Tibetan ground-tits, new study

This video says about itself:

Groundpecker [=ground tit] (Pseudopodoces humilis) Juveniles’ Behavior

Date: 17 August 2012

Location: Polokangka La, Ladakh, India

From Animal Behaviour:

Cuckolded male ground tits increase parental care for the brood


Polyandrous females benefit from reduced workload in brood provisioning.

• Polyandrous females produced young with larger extrapair partners.

• Cuckolded males increase parental care for the brood with mixed paternity.

• Polyandrous females’ paternity allocation determines cuckolded males’ responses.

Extrapair copulations (EPCs) occur widely in socially monogamous birds. How cuckolded males respond to the infidelity of their social mates is still problematic. We addressed this question in the ground tit, Pseudopodoces humilis, in which EPCs occur frequently and successful reproduction relies on biparental care. In solitarily breeding pairs, we calculated the feeding rate of social pairs at polyandrous and monogamous females’ nests. Compared with that at monogamous nests, cuckolded males increased their feeding rate whereas polyandrous females reduced theirs.

Polyandrous females had larger extrapair partners, although their extrapair young were neither heavier nor had higher heterozygosity than their within-pair young. Extrapair males never provided paternal care for the mixed brood and polyandrous females had no opportunity to forage on the territory of extrapair males. Therefore, the energetic benefit polyandrous females obtained was due to the increased parental care of their social mates. Even losing some share, cuckolded males still gained most of the paternity within the mixed brood. By increasing parental care for the current brood, they could ensure the survival of their own offspring.

Thus, we suggest that females place their social male in a cruel bind by creating a larger brood containing some unrelated young: if the social male does not step up provisioning to meet the demands of the larger brood, overcrowding may reduce the survival of his offspring. Polyandrous females maintain the fitness incentive for their social males to provide parental care by limiting the paternity of extrapair males to a minority of the brood.

Gandhi’s murderer getting statue, jail for eating beef in theocratic India?

This video from India says about itself:

Romila Thapar on the Colonial Scholarship Behind Hindu Rastra

Hindu Rastra (or Rashtra) is the idea of a fanatical tendency of some Hindu religious people that India should become a theocratic ultra-orthodox Hindu state, with inequality for Muslims, Christians, atheists, Jews, liberal and/or lower caste and non-caste Hindus and others.

There are some parallels with the ‘Islamic State’ advocated by ISIS terrorists; and with fanatical tendencies within Christianity, Judaism, and other religions.

27 October 2015

Hindu Rastra is Drawn from the Scholarship of Colonial Historians”

Romila Thapar, at the launch of the two websites of the Indian Writers’ Forum Trust, speaks on the recent attempts at the rewriting of history to suit the purposes of a Hindu India. The proponents of this theory claim that history must not only be rewritten, but corrected – a more dangerous proposition than rewriting.

She does not find the approach – in spite of its absurdity -, the working of some fantasy, but a very systematic approach to suit history for the argument of a Hindu state. Most of these claims are based on the work of colonial scholarship such as the historians James Mill, Max Mueller, and [Theosophist US American] Colonel Olcott.

The irony of the fact remains that those who oppose the secular history as Western must fall back on colonial scholarship of Indian history done by – to borrow the vocabulary of the Hindu Right – Westerners. “It is colonial scholarship which is at the foundation of this new so-called indigenous history”, says Thapar. She concludes by saying that there may be various versions of history, but pleads for a space where these versions can be debated and discussed in public or in institutions. What must be opposed is the reduction of all knowledge to a single narrative and the grounding of that knowledge on a single ideology.

Today, Dutch Internet site De Correspondent publishes an article by correspondent Peter Speetjens in India. He interviewed Ms Romila Thapar.

Translation of some of it:

Meanwhile in India: A Muslim who eats a cow can get up to five years in prison

There is a cultural revolution going on in India. Minorities are converted, books banned, intellectuals gagged.

Some people even advocate to have a statue for Nathuram Godse, the man who on January 30, 1948 shot dead Mahatma Gandhi. Godse: the staunch Hindu nationalist who took up arms. Gandhi, the father of secular India, with a firm belief in nonviolence.

Romila Thapar, now professor emeritus, was at the time of the murder a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Godse’s hometown Pune.

Although she has been retired for years, she still regularly writes. Last year, for instance, her twentieth and latest book.

The developments in her country cause her great concern.

“Gandhi’s death was like a knockout punch,” says the 83-year-old historian in her apartment in South Delhi, filled with books, art and antiques. “There was, after India’s independence, so much hope in the country. Until that happened … Suddenly we saw the presence of an intense ugliness, of which we never we were previously aware. ”

She talks about the murder as if it occurred yesterday. “We were scared. Suppose that the killer was a Muslim, it would have led to massive retaliation. But even when it became known that the culprit was a Hindu, the situation remained tense. We could not understand. Gandhi was such a great man. Who could do that? And why? How could Gandhi’s death be a solution for anything?”…

Since a year the Hindu Mahasabha organisation is calling for a statue for Godse. The movement even wants to make a film about his life.

“It is a frightening development,” says the elegantly black-clad Thapar. “We are talking about the rehabilitation of a convicted murderer”. …

And it does not stop with a posthumous tribute to an ancient Hindu nationalist hero. Since last May, the political wing of Godse’s movement has an absolute majority in the Indian parliament. …

Last 28 September, a mob of about a hundred Hindus stormed the house of Mohammed Akhlaq in Bisara village, dragged him outside and clubbed him dead, after a local priest had – wrongly – proclaimed through a loudspeaker that the 50-year-old Muslim had supposedly butchered a calf. His son ended up badly injured in hospital.

Prime Minister Modi did not consider it necessary to condemn the act, even though eight of the eleven arrested suspects have links with his Hindu nationalist BJP party.

The cow is sacred to Hindus and in most Indian states there is a slaughter ban. The western state of Maharashtra did not think that went far enough and in March also banned the slaughter of bulls and oxen. For eating ‘bad meat’ there is now a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison. Although not all Hindus are strictly vegetarian, such bans hit especially the 200 million Indian Muslims and Christians.

This 15 October 2015 video from India is called Romila Thapar: In The Wake of the Beef Controversy.

From the (non-theocratic) daily The Hindu:

October 10, 2015 05:49 IST

‘BJP, RSS trying to declare India Hindu rashtra’

“The Constitution has taken care that people of all religions live in the country and so the country has not been accorded the status of Hindu rashtra…if BJP and RSS turn it into a Hindu rashtra, I want to tell Dalits and adivasis that their interests will not be safe,” Ms. Mayawati stressed.

National birds of various countries

This video from New Zealand says about itself:

21 January 2010

Last night the worst drought in 20+ years here on Purerua Peninsula was broken with a 36mm rainfall. This afternoon, one of our local kiwis came out in broad daylight. We think it had been getting hungry because the ground was too hard and dry to penetrate during the drought, but with the softer soil today, the bird came out to catch up on feeding.

Kiwis are the national birds of New Zealand.

This week, the black-tailed godwit won in the Dutch national bird election.

Dutch Vroege Vogels TV then went to The Hague, where the foreign embassies are, to ask the ambassadors of New Zealand, Israel, India and the USA about their national birds. The interviews are on this video.

The national bird of India is the peacock.

This video is called Pavo cristatus – Indian blue peacock calling.

The peacock is the symbol of the gods Indra and Vishnu in Hindu religion. Killing a peacock used to be punished with the death penalty.

This is a hoopoe video from the Czech republic.

In May 2008, the hoopoe was voted national bird of Israel. 155,000 people participated in the election.

This video from North Dakota in the USA is called Bald Eagles (Accipitridae: Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Nest-building.

In 1782, the United States Congress voted to have the bald eagle as national bird; though Benjamin Franklin would have preferred the turkey.

Birds have been honored, revered and worshipped in many different cultures throughout human history, and birds as gods or god-like figures is just one of the many cultural connections humans and birds share: here.

Threatened birds, new Red List

This video says about itself:

Birds: Critically endangered species in India: IUCN Red list

5 August 2015

From BirdLife:

2015 Red List – vultures, shorebirds and other iconic species

By Adrian Long, Thu, 29/10/2015 – 00:02

The plight of Africa’s Vultures is big news for the 2015 Red List update, but a number of other important changes also grab the attention this year.

Worldwide, 40 more bird species are now classified as having a higher risk of extinction in the 2015 Red List. Besides the vultures, these include many wading shorebirds, and other iconic species like Helmeted Hornbill, Swift Parrot, Atlantic Puffin, and European Turtle-dove.

Conversely, 23 species of birds have been downgraded to lower threat categories. In some cases, this reflects a better understanding of how they are faring, but some species have undergone remarkable recoveries as a result of conservation action, including Seychelles Warbler and Chatham Petrel.

IUCN Red List changes – summary in numbers

24 bird species are now classified as having a higher risk of extinction (either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered) in the 2015 Red List update of birds, with seven species being upgraded to Critically Endangered. Another 16 bird species have seen their status change from Least Concern (the lowest level of threat) to Near Threatened. 23 species have been downgraded to lower threat categories.

7 species uplisted to Critically Endangered

Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

– White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis: Vulnerable to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

– Rüppell’s Vulture Gyps rueppellii: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

– Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil: Near Threatened to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.
As well as severe loss of its South-East Asian forest habitat, the species is known to be targeted by hunters for its feathers and for its solid ‘ivory’ casque, which is used to produce handicrafts and traded with China. Previously, it was thought that capture rates may be relatively low as a result of the species becoming shy over centuries of hunting. However, recent reports suggest that the species is currently being traded on a large scale.

– Swift Parrot Lathamus discolor: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.
Breeds on Tasmania before migrating to the Australian mainland for the winter. Affected by extensive habitat loss (both breeding and wintering areas) and, in 2014, it was reported that the species is also facing a severe threat from the introduced Sugar Glider Petaurus breviceps – a small possum – in its breeding areas.

Chestnut-capped Piha Lipaugus weberi: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.
There are fewer than 250 individuals of this grey songbird, which is restricted to a few fragmented forest populations on the northern slope of the Central Andes of Colombia. Continued forest degradation and clearance for construction, agriculture and commercial plantations in the region are having profound and long-term environmental impacts on the species.

Wader/Shorebird species declines

Eight wader/shorebird species have seen their threat status upgraded, including Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris and Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis. Both species, which have gone up from Vulnerable to Endangered, use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and are under intense pressure from the loss of intertidal stopover habitat in the Yellow Sea region of East Asia. Up to 65% of intertidal habitat in the Yellow Sea has been lost over the past 50 years, and the remaining habitat is currently disappearing at a rate of more than 1% annually, owing to reclamation for agriculture, aquaculture and other development.

Several other more widespread species of wading bird have seen their status raised from Least Concern to Near Threatened. Populations of the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Red Knot Calidris canutus and Curlew Sandpiper C. ferruginea are declining in East Asia and Australasia for the same reasons as above – but also in some other parts of their large world ranges, from Africa to the Americas.

Two other well-known waterbirds concentrated in Europe, Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus and Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus have also been uplisted to Near Threatened, owing to factors including the loss of breeding meadow habitat and overharvesting of shellfish, respectively.

Main successes

A total of 23 species have been downlisted to a lower level of threat. However, not all of these changes are down to actual improvements in the species’ plights, with many of the downlistings due to a better knowledge of individual populations and a more accurate revised picture of how the species in question are faring.

However, one particular conservation success story is Seychelles Warbler Acrocephalus sechellensis. Once one of the world’s rarest songbirds, it was present on a number of Seychelles islands until human disturbance reduced it to a single population of just 26 birds on the tiny (0·3 km²) Cousin Island in 1968. The island was purchased by the International Council for Bird Preservation (the forerunner to BirdLife International) in that year.

Subsequent intensive conservation management, such as the clearance of coconut plantations, which allowed the warbler’s woodland to regenerate, and translocations to four other Seychelles islands, means that the population reached 2,800 individuals in 2014, with conservationists expecting it to rise to a capacity of around 7,000 birds in future. As a result the species has been downlisted from Vulnerable to Near Threatened.

In addition, Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii, formerly one of the world’s rarest breeding seabirds, with just 1,000 pairs in 1975, has seen its status improve from Near Threatened to Least Concern, due largely to the protection of its breeding colonies in the Ebro Delta in north-east Spain. There are now more than 20,000 pairs in the western Mediterranean.

Chatham Petrel Pterodroma axillaris breeds only in the remote Chatham Islands, c. 400 miles south-east of New Zealand. Historically, like many Pacific seabirds, its numbers were significantly impacted by invasive introduced mammalian predators, such as cats and brown rats. During the second half of the 20th century, the Chatham Petrel faced another threat in the form of nest-site competition with a much commoner seabird, Broad-billed Prion Pachyptila vittata. This led to a reduction in the Chatham Petrel population at a rate of approximately 1% a year, and in 1995 the population stood at a low of around 600-800 birds; the species was consequently listed as Endangered. However, following conservation measures, such as the installation of burrow flaps (which allow Chatham Petrels access to their nest sites, but exclude the prions) and the translocation of the petrels to two predator-free islands in the group, the species has been downlisted to Vulnerable.

Wildlife and weather in India, film

This video from India says about itself:

Wildlife Documentary – When The Peacocks Sing: A Prequel to the Monsoons | Pocket Films

18 October 2014

This beautifully shot documentary captures the magical transformation of the dry state of Rajasthan into a lush, beautiful region when the monsoon sets in.

The organisers of the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, write about this film:

In the semi-arid state of Rajasthan in North West India, the receding summer gives way to the pre-monsoons (a brief period with intermittent rains) making it one of the best spectacles of transformation. Set amidst dry landscapes and ancient monuments, the film showcases how the heat affects the inhabitants of the region – both human and wild animals, and behaviour patterns of each species in this period of scarcity.

Then the Monsoons finally descend, transforming everything around it – playing their part in the cyclic rotation of seasons that has been going on since time immemorial.