Volcanoes and Birds of the Air

Over the past year, volcanoes have erupted in areas where many species of birds were already endangered. Hawaii is one of the most fragile of ecosystems and Guatemala is full of rainforests. The Big Island has had one of the most awe-inspiring eruptions of modern times. El Fuego devastated a number of small villages on the slopes of its mountain. The two volcanoes have different underlying conditions, making their eruptions different. One is much more deadly. Continue reading “Volcanoes and Birds of the Air”

Silent Zoo

The movie Silent Running made a huge impression on me when it came out. As a loner, I liked the idea of being alone on a space ship and tending to the plants and animals that were being rescued from our dying planet. But in reality, that ship or those ships would be so costly to put out in space. The better plan is to send ova and sperm, frozen and protected from radiation. If you read Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, you get the idea. Continue reading “Silent Zoo”

Endangered Birds

This time of year, there are lots of cliches out about helping and giving and remembering those in need. I hope to avoid that while still reminding your that there are ways we can help save some birds from extinction. Even if we aren’t on the front lines, fighting to save important habitat lands and nesting sites, even if we aren’t conducting artificial insemination on endangered birds in captive breeding, there are many things we can do.

120615 thick billed

Continue reading “Endangered Birds”

Which Parrot Would You Save?

You should know by now that parrots are the most endangered family of birds on the planet. Much of this is due to the pet trade, but much is also due to the destruction of habitat and the introduction of predators likes cats and rats to areas where the parrots had no fear. If you had all the money needed, and all the time and resources to do so, which parrot would you save? Continue reading “Which Parrot Would You Save?”

Parrots in the Wild

Much as I love the Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit about the dead parrot, there are no Norwegian Blues. At least, not any more. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-566600/Norwegian-Blue-parrot-really-DID-exist–stiff-bereft-life-ex-parrots.html Currently, some parrots do like cooler weather, yes, and live in snowy climates, but they are the odd ducks, so to speak. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kea  Continue reading “Parrots in the Wild”

Birds That are Thankful for Conservation Efforts

Some years ago, in November of 2008, I wrote this list of birds that have been helped through conservation efforts. I thought I would revisit them today, Thanksgiving, and see how things have progressed.

  1. The Maui Parrotbill Honeycreeper http://www.sandiegozoo.org/wordpress/default/maui-parrotbill-hatches/#more-2310 According to Wikipedia, the bird is still critically endangered, with maybe 500 individuals left in the world. The pairs are monogamous and raise one chick per season. If the pair would lay a second egg once the first one is removed, it could be the perfect set up to use an incubator to double the chicks produced per year. I am sure the intelligent conservationists out there in Hawaii have thought of that, so probably the birds won’t lay another egg.

  2. Margarita Island Yellow-shouldered Macaw http://www.worldlandtrust.org/projects/venezuela/save-margarita-islands-parrot The link I used before wouldn’t load this time, but at the site linked here, it says the birds are endangered and vulnerable world wide. There are 10,000 of these parrots left in the wild, so they have a better chance than the Parrotbill Honeycreeper. There is a captive breeding program in place that is doing an excellent job.

  3. Mauritius Parakeet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauritius_parakeet Again, the old link is totally different and not what I wanted to know. Wiki tells us that the island relative of the Rose-ringed Parakeet had dropped to 10 individuals when someone stepped in and brought them back, one chick at a time. There are now about 300 individuals in the wild, and they have been downgraded from near extinct to endangered.

  4. Lady Gouldian Finch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouldian_finch Another nonworking old link, but Wiki says it’s Near Threatened, without giving numbers. In Southern California, Goulds are bred widely, and go for many tens of dollars. So when I heard they were endangered in Australia, I was surprised. Their decline is due to habitat destruction, not the pet trade, so that’s a relief. Conservation is focused on protection habitat from cattle and studying the effects of wild fires.

  5. Thick-billed Parrot http://www.defenders.org/thick-billed-parrot/basic-facts New link, and so much sadness in this endeavor. The estimated wild population is between 500 to 2,000 pairs. Way to narrow it down. And it’s cheating to say pairs. Not every bird in the wild will have a mate. These birds are so specialized in what they eat, the threat to their habitat is of great impact to their survival.

  6. Scarlet Macaw <http://ecointeractive.wordpress.com/2008/06/12/costa-ricas-endangered-scarlet-macaws-born-osa-corcovado-birdwatching-in-captivity-are-reproducing-in-the-wild/> This link hasn’t been updated, so here’s more recent information. http://thearaproject.org/meet-the-birds/ Looking at the figures, Costa Rica stands to lose the Great Green Macaw sooner than the scarlet. Scarlets are listed as Least Concern due to their wide spread population throughout Central and South America. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarlet_macaw

  7. Black Robin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_robin A very attractive small bird native to the Chatham Islands off the east coast of New Zealand, Wiki lists it as endangered. Not a strong flier, due to the absence of natural predators, the robin stands vulnerable to introduced cats and rats, and is actually extinct on the main Chatham Island. This is another species brought back from a near extinct population of 10 birds to about 200 today. Human intervention almost created a self-terminating gene throughout the population, but luckily realized the issue and stopped helping the hens that laid eggs on the rim of the nests. We do walk a fine line in helping out the creatures we nearly destroyed.

  8. California Condor <http://wild-birds.suite101.com/article.cfm/endangered_california_condor> That link still works, thank you! Condors were the first species of creatures near extinction to catch my attention. Probably due to the efforts and participation in captive breeding done by the San Diego Zoo and former Wild Animal Park (Now the San Diego Safari Park). This is my home town, my favorite place to go, and the best place to see birds and animals and reptiles up close. So to know this program has been amazingly successful gives me a lot of pride.

  9. American Bald Eagle http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/baldeagle.htm The old link is gone, but this is a great site to get good and current information. The pesticide DDT nearly destroyed these birds, as well as contributing to the decline of the condors. The government and the American people worked to save the symbol of our country.

  10. Palm Cockatoo http://animals.pawnation.com/black-palm-cockatoos-endangered-species-5735.html This beautiful and unique cockatoo has always been a favorite of mine, since I got see some in person. They are playful and intelligent, and amazing. They are listed as not endangered, but at risk of becoming endangered due to habitat loss and other factors. Their numbers are declining, and steps need to be taken now to save them in the wild. Luckily they do seem to reproduce well in captivity.

  11. Yes, my original list only had ten entries. But I want to add this 11th symbol of conservation, the Kakapo. Critically endangered, these very unique ground-dwelling, flightless, nocturnal parrots are bound to be missed if we can’t save them.http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/kakapo/ Only 126 surviving parrots, but that is up from 49 when conservation efforts began. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320700001919 so much can be done in some cases, and I am thankful that it is being done in this situation.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving with your flock and family. I’ll be back on Sunday.