Amazonian birds helping each other


This 2016 video says about itself:

Wingbeats to the Amazon – The Secrets of Nature

Flourishing in the wilds of South America is a greater variety of birds than anywhere else on Earth. Like its people, the continent’s birds are unique and flamboyant.

From San Francisco State University in the USA:

Amazonian ‘lookout’ birds help other species live in dangerous neighborhoods

Study could inform rainforest bird conservation

May 22, 2018

Usually, birds of a feather flock together — but in the Amazon, some flocks feature dozens of species of all shapes and colors. A new study by San Francisco State University biologists singles out one reason why these unusually diverse flocks exist: lookout species that call in alarm when they spot dangerous predators.

Researchers have pondered the existence of these mixed-species flocks for decades, especially because of their stability. “You come back to the same habitat after 20 years, and the same flocks are using the same areas of the forest”, explained San Francisco State Professor of Biology Vance Vredenburg. “It defies a lot of expectations.”

But scientists did have a few clues. One ubiquitous group of flock members are species whose calls alert their neighbors to the presence of threats like hawks or falcons. “People have thought for a while that maybe these ‘sentinels’ promote the ability of other species to use risky parts of the forest”, said lead author Ari Martinez, who was a postdoctoral researcher at SF State during the study. By opening up new habitat to their neighbors, they might also bring together species that would normally flock on their own.

To put that idea to the test, the team captured alarm-calling dusky-throated antshrikes (Thamnomanes ardesiacus) from eight mixed-species flocks in southeastern Peru and kept each bird in an aviary for several days.

After the team removed the antshrikes, birds in each flock responded in a matter of hours. In three flocks, birds retreated to areas of denser cover at the same vertical level in the forest, while in another the members joined new flocks high in the canopy, another area that affords more cover from predators. Birds in control flocks, where the researchers captured antshrikes but immediately released them, tended to stay out in the open. The team reported their results today in the journal Ecology.

The results support the idea that alarm-calling species might allow their neighbors to live in dangerous neighborhoods. “These flocks occupy a middle layer of the rainforest that’s not quite the ground and not quite the canopy”, explained coauthor Eliseo Parra, a lecturer and researcher at San Francisco State. “A lot of literature suggests that this area is more dangerous. There are more opportunities for a predator to be hidden and still have a quick flight path.” Remove the antshrikes and their former flockmates are left exposed, so they retreat to safer habitats.

Another consequence of the removal is that almost all of the members of mixed-species flocks spent less time with the bulk of the flock. “Some species would retreat to one habitat, and some individuals to another,” said Parra. “From an anecdotal perspective, you no longer saw a flock.”

Even if they don’t look the part, this makes alarm-calling birds similar to “keystone species” that have an unusually big effect on their environment, like beavers and wolves. Antshrikes may not have a large impact on their physical environment, but they influence the behavior of many other species by creating a safe zone from predators. “It’s a way that species diversity might be maintained in the forest”, said Martinez, adding that this could make them valuable targets for conservation efforts.

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How an ancient Peruvian queen looked


This video says about itself:

15 December 2017

Scientists reconstructed the face of a Peruvian queen nearly 1,200 years after her death. Using a 3D print of her skull as a base, her facial features were rebuilt by hand. Found in 2012, the woman was buried in a tomb that also contained 57 other noblewomen.

New antbird species discovery in Peru


This video says about itself:

20 January 2017

Watch this amazing video from the Cordillera Azul project! You will realize how beautiful is the tropical rainforest in Peru and how its conservation is giving hope to the local populations and helping to tackle climate change.

From Louisiana State University in the USA:

New antbird species discovered in Peru

December 14, 2017

Summary: LSU describes a distinctive new species of antbird from humid montane forest of the Cordillera Azul, Martin Region, Peru.

It was July 10, 2016 when Dan Lane, Fernando Angulo, Jesse Fagan, and I rolled into the coffee-growing town of Flor de Café in north-central Peru. This town lies in the Cordillera Azul — a picturesque series of outlying Andean ridges hardly explored by ornithologists. In fact, the first ornithological inventory in the region was only in 1996, when a team of researchers from the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science (LSUMNS), bushwhacked into the extremely remote eastern Cordillera Azul. It was on this expedition that Dan, then a beginning graduate student at LSU, discovered the distinctive Scarlet-banded Barbet (Capito wallacei) on “Peak 1538.” Now, twenty years later, we were back to see this iconic species, which graces the cover of the Birds of Peru field guide.

Flor de Café, in the somewhat more accessible western Cordillera Azul, has become the hub for barbet-chasers since LSUMNS associates Todd Mark and Walter Vargas confirmed its presence here in 2011. Thus, we were not surprised to run into another bird watcher, Josh Beck, as we moved our gear into the single guest house in town. Within moments of meeting, Josh began telling us of a strange, ground-walking antbird he had encountered the previous day and documented with a sound recording. We quickly realized that his bird was a species new to science.

Fast-forward a year and a half. Today, December 13, 2017, the Auk has published the formal description of the Cordillera Azul Antbird (Myrmoderus eowilsoni).

This 12 December 2017 video from the USA is called A new species of antbird is being named after Dr. E.O. Wilson to honor his contributions to conservation.

Based on our initial visit and a follow-up expedition led by LSU graduate student Oscar Johnson, we’ve learned a few things about this new species: its closest relative is the Ferruginous-backed Antbird (of which the nearest populations are about 1,500 km to the east in lowland forests of Brazil), it eats insects, the males and females sing different songs, it lives in pristine understory of humid forest, and its future near Flor de Café is very grim.

Chainsaws were an overwhelming component of the soundscape around town. We even asked some locals to delay cutting activities so that we could get better voice recordings of the antbird. Sun-coffee farming, which necessitates clear-cutting, is the main source of income for the residents of Flor de Café. By contrast, birding ecotourism benefits only a few residents, leading to some unfortunate and ongoing tensions within the town. There is clearly a great need for environmental education and conservation work in the region.

What I haven’t yet mentioned is that Flor de Café is located very near the Cordillera Azul National Park, which was created in 2001 and contains over 13,500 km2 of pristine habitat. We are very optimistic that future exploration within the park will produce new localities for the antbird and barbet, both presently facing severe habitat loss around Flor de Café.

From an ornithological perspective, the Cordillera Azul remains mysterious and tantalizing. Perhaps it holds a new hummingbird or tody-tyrant? Regardless of any future discoveries to be made in the Cordillera Azul, I hope that the new antbird brings attention to the incredibly biodiverse and distinctive avifauna of the region. I also hope that this discovery serves as a potent reminder of how far we still have to go in cataloguing the diversity of life on this planet!

New Peruvian bird species discovery by its song


This 24 October 2017 video is about the newly discovered bird species Machaeropterus eckelberryi.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

New Peruvian bird species discovered by its song

October 23, 2017

A new species of bird from the heart of Peru remained undetected for years until researchers identified it by its unique song.

In 1996, a group of Louisiana State University and Florida Museum of Natural History researchers traveled to the Cordillera Azul, an isolated mountain ridge in Peru, where they discovered a previously unknown manakin species.

With its bright yellow front feathers, the bird was different from the local subspecies of striped manakin, but nearly identical to the subspecies Machaeropterus regulus aureopectus found in the distant Venezuelan tepuis. But it has a completely different voice.

The newly discovered manakin‘s song lacks undertones and has a one-noted rising vocalization, rather than two-noted falling vocalization with undertones or a falling monosyllabic vocalization with undertones.

It was given the name Machaeropterus eckelberryi, commemorating the 20th century bird illustrator Don Eckelberry.

Andy Kratter, a museum ornithology collection manager, said the differences went unnoticed for years because the research team didn’t have vocalizations for all of the bird species.

“We kind of sat on it for a long time because we didn’t have vocalizations of the birds in Venezuela, and this bird is different from the local birds but close enough to the Venezuelan birds that it might have been considered the same species,” he said. “In manakins, it’s often subtle clues that might be different among species.”

The discovery of the new species and details of the expedition were recently published in Zootaxa.

Kratter said finding the new species and the isolated mountain ridge were important for the scientific community, in part because the discovery spurred Peru to preserve the area.

“The Peruvian government established a national park in the area in the early 2000s, mainly as a result of finding this novel diversity in this area, which our expedition did,” he said. “Finding these guys opened up a little more inventory and exploration, which led to the formation of this gigantic national park.”

Dan Lane, leader of the expedition and a research associate at LSU, was the first to record the new species, and he said it is one more bird for the ornithological community to include in their studies.

“Even if we weren’t discovering new species, just exploring regions of the world that are still poorly known and getting a better picture of where species are distributed, what habitats they use and how we may use this knowledge to preserve them is a worthwhile activity,” he said. “Peru still has many treasures hidden in unexplored nooks and crannies, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the opportunity to uncover them. To this day, it may be some of the most virgin terrain I’ve ever visited.”

A grant from the National Geographic Society’s Fund for Research and Exploration funded the research in 1996.

Slate-throated redstart nestlings in Peru fledge, video


This video says about itself:

19 September 2017

Both Slate-throated Redstart nestlings fledged this past weekend on the morning of Saturday, September 16th! Watch highlights of the young fledglings’ last minutes in the nest, including the chicks’ final feedings, the nestlings’ rocket launch style approach at fledging, and the adult’s realization that both the chicks had left the nest.

The fledglings will now head out into the cloud forest of Peru on their own, and their parents will continue to provide food for a few weeks before they become independent. Thanks to our friends and partners at Inkaterra​ for helping to provide this experience!

Slate-throated redstart nest in Peru, videos


This video says about itself:

Quick Meal And Brooding For Slate-throated Redstart Nestlings –Sept. 11, 2017

Watch the cam live, 24/7, at http://allaboutbirds.org/redstarts

The Slate-throated Redstart cam is situated on the expansive grounds of the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in Machupicchu Pueblo, Peru, situated a few thousand feet below the ruins of Machu Picchu.

The small roofed nest is a little under a meter off the ground in a thicket of common ivy that covers a stone wall on the property. In studies of Slate-throated Redstarts in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, it took an average of 14 days of incubation before eggs hatched, followed by an average of 11 days until fledging. As this nest hatched on the morning of September 4, we would expect the young to fledge sometime around September 15.

The biggest challenge to seeing these birds fledge isn’t even the technical aspect of the cam: it’s the high chance of the nest being predated or failing prior to fledging. Across the tropics, the rate of nest failure in open cup nesting birds can be 80% or higher! This figure holds for Slate-throated Redstart species that have been studied in other locales, and we can’t know whether this particular nest will survive; however, most birds in the tropics cope with this reality by nesting multiple times within the breeding season, and laying fewer eggs per attempt — literally, not putting all of their eggs in one basket!

This video from the nest in Peru says about itself:

Slate-throated Redstarts Feed Nestlings On A Rainy Day, 9/8/2017

This video from the nest in Peru says about itself:

Slate-throated Redstart Pair Feeds Nestlings, 9/8/2017