Save Madeira’s sparrowhawks

This video is called Help Fura-bardos – Be part of saving Madeira’s unique species and the Laurel Forest.

From BirdLife:

Save the Macaronesian Sparrowhawk

By Cátia Gouveia, 12 Dec 2016

In this season of love and giving, SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) ask you to spare a thought for the plight of Fura-bardos (Macaronesian Sparrowhawk) – the famously elusive and sadly threatened resident of Madeira’s enchanting Laurel Forest. Cátia Gouveia (Coordinator of SPEA Madeira) explains how YOU can make a big difference by donating to their crowdfunding campaign – HELP FURA-BARDOS IN MADEIRA – which runs until 10th January 2017.

Throughout this festive season, a great many bottles of fine Madeira wine will be opened in our homes. But if you find yourself toasting your family’s heath over this tasty tipple, adding a little splash to the gravy accompanying your yuletide feast, or perhaps indulging in a delicious slice of Madeira cake, then please spare a thought too for the threatened nature of Portugal’s Madeira archipelago from where this famous wine hails. Madeira’s wine may be ‘fortified’ but her Laurel forest (Laurissilva) and its elusive resident, the Macaronesian Sparrowhawk (known locally as Fura-bardos), are in desperate need of extra strength and our protection.

The island of Madeira is home to the largest and best preserved Laurel Forest in the world – a subtropical, rainforest landscape, characterized by tall broadleaf tree species with glossy, evergreen and elongated leaves and an almost ethereal quality thanks to its highly humid yet mild temperatures. It has a scientifically rich ecosystem with as many as 82 endemic species of plants, mosses, invertebrates and, of course, birds.

Yet, despite its designation as a UNESCO world heritage site, the forest is in constant danger – plagued by human interference and invasive alien plant species that greedily encroach upon indigenous flora. All this has had devastating consequences for local wildlife, most notably Fura-bardos which has suffered fires in 5 breeding areas in 2016 alone.

Since 2013, SPEA has managed the LIFE Furabardos project in an attempt to save this magnificent bird of prey and the precious landscape it inhabits. Great conservation work has been done so far but the battle is far from won and, sadly, the fight cannot continue past summer 2017 unless we can secure more funds.

This is why SPEA has launched an ambitious crowd-funding campaign, ‘Help Fura-bardos in Madeira’, with a target of $60,000. Donations will go directly to the maintenance of 50 ha of restored laurissilva habitat (free from invasive species), the recovery of 20 ha of vulnerable vegetation damaged by fires, a greenhouse nursery project to grown 10,000 native plants and an annual monitoring programme of Fura-bardos nests.

Fura-bardos has always been notoriously difficult to spot in the wild, but if we fail to raise the funds we need, it may disappear from our forests altogether. The campaign runs until 10th January 2017, but we are still a long way off our goal. We need everyone to lend a helping hand – please share this campaign with your friends, family, and networks, and connect with us on social media by using the #HelpFuraBardos hashtag.

Make Fura-bardos’ story your story – and give it a happy ending!

Cátia Gouveia is Coordinator of SPEA Madeira and the Programme Coordinator of the Fura-Bardos campaign.

Desertas petrel, newly discovered vulnerable bird species

This video is called The View From The Ground – Desertas Islands (Madeira, Portugal) HD.

From BirdLife:

Newly born, the Desertas Petrel turns into one of Europe’s conservation challenges: are we ready for it?

Fri, 25/07/2014 – 11:40

The 2014 Red List of Birds update gives birth to a new European species, the Desertas Petrel, classified as Vulnerable.

The first time I heard about the Desertas Petrel, all I wanted to do was to climb on the peak of Bugio, one of the Desertas islands part of the Madeira archipelago in Portugal, where the bird breeds, and see this funny little pal with my own eyes.

What I didn’t know while climbing up was that Bugio would offer me an unforgettable wildlife experience: the red rock of the cliffs gives way to a plateau, 342m above sea level, with no trees or shrubs, but hundreds of seabird nests.  As the birds were spending their day at sea or guarding their deep nesting burrows, we could only see them at night – at the time, we didn’t have burrowscopes that would allow us to look inside burrows during daylight.

That was back in 2003 and we believed that the petrels on Bugio were the same species as those breeding in Cape Verde, so-called “Fea’s Petrel”.

The release of the 2014 Red List of Birds update officially treats the birds of the Bugio colony as a species in its own right called Desertas Petrel. This decision is based on solid scientific data, notably genetic studies, collected over the years by many BirdLife and other globally renowned biologists, and is outlined in HBW and BirdLife’s new Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World.

This year’s update involves the addition of 361 new species and the reassessment of over 4,000 bird species. It also tells us that seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds worldwide – and the Desertas Petrel is no exception: as soon as it was recognised as a new species, it was assessed as “Vulnerable”. If we are unable to eliminate the threats that currently affect the species, such as habitat deterioration and disturbance, its small population size could result in it becoming Critically Endangered in a relatively short period of time.

BirdLife is the Red List Authority for birds for the renowned IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which provides an authoratative overview of the species most in need of conservation action. The 2014 update will help the BirdLife Partnership redefine its conservation work on the ground and protect species like the Desertas Petrel which require urgent action.

Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe

Fossil Madeiran owl discovery

This is a video of a white-faced scops owl from Africa.

From Sci-News:

Sat, Mar 24th, 2012

Paleontologists Discover Extinct Species of Scops Owl

An international team of paleontologists has discovered a new species of fossil scops owl, the first extinct bird on the archipelago of Madeira, Portugal.

Twenty years ago, fossil remains of a small nocturnal bird of prey were discovered in Madeira by the German researcher Harald Pieper, but had not been studied in depth. Now, the team has shown that the remains belong to a previously unknown extinct species of scops owl.

A study, published in the journal Zootaxa, suggests that a new species called Otus mauli could be a land inhabiting scops owl that ate invertebrates and “occasionally lizards or birds”.

“It has long legs and wings slightly shorter than the continental European scops owl from which it derives”, said Dr. Josep Antoni Alcover, a co-author on the study and a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies.

“It is likely that their extinction is linked to the arrival of humans and the fauna they brought with them. Their disappearance formed part of a pattern of extinction of the island’s species, which occurred in virtually all the islands of the world.”

According to the team, amongst the causes of extinction of this scops owl, the destruction of its habitat is highlighted, as Madeira had a lot of serious fires during the seven years that followed the Portuguese arrival. Furthermore, humans brought new birds with diseases that were unfamiliar to the native species, as well as rats and mice that could prey on eggs of animals that had nests close to the ground.

The same or a similar species has been investigated in Porto Santo, another island of the archipelago of Madeira.

“This is extremely interesting,” Dr. Alcover said, “But difficult to assess because the materials found are limited and fragmented. If the scops owls of Madeira and Porto Santo were different species, it would mean that the Otus‘ flying ability is much more limited than continental scops owls. The distance between the two islands would be enough to isolate them.”

The homogeneity of the scops owls’ measurements on the two islands, as well as the differences compared to European scops owls suggests that they were genetically isolated from the European populations. The distance between the continent and the island was enough to explain the difference in the species.

On this island the team expects to discover new species of birds in the near future, which will report a world that disappeared just a few hundred years ago.

“The same thing will happen in the Azores islands where there is already evidence that a scops owl different to the ones in Madeira and Europe that is also extinct,” Dr. Alcover concluded.

Portuguese military threatens Zino’s petrel

This video is called Zino’s Petrel Ultimate Expedition with Hadoram Shirihai.

From BirdLife:

Radar station in Madeira threatens Zino’s Petrel


After many years of uncertainty and inaction, the Portuguese Government has finally started building a military radar on top of Pico do Areeiro, one of Madeira’s most popular tourist destinations and the only home of Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira, a rare endemic seabird.

The Pico do Areeiro lies within a Natura 2000 site designated as a Special Protection Area, and therefore has the highest level of protection under European Union law. “It is the only known breeding site in the world of Zino’s Petrel, a globally Endangered species whose total population of 65-80 pairs makes it the rarest seabird in Europe and one of the rarest birds in the world”, said Dr Ian Burfield – European Research and Database Manager at BirdLife International.

Since as long ago as 2000, SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and BirdLife International have opposed the construction of this radar station at Pico do Areeiro, which is an area of extreme importance for rare high-altitude flora, as well as Zino’s Petrel. Concerned that its construction and operation could have a detrimental impact on Zino’s Petrel, as well as the unique landscape, SPEA and BirdLife have repeatedly requested the plans to be shelved and EU nature legislation respected.

“Unfortunately, none of the valid arguments presented proved sufficient to convince the Madeiran and Portuguese authorities, who have now gone ahead, arguing that building the radar is a matter of national security”, added Dr Burfield.

Construction began in November 2009. The summit hostel, which used to serve as a must-stop tourist destination where people could admire the incredible mountain range that protects Zino’s Petrel, has already been removed to make way for the radar. “However, the project must follow all of the mitigation and compensation measures indicated in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), such as avoiding any construction work during the breeding season of Zino’s Petrel between March and October”, warned Dr Burfield.

“SPEA is following progress very closely, and verifying that every precaution mentioned in the EIA is adhered to”, said Iván Ramirez – BirdLife’s European Marine Coordinator. “SPEA-Madeira staff are visiting the site regularly and will immediately report any anomalies to the Ministry of Defence and the University of Aveiro, which produced the EIA and is responsible for the follow-up and monitoring of the project”. Through SPEA, BirdLife is also keeping a very close eye on the situation, as any negative impacts on the species could rapidly move it closer to extinction.

More information on the BirdLife Global Seabirds programme here.

A massive forest fire on the island of Madeira has killed several breeding adults and 65% of this year’s chicks of Zino’s Petrel (Endangered). BirdLife International and SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) have launched an urgent appeal (click here) for funds to carry out emergency conservation work needed before the winter sets in: here.

During the summer of 2010, forest fires ravaged parts of Madeira, a Portuguese island and home to Europe’s rarest seabird, Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira: here.

Black Petrels (Procellaria parkinsoni) Patrol the Ocean Shelf-Break: GPS Tracking of a Vulnerable Procellariiform Seabird: here.

Seabirds in Portugal, new book

This is a video of Cory’s shearwaters and dolphins near Madeira.

From BirdLife:

The first Portuguese Marine IBA inventory published


After four years of intense work SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) has published the first Portuguese Inventory of Marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

Portugal is a haven for seabirds, with the archipelagos of Azores and Madeira hosting the largest populations of species such as the Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea or the Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii.

Video about Cory’s shearwaters on Malta: here.

Leucistic Cory’s shearwater chick photographed by Ricardo Rocha on the Madeira Archipelago: here.

Malta born Cory’s Shearwater flies to Senegal: here.

England: Three months of public consultation are getting under way on plans to make Liverpool Bay a special protection area for birds: here.

Isle of May seabird chick numbers up – But total populations decline: here.

September 2010: A new report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) reveals that Scotland’s seabird numbers appear to be levelling off, after a steady period of decline since 2000: here.

Scottish Red Kite in the Azores: here.

Seabirds’ movement patterns tied to what fishermen toss away: here.

Fishing gear in EU waters is estimated by BirdLife International and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) to have killed two million seabirds in the past ten years, more than the toll recorded from all the European oil tanker disasters put together as far back as the Torrey Canyon in 1967: here.

The Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) is promoting International Ornithology Courses in the Algarve. “Discover BIRDS & BIRDLIFE in the Algarve” is the slogan for this program, which aims to promote knowledge about birds and their biology, as well as “birding” as a culture and business opportunity: here.