samedi 24 septembre 2016

Handsome Male Copper-throated Sunbird

 
The copper-throated sunbird (Leptocoma calcostetha) is a species of bird in the Nectariniidae family. It is found in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical mangrove forests. source

mercredi 21 septembre 2016

Spix’s Macaw reappears in Brazil

 
It was Grandpa Pinpin’s dream: to see his favourite bird, Spix’s Macaw, fly again over the skies of Curaçá, a small town of about 30,000 in the dry Caatinga area of Bahia, Brazil, where goat herding is the main activity. Pinpin Oliveira passed away last year, aged 94, his wish unfulfilled. But the baton was passed to his 16 year old grand-daughter, Damilys, who not only saw the macaw, not seen in the wild since 2000, but also managed to film it with her mobile phone.
Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii is Critically Endangered and possibly extinct in the wild, primarily as a result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss.  Does this vibrant blue bird look familiar? The species also became the star of the animated film ‘Rio’, as main characters ‘Blu’ and ‘Jewel’. 130 Spix’s Macaws remain as part of a captive breeding programme.
The bird was first sighted on 18th June by local farmer Nauto Sergio de Oliveira. On the following day, his neighbour Lourdes Oliveira and daughter Damilys woke up before dawn to look for the macaw in Barra Grande creek’s riparian forest. At 6:20 AM they found and filmed it.
With the video Lourdes contacted the biologists from the Society for the Conservation of Birds in Brazil (SAVE Brasil, BirdLife Partner), one of the organisations that make up Projeto Ararinha na Natureza (Spix’s Macaw in the Wild Project) which aims to bring the bird back from extinction. The video and the distinctive vocal calls killed all doubts: it was indeed a Spix’s Macaw. Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil’s Director, immediately told other project members and organised an emergency trip to Curaçá to locate the bird.
“The local people were euphoric,” said Develey.
“They set up a WhatsApp group to coordinate and maximise the search for the bird, and ensured no potential dealers could enter the area.”
The people of Curaçá are extremely proud of the Spix’s Macaw. It is a symbol of their town, and they are aware of its importance, thanks in part to two years of community work from SAVE Brasil. 
This individual’s origin is uncertain, but was quite possibly released from captivity. Conservationists have had a large presence in the area where it would likely have been seen, and recent patrols and project warning signs against trapping might have prompted a panic release.
That said, Spix’s Macaw can live for 20-30 years in the wild (more in captivity) and the area is very large with some parts difficult to access.
“We don't know yet,” said Develey. “And that makes it even more interesting."
One thing is for sure: a Spix’s Macaw in the wild is precious. “Now we have a model to understand the bird's behaviour in the wild,” said Develey. “We can understand what to do when we release the captive birds in Curaçá.”
There is no more news as yet, but the project’s biologists and local residents of Curaçá are now mobilised. An official project expedition is also commencing, led by Instituto Chico Mendes para a Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio, federal government’s environmental agency responsible for biodiversity conservation). The expedition is sponsored by Vale, through Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade (Funbio – Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity).
According to Ugo Vercillo, Director of Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment, another partner organisation of Ararinha na Natureza project, the fact that a Spix’s Macaw appeared in Curaçá’s region reinforces the necessity of protecting this area. Since 2014,Ararinha na Natureza project has been working to create a 44,000 hectares protected area in the municipality to protect the Caatinga and riparian forests.
Lourdes Oliveira and her daughter Damilys in front of the tree where they shot the video of Spix's Macaw © Pedro Develey

Lourdes Oliveira and her daughter Damilys in front of the tree where they shot the video of Spix's Macaw © Pedro Develey
In parallel to the field efforts, breeding the species in captivity for future reintroduction in the wild is crucial for the project’s success, and is thanks to the participation of the breeders AWWP (Qatar), ACTP (Germany) and Fazenda Cachoeira (Brazil). With improvements in artificial insemination technologies, this year there were 19 new-borns.
According to Ugo Vercillo, Director of Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment, another project partner, the fact that a Spix’s Macaw appeared in Curaçá’s region reinforces the necessity of protecting this area. Since 2014, the project has been working to create a 44,000 hectares protected area in the municipality to protect the Caatinga and riparian forests.
In fact, Granpa Pinpin’s family donated a small area of their property (30 hectares) to become a reserve for Spix’s Macaw. And the bird then appears in front of their house!
“It’s very symbolic,” said Develey. “There’s hope again, and the people there are really committed for the reintroduction.”
Many questions remain: how did it reappear in the region? How long has it been roaming free? How is it adapting to living in the wild? Answers will come in due time. For now just one, thrillingly pleasant thought: a Spix’s Macaw is soaring free, again, in Curaçá’s Caatinga. BirdLife will keep you updated on progress.

mardi 20 septembre 2016

Extremely rare 'Species X' rediscovered in Brazil after 75 year disappearance

 
The blue eyes of an extremely rare bird hadn’t been seen for nearly a century. In one of the most extraordinary stories in Brazilian conservation, a group of researchers have announced the comeback of the Blue-eyed Ground-dove. Last documented in 1941, it was believed extinct. But now the species has been found at top-secret locations in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. However researchers can only confirm sightings of 12 individuals, so securing its habitat will be the key to conserving this elusive bird.
Imagine the buzz in the crowd last weekend at the Brazilian Birdwatching Festival when ornithologist Rafael Bessa unveiled his rediscovery. The highly-anticipated talk was named ‘Species X’ and for the first time in history, this bird’s song was played to the public. Previously known from a handful of stuffed and ageing museum specimens and some more recent unsubstantiated reports, Bessa brought the Blue-eyed Ground DoveColumbina cyanopis back to life.
“When he played the video there was a commotion in the crowd and non-stop applause,” said Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil (BirdLife in Brazil). “It was pure emotion.”
For the last few months the group of researchers - supported by SAVE Brasil, Rainforest Trust, and Butantan Bird Observatory – have been working in secret to scientifically report the rediscovery, and to simultaneously develop a conservation plan that secures the Critically Endangered bird’s long-term survival.
Describing the rediscovery, Bessa told Estadão:
“I returned to the place and I could recreate this vocalization with my microphone. I reproduced the sound and the bird landed on a flowering bush, coming towards me. I photographed the animal, and when I looked at the picture carefully, I saw that I had recorded something unusual. My legs started shaking.”

Only 12 individuals are confirmed: Blue-eyed Ground Dove <i>Columbina cyanopis</i> © Rafael Bessa


The Blue-eyed Ground-Dove occurs exclusively in Brazil and is threatened by the destruction of the Brazilian Cerrado, a savannah-like habitat. The jubilation of rediscovery quickly turned to sobering thoughts of acting fast to save the 12-or-more birds.
“We are now worried about the conservation of the species”, explained Rafael Bessa. “We are working on several fronts to build this plan. The main action is to ensure that the area where it was found becomes a protected area, which would benefit not only the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, but many other threatened species occurring there.”
With cobalt-blue eyes and dark blue spots on its wings that standout against its overall reddish-chestnut plumage, it’s hard to believe such an eye-catching bird went unnoticed for so long. But rapid rates of habitat loss in the region mean that many more species could be heading to extinction unseen.
“Increasing the knowledge on Brazilian biodiversity is the first step to ensure its conservation“, said Luciano Lima, Instituto Butantan. “And, by doing so, we contribute to a better quality of life and health for all species, including our own.”
Right after first spotting the bird, in July 2015, the ornithologist Rafael Bessa contacted Lima, from Instituto Butantan. With the support from the Institute and SAVE Brasil, they started studying the species. A research group was formed also including ornithologists Wagner Nogueira, Marco Rego and Glaucia Del Rio, the latter two from Louisiana State University (USA).
The exact location where the species was found, nor the bird’s song, will not be released by the researchers, until they conclude the conservation plan and implement the proposed measures.

The location and song of the Blue-eyed Ground-dove is being kept secret to protect it © Rafael Bessa

Within the conservation plan, the researchers are undertaking studies on the biology of the species, especially on behavior, breeding biology and feeding. They are also venturing to places with geographic and environmental features similar to the site of the original rediscovery, aiming to find additional populations. The search areas are identified through satellite imagery as well as a technique called Ecological Niche Modelling: based on several environmental features of the sites where the species occur, specific software uses mathematical models to predict areas potentially suitable to the species.
“So far we have visited many areas in three states, but the species was located only in two sites close together, both in the state of Minas Gerais, which reinforces the need for urgent action to guarantee its survival”, warned the ornithologist Wagner Nogueira.
The Blue-eyed Ground-dove seems to have a specific habitat that could be as Critically Endangered as the bird itself. Let the orange-red of the birds feathers be a colour warning to potential new infrastructure projects in the region – even a small project could wipe out this entire species.
Now brought to life publically again, only time will tell how SAVE Brasil and the research team can help further the life of this species.