Flappy makes a flying start

tagged-cuckoo-4-yeyahu-26-may-2016-close-up

Close up of one of the tagged bird. Photo courtesy Beijing Cuckoo Project

An exciting new project is currently underway to find the wintering grounds of East Asia’s Common Cuckoos.

Through the Beijing Cuckoo Project, satellite transmitters have been placed on five Common Cuckoos in order to track their international movements.

The birds were all trapped in the Beijing area where local schoolchildren have chosen names for them and encouraged to follow their movements online as they move first to their breeding grounds then in the autumn to their as yet unknown wintering grounds.

The Oriental Bird Club has sponsored a transmitter on one of the cuckoos, which the pupils at Dulwich International School, Beijing, chose to name Flappy McFlapperson.

Continue reading

Trade wiping out Indonesia’s bird species

javan-hawk-eagle-580

Indonesia’s national bird – the Javan Hawk-eagle – is one of those most at risk © Chris R Shepherd / TRAFFIC

Jakarta, Indonesia, 26th May 2016 — A new study published in the latest issue of Forktail, the journal of the Oriental Bird Club, has revealed that 13 bird species—including Indonesia’s national bird, the Javan Hawk-eagle—found in Sundaic Indonesia are at serious risk of extinction because of excessive over-harvesting.

The study, Trade-driven extinctions and near-extinctions of avian taxa in Sundaic Indonesia, also finds that an additional 14 bird subspecies are in danger of extinction. The driver behind this crisis is the enormous demand for birds for the domestic pet trade.

Continue reading

Volunteers sought to survey Yellow-breasted Buntings in Mongolia

Male Yellow-breasted Bunting © G. Amarkhuu

Populations of Yellow-breasted Bunting, Emberiza aureola, are rapidly declining across their range and the species has recently been classified as Endangered by IUCN. They were once common in the northern Palearctic from Finland and Belarus, eastwards to north-east Asia. Mainly due to excessive hunting in China and several other reasons, the species has declined across its range and become quite rare. However, ecological aspects of the decline remain unclear.

Continue reading

Mixed news for Asia’s vultures

Slender-billed Vultures, Assam (c) James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

Slender-billed Vultures, Assam (c) James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

The latest issue of the IUCN’s Vulture Specialist Group newsletter (PDF, 200KB) has been published. Covering vulture news from around the world, the newsletter includes mixed news from Asia where, on the positive side, there is a growing prospect of the first releases back to the wild of Critically Endangered vulture species in Nepal and India.

Offset against this, however, are ongoing concerns over the continuing use of the vulture-killing drug diclofenac and derivatives thereof: one Indian pharmaceutical company is challenging in court the latest ban on multi-dose vials of the human formulations. Meanwhile a paper demonstrating that aceclofenac (a pro-drug to diclofenac) is indeed metabolised directly to diclofenac in cattle has been published this month, highlighting the urgent need for a veterinary ban.

Illegal cage bird trade threatens Black-winged Myna

Black-winged-Myna / Khaleb-Yordan

llegal trade is pushing the Critically Endangered Black-winged Myna towards extinction © Khaleb Yordan

Jakarta, Indonesia, 13th August—So rare that captive breeding centres have been robbed, the soaring prices and drop in availability of Black-winged Mynas in trade point to a species on the brink.

Black-winged Mynas are prized in the cage bird trade for their striking black and white plumage, lively behaviour and singing ability; today their extreme rarity in the wild adds to their desirability.

The species is native only to the islands of Java and Bali and is protected under Indonesian law. Despite this, illegal capture in the wild continues, while trade is carried out openly in Indonesia’s notorious bird markets.

Surveys by TRAFFIC and Oxford Brookes University researchers between 2010 and 2014 found significantly fewer Black-winged Mynas available in the three largest bird markets in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta: down by three-quarters since the 1990s. This coincides with a more than ten-fold increase in asking prices and the near complete decimation of the species in the wild.

The crisis facing the Black-winged Myna and other Asian songbirds is scheduled to come under expert scrutiny next month at the inaugural Asian Songbird Crisis Summit, taking place on 26-29th September 2015 in Singapore.

Continue reading

Superabundant bird decline mirrors Passenger Pigeon

Yellow-breasted Bunting male on the breeding grounds © Ulrich Schuster / Amur Bird Project

Yellow-breasted Bunting male on the breeding grounds © Ulrich Schuster / Amur Bird Project

One of the Eurasia’s most abundant bird species has declined by 90% and retracted its range by 5000km since 1980 a new study shows.

Yellow-breasted Bunting 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 a catastrophic loss of numbers and also in the areas in which it can now be found.

“The magnitude and speed of the decline is unprecedented among birds distributed over such a large area, with the exception of the Passenger Pigeon, which went extinct in 1914 due to industrial-scale hunting”, said Dr Johannes Kamp from the University of Münster, the lead author of the paper.

High levels of hunting also appear to be responsible for the declines in Yellow-breasted Bunting.

“A Century on from America’s folly and Asia is blindly following suit, allowing a once superabundant bird to spiral into oblivion,” said Richard Thomas, OBC Council Member.

Continue reading

Jerdon’s Babbler rediscovered in Myanmar

Jerdon’s Babbler, rediscovered in Myanmar in May 2014 © Robert Tizard / WCS

5th March 2015—Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre has been rediscovered in Myanmar by a scientific team from WCS, Myanmar’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division – MOECAF, and National University of Singapore (NUS).

Jerdon’s Babbler had last been seen in Myanmar in July 1941 and was considered by many to be extinct in the country.

News of the exciting rediscovery has been unveiled in the latest issue of BirdingASIA, the six-monthly journal of the Oriental Bird Club.

The printed article will be distributed to Club members, while an electronic version can be downloaded here: BirdingAsia22 pp13-15 (PDF, 50 KB)

Continue reading

Asian ibis on the Edge

ibis_copy1

Giant Ibis (c) James Eaton / BirdtourAsia

An assessment by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Yale University of bird species worldwide has helped produce a list of the top 100 most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) species.

Top of the list is the rare and striking Giant Ibis, which today can most easily be found in northern Cambodia. Approximately 230 pairs remain in the wild, many of them protected by local campaigns run through the Sam Veasna Centre and BirdLife Cambodia. Chief threats to the ibis are habitat loss, human disturbance and hunting.

New bird family from the eastern Himalayas

spottedwbsessniap

The Spotted Elachura Elachura formosa, newly elevated to single-family status. (c) James Eaton / BirdtourASIA

DNA molecular analysis has revealed that the Spotted Wren-babbler is a unique species, unrelated to wren-babblers and is best placed in its own family, the Elachuridae.

Henceforth the species will be called the Spotted Elachura Elachura formosa.

The discovery, by Professor Per Alström and co-workers, is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Molecular analysis of passerine families identified 10 separate evolutionary branches, one of which was unique to the Spotted Elachura, the only living representative of one of the earliest off-shoots within the passeriformes

The Spotted Elachura is extremely secretive and difficult to observe, usually staying hidden within dense tangled undergrowth in subtropical mountain forests.

The male’s high-pitched song doesn’t resemble any other continental Asian bird song. The close resemblance in appearance to wren-babbler species is thought due either to pure chance or convergent evolution.