Bird conservation works, new research


This video is about Dalmatian pelicans in Greece.

From BirdLife:

Scientists prove EU bird laws save threatened species

By Sanya Khetani-Shah, Mon, 27/07/2015 – 16:52

The European Union’s Birds Directive – often believed to be one of the world’s most progressive and successful set of nature conservation laws – has had a huge impact in protecting Europe’s most threatened bird species, according to new research by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB; BirdLife in the UK), BirdLife International and Durham University in England.

“We analysed information on all bird species breeding across the European Union”, said Dr Fiona Sanderson, RSPB scientist and lead author of the paper. “Our findings confirm that species with the highest level of protection under the Birds Directive [listed in Annex I]… are more likely to have increasing populations, and that these results are most apparent in countries that have been members of the European Union for longer.”

While this may sound natural, the study, published in the journal Conservation Letters, noted that as a result of stronger conservation measures, a majority of Annex I species (like Dalmatian Pelican, Common Crane, White-tailed Eagle and White-Headed Duck) are now improving their populations more than other threatened species that are not on that list.

This could point to a need to better implement protection projects for species across the other annexes as well. The report also stated that long-distant migrants didn’t do as well as those flying short distances, meaning even strong conservation measures are not yet able to sufficiently protect birds from dangers along their migration route and climate change.

The globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus Crispus was driven nearly to extinction in Europe in the 20th century due to loss of habitat, degradation, persecution and collision with power lines. However, thanks to the directives, more than 2,500 breeding pairs are now in existence, five times the number of a few decades ago.

White-headed Duck (Oxyura Leucocephala) was just as threatened. There were only 22 left in 1977 because of wetland destruction and persecution, but thanks to strong protection of their habitat and other conservation measures, there are now more than 2,000 in the wild.

Bird species listed in the other annexes are not as lucky. For example, Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa Limosa), despite being part of Annex II, continues to see a rapid decline in population and is listed as ‘threatened’ in Europe and ‘Endangered’ in the EU27. In Europe, the population size has decreased by an estimated 30-49% over three generations, while the EU27 has seen a 50-79% decline.

“Our research proves that, in an era of unprecedented climate change and habitat loss, those threatened birds protected by the Birds Directive are more likely to prosper”, Dr Paul Donald, the RSPB’s principal conservation scientist, said.

The research is being published just days after the closure on 26 July of a public consultation on the future of the European Union’s nature laws. The European Commission is currently reviewing the Birds and Habitats Directives, looking into their effectiveness. Signatures from 520,325 people and 120 NGOs supported the online campaign against this review in the largest public response to any consultation published by the European Commission.

“At a time when the benefits of EU membership are increasingly questioned, this research shows that, at least for nature, the EU is making a huge positive difference,” said BirdLife Europe’s Head of EU Policy, Ariel Brunner. “It would make no sense for the European Commission to demolish legislation proven to work and which enjoys a massive level of support among citizens.”

Read the report here.

Euro Bird Portal, new Internet site


This video series is called Birds of Europe (Western Palearctic).

There is a new Internet site: Euro Bird Portal.

It says about itself:

Unraveling European-wide spatiotemporal patterns of bird distribution

Mobilizing 100,000 volunteer birdwatchers and 30 million new bird records every year

Spring Alive, migratory birds and children


This video is the film Winged Migration (2002).

From BirdLife:

10 reasons for your child to celebrate spring with Spring Alive

By Shaun Hurrell, Mon, 13/07/2015 – 07:40

It is Spring Alive’s anniversary, so we celebrate 10 big years of this amazing movement by giving 10 big reasons to celebrate the arrival of spring with migratory birds.

When we started Spring Alive, we aimed to educate children and adults about migratory birds and their plight. Now we also encourage people and especially young ones to act for the migratory birds they learn about and nature in general. With summer well-underway in Europe and Central Asia, the 2015 Spring Alive season has ended and we look forward to the start of the African season.

Ten reasons to celebrate spring with Spring Alive:

Spring Alive has grown into a popular movement!

73,032 children were directly engaged in Spring Alive in 2014. With a record number of 3.9 million people reached through Spring Alive in 2014, this is potentially a strong force for the celebration and care of migratory birds on the African-Eurasian flyway. …

Migratory birds encourage children to think big!

Recognizing the arrival of migratory birds also brings a broader understanding of nature, and when you notice the seasons more, you enjoy them more!

Some bird migrations are so huge, they are almost beyond comprehension. For local children, Spring Alive brings an opportunity to think globally.

Connection of the continents

Someone in Europe once said that when Swifts arrive in the Spring, they are really just on loan for a few months from Africa, where they spend most of the year. Like migratory birds, Spring Alive transcends country borders and encourages learning about other cultures. The Spring Twin initiative unites school classes in Europe and Africa together in the celebration of migratory birds.

Connection to nature!

There is a lot of growing evidence that children are negatively affected if they do not have a regular connection with nature and the outdoors. Spring Alive events encourage children to go outside, experience new things and appreciate the wildlife they see.

School is boring? You can’t say that about Spring Alive classes

Spring Alive not only contributes to the early education of young people about birds and nature, it makes children love their indoor and outdoor classes and keeps them connected with nature even when they grow up.

Spring Alive Bird TV is more interesting than television

With a live feed to White Stork chicks in Poland, and Swifts in Israel, Italy and England, we have seen a private insight into the real lives of migratory birds. Our video showing the special first moments the BirdLife Swifts were reunited after migration was very popular (over 3,700 views on facebook and YouTube).

Birds will thank you too

This year, Spring Alive encouraged people to make their gardens, schools or balconies bird-friendly to help support tired birds on their magnificent migrations! And there are so many other ways in which birds can be helped. …

It makes volunteers’ work even more worthwhile

Over 700 Spring Alive volunteers visited schools throughout Europe, Central Asia and Africa in 2014. The children’s shouts and smiles were great testament to their interest and how they enjoyed learning about the Spring Alive bird species and how to help them.

It is good for the planet too

Children with a connection to nature are much more likely to care for their environment as they grow into adults – helping support the biodiversity that supports their future. Children CAN make a change, let us show them how.

Here’s to another 10 years of Spring Alive to come!

Spring Alive poster

Spring Alive is an international campaign to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is organised by OTOP, the BirdLife Partner in Poland, on behalf of the BirdLife Partnership. Wildlife groups, teachers and others who would like to become more involved in Spring Alive should contact the International Manager, Karolina Kalinowska, at karolina.kalinowska@otop.org.pl

Follow Spring Alive on facebookYouTube and flickr.

Save European seabirds


This video from Britain is called BBC Natural World – Saving Our Seabirds – Full Documentary.

From BirdLife:

Troubled waters for our seabirds

By Marguerite Tarzia, Fri, 26/06/2015 – 16:03

Did you know that we have 82 species of seabird in Europe? You probably recognise the most charismatic ones, like the clown faced Atlantic Puffin and sharp blue-eyed Northern Gannet. But there are many other species you may not know because they actually spend nearly their entire lives out at sea and so are rarely seen, only coming to our shores to breed before flying off again into the deep blue. Many of these species are in trouble, facing declines and possible extinction based on the latest scientific information. The current situation is clear: urgent action is needed so they don’t disappear from Europe forever.

Why is the fate of our seabirds so grim today? They have been facing multiple threats: climate change, which amongst other impacts can make it more difficult for seabirds to find food; they often risk being caught and killed accidentally in fishing gear; they are losing breeding and feeding habitat because of infrastructure on land and at sea; they are being preyed on by invasive rats, cats and foxes; and poisoned or choked by marine litter and oil pollution.

Across the European region, which extends from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and Black Sea, 15 seabird species are facing threats so severe that their populations are declining and could be on a slippery slope towards extinction. Another 9 seabirds are waiting in the wings, and although their risk of extinction from the region is a bit lower, they are edging dangerously close to the higher risk categories. In the EU this number is even more alarming, as 21 seabird species are considered to be facing a higher risk of extinction. How do we know this? Well, BirdLife Europe just completed a European-wide assessment for all bird species and produced the European Red List of Birds, the benchmark for identifying species most at risk of extinction from the continent.

Across Northern Europe many seabird breeding colonies which once held hundreds of thousands of birds are merely a sad shadow of their former selves. In some places, such as the island of Runde in Norway, vast cliffs which were once full of breeding Northern Fulmar have seen the species vanish entirely. Across Europe the Northern Fulmar, Atlantic Puffin and Black-legged Kittiwake are all in decline, and are now considered ‘Endangered’ either within the EU and/or across Europe. Seaducks, such as the Long-tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter, Common Eider and Common and Yellow-billed Loon are also faring poorly, ranked as ‘Vulnerable’ across Europe – with huge declines in the Baltic Sea. These seabirds dive below the waters surface to feed on prey along the sea floor and so are particularly susceptible of getting helplessly entangled in fishing nets.  The Balearic Shearwater is one of Europe’s most threatened birds and their accidental capture in fishing gear has been contributing to driving numbers down to the extent that scientists predict that the species could be extinct within 60 years.

Before it’s too late for our seabirds, we must use the tools that we have to save them, including the EU Nature Directives and EU marine policies. Probably the most important, yet underutilized tool is the Natura 2000 network. This network of protected sites extends across the EU, yet up till now, very few sites have been designated at sea, and even fewer specifically for seabirds. EU countries are not doing enough for seabirds. Only 1% of our seas are currently protecting them.  Also, whilst protecting a seabird during breeding is crucial, it’s only half the story, as most seabirds migrate and travel large distances during the year away from where they have their young. You can read about BirdLife’s assessment of each EU country’s progress here, and see for yourself how your country is doing.

Lines on maps will not bring seabirds back on their own, but with careful and effective management we can give European seabirds a fighting chance to claw, peck and soar their way back up that slippery slope away from extinction. Until then, BirdLife’s mantra on identifying, designating and managing Natura 2000 sites will continue.

Keep Europe’s vultures flying


This video about Africa says about itself:

Vultures Steal Hyena’s Lunch

A flock of big, tough Rüppell’s griffon vultures are more than a match for a pack of hyenas.

From BirdLife:

Keep them circling: a hymn to vulture beauty

By Lisa Benedetti, Wed, 17/06/2015 – 10:52

Big, bald and ugly, consumers of rotting flesh and bone, it’s not surprising that vultures have long been misunderstood creatures. Persecution and poisoning have pretty much wiped them out across most of Europe and elsewhere. But the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) and its partners are doing everything possible to make sure they keep circling high above us.

Vultures cast a dark shadow while flying in seemingly never-ending circles. Even if you don’t know much about birds, you probably know it’s a vulture. There are four species in Europe, Griffon, Bearded, Cinereous and Egyptian Vultures. The Egyptian is a globally threatened species, while Bearded and Cinereous Vultures are Near Threatened. Even though they may come across as creepy birds, they do an important and dirty job for us. They eat dead animals which helps stop the spread of some terrible diseases like rabies, which kills thousands of people in some parts of the world each year.

Over the last decades, the Vulture Conservation Foundation has been helping bring these threatened European vultures back to their historical distribution. Probably the most exciting part of their work has been reintroduction efforts where birds raised in captivity are released in strategic locations. Bearded Vulture reintroduction has been especially important because it’s the rarest vulture species in Europe (regionally Vulnerable in Europe according to the European Red List of Birds). It can live up to 40 years and were once found across Europe’s southern mountain ranges, from western Spain to the Balkans, but in many of these places they were exterminated. In the … mountains for example, Alpine people were once so afraid that it killed lambs and small children that a price was put on its head and there was a massacre. The last known naturally occurring Bearded Vulture was shot in the Alps in 1913.

Spanish people called this species the ‘bonebreaker’ (Quebrantahuesos) because this species doesn’t tend to eat meat. Instead, almost their entire diet is made up of bleached carcass bones. Yes, that’s right, bones. Like all vultures, the Bearded Vulture has a remarkable digestive system with gastric acids that are so corrosive they are able to digest rotting meat as well as bones. It can swallow and digest bones the size of a sheep’s vertebrae. And just to show off how smart they are for a bird, if the bones are too large, they fly and then drop them onto rocks below so that they shatter into smaller more manageable pieces. Another odd thing is that while they have black facial markings and black wings, the rest of the head, neck and body are a rich rusty orange. But this color isn’t natural, the feathers are white. For some mysterious reason they rub themselves with ferric oxides, and so give their feathers a different color.

In 1986, VCF released the first Bearded Vulture in Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria, and then began releases in France, Italy and Switzerland. In 1997, the first breeding pair raised a chick in the wild, and since then over 125 wild born vultures have fledged from parents that were raised in captivity. Because these vultures have responded so well, recent efforts have focused on bringing the species back to Spain in Andalucia. Just this year, they’ve released about a dozen Bearded Vultures: in Cazorla/Andalucia, the Grands Causses, the Austrian Alps and the Swiss Alps, and the latest four in the Italian Alps and Andalucia.

This May 2015 video is called Blimunda with the first wild bearded vulture to hatch in Andalucia for more than 30 years.

Because of the efforts of VCF, it’s partners and volunteers, more than 140 vultures soar again in the Alpine skies. Today, the total European population is about 580 to 790 breeding pairs; in the Pyrenees, Corsica, Crete, the Alps, Turkey and the Caucasus. But probably the greatest reward for the people that worked so hard to bring back this species back to Andalucía, and other places in Europe where it had vanished, is seeing released Bearded Vulture taking care of their first baby chicks in the wild.

Save European birds


This video is called Birds of Britain & Europe.

From BirdLife:

Europe’s most ambitious conservation project

By Christina Ieronymidou, Mon, 08/06/2015 – 15:37

Crops and barren fields, alien invaders, and illegal killing have had a terrible impact on populations of Europe’s native bird species. So great, that nearly 13% are threatened with extinction. But the LIFE Euro SAP project, an ambitious effort led by Birdlife International, will soon help 16 of Europe’s most charismatic and endangered birds.

Populations of some of the species targeted by the project have been declining continuously, yet conservation measures have not been reviewed. Under the project, 13 partners from across the continent, including BirdLife partners in 10 European countries, the Vulture Conservation Foundation and FACE, the voice of European hunters, will join forces to change this. Experts and relevant stakeholders will be brought together to update existing or create new Species Action Plans (SAPs). These will be very useful because they will provide the most current information on the species’ status, ecology, and threats facing each species and describe the key actions needed to improve their conservation status and ensure that they do not vanish from Europe forever. The entire life-cycle of each species will be examined, covering migratory routes from breeding to wintering grounds. Any threat they face will be closely investigated so that better-adapted and informed conservation actions can be defined and effective action taken.

Euro SAP, a project funded by the EU, marks the beginning of a new era for bird conservation in Europe, tackling issues on a truly continental scale, through a wide partnership to better protect our species, our activities and the wider biodiversity of our region.

Action plans will be revised for the Velvet Scoter, White-headed Duck, Cinereous Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Dalmatian Pelican, and European Turtle-dove. Some of these species, like Bearded Vulture and European Turtle-dove, face continuing population declines. For the Velvet Scoter, we know very little, except that it is threatened by habitat loss and habitat degradation, and that it is often accidentally killed in fishermen’s gill-nets (bycatch) while it overwinters in the Baltic Sea. Others like the White-headed Duck, Cinereous Vulture and Dalmatian Pelican, have had spectacular comebacks in parts of their range thanks to targeted conservation efforts. For instance, there were only 22 White-headed Duck left in Spain in the 1970s, but protection and restoration of the wetland habitats it depends on have helped bring numbers up to more than 2,000. But the species is still in danger because of hybridization with non-native Ruddy Duck and loss and degradation of the key habitats it depends on. So it, like some other species, still need solid conservation strategies to make sure recovery continues far into the future. And then there is the Yelkouan Shearwater and the Monteiro’s Storm-petrel, seabirds that are classified as Vulnerable in the latest global IUCN Red List, but for which no conservation strategy exists. They are in urgent need of targeted protection and SAPs will be created for the very first time. They are at risk from various threats, including predation, human disturbance and fishing activities.

In some cases, multi-species plans make more sense and have greater potential to tackle the drivers of decline more effectively than single-species plans. This is true for wader species that depend on agricultural grassland habitats for their survival. They are among the most threatened birds in Europe, and their populations are declining in most countries. A Multi Species Action Plan will be created and tested for some of Europe’s lowland grassland breeding waders that are in trouble: the Eurasian Oystercatcher, European Lapwing, ‘Baltic’ Dunlin, Ruff, Common Snipe, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Redshank. They face similar threats, including habitat loss and habitat degradation, so a multi-species action plan in hand will allow for best use of resources to save eight species with a single combined effort.

Extinction is a scary word because it means losing something forever. But this effort will give us the knowledge we need to put measures in place to ensure that some of our most threatened species are given a fighting chance.

European Red List of Birds published


This video is called Bird Calls | Songs | Cries | Sounds of Britain & Europe.

From BirdLife:

The European Red List of Birds is here

By Lisa Benedetti, Wed, 03/06/2015 – 09:19

We have a few theories why the famous Dodo went extinct by 1700 on the island of Mauritius. Predation, habitat loss and invasive species were just too much for this friendly flightless creature.

The truth is, unless we act now, many other species of bird could follow the Dodo’s sad journey to the museum shelf. But we can help stop this from happening with the knowledge of how specific bird populations are doing and what threats they face. For birds in Europe, BirdLife International has just given us a tool that does all this, the European Red List of Birds.

Out of some 10,000 known bird species in the world, about 530 species nest, winter, and call Europe their home. Some have been able to adapt, or even benefit, from human activities (either directly or indirectly) but many others are really struggling to survive in this ever-changing world. The European Red List of Birds uses IUCN criteria to measure a species extinction risk and applies it at regional level, fine-tuning a global standard and digging deeper into the needs of individual European species.

What we present today is the fruit of years of labour from scientists, conservationists, policy makers, and people who simply care about birds. It’s the tool we can go to first to be sure that the birds we have in Europe today are here tomorrow as well. This list gives us the latest and best available information on the size and trends of populations and distributions of every regularly occurring wild bird species in Europe. It identifies the conservation status of species occurring not only across the entire European continent, but also the European Union (at the time of the assessment, 27 Member States [EU27]) where key nature legislation applies, the Birds and Habitats Directives. These are the laws that have been protecting European nature and wildlife the last decades.

So what does the European Red List of Birds say?

It tells us that 13% of 533 species are threatened at a European level (of the 67 species, 10 are Critically Endangered (the highest threat level) including the Balearic Shearwater, Slender-billed Curlew, and Yellow-breasted Bunting; 18 are Endangered and 39 are Vulnerable). When looking at the EU27 level, 18% of 451 species are threatened (of the 82 species: 11 are Critically Endangered, including the Lesser White-fronted Goose and the Greater Spotted Eagle, 16 are Endangered and 55 are Vulnerable). We also discovered what the main culprits are for this situation, and that two stand out above the rest: illegal killing and land-use changes, especially on farmland. Other serious threats are climate change, pollution and invasive non-native species.

On the upside, since we last did a regional assessment in 2004, the status of some species has really improved. Charismatic birds like the Dalmatian Pelican, Lesser Kestrel, Arctic Loon and Great Bustard have made a comeback largely because of conservation efforts and legal protection. We even have news that the extinction risk for another 25 species is lower than a decade ago so we’ve been able to downlist these species, meaning their conservation status has improved. Zino’s Petrel and Azores Bullfinch may still be in trouble, but it’s a good sign that they have gone from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

On the down side, we’ve had to uplist 29 species since 2004. Species now in trouble include the once common European Turtle-dove, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Atlantic Puffin, and Willow Grouse. And sadly, some species like the Egyptian Vulture, Northern Lapwing and Little Bustard, have not improved at all. This situation clearly highlights the need for the strong legislation and strict protection that the Birds and Habitats Directives offers to give these birds a fighting chance.

Europeans have proven time and time again they can tackle some of the most urgent, challenging and complex conservation priorities they face. Now, with the European Red List of Birds in hand, we are ready to focus and deliver effective conservation action. But we still need your help. The European Commission is planning to dismantle the Bird and Habitats Directives, the very laws that protect our birds and nature in Europe. It would be an environmental catastrophe to lose such a vital conservation tool, so please sign our petition and tell the Commission to keep our nature laws intact.

The European Red List of Birds project was coordinated by BirdLife, with help from IUCN, Wetlands International, European Bird Census Council, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB; BirdLife partner), the Czech Society for Ornithology (BirdLife Partner), the British Trust for Ornithology and Sovon Vogelonderzoek Nederland.

One of Eurasia’s most abundant bird species has declined by 90% and retracted its range by 5000 km since 1980 a new study shows. Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola was once distributed over vast areas of Europe and Asia, its range stretching from Finland to Japan. New research published in the journal Conservation Biology suggest that unsustainable rates of hunting, principally in China, have contributed to not only a catastrophic loss of numbers but also in the areas in which it can now be found: here.