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Common Myna Added to World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species List

Common MynaHello, Frank Indiviglio here. The Common Myna, Acridotheres tristis, is a less popular pet than the Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa, but is just as bright, and a very talented mimic.  Unfortunately, admirers have released in many foreign habitats, where it causes a host of problems. 

Mynas as Pets

The various Mynas are among the most sought after (and expensive) of all bird pets.  These beautiful members of the starling family (Sturnidae) often amass vocabularies that rival those of any parrot, and are amazingly intelligent.  Read More »

Bird Extinction Announced – the Alaotra Grebe is Gone Forever – Part 2

Northern Spotted Owl” width=Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  In Part 1 of this article I relayed the sad news that the Alaotra Grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus), a small, fish-eating waterbird once endemic to Madagascar, has joined the ranks of the 130+ birds that have been declared extinct since the year 1500.  Some of the factors that caused its demise, explained in that article, also endanger the other 190 species of birds considered to be threatened with imminent extinction.  Today I’d like to review the status of rare and endangered birds in the USA.   Read More »

Bird Extinction Announced – the Alaotra Grebe is Gone Forever

Only known photo of now extinct Alaotra GrebeHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Christening 2010 the “International Year of Biodiversity” has unfortunately been of no use to the Alaotra Grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus).  The small waterbird, once endemic to Madagascar, has become the first avian species to be declared extinct since the Liverpool Pigeon disappeared in 2008.  Birdlife International which recently (May, 2010) added the Alaotra Grebe to the IUCN Red List of Extinct Species, noted that it has not been sighted since 1985, despite surveys of the single brackish lake in which it dwelled. 

The image posted with this article is the only known photograph of the Alaotra Grebe.  Other recently extinct birds, such as the penguin-like Great Auk, are known only from museum specimens (please see photo).

Recent Bird Extinctions

The Alaotra Grebe joins over 130 other birds that have disappeared since the year 1500.  Nearly all bird families have been affected, with parrots and flightless island dwellers being particularly hard-hit.  In the last 25 years, 2 other grebes (the Columbian and Atlitan Grebes) have become extinct; Peru’s Junin Grebe is thought to be represented by a mere 250 individuals. 

In the USA, Hawaii’s Po’ouli Honeycreeper is believed extinct.  Worldwide, 190 species of birds are considered to be Critically Endangered and facing imminent extinction.

Why the Alaotra Grebe was Lost

Although detailed studies have not been conducted, it appears that a number of sinister factors combined to seal the Alaotra Grebe’s fate.  Two large species of predatory fishes that were introduced to Lake Alaotra, the grebe’s sole habitat, consumed chicks and out-competed the birds for food (small fish).  Also, a drastic increase in the use of gill nets by local fisherman resulted in many grebes being drowned, and introduced plants have destroyed critical nesting areas.

Why Should We Care?

Great Auk
 I have often faced this question when speaking of the disappearance of seemingly “inconsequential” creatures, especially when addressing children in NYC and others far removed from “nature”.  The answers are numerous and complex, and I must admit that I was not always successful in generating concern. 

Birdlife International has come up with a wonderful idea…readers can post their opinions as to why the extinction of this bird, or any plant or animal, should concern us.  There are already a great many insightful comments…please add your own here.

Next time we’ll take a look at the status of rare and threatened birds in the USA.  Until then, please write in with your questions and comments. 

 

Thanks,

Frank Indiviglio

Further Reading

Please check out this BBC article for more bad and good bird conservation news. 

Alaotra Grebe image referenced from wikipedia and originally Paul Thompson 

 

Saving the Kakapo or Owl Parrot (Strigops habroptila): an Odd Conservation Strategy for an Odd Bird

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

It appears that one of the world’s strangest and most endangered birds is benefiting by an equally unusual rescue plan.  New Zealand’s kakapo breaks all sorts of “parrot rules”…it is nocturnal, flightless, utilizes a lek mating system (many males display before females in one location), eats leaves and grass and feeds fruit to its young.  It is also the world’s heaviest parrot, and, with a population of only 90 individuals (up from 51 in 1995), the rarest.  With a mean age of 90 years, it is among the longest-lived of all birds.

Kakapo reproduction is tied closely with the flowering of the rimu tree, the fruit of which forms the basis of the chick’s diet.  The tree blooms only every 3rd year or so, and the kakapos do likewise.  Already decimated by introduced stoats (weasel relatives), rats and habitat loss, the kakapo population cannot rebound under this breeding strategy.

Scientists at Glasgow University have devised a food supplement that increases female egg production in non-fruiting years.  This formula is now fed to wild kakapos and has yielded promising results.  Amazingly, the dedicated researchers working with this bird know every individual (by name!).  They carry supplemented food to scores of feeding stations, and make certain that each bird consumes its share…surely one of the most intense conservation initiatives anywhere!

Please write in with your own news concerning bird conservation.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

 You can read more about the remarkable Kakapo Recovery Plan at:

http://www.kakaporecovery.org.nz/

Image referenced from Wikipedia Commons

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