World Bird News November 2016

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Spoon-billed Sandpiper urgently needs your help

Spoon-billed Sandpiper urgently needs your help

With around 200 breeding pairs left in the wild and with new threats emerging all the time, they desperately need your support now. Please make a donation to help us continue our conservation work.

One of the most extraordinary and threatened migratory birds, in 2010 Spoon-billed Sandpiper was predicted to go extinct within 5 to 10 years. Habitat destruction and trapping saw the worldwide populations plummet by 80% in just 10 years.

Yet against all odds, an incredible, ambitious programme of pioneering conservation activities, undertaken by some of the world's leading conservation organisations, has been helping to stabilise its population. Despite this, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is still in great danger. Now we need your help to scale up our work and secure the species' future.

Blue Sku logo
Blue Sky Wildlife, launched earlier this year, is a unique ecotourism website offering birders and wildlife enthusiasts an alternative way to search for wildlife tours and ecotourism holidays, ranging from birds to butterflies and mammals to wildflowers.
45 established and award winning wildlife tour operators and companies are already listed on the site covering 27 countries and offering over 225 unique bird watching and wildlife tours. The number of listed tour operators is anticipated to grow to over 100 within the next 6 months.

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This unique website offers the flexibility to search for all kinds of wildlife and birdwatching holiday experiences taking into account conservation, eco lodges, families, photography and trekking.
Independent birders who prefer to work through their own “bucket list” can now search for the right tour operator by bird species name, directly from the keyword search area on the top right hand of the website, prior to contacting the right tour operator directly to book their next holiday.
The collection of bird watching holidays or experiences range from photography workshops, a half day boat trip off the coast of Kaikoura admiring magnificent Wandering Albatross in New Zealand, the choice of a variety of 5 day rainforest adventures in either Peru, Colombia or Jamaica to a 30 day mega bird watching tour in Uganda.
“We were inspired to launch this website as we felt there was nothing like this for the birding community while seeking to elevate conservation as a selection criteria for birders without compromising on their overall birdwatching experience” commented Chris Larsen, Blue Sky Wildlife.
Blue Sky Wildlife, working in collaboration with Tim Appleton MBE who co-founded the British Birdwatching Fair (or Birdfair) 27 years ago, has been very conscious of getting the eco-tourism balance just right. Blue Sky Wildlife is committed to sustainable ecotourism and to conservation. Blue Sky Wildlife is recognised as a Birdlife Species Champion supporting the Birdlife International Preventing Extinctions programme.

The largest hunting violation ever recorded in Jordan

The largest hunting violation ever recorded in Jordan

The illegal hunting and trading of birds is one of the rising issues for conservationists in the Mediterranean region. It is a major challenge for governments and conservation organizations, as penalties in the region are not currently serving as a deterrent to illegal hunting activities.
Authorities in Jordan announced recently the seizure of 7,000 dead birds in the largest hunting violation ever recorded in the Kingdom of Jordan after receiving reports about a person who was in possession of large numbers of dead birds in the eastern desert.
The rangers from the Royal Department for Protecting Environment and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN – BirdLife in Jordan) caught the hunter and seized the dead birds in October. The hunter was found in possession of 6,800 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 40 Eurasian Golden Orioles Oriolus oriolus and 45 Laughing Doves Spilopelia senegalensis.
Both entities are working together to enforce Agriculture law number 13 for the year 2015, which was issued in the Official Gazette in April last year, stipulates that it is illegal to hunt down wild birds and animals without obtaining a license and it is also illegal to hunt in areas and times where and when hunting is not permitted. The same appendix also stipulates that it is illegal to kill, possess, transport, sell or display for selling wild birds and animals. The rangers are following all environmental legislations and supporting the specialized agencies in their patrolling through their wide distributions across the country.

Abdul Razzaq Hmoud, acting director of RSCN's conservation and hunting regulation section, says most of the birds discovered were migrant species that have been hunted during the year in different private areas along the flyway in the eastern desert. “The hunter had the birds frozen and packaged, as he either planning to export the dead birds to a Gulf country, according to his claims, or sell them to upscale restaurants that serve the birds as a delicacy for high prices”.

RSCN rangers are covering sensitive hunting areas through agreed schedules that are set on a weekly basis together with law enforcement. They are widely supported by other officials such as police departments, customs and awarded public communities.
Raising awareness level is one of RSCN’s main roles in addition to building rangers’ capacities, reviewing and amending laws and legislations and enforcing laws in collaboration with other environmental entities to eliminate the illegal killing of birds in Jordan.

RSCN has formulated a strategy in cooperation with the rangers to enforce the laws, including intensifying inspection patrols in areas where the birds spread, and setting up checkpoints to inspect hunters’ vehicles and make sure they abide by the new decision.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, may be at least three separate species

Yellow-rumped Warbler, may be at least three separate species

One of North America’s most beloved and familiar birds, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, may be at least three separate species, says a study to be published today in The Auk. If the species were to be split, it would upend a status quo that has lasted for almost five decades and would restore two cherished common names that many bird watchers still fondly use.
For most of the last century the Yellow-rumped Warbler was two species, the Myrtle Warbler of the East (and far north) and the Audubon’s Warbler of the West. But in 1973 scientists lumped them based on evidence that the two species routinely hybridize in a narrow zone in western Canada.
Now, evidence from more than 37,000 regions of the birds’ DNA suggests that Myrtle and Audubon’s really are separate species—and so is a third, isolated form known as “Goldman’s warbler” that is almost entirely restricted to Guatemala. A fourth form known as the “Black-fronted” warbler lives in the mountains of northern Mexico but its species status is more debatable, the study authors report.
The wealth of genetic data—far more than was available in 1973—provided enough resolution for the researchers to see clear patterns of natural selection, even though the overall degree of genetic difference was quite small. For instance, differences between Myrtle and Audubon’s forms were clustered within only about 60 relatively short regions of DNA. These hotspots likely contain the genes responsible for making Myrtle and Audubon’s warblers different, said lead author David Toews, who performed the research at University of British Columbia and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab. Natural selection likely caused those genes to change while leaving the rest of the birds’ DNA relatively unaltered, he said.
Going farther, the team also determined where in the DNA the differences were located. That discovery opens the door to learning precisely what’s responsible for how the four forms look, sound, and act.
It’s thought that the Myrtle and Audubon’s forms became separated over the last million years—a pattern common to other songbird species pairs such as Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles and Rose-breasted and Black-headed grosbeaks. Toews thinks that at some point, birds that became the Myrtle form moved eastward from northwestern North America and then became cut off from the other three forms by ice sheets.
So what about that hybrid zone that swayed scientists to lump the species back in 1973? It’s relatively narrow—just 80 miles across—and recent research shows it has not moved or widened in 50 years, Toews said. Although the two forms interbreed freely in that zone, there must be some sort of weakness in hybrids that keeps them from surviving and carrying the genetic mixing farther afield. Although what that weakness is, exactly, remains to be discovered, Toews said.

There will be no immediate change to birding lists: formally splitting the species requires a decision by the North American Classification Committee of the American Ornithologists’ Union. They publish an annual set of updates to the official checklist each year in July.

Click here for further information...

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2016 |  World Bird News November 2016

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