Birds and plants of St Helena

This is a video about Saint Helena island, and the wirebird.

From Wildlife Extra:

The remote island of St Helena, a dot in the vast expanse of the South Atlantic Ocean, is 1,200 miles from Africa and 1,800 miles from South America. Just ten miles by six miles and a population of around 3,000, it is home to some interesting endemic species.

The native flora has suffered over the years from the goats and donkeys that have grazed on the many endemic plants, many to the brink of extinction. Invasive weeds have also taken their toll of which the New Zealand flax is by far the worst culprit.

A small conservation team, working for the St Helena Government, is now endeavouring to grow and replant the island’s endemics. This is important work as many of the plants are not just endemic to the island but to just one cliff face of single valley, making them some of the rarest plants in the world. The St Helena ebony was thought to be extinct until 1980, when Saint George Benjamin found two plants on a remote cliff face and took cuttings so it could be re-introduced across the island.

Temperate Climate

This tropical island is full of contrasts; its memorable contrasting landscape is a result of its volcanic origins, with spectacular 1,000ft bronze-coloured cliffs, harsh desert and lush green valleys. And despite its position in the tropics, the climate is kept mild by the southeast trade winds; between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade in the summer and between 15 and 26 degrees in winter.

Much of St Helena is best explored by walking and for many it is a walker’s paradise. Whether it is a gentle stroll along country roads or up to the highest point – Diana’s Peak (2,685 ft) to view the endemic flora and fauna.

The Wirebird

The Wirebird is the national bird of St Helena, it is a small, long-legged, grey-brown plover with white under parts and a black mask extending to the sides of the neck. It is the only surviving endemic bird of St Helena.

The Wirebird prefers flat areas of short grassland with patches of bare ground. They eat mainly caterpillars, beetles and snails. They breed throughout the year, but most nesting occurs from October to March, during the dry season. They usually lay two eggs at a time.

Other endemic birds, such as the St Helena Rail, Crake, Dove, Hoopooe and Petrel were classified as extinct as far back as 1502, mostly due to introduced predators (rats, cats and humans) and the environmental changes that these brought to the island. The other birds seen on the island today have been introduced from other countries, these include: Yellow Canary; Madagascar fody; Chukar partridge; Peaceful Dove; Fairy tern; Java sparrow; Noddy terns; Madeiran storm petrel; Sooty tern; Ring-necked pheasant; red-billed tropicbird; St Helena waxbill; Common mynah bird; and the Rock dove.

In the case of seabirds like the sooty tern, I really doubt whether these were introduced by humans.

St Helena sedge, thought extinct, found again: here.

4 thoughts on “Birds and plants of St Helena

  1. See also:

    Unique bird colonies at risk on British island

    By Emily Dugan
    Tuesday, 20 May 2008

    The Gough bunting, resident of the Gough Island, has joined six other new entries on the red list

    Conservationists are calling on Britain to act to save birdlife on a tiny British-owned island in the South Atlantic, which is now home to a quarter of the world’s newly endangered birds.

    Two species unique to Gough Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago and the most important seabird colony in the world, yesterday joined the ranks of the world’s most critically endangered birds. The Gough bunting and the Tristan albatross are among eight birds added to the revised International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of 190 bird species facing a high or very high risk of extinction.

    The RSPB says the British Government must now pay the money needed to save the Gough bunting and Tristan albatross, which have fallen prey to a 19th-century blunder, when house mice were accidentally released on the island, now a Unesco world heritage site. The rodents, which are three times the size of ordinary house mice, prey on the chicks of the Gough bunting and Tristan albatross.

    The vulnerable chicks are eaten alive by the mice, which also compete with the adult birds for food. Dr Geoff Hilton, an RSPB scientist researching conservation problems in UK overseas territories, said the problem must be tackled immediately.

    “In the presence of house mice, the albatross and the bunting have no chance of survival. Things are getting worse and the only hope for these birds is the complete eradication of the mice,” he said.

    Government funding has been pledged for a programme to eradicate the mouse population, by dropping poison bait from helicopters. Dr Hilton believes such a scheme could offer the birds the opportunity to thrive again.

    “The feasibility study reveals a glimmer of light showing that we might be able to fix this problem,” he said.

    “The UK government has supported us in discovering our problem … The big question is whether they will take their international commitments seriously and do what the governments of New Zealand and Australia have done, and provide the big money needed to actually do the mouse eradication”.

    The two latest species to appear on the red list are not the only birds whose survival is threatened by the island’s mice. Gough also supports five other species – the Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, the sooty albatross, the Gough moorhen, the northern rockhopper penguin and the Atlantic petrel – which are at risk of global extinction.

    “The world’s greatest seabird island is being eaten alive, as the mice are likely to be affecting the fortunes of many seabirds on the island,” said Dr Hilton. “Without help, Gough Island will probably lose the majority of seabirds, not just those confined to the island.”

    Elsewhere in the world, another six birds were added to the critically endangered section of the red list yesterday.

    Russia’s spoon-billed sandpiper, the Tachira antpitta of Venezuela; the Reunion cuckooshrike of Reunion; the Mariana crow, of the Guam and Northern Mariana islands; the Floreana mockingbird of the Galapagos islands; and the akekee of Hawaii. British birds are also increasingly under threat. The Dartford warbler and the curlew were reclassified as near-threatened.

    However, the populations of five species have increased. The gorgeted wood quail, the Marquesan imperial pigeon, the purple-backed sunbeam, the Rondonia bushbird and the Somali thrush have all been taken off the critically endangered list.


  2. Pingback: Reforestation on St Helena island | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: World’s 100 most unique and endangered birds | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: World’s 100 most unique and endangered birds |

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