi, pourgouri, seftalies and makaronia tou fournou to name just a few. For the ultimate gastronomic experience in Cyprus, the best way to try all of these and more in one sitting is as ‘mezedes’, a selection of more than 20 vegetable and meat dishes – make sure you are hungry as food will be plentiful.
However while all of these dishes may sound, look and even taste nice, a large minority of individuals on the island of Cyprus (not all), indulge in the local and traditional delicacy of boiled or grilled songbirds. Back in 1974 the government of Cyprus was lobbied and pressured to ban songbird trapping, and poaching. Today its currently still illegal to trap songbirds (as seen in the image above). While these laws prohibit anyone from illegally trapping, killing and serving up ambelopoulia – the law is very rarely enforced, which does concern us dearly. Furthermore what’s the point in having laws in place (since the 1970’s) if you’re not going to follow through with them?
Mention ambelopoulia to a songbird – and it sends shivers through them, (well not literally); ambelopoulia is though the main Cyprus culinary delight – of which songbirds are pickled, roasted, grilled or boiled served with a number of vegetables or sweet fruit sauces. The traditional food normally involves boiling songbirds. The two common species of birds eaten are that of blackcaps and European robins – which is probably why I’m seeing fewer songbirds every year.
As a result almost 2,418,000 birds across the whole of Cyprus were estimated to have been killed during 2010. According to a BirdLife Cyprus report released in 2014, over 1.5 million migrating songbirds are killed annually, and the number is increasing each year. In 2015 it was estimated that over 2 million birds were killed including over 800,000 on the British Territories. Now there are new reports issued this year by various bird groups that confirm we are losing a staggering 27 million songbirds every year on the Mediterranean – many of which are killed for human delicacies.
Songbirds are trapped, killed, trafficked and consumed within many European countries. Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Russia, Malta, and of course Cyprus – all of which is mostly illegal. What makes matters even worse (in relation to Cyprus) is that a large number of songbirds are actually killed on the local British military bases on the island, so why are the Brits allowing this dare I ask?. Birdlife Cyprus stated in a report this year: “Over 800,000 birds were trapped and killed illegally on a British military base in Cyprus last autumn, according to the latest research by the RSPB and BirdLife Cyprus”.
Organised crime gangs are running this illegal practice on an ‘industrial scale’, which is estimated by the Cypriot authorities to earn criminals on the island 15 million Euros every year. Survey data from BirdLife Cyprus and other organisations have recorded over 150 species of bird which have become trapped in mist nets or on lime-sticks (pictured below). More than half of these species are of conservation concern. On a positive note, the results from 2015 show that there’s been a stop to the ‘annual increases’ of the last five years in numbers of birds killed on British Territory, thanks to various measures taken to tackle the problem by the Base authorities. The numbers however remain around record-breaking levels, with levels of illegal killing still far worse on British Territory than in the Republic of Cyprus.
The trappers defend their activity by citing the practice as traditional Cypriot food gathering and claiming that this has been an important source of protein for the natives for many thousands of years, even though the practice has been illegal since 1974. BirdLife Cyprus has identified restaurants as the main culprits as they provide the financial incentives. The enthusiasm Cypriots and many other visitors to the island have for this delicacy despite its illegality has resulted in the development of a very profitable industry.
Poaching for ambelopoulia has been on the rise in recent years, involving by 2011 a “mafia-like operation” that include poachers, dealers, exporters, and restaurant operators that participate in the illegal business estimated to be worth about 5 million euro at that time (2011). The birds reportedly sell for five euros each and it is estimated by Cypriot authorities to have earned criminals on the island 15 million euro in 2015.
Cypriot poachers illegally poach songbirds using a number of methods. One of them (seen pictured below) are lime sticks. The use of lime sticks is ‘strictly illegal’, however as explained above, despite laws in place on the island local authorities still turn a blind eye.
Lime sticks are a simple but particularly cruel and indiscriminate method of trapping birds. ‘Twigs’ are covered with a sticky ‘lime’ or ‘glue’ (in Cyprus trappers traditionally used a concentrate made from boiled Syrian plums) and are placed wherever birds can be tempted to perch. This could be in natural vegetation like bushes or trees, or sometimes lime sticks are pushed into the ends of bamboo poles. And as you guessed – once the bird lands on the lime stick they are stuck fast.
The more the bird struggles, the more it becomes entangled within the sticky like natural/unnatural substance. Songbirds die a horrific death, struggling for hours before being crushed to death by poachers, or dying of extreme exhaustion and stress. Just in one area (such as local gardens alone), its estimated that ‘hundreds of lime sticks are set up to catch as many birds as possible’. More than TWO MILLION songbirds are illegally poached using this method of trapping – which is cruel, painful, and totally barbaric.
Image: Lanius collurio (Red Backed Shrike) trapped using a lime stick.
In Cyprus alone its “estimated that some one million songbirds are caught using this method of illegal trapping. Most of the sticks are set up within residents gardens – which makes policing even more difficult. One must also think – how is it even possible for every single home within Cyprus to be monitored by the local authorities?.
Lime sticks are so effective because when a bird lands its legs bend causing two flexor tendons to tighten which ‘lock’ the toes around a perch. This involuntary reflex (designed to stop perched birds falling while they sleep) means that the bird in effect presses down hard into the ‘lime’ as soon as it makes contact with it. Birds become stuck immediately. As they flutter to free themselves their wings, head, and even beak will often become stuck too.
“TRAPPERS RIP THE BIRDS FROM THE LIME STICK AND CRUSH THEM TO DEATH”
Birds caught on lime sticks are unable to get free and hang helplessly – often for hours – until the trapper comes and literally rips them off the stick and crushes them to death.
Article 9 of the European Birds Directive (2009/147/EC, formerly 79/409/EEC), states that trapping methods that are non-selective or are used for large-scale capture or killing of birds are prohibited in European Member States. This includes lime sticks, and their manufacture, sale, ownership, and use is therefore illegal across the EU. Unfortunately while this horrific method of trapping may indeed be illegal – poachers are still getting away with murder.
I’ve spent a number of years living on the small island of Malta (on and off) and, a number of years trying to destroy these bloody nets with the help of many local and overseas activists. Mist nets are just as cruel and barbaric as lime sticks, although I must state that birds are caught instantly, and killed there and then – nevertheless their deaths are still horrific.
Mist nets are often use by poachers on the island of Cyprus to catch a larger number of birds, meanwhile these very same poachers will also have lime sticks deployed within key areas. So it kind if gives you a little more insight into just how greedy poachers and buyers have become. Furthermore the rate at which we’re losing songbirds – and the levels of poaching increasing, what’s next when extinction finally does occur. Mist nets are also used within Spain, France, Romania, and Germany (among many other EU countries).
Image: Mist nest. Inset is the local delicacy of Cyprus.
Its estimated (just in Cyprus alone), hundreds of thousands of birds are caught and brutally slaughtered within mist nets every year, and with over a million more using lime sticks – and with laws rarely enforced on the island of Cyprus, will we be seeing a colossal extinction soon of migrating songbirds? I hate to say this, but unless laws are enforced and action is taken against poachers on a larger scale – extinctions will occur.
International Animal Rescue Foundation France has thus far located a total of 139 restaurants on the island of Cyprus, of which we have uncovered out of them 139 some 24 which are selling illegally ambelopoulia. I.A.R.F.F believe that the number of restaurants illegally trading ambelopoulia is much greater than 24. Furthermore due to the dish being so popular and craved after, its highly likely that the ‘majority’ of restaurants are trading ambelopoulia. International Animal Rescue Foundation France are calling on all tourists to please BOYCOTT all Cyprus restaurants that are trading openly this vile and cruel so called delicacy.
The birds sell for approximately CY2.00. One tourist stated: “Consumers are encouraged to swallow the bird whole”. On a plate you’re normally served in between four to five songbirds, and a number of other dishes too. If you are a tourist please, please do not indulge in this delicacy, and report the restaurant immediately to the local police. Another tourist that visited the area of Laxia, stated: “Laxia is somewhat of a favorite with the police, mayor and local mafia. So if there’s anything illegal going on you’ll probably find it there”. From what we are aware locals don’t encourage you to swallow the dead boiled bird[s] whole, however it wouldn’t be somewhat of a shock if this was factual.
Image: Poached songbirds confiscated from poachers on the UK armed forces base.
“WHY ARE SONG BIRDS IMPORTANT?”
Songbirds are an incredibly important species of bird consisting of over 159 separate species that are endemic mostly to Europe, and as far away as Asia, America, Canada and Africa. While eating them may seem “important or traditional”, scientifically speaking you’re actually harming the environment, and removing yet another food chain link that many other species of animals depend on.
For management purposes, songbirds are part of a group called “land birds,” species that rely mainly on terrestrial habitats and some vegetated wetlands. Songbirds eat a wide variety of foods, including insects, seeds, berries, nectar, and fruit. If we lose our songbirds there will be a dramatic increase of insects, and an alarming decrease in foods that we humans also require.
Furthermore we and other animals need songbirds to continue the spread of plant, fruit and vegetable seeds to ensure that we and animals don’t go hungry. The same applies to fruit trees and bushes too. Many songbirds pollinate fruit trees and bushes – of which them plants and trees provides humans and animals fruits and berries. Finally as explained above – many songbirds are also a vital bird crop pollinator – should extinction occur, then we’ve lost a massive pollinating species that we humans and animals rely on. Are you ready to pollinate crops by hand, or prepared to pay higher prices for fruit and vegetables?
Reptiles, snakes, lizards, and even marine species such as sharks eat songbirds which are part of their diet. No songbirds means a drastic decline of food prey for reptiles, snakes, lizards, marine and amphibious species. So while you may not think songbirds are important – they truly are. Because the trapping methods are non-selective, 150+ species are known to have been caught in the traps. More than a third (58 species) of these are species of conservation concern, including the lesser kestrel, which is vulnerable to global extinction.
Extinction here is really not an option and, we must do more to preserve and secure our songbirds habitat and them too. There are many links and a handful of videos within this article, plus many alarming facts. Please share, and please help us and many other groups defend Mother Natures songbirds. If you see a trap or mist net, please report it. If you can destroy them traps without harm coming to yourself, then please do so. You can even call on us and other groups to destroy these illegal traps too.
“EXTINCTION IS NOT AN OPTION”
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose Carlos Depre.
Environmental, Botanical & Human Scientist
PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
THE APOCALYPSE | WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO TELL US?
Noun: the Apocalypse: The complete final destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation. “the bell’s ringing is supposed to usher in the Apocalypse”. An event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale.
“Therefore wait for Me,” declares the LORD, “For the day when I rise up as a witness Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, To assemble kingdoms, To pour out on them My indignation, All My burning anger; For all the earth will be devoured By the fire of My zeal.
Two days ago I wrote a brief extract in relation to some 1,300 birds assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List that scientists have predicted will be extinct come 2080. Many of these extinctions will be caused by habitat destruction, persecution, poaching, pet trade, lack of prey for birds to feed on, down to declining nesting areas destroyed by (increasing human population around the globe). These threats are what we know about, they are also documented within many articles I and third (non-related) organisations write about too.
However since the 1980’s scientists have been in a way trying to understand why birds die for en masse. Birds like many other animals don’t just die for no reason. Birds don’t decide to wake up one morning, then a few hours later commit suicide by hurtling to the ground at over 60mph thus dying instantly. Environmentalists from International Animal Rescue Foundation America have been documenting since 2010-2016 mass bird deaths around the globe.
Five days ago a meeting took place in NYC involving US – I.A.R.F environmentalists, bird watch groups in America, and nine scientists from Detroit and New York. This meeting was different from what we’d been planning; meaning we needed to get to the bottom of what was causing mass bird deaths around the globe, and were these deaths telling us something?. These deaths were not just as a result of habitat destruction, deforestation, human population increasing, industrialization, poaching or indiscriminate killing.
These deaths were caused as a result of something more sinister, a human problem maybe, something within the air, toxic pollution, aircraft noise, or as many scientists continue to bleat to the public “El Nino weather disturbances”?. The fact of the matter is, no scientist or governmental science group has yet established why so many birds are dropping from the skies, killing themselves, falling over dead, or as explained above flying into the ground at break next speed. The situation is so concerning that many environmental groups are now demanding answers from their local environmental governmental examiners. And as you may guess, El Nino has used as a silencing tool once again.
On Tuesday (03.08.2016) I contacted the Meteorological Office in Devon, Great Britain for more information with regards to what scientists have been stating from 2014-2016 are “El Nino events”. I myself didn’t 100% believe that we we’re going through an prolonged El Nino event. So in order for me to verify my concerns I had to speak to climatologists that were more clued up on this weather phenomenon than I was, and as I suspected, there hasn’t been as yet a “recorded El Nino event from the years of 2014-2016”, interesting!
“An irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes affecting the equatorial Pacific region and beyond every few years, characterized by the appearance of unusually warm, nutrient-poor water off northern Peru and Ecuador, typically in late December. The effects of El Niño include reversal of wind patterns across the Pacific, drought in Australasia, and unseasonal heavy rain in South America”
However even if an El Nino event was occurring, when I explained my concerns to the Devon board of climatologists they also agreed with me that birds don’t just drop from the skies, or suddenly die due to an El Nino event. Furthermore they also agreed with me; should any scientist use this weather event to explain why (100, 1000 or 10,000 birds just all of a sudden die), then them scientists are basically trying to keep the public calm. Interesting yet again.
Mass Bird Deaths:
The following information below relates to all recorded mass bird deaths around the globe from January 2016 to 28th July 2016. Avian bird flue deaths have been excluded from this report. Every single bird death listed hereto is unexplained. Avian influenza deaths have been excluded because the cause of death is known.
28th July 2016 – 300 sea birds have washed up dead since May in Washington State, America. 15th July 2016 – 3,500 ducks found dead along the river Palar in India. 14th July 2016 – Large number of sea birds washing up dead is ‘alarming’ in Victoria, Canada. 28th June 2016 – Hundreds of dead birds washing up along lake Erie in New York, America. 23rd June 2016 – Hundreds of dead birds found in fields ‘due to pesticides’ in Chandrapur, India. 2nd June 2016 – Large number of dead birds being found, ‘a mystery’ in Martins Ferry, Ohio, America. 10th May 2016 – Hundreds of snow geese found dead in Idaho, America.
9th May 2016 – 9,000 birds killed by huge hailstorm in Utah, America???. 9th May 2016 – 100 dead sea birds found washed up on beaches in El Tabito and Matanzas, Chile. 8th April 2016 – Dozens of dead birds found along a road in Fairfax County, Virginia, America. 7th April 2016 – 5,000 birds killed by storm in Jessore, Bangladesh???. 29th March 2016 – 100 dead birds found along I-5 in Redding, California, America. 22nd March 2016 – Dozens of dead birds found along a road in Elmira, New York, America. 16th March 2016 – Hundreds of dead crows found near Battle Creek in Michigan, America. 16th March 2016 – UPDATE: sea bird die off now up to 36,000 in Alaska, America. 4th March 2016 – Large number of dead sea birds washing up on beaches in Volusia, Florida, America. 26th February 2016 – 800 dead ducks removed from reservoirs in Caceres, Spain. 21st February 2016 – Dozens of dead birds found along a highway in Ohio, America. 18th February 2016 – Hundreds of dead sea birds found washed up in Trujillo, Peru.
18th February 2016 – Hundreds of birds fall dead from sky in Odessa, Ukraine???. 13th February 2016 – MASSIVE – 150,000 penguins die after giant iceberg becomes grounded in Antarctica. 10th February 2016 – Dozens of dead sea birds, plus other marine creatures found on a beach in Malibu, America. 4th February 2016 – Dozens of birds suddenly die in Wichita, Kansas, America. 4th February 2016 – Dozens of Pelicans dying, reason unknown on Grand Isle, Louisiana, America. 28th January 2016 – 22,000+ sea birds found dead, ‘biggest die off ever recorded’, along beaches Dead birds in alaskain Alaska, America. 28th January 2016 – Hundreds of sea birds found dead on a beach on Sea of Galilee, Israel. 25th January 2016 – Thousands of chickens killed by ‘mysterious disease’ in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. 6th January 2016 – Hundreds of dead birds found in Cueramaro, Mexico.
The report above is more than concerning, its actually horrifying. Fortunately many people have also sent to us videos and uploaded videos onto YouTube that clearly show (El Nino) is not to blame. Take a look at the video below, and explain to us how El Nino was responsible for these mass bird ‘suicide deaths’? The 2012 video report states:
“More than 100 birds — perhaps as many as 300, according to an eyewitness — were found Dec. 30, 2012, on and around Boyds Creek Road in Seymour, Tenn. While many of the birds were actually on the road, dozens more were found in a nearby field. As far as 60 yards away, individual birds, believed to be starlings, were found”…
Seymour, Tenn is located within the United States (Seymour, Tennessee). We did search through weather events relating to this video. On the day it was uploaded and from the sketchy media reports there were no freak weather occurrences, heavy rains, hail storms, tornadoes or anything to provide a reasonable explanation as to why so many starlings just all of a sudden died. Yet in few reports El Nino was blamed?
The report above (bird deaths) provides much startling data in relation to the Unites States too. From the start of January 2016 to July 28th 2016 most of the bird deaths recorded above are actually occurring within the United States. Furthermore we also have the so called “experts” that are providing their theories as to why so many birds are dying; in their own words “it only really happens once or twice every few years”. That’s absolute nonsense.
From 2005 a third party organisation aligned to I.A.R.F.A has been recording (and continues to record) mass bird deaths every year, and its not just one species neither. The video below touches up on everything that we already known about. Yet, it fails to touch up on what many of you don’t know. Watch the video please. as it does provide some proof, however the author is not projecting the real true story here as to why so many birds are dying.
“SO WHAT’S CAUSING THESE MASS DEATHS?”
Well firstly not everything is attributed to climate change, habitat destruction, or localized pollution. The author of the video above also seems to forget that America is not the only country that hosts millions of birds. For example he states that a mass die off of birds in Arkansas was caused by fireworks? While there may indeed be some truth to this theory, do we see the same mass bird die offs in England on Guy Fawkes night, Burns Night in Scotland, Chinese New Year, or Diwali? well the answer is, no we don’t. If we did we’d most certainly be documenting about it, and doing something to stop these events from harming our fauna.
From the tropics to the pole some of the worst bird declines and mass deaths are being witnessed within Africa, and Asia. North America’s bird populations “needed to keep the planets food crops in tact” are also declining to worrying levels never seen before. Vultures, raptors, eagles, swifts, swallows, colonies of sea birds, murres, puffins, down to shorebirds are all declining rapidly. Red knots in the Western Hemisphere are also vanishing ever so quickly. Sandpipers. spoonbills, pelicans, storks are among some of the migratory birds declining too.
BIRDS AND BIOCHEMISTRY
Today birds are telling us about new threats to the environment and potentially to human health in the coded language of biochemistry. Through analysis of the inner workings of birds’ cells, scientists have been deciphering increasingly urgent signals from ecosystems around the world. Like the fabled canaries that miners once thrust into coal mines to check for poisonous gases, birds provide the starkest clues in the animal kingdom about whether humans, too, may be harmed by toxic substances.
No birds to warn us = a threat to humans. And they prophesy what might happen to us as the load of carbon-based, planet-warming gases in the atmosphere and oceans climbs ever higher. Birds are the planets warning meters of danger, just as dogs warn us that intruders are nearing our property, and frogs inform us that the local rivers, ponds, and meadows have been polluted. Each species informs us of something.
Birds like rodents and amphibious creatures provide to us via their biochemistry coding, clues, and answers as to what is going on within the environment they are living in, and why they died. Birds that drop out of the sky during a (morning firework display)? that were allegedly scared would then show to scientists via their bloods, stress hormone changes. Neither of the birds in the United States that died as a result of fireworks – died as a result of fireworks, furthermore there is no PME evidence to back these claims up, just hearsay.
Dr Rachel Carson was the earliest and best known scientist to link the fate of birds to that of humans. Alerted by reports of sharp declines in birds of prey and songbirds, she began to examine the effects of the pesticide DDT. It was the first modern synthetic pesticide, in wide use after World War II to control mosquitoes and other insects. Her book Silent Spring, published in 1962—the title echoes the poet John Keats’s celebrated line “And no birds sing”—explained that DDT moved up through food chains, from the insects it was designed to kill to the creatures that ate them. It accumulated inexorably in tissues, organs, and fat in top predators such as peregrine falcons, ospreys, bald eagles, and pelicans.
By 1972, after public uproar, DDT was banned in the United States and eventually banned around the world except in malaria-prone countries, mostly in Africa. While DDT has indeed been taken out of service – there are other chemicals that are entering the food chain – and its birds like frogs and toads, newts and other amphibians that inform us when threats to humans are increasing due to chemicals making their way into or next to the food chain.
Interestingly – since the 1970’s DDT was banned right? Well just to give you an example of how powerful these chemicals are, and what threats they pose to human health, why not look up why songbirds are still dropping dead in St Louis, Michigan, next to an old chemical plant! So birds are still informing us that despite bans in place, and these chemicals are no longer being used, there are still threats to both humans and other animals from chemical residues. Eventually that factory will be demolished, but only because birds have told us in relation to PME tests on their carcasses.
Studies on birds exposed to chemicals from the 1980’s (onwards) have also shown us how these chemicals are altering human hormones and even cell changes. Causing cancers and other diseases and illnesses. More “human health scientists” are taking note of birds for clues or answers relating to why humans are falling ill, or dying. Take a look at how we found where the Ebola virus originated from in West Africa during the last outbreak, a single bat species. Today scientists can capture birds, test them, band them, let them go, and then catch them years later to see what’s changed in relation to “environmental chemical threats”. Birds also normally maintain relatively stable numbers, unlike small mammals. So when their populations take a dive, it means something noteworthy is going on.
“THAT’S WHAT BIRDS ARE TELLING US”
So as I have explained above, birds don’t just drop out of the sky for the sheer fun of it, and yes there are a wide number of problems such as habitat destruction, environmental disturbances, but more importantly – (pollution). Pollution has been linked to 90% of all bird deaths listed above from January to July 2016.
Image: Dead robin – St Louis, Michigan
The dead robin pictured above explained to scientists (via avian coding biochemistry) that the old disused chemical plant these birds and others nest and live next to was the primary cause for their death. Read more below:
http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/aug/michigan-ddt-cleanup Although its rather sad and unfortunate these birds died. They eventually told scientists via coding biochemistry why they died, and that has since provoked experts to now order the destruction of this old disused chemical plant, that was also causing serious health problems in humans living next to the chemical plant.
So when we begin to see mass bird deaths as explained above, these deaths must not be ignored. While the birds themselves aren’t singing to us that there is indeed a problem, their death[s] are indeed explaining to us that something isn’t quite right within the environment. The video below PROVES why we humans must ensure that our bird life populations around the globe are protected.
Failing this chemicals and toxins that are are not as yet harmful to us, but are to birds will eventually wreak havoc among the human and animal world. DDT was banned decades ago, yet its still causing illnesses, cancers, and mass bird deaths in America and around the globe.
“So when bird populations take a dive, it usually means something noteworthy is going on”
I find it quite alarming that within the past five years the large number of bird deaths at sea, and inland around the planet has simply been ignored, shrugged aside or scientists have basically given a half ass answer as to why they died.
SOMETHING IN THE AMERICAN AIR?
Following Britain’s Clean Air Act of 1956, it was reported that several species of birds returned to London. In 1986, Mexico City’s air pollution levels were so severe that various news sources reported birds falling from the sky in droves. In 2013, particulate matter from nearby forest fires shrouded Singapore so completely that locals found dead birds near their homes.
Now lets take a look at a handful OF UNITED STATES BIRD DEATHS, DEATHS THAT HAVE BEEN TELLING SCIENTISTS THAT SOMETHING ISN’T QUITE RIGHT:
- 9th May 2016 – 9,000 birds killed by huge hailstorm in Utah, America???
- Dozens of dead birds found along a road in Fairfax County, Virginia, America. 7th April 2016
- March 2016 – 100 dead birds found along I-5 in Redding, California, America
- Dozens of dead birds found along a road in Elmira, New York, America
- 16th March 2016 – Hundreds of dead crows found near Battle Creek in Michigan, America
- 4th February 2016 – Dozens of birds suddenly die in Wichita, Kansas, America
“Mexico City’s air pollution levels were so severe that various news sources reported birds falling from the sky in droves”
If this article doesn’t concern you then ignore it, move on, and do not question it. I.A.R.F documents every year on mass animal deaths, these deaths are all recorded, and then investigated. Finally, North and South American bird population are declining to worrying levels. As you can see above the report in relation to LONDON and MEXICO resulted in actions being taken to preserve life.
However – take our two winged friends away, and you’ve a whole lot of nasties to contend with.
“OPEN YOUR EYES”
Dr Jose C. Depre.
PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M. Environmental & Human Science
Endangered Species Friday: Amazona versicolor
This Fridays Endangered Species Post (ESP) I touch up briefly on the St Lucia Amazon as the species is commonly known. Image credits Philippe Feldman
The species was identified back in 1776 by Dr Philipp Ludwig Statius Müller (April 25, 1725 – January 5, 1776) who was a German zoologist. Dr Statius Müller was born in Esens, and was a professor of natural science at Erlangen. Between 1773 and 1776, he published a German translation of Linnaeus’s Natursystem.
The supplement in 1776 contained the first scientific classification for a number of species, including the dugong, guanaco, potto, tricolored heron, umbrella cockatoo, red-vented cockatoo, and the enigmatic hoatzin.
Dr Muller was also an entomologist. Müller died in Erlangen. He is not to be confused with Salomon Müller (1804–1864), also an ornithologist, or with Otto Friedrich Müller. Note that the family name is actually spelled without the umlaut, then and now.
The Saint Lucia Amazon is listed as (vulnerable) which was nearing (endangered), native to Saint Lucia. From 1988 the species was first listed as (near threatened), however, unfortunately from 1994-2016 the species was re-listed as (vulnerable). Locals commonly refer to the species as the; Saint Lucia Amazon, or the Saint Lucia Parrot.
Populations are considered to be extremely low, although now allegedly increasing. A decade ago the then current known population rate stood at some 350-500 individuals, this generally equates to some 230-330 ‘mature individuals’. This number was actually considered quite low for any species which technically should see the St Lucia listed as (critically endangered).
St Lucia Amazon Parrot is situated on the island of St Lucia in the eastern Caribbean where it is known locally as ‘Jacquot’. The Government of the island became aware of the plight of its endemic parrot population in 1975 when Durrell first became involved with St Lucia, and the Trust was asked to help by starting a captive breeding programme for the species at its Jersey headquarters. In 1989 a pair of captive-bred parrots returned to their native home with the Prime Minister of St Lucia.
The St Lucia Amazon’s natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, diet consists of fruit and insects, of which clutch size is around 3-4 eggs. The species is threatened by habitat loss. St Lucia Amazon species have declined from around 1000 birds in the 1950s to 150 birds in the late 1970s. At that point a conservation program began to save the species, which galvanized popular support to save the species, and by 1990 the species had increased to 350 birds.
Although the population in Saint Lucia is small it is still expanding. To date after conservation efforts increased on the island of St Lucia due to destructive storms and hurricanes populations were increased to some 2,100 mature individuals. Please see video below.
The story of this birds salvation from the brink of extinction (including the influence of conservationist Paul Butler) is told in Chapter 7 of the 2010 book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip & Dan Heath.
Listed on Cites Appendix I and II, below I’ve included a list of identified threats associated with the St Lucia Amazon Parrot.
The human population of St Lucia is growing at a considerable rate, increasing pressure on the forest and resulting in habitat loss. Selective logging of mature trees may significantly reduce breeding sites, and hurricanes, hunting and trade pose further threats. There have been recent efforts to lift the moratorium on hunting within forest reserves, which would seriously threaten this species.
Image: St Lucia Amazon
Its truly wonderful to know that conservation efforts have brought this species back from the brink of near extinction. The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is one trust that I admire, and have donated many hundreds of euros to since I was a teenager. Durrell have worked wonders across the globe working to help primates, frogs and countless birds, not forgetting many other animals..
The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is one NGO that I myself will be leaving money to in my will. Why? Because they deserve the money for the work they put into preserving our flora and fauna. You can donate to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust here: https://www.durrell.org/wildlife/shop/donation/
Thank you for reading and have a nice day.
Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Chief Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
Follow me on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/josedepre11
Endangered Species Friday: Aquila nipalensis
This Fridays (ESP) – Endangered Species Post is dedicated to the A. nipalensis, commonly known as the Steppe Eagle, identified back in 1833. Image credit: Kartik Patel
The Steppe Eagle was formally identified by Dr Brian Houghton Hodgson (1 February 1800 or more likely 1801 – 23 May 1894) was a pioneer naturalist and ethnologist working in India and Nepal where he was a British Resident. He described numerous species of birds and mammals from the Himalayas, and several birds were named after him by others such as Edward Blyth.
Dr Brian H. Hodgson was a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism and wrote extensively on a range of topics relating to linguistics and religion. He was an opponent of the British proposal to introduce English as the official medium of instruction in Indian schools. Had Dr H. Hodgson not introduced English into the many Indian schools, its very likely very few Indian citizens would today know how to speak the English language.
A. nipalensis is listed as (endangered), although its likely the predatory eagle will soon be relisted as (critically endangered), should conservation efforts not improve the current status of this remarkable bird of prey, however this particular bird is somewhat of a mystery.
The major reason why this species is listed as (endangered) which was only recently, is primarily due to wind farming of which birds are reported to fly directly into large structural turbines, which unfortunately, results in their death, or serious injury. Birds that are rescued suffering serious trauma are rarely released back into the wild, or make a full recovery.
From 1988 to 2000 the species was listed as (lower risk). Then from 2003 to 2014 the species remained at (least concern). A risk assessment conducted last year (2015), concluded that the species qualified for (endangered status). Which is somewhat concerning. To date we know the species has already been pushed into regional extinction in the countries identified as; Moldova and Romania. Today the species still remains endemic within the following countries;
Afghanistan; Albania; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Botswana; Bulgaria; China; Congo; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Georgia; Greece; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Malawi; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Qatar; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Yemen; Zambia and finally Zimbabwe.
Aquila nipalensis is also a vagrant visitor to most of Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Southern and Eastern Africa, ranging from Spain; Norway; France; Germany; Finland, Korea; Somalia; Slovakia Etc. Continued rate of decline is (unknown), which is concerning bird lovers and conservationists. Data recorded from the last assessment back in (2015), stated that populations are declining very rapidly.
There seems to have been some perplexing information from the last assessment (before 2015’s) relating to population trend conducted we believe in (2010 or 2012). However the (2015) assessment has confirmed that the current population trend may stand at some: 100,000-499,999 (which is an estimate band or population band). Populations are not known to be (seriously fragmented). Surveys conducted back in (2001) placed the number of pairs at ‘80,000 pairs or 160,000 mature individuals’. Unfortunately the (European population) is estimated to be standing at 800-1,200 pairs in total.
Bird-Life International (2015) estimated that Europe holds the lowest population density standing at some 9%. So a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 17,800-26,700 mature individuals. A further assessment back in (2001) relating to the European trend stated “160,000 mature individuals was much lower than previously believed”. So as one can see ‘population uncertainty’ is the second likely reason why the species has been re-listed as (endangered). Not forgetting being rather confusing at times too.
Latest Population Assessment Estimate
The latest, and most current population assessment estimate states numbers range (in total) at 31,372 (26,014-36,731) which equates to 62,744 (52,028-73,462) mature individuals or 94,116 (78,042-110,193) individuals. The population is placed in the band 100,000 to 499,999 mature individuals. It must be noted that 100,000 to 499,999 is not the true population count, but more the ‘band that the species currently stands at/qualifies for’.
Habitat destruction, agriculture, conversion of Steppe Eagle land for farming, persecutions, but most worrying is wind-farming that is “seriously threatening the species as we know it today”. Collisions with wind-turbines is quite a serious concern as the Steppe Eagle is not exactly a small bird, and when hunting, especially within converted land that hosts wind farms, Steppe Eagles are either killed or seriously injured to the point that they can never be rehabilitated back to the wild. Night collisions are reported more than day collisions.
Image: White tailed Eagle killed after colliding with a wind farm in the background.
The image above depicts a White Tailed Eagle that was located dead after a suspected collision with a wind turbine. As one can clearly see these Eagles are not small, nor are wind turbines. Unfortunately birds come off the worst as we humans crave more and more greener energy. The only real reasonable solution here would be to now lobby governments and industries to build wind farms away from ‘all bird habitat’, or at sea. Unfortunately, again this is easier said than done. While at sea wind turbines are being blamed for whale beaching’s due to turbine vibrations, meanwhile birds are mostly, sadly dying when hitting these gigantic steel/carbon structure’s.
Steppe Eagles migrate, and are said to be closely related to the subspecies Aquila rapax. Steppe Eagles are around 25-31 inches in length, with a mean wingspan of 5.1-7.1 feet. Females weigh 5-10 lbs, while males weigh in at around 4.4 to 7.7 lbs. Steppe Eagles are said to breed mainly from Romania of which the species is currently (regionally extinct) within the country. Further evaluation of breeding behavior states the species breeds in Central Asia, Mongolia to Africa, with further breeding occurring within Eastern Europe. Females lay on average 1-3 eggs within a clutch.
Image: Credited: Peter Romanow (Germany).
Listed on the (Convention of International trade in Endangered Species wild flora and fauna – Cites), Cites Appendix II. Threats are listed below for your information.
The species has declined in the west of its breeding range, including extirpation from Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, as a result of the conversion of steppes to agricultural land combined with direct persecution. It is also adversely affected by power lines and is very highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments. It was recently found to be the raptor most frequently electrocuted by power lines in a study in western Kazakhstan. When one views the sheer size of these massive birds of prey, one can clearly envisage just how easy they can fall prey to hitting these massive carbon wind structures, and power lines,
Young eagles are taken out of the nest in order to sell them to western European countries. A decline in the number of birds and a reduction in the proportion of juveniles migrating over Eilat, Israel began immediately after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, leading Yosef and Fornadari (2004) to suggest that the species may have been affected by radioactive contamination. This species is vulnerable to the veterinary drug Diclofenac too. Read more here on Chernobyl.
CONCERNING DATA ON CHERNOBYL AND LOW BIRD SPERM RATE: https://www.audubon.org/news/chernobyls-radiation-seems-be-robbing-birds-their-sperm
Wind Farming | Eagles
Wind energy is the fastest growing source of power worldwide according to the World Bank. China plans a 60% increase in the next three years and the US a six-fold jump by 2030. The EU aims to produce 20% of its energy through renewables by 2020 – much of this is from wind. Will this huge expansion of wind farms have a serious impact on bird life? It looks likely, especially where birds habitat is being encroached onto by such developments.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates that 440,000 birds are killed in collisions with wind turbines each year; without stronger regulation, says the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the annual toll will exceed one million by 2030. To address this issue, the U.S. Department of the Interior has released voluntary guidelines to help developers minimize the impact of wind energy projects on bird habitat and migration. Developed over five years with an advisory committee that included government agencies, the wind energy industry, and some conservation organizations, the guidelines are intended to ensure compliance with federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act—although the rules allowing them to do so are controversial.
Image: Red Kite killed found dead after colliding with a wind-turbine.
There are reasons why birds are likely to be affected by wind farms. Wind developments tend to be placed in upland areas with strong wind currents that have a lot of potential to generate energy. Birds – particularly raptors like eagles or vultures – use these currents as highways – and so are likely to come into contact with the turbines. It’s not just the turbine blades that pose a risk to birds; research indicates that wind developments can disrupt migration routes. What’s more, foraging and nesting habitat can also be lost when turbines are put up.
Despite these concerns, the current body of research suggests wind farms have not significantly reduced bird populations. Several studies suggest birds have the ability to detect wind turbines in time and change their flight path early enough to avoid them. And one small study found no evidence for sustained decline in two upland bird species on a wind farm site after it had been operating for three years. Another found that wild geese are able to avoid offshore wind turbines. (Geese though fly at daytime, and are not predatory day and nighttime carnivorousness hunters).
A large peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Ecology monitored data for ten different bird species across 18 wind farm sites in the UK. It found that two of them- curlew and snipe – saw a drop in population during the construction phase, which did not recover afterwards. But the population of the other eight species were restored once the wind farms were built.
The current fate relating to the Steppe Eagle is somewhat worrying. Agriculture, persecution, young theft for trade, and wind – turbine farming is all but concerning plundering the species into further threatened status. After reading many studies dating back to 2012 regarding wind turbines, and whether they were indeed responsible for bird deaths, 2012 evidence didn’t really show much to prove that birds were affected. However after reading the ‘damning evidence relating to the Steppe Eagle’, its without a doubt that wind farms are most certainly ‘impacting on this species and others’ locally and internationally. The question is how do we deal with this problem?
We need wind to generate more greener energy thus decreasing our carbon emissions. Furthermore we also need birds of prey to control rodent, insect, and general pest control. Large birds of prey are also very useful within Anti Poaching operations, and act as the eyes and ears for both farmers and anti poachers. While there is no evidence to prove my own suspicions here, I do believe that certain bodies within government are being forced to ignore ongoing issues with wind farms and bird collisions. The excuse that birds can quickly change course is indeed factual to some degree, well, only if the bird is flying during daytime hours. Unfortunately most birds of prey also fly and hunt at night. So how is one supposed to change their course (at nighttime when unable to see the turbine in time)?
Please view the videos below for more information.
BIRD OF PREY | TURBINE COLLISIONS
Thank you for reading, please share and help create more noise about this subject before time runs out.
Dr Jose. C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Environmental, Botanical and Human Science
Endangered Species Monday: Hylonympha macrocerca
This Monday’s Endangered Species Post (ESP) watch I take a rare glimpse into the life of Hylonympha macrocerca, commonly known as the Scissor Tailed Hummingbird. Identified in 1873 by Dr John Gould FRS September 1804 – 3 February 1881) whom was an English ornithologist and bird artist. He published a number of monographs on birds, illustrated by plates that he produced with the assistance of his wife, Elizabeth Gould, and several other artists including Edward Lear, Henry Constantine Richter, Joseph Wolf and William Matthew Hart. He has been considered the father of bird study in Australia and the Gould League in Australia is named after him. His identification of the birds now nicknamed “Darwin’s finches” played a role in the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. (Image: Scissor Tailed Hummingbird)
Listed as (endangered) this remarkable specimen was listed as threatened back in 1988. Since this time little conservation efforts have been seen to improve the species overall status within the wild of which extinction is incredibly likely. From 1994 to 1996 the species was listed as critically endangered. From the start of the Millennium conservation efforts did improve the wild status of the hummingbird to (vulnerable), unfortunately from 2008 to date the species has been re-listed as endangered again. From my own evaluations of the birds current threats and shrinking habitat, extinction will occur within the next five to ten years, unless conservation efforts improve, funding increases and dangers disperse soon.
Endemic to Venezuela and Bolivia evidence has shown that overall population sizes are decreasing very rapidly. The population trend when last evaluated back in 2012, showed around 10,000 to 19,900 ‘individuals’ within the wild. This equates to exactly 6,000 to 13,000 ‘mature individuals’ remaining, which is rounded to 6,000 to 15,000 ‘birds in total’. The Scissor Tailed Hummingbird specie inhabits lower and upper montane humid forest, where it has been recorded at 800-1,200 m on Cerro Humo, and 530-920 m further east.
In primary forest, the specie feeds mainly at bromeliad flowers and on their insect inhabitants, whereas in secondary forest, feeding is associated with the shrubs Heliconia aurea and Costus sp. Although it is regularly seen feeding on Heliconia in open areas it may nevertheless be dependent on the availability of pristine forest nearby. It also hawks insects from exposed perches. There may be seasonal movements.
Listed on Cites Appendix II (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species wild flora and fauna), increases in cash-crop agriculture, especially the cultivation of “ocumo blanco” (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) and “ocumo chino” (Colocasia esculenta), since the mid- to late 1980s have resulted in some uncontrolled burning and forest degradation. Cerros Humo and Patao have been worst affected, with the east of the peninsula fairly undisturbed.
Since it is an understorey inhabitant, removal of understorey vegetation for coffee and cacao cultivation is likely to lead to reduced population density. It is considered nationally Endangered in Venezuela, and has been recognized as a “high priority” species, amongst the top dozen priorities for bird conservation in Venezuela.
Image: Scissor Tailed Hummingbird.
Occasionally the species is misidentified as the Red-billed streamertail which is also commonly known as the scissor-tail or scissors tail hummingbird. However its fairly easy to distinguish between the two when viewing online or within books. This particular species (in question) is not native to Jamaica, and one can quite easily differentiate between the two. The Scissor Tailed Hummingbird has obviously acquired its name due to its unique scissor tailed rump feathers, whereas the Jamaican Red-billed streamertail doesn’t host the same features but more as explained – streamer like rump feathers.
Sadly as explained due to increasing threats we will lose this bird unless conservation efforts improve dramatically and dangers subside. However this is unlikely to occur. The Scissor Tailed Hummingbird will be yet another species of bird added soon to the extinction list of amazing birds, that we humans have destroyed. The video below depicts a female Scissor Tailed Hummingbird within the Venezuela wild.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre.
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
Endangered Species Friday: Diomedea amsterdamensis
This Friday’s (ESP) Endangered Species watch Post I dedicate to one of the most stunning and adorable of all plane like birds. Listed as [critically endangered] and identified back in 1983 by South African Dr Jean Paul Roux whom is a Marine Biologist studying Zoology, Systems Biology and Marine Biology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa Jean Paul Roux works full-time at the Department of Biological Sciences, Cape Town. (Image D. amsterdamensis fledglings)
Commonly identified as the Amsterdam Albatross or Amsterdam Island Albatross the species was listed as [critically endangered] back in 2012. This gorgeous bird is endemic to the French Southern Territories of which its populations are continuing to decline at a rapid pace. Populations were estimated at a mere 170 individuals which in turn ranks as the worlds most endangered species of bird. Out of the 170 individuals there are a total of 80 mature individuals consisting of 26 pairs that breed annually.
Between 2001-2007 there were a total of 24-31 breeding pairs annually, which leaves a slightly lower population count today of around 100 mature individuals. Back in 1998 scientists stated that there were no fewer than 50 mature individuals if that. The Amsterdam Albatross doesn’t naturally have a small population however qualified for the category of [critically endangered] due to this reason when identified in 1983. Furthermore pollution, habitat destruction and disease remain pivotal factors that’s decreasing populations furthermore. The video below from MidWay island explains a little more about pollution and birds of this caliber.
Its quite possible that there could be more unidentified groups within the local territory or elsewhere, unfortunately as yet there is no evidence to suggest the Amsterdam Albatross is located anywhere else, however there have been sightings, which do not necessarily count as the species being endemic to countries the bird may have been noted within.
The species breeds on the Plateau des Tourbières on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) in the southern Indian Ocean. An increase of populations was documented via census back in 1984, a year after identification. Marine Biologists have stated that population sizes may have been more larger when its range was more extensive over the slopes of the island.
Meanwhile in South Africa satellite tracking data has indicated the Amsterdam Albatross ranges off the coast of Eastern South Africa to the South of Western Australia in non-breeding pairs. There have been some [possible] sightings over Australia through to New Zealand too. Meanwhile South Africa “may” have its first breeding pair this must not be taken as factual though. Back in 2013 a nature photographer photographed an Amsterdam Albatross off the Western Cape of South Africa which is the very first documented and confirmed sighting .
AN OCEAN OF GRIEF
Breeding is biennial (when successful) and is restricted to the central plateau of the island at 500-600 m, where only one breeding group is known. Pair-bonds are lifelong, and breeding begins in February. Most eggs are laid from late February to March, and chicks fledge in January to February the following year.
Immature birds begin to return to breeding colonies between four and seven years after fledging but do not begin to breed until they are nine years of age. The Amsterdam Albatross exact diet is unknown, but probably consists of fish, squid and crustaceans. During the breeding season, birds forage both around Amsterdam Island and up to 2,200 km away in subtropical waters which is something of interest. During the great Sardine Run many aquatic species consisting of birds, seals, sharks and whales hit the South African oceans hard for sardines. So I am calling on my fellow South African friends to please be on the lookout for this rather elusive bird.
Image: Amsterdam Albatross mating ritual, credited to Andrew Rouse.
Diomedea amsterdamensis, is quite a large albatross. When described in 1983, the species was thought by some researchers to be a sub-species of the wandering albatross, D. exulans. Bird Life International and the IOC recognize it as a species, James Clements does not, and the SACC has a proposal on the table to split the species. Please refer to the link above on Avian Biology which will explain more on the bird and its current classification.
More recently, mitchondrial DNA comparisons between the Amsterdam albatross, the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans, the Antipodean albatross D. antipodensis and the Tristan albatross D. dabbenena, provide clear genetic evidence that the Amsterdam albatross is a separate species.
Degradation of breeding sites by introduced cattle has decreased the species’s range and population across the island. Human disturbance is presumably also to blame. Introduced predators are a major threat, particularly feral cats. Interactions with longline fisheries around the island in the 1970s and early 1980s could also have contributed to a decline in the population.
Today the population is threatened primarily by the potential spread of diseases (avian cholera and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae) that affect the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche carteri population 3 km from the colony. Infection risks are very high and increased chick mortality over recent years suggests the population is already affected.
The foraging range of the species overlaps with longline fishing operations targeting tropical tuna species, so bycatch may also still be a threat, and a recent analysis has suggested that bycatch levels exceeding six individuals per year would be enough to cause a potentially irreversible population decline. Having a distribution on relatively low-lying islands, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change through sea-level rise and shifts in suitable climatic conditions. Plastic pollution has also been noted as problematic.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and International Animal Rescue Foundation France are currently working on projects to reduce more plastic within bird habitat that has never been visited by the organisation before. The current plight of bird habitat and plastic pollution within the Pacific ocean needs to be worked on by everyone, furthermore addressed immediately.
To date all twenty two species within the four genera of Albatross are heavily threatened with extinction. There remains no species at present that is listed as [least concern]. The future is indeed very bleak for all 22 species and something we now need to work on and towards to preserve Albatross’s before extinction occurs within a decade for the vast majority of all twenty two species and sub-species.
Thank you for reading.
Please share to make aware the plight of this stunning bird and the remaining twenty two species too.
Dr Jose C. Depre.
A planet without birds is a world not worth living within anymore. Daily I am traumatized and deeply disturbed at viewing the destruction we have caused to these stunning animals and, their natural habitat. I am pained, deeply frustrated and infuriated at international retail companies whom preach good yet practice negligence killing off via plastic pollution our species of birds. Jose Depre
Endangered Species Friday: Aceros nipalensis
This Fridays (ESP) – Endangered Species watch Post I have chosen to document on this stunning species known commonly as the Rufous-cheeked Hornbill, because of large population declines throughout most of the birds historical range. More awareness needs to be created with regards to this particular bird specie due to their natural habitat declining and localized extinctions that have already occurred in the past decade. Furthermore extinctions are now likely to occur within Viet Nam and [west] Thiland where hunting is the primary threat to the species.. (Image credit Ian Fulton).
Identified back in 1829 by Mr Brian Houghton Hodgson (1 February 1800 or more likely 1801– 23 May 1894) was a pioneer naturalist and ethnologist working in India and Nepal where he was a British Resident. He described numerous species of birds and mammals from the Himalayas, and several birds were named after him by others such as Edward Blyth.
Listed as vulnerable the A. nipalensis is endemic to Bhutan; China; India; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Thailand and Viet Nam. Unfortunately A. nipalensis has already been declared extinct locally in Nepal. Like many large birds within this region of Asia the Rufous-cheeked (or necked) Hornbill’s populations are declining quite extensively throughout their range of which deforestation and habitat degradation and, hunting is primarily to blame.
The species has been listed on Cites Appendix (I-II) of which an estimated population census count has determined there are no less than 2,500 birds but no greater than 9,999. A survey count back in 2001 by Bird-Life International concluded that from the [estimate] above the [true] population count is actually by far more lower than previously suggested, however few conservationists are now debating this due to the birds ‘alleged’ extensive range within South East Asia.
From the Bird Life International (2001) census the organisation stated there was no fewer than 1,667 mature individuals but no greater than 6,666, which is rounded to 1,500 to 7,000 mature individuals exactly. Since the last 2001 census its quite possible populations have increased and decreased to date.
A. nipalensis is known to inhabit the following ranges; Bhutan, north-east India, Myanmar, southern Yunnan and south-east Tibet, China, [west] Thailand, Laos and Viet Nam. The species has declined [drastically] and is no longer common throughout most of its known historical range. While we know the species is now regionally extinct within Nepal the next likely localized extinction may very well be within Viet Nam of which its populations have fallen to alarming rates.
Within [most] of Thailand where the species was quite common reports have sadly indicated the bird is no longer commonly seen, and like Viet Nam, Thailand could become the third county to see localized extinctions occurring too, the only known habitat within Thailand that A nipalensis occurs now is within west Thailand. To date reports have confirmed that within Bhutan A. nipalensis remains pretty much common of which Bhutan is known to the birds [largest] stronghold.
Healthy large populations have also been documented back in 2007 within Namdapha National Park, India, Nakai-Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Area, central Laos and perhaps also Huai Kha Khaeng, [west Thailand], and Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve, China. Some conservationists have been led to believe that while populations are considered quite large within these strongholds that the species may very well be “more widespread than previously thought”. Meanwhile the species is known to inhabit north Myanmar, and there are recent records from West Bengal and Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, India.
Rufous-cheeked Hornbill commonly resides within broad-leaved forest, some reports have also indicated the species to be present within dry woodland too. Mating and nesting normally occurs from the months of March to June within large wide girth trees, the very trees that the species depends on though are being felled throughout most of the Hornbills historical range.
Image: Rufous-necked-Hornbill (Photographer unknown)
Its dependence on large trees for feeding and nesting makes it especially susceptible to deforestation and habitat degradation through logging, shifting cultivation and clearance for agriculture. Furthermore, viable populations require vast tracts of forest to survive, exacerbating its susceptibility to habitat fragmentation. These problems are compounded by widespread hunting and trapping for food, and trade in pets and casques. Hunting is the primary threat to the species in Arunachal, India. A report from the Wildlife Extra organisation details poaching incidents with regards to Hornbills.
Wildlife Extra stated:
The unique and intriguing breeding habits that caught Pilai Poonswad attention are central to the birds’ plight. Each hornbill pair seeks out a suitable hollow – 15 to 40 metres above the ground in the trunk or branch of a Neobalanocarpus, Dipterocarpus or Syzygium tree – in which to raise a single chick. When a suitable cavity is found, the female walls herself in, using mud supplied by her mate and regurgitated food, to hatch and rear her chick. The male feeds them for the next three months and, if he fails, both mother and chick may perish. The birds consume up to 80 different kinds of fruit, scattering the seeds over many hectares of forest. With other seed-distributing animals such as monkeys now scarce, the hornbill has become pivotal in maintaining the integrity of the forest. But the birds rarely spread the seeds of the trees in which they nest: if these disappear, the hornbills too will vanish – and the trees and plants they help propagate will soon follow.
Click the link above via the [report] to read more on this very fascinating conservationist.
My name is Dr Jose Carlos Depre, MD, B.Env.Sc, BSBio, D.V.M. I myself have been working within bird, tree kangaroo and pachydermata conservation, rescue and reporting for over fifteen years.
Within these unique, wonderful and exhilarating years I have witnessed one of my favorite species of animals [birds] declining to worrying levels that is now so concerning it has led to sleepless nights for many years. Should we continue to see such catastrophic population decreases of birds we’ll eventually witness alarming declines of plants and trees. The same applies with insects and herbivorous mammals too.
Like insects birds are incredibly important for both human and animal survival. The vast majority of all bird species rely on plants for their staple diet. On consuming fruits, leaves, flowers Etc, the very seeds within the birds diet of life needed to continue seed dispersal will be lost should all bird populations go extinct. Should this occur we selfish humans will then become the Planets seed disperses. Think about that next time you fell a tree or rip a plant up.
Dr Jose. C. Depre
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
Thank you for reading and please share fare and wide to create as much awareness for all Hornbills as possible.
Endangered Species Monday: Vini peruviana
This Monday’s endangered species watch post (ESP) I document on a rather elusive bird that is rarely spoken about within the conservation theater or among animal rights organisations. Listed as (vulnerable) the species was formally identified by Professor Philipp Ludwig Statius Müller (April 25, 1725 – January 5, 1776) was a German zoologist. (Image V. peruviana, photographer Tara)
Statius Müller was born in Esens, and was a professor of natural science at Erlangen. Between 1773 and 1776, he published a German translation of Professor Linnaeus’s Natursystem. The supplement in 1776 contained the first scientific classification for a number of species, including the dugong, guanaco, potto, tricolored heron, umbrella cockatoo, red-vented cockatoo, and the enigmatic hoatzin. He was also an entomologist.
Despite the birds high population size the Blue Lorikeet-scientifically named as Vini peruviana is under threat from feral cats, accidental introduction of black rats and violent storms that hit the birds native range frequently causing untold damage and catastrophic destruction to the specie habitat. Furthermore the ‘swamp harrier’ remains an all out threat to Blue Lorikeet’s range which has led to wide range species decline. Swamp Harriers predate on the Blue Parikeet mainly due to the birds color.
Endemic to the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, Blue Lorikeet population sizes are declining quite fast of which drastic conservation measures are now required to control feral cats and the accidental introduction of black rats, not forgetting measures to either reduce swamp harriers or introduce a non-endangered prey for the harrier. The last survey which I believe was undertaken sometime back in 2012 showed a ‘global population’ estimated to be at 7,200 to 9,000 individuals. Which is still quite high, however not high enough to stop the species qualifying for the classification of (endangered).
Taking into consideration range and overall total population size (at an estimate) the species falls into the ‘band’ of 2,500 to 9,000 individuals. This equates (exactly) to 1,677-6,666 ‘mature individuals’ rounded to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals. Summarizing; the exact total population size could be as low as 1,500 but no greater than 7,000 mature individuals (which is extremely concerning).
Blue Lorikeet’s have been recorded within twenty of the south-east Polynesia islands, unfortunately on seven of these islands the species has since been declared officially extinct. The species now remains sparsely distributed on some thirteen islands of which is threatened by rats, feral cats and the swamp harrier. We now know the species is situated within the Society Islands (formerly all), the northern atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago (both French Polynesia), and Aitutaki (Cook Islands).
Image: Blue Lorikeet – Vini peruviana
Within the Society Islands conservation teams estimated that there were some 200-400 individual pairs on the Motu One and Manuae respectively in 1973 , however this may no longer be the case. On the Maupihaa island back in 1999 conservationists that believed the species to be extinct located breeding pairs. In Tuamotus 2006 surveys have shown the following data in relation to population sizes; Kaukura (1,000), Rangiroa (1,000), Arutua (500), Apataki (200) and Tikehau (50).
Meanwhile in Tiamanu Motu in Apataki atoll a minimum 300 individuals were estimated back in 1989 (this sub-population being allegedly smaller than 10 years previously). On Aitutaki, where it was probably introduced, numbers have been estimated at under 500 pairs, 2,400 individuals and 1,000 individuals (2006).
Following the devastation of Cyclone Pat (2010) a further census was undertaken to asses the impacts of freak weather patterns and catastrophic cyclones on the species. Distance sampling surveys on the island of Aitutaki (2011) showed a decrease in population size of exactly 1,400 individuals. That’s quite a substantial decline of individuals caused directly by a single yet destructive cyclone.
Blue Lorikeets depend on coconut palms for nesting and some of its food, and will frequent cultivated areas. They also roost in palm trees, rising at dawn and calling and preening before feeding. They are usually found in small flocks of less than ten birds. They are active birds, feeding on nectar, insects, and ground forage.
Image: Swamp Harrier (Wiki) – . Circus approximans
The species’s extinction from many islands is most likely due to predation by black rat Rattus rattus and to a lesser extent, feral cats Felis catus. Blue Lorikeet’s have gone extinct from Makatea in the Tuamotus could have been accelerated by a particularly violent hurricane. Its range reduction in the Society Islands correlates with the spread of the introduced Swamp Harrier Circus approximans. The accidental introduction of black rats to the islands where Blue Loirkeet persists is a continuing threat to the species. Listed on Cites Appendix II conservation actions are under way with more projects proposed.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose. C. Depre
Endangered Species Friday: Alopecoenas kubaryi
This Fridays Endangered Species watch Post (ESP), I document on the Caroline Ground Dove scientifically identified as Alopecoenas kubaryi. The species was discovered and named back in 1880 by explorer Friedrich Hermann Otto Finsch (8 August 1839 – 31 January 1917, Braunschweig) was a German ethnographer, naturalist and colonial explorer. Since new data has emerged in relation to the species that Hermann identified, the bird has since been correctly renamed and placed into the correct specie table (please read more below). (Image: Alopecoenas kubaryi: Author unknown).
Listed as vulnerable populations are continuing to decline, and with such a small population size its quite likely this rather beautiful and peaceful little bird will soon meet the criteria for endangered listing on the threatened species list very soon.
Endemic to Micronesia there are no fewer than 250-999 ‘mature individuals’ remaining if that, (that’s incredibly depressed for a bird listed as vulnerable). This sadly equates to exactly 375-1500 individuals in total. In theory I’m perplexed as to why this beautiful bird hasn’t been re-categorized as critically endangered. Should the wild population continue to decrease at the rate it currently is there will be no time left to re-list this bird or, implement much stronger and professional conservation efforts that are already seen today.
As explained the species is native to the Federated States of Micronesia which is an independent sovereign island nation and a United States associated state consisting of four states – from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae which are situated and spread across the Pacific ocean. The Caroline Ground Dove (common name) is located mostly within the Pohnpei region.
From 1983-1984 within the Pohnpei region populations were said to be as high as 841 mature individuals. That would have equated back then to roughly just over 3,000 individuals in total. Back in 1994 another census was undertaken in relation to the species current population trend within the birds stronghold of Pohnpei.
Unfortunately the survey recorded a staggering decrease in overall population rates within the lowlands. Meanwhile back in 2001 a further survey was conducted which again showed a dramatic decline in population trends. A conservationist by the name of Dr Baker ‘alleged’ in 1951 that the Caroline Ground Dove populations have always been depressed.
I personally disagree with this statement and if populations were ‘surveyed’ to be declining then why wasn’t extreme conservation measures implemented back then to protect the species stronghold and establish a type of nature reserve to increase population sizes? Furthermore and as I have explained why hasn’t the species been listed as (critically endangered?). The evidence is more than clear that populations rather than being (small) have in fact (declined). Conservation efforts that are currently underway too are in my opinion way to late.
The Caroline Ground Dove is commonly known by the locals as; Caroline Ground-dove; Caroline Islands Ground-Dove or the White-fronted Ground Dove. Caroline Ground Dove’s scientific identification back in the 1880’s was put into the wrong (specie) listing commonly known as Gallicolumba kubaryi. However the bird has since been entered into the correct specie list, now known as Alopecoenas kubaryi. The genera remains the same.
Caroline Ground Doves are known to inhabit tropical or sub-tropical rain-forest of which their preferred habitat is normally within Hibiscus trees. The dove takes a preferential liking to the specie of Hibiscus known scientifically as Hibiscus tiliaceus. Unfortunately the areas from which the bird specie resides is normally within and/or around human settlements which sadly poses a direct threat to the bird due to habitat destruction from human settlements. The dove can also be located in lowland, mangrove and montane rain-forests too.
In the region of Chuuk the Caroline Ground Dove is normally seen inhabiting agricultural areas (again this can pose a significantly high threat) to the bird in general. Reports have also stated that some small populations were located on islets which would indicate coastal habitat is also preferred by the Caroline Ground Dove. Within the region of Weno where habitat is said to be degraded spotters have confirmed the bird may also prefer degraded habitat too.
Diet normally consists of seeds, worms, snails and insects. A. kubaryi normally nests in dense forest at around 180 meters inland. Within the Chuuk province conservationists have confirmed that nests with eggs in have been surveyed from the months of; February, April, June and September. So we know the species normally mates and nests all year round. However unlike other doves that normally lay in the region of 1-3 eggs within a clutch, the Caroline Ground Dove is only known to produce one egg per clutch. Again I question why the species hasn’t been listed as (critically endangered). How much evidence does one need?
Image: Alopecoenas kubaryi
On Pohnpei, predation by introduced species (mainly rats Rattus spp. and cats) and excessive hunting may have caused some depletion. Habitat loss is also a major issue. Overall, there was a reduction of undisturbed upland forest on Pohnpei of over 60% from 1975-1995.
The majority of the island’s forests have been, to varying degrees, converted or at least degraded to mixed forest (native species mixed with lowland secondary species), largely attributable to the cultivation of sakau (kava) Piper methysticum as a major cash-crop. The fragmentation of such forest by sakau clearings also introduces and encourages the spread of invasive species in isolated areas throughout the forest.
Although efforts over the past 20 years to reduce the amount of clear-cutting for sakau plantations have resulted in the slowing of native forest conversion rates, the trend remains negative. On Chuuk, the only remaining semi-original forest remains in tiny remnants on the higher reaches of a few islands.
Traditional leaders have been encouraged to adopt a programme to plant sakau in the lowlands, but resistance is high because the plant grows best on wet mountain slopes and is less likely to be pilfered in more remote areas. Watershed Forest Reserve boundary lines have been laid down and enforced in Madolenihmw and Uh on Pohnpei.
Proposed conservation actions (already now underway) and past conservation actions are in my expert opinion not good enough nor will they prevent this bird from going extinct within five years to seven years max. I do find it somewhat odd that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service haven’t steeped in here to increase more help. But then these islands really are not run by the United States Government. I personally believe the specie will be extinct in five years. Sadly not enough is being done to preserve this stunningly beautiful dove.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose Carlos Depre.
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.