The Best of the Top 25: Part 2

This week we continue our flash back on some of the best Top 25 photographs of the last year. Of the thousands of pictures submitted and the hundreds selected for the Top 25 blogs, these are considered the best of the best! Thank you to all the photographers who have submitted pictures over the last year. Your pictures allows us to a tell a story about the wonderful birdlife that exists on our planet. Keep up the good work!

To recap even more of our Top 25 images you can visit our youtube channel. You can find even more bird photography highlights on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages!

This beautiful Anna’s Hummingbird can be found on the west coast of North America (Sutapa Karmakar)The pet trade is one of the factors driving Bali Mynas to extinction (Arun Samak)The Black-throated Trogon can be found in the humid forests of South America. This one was photographed in Panama by Owen DeutschIn winter Brown-headed Gulls can be found on the coastlines of India and south-east Asia. Here they associate with fishing vessels, eating any scraps from the ship (Mukesh Mishra)The Brown-hooded Kingfisher of southern Africa rarely fishes, in fact they eat mainly insects (Rodnick Clifton Biljon)A Handsome Burchell’s Starling photographed in Botswana by Owen DeutschThe Collared Kingfisher is widespread across south-east Asia. Taxonomists have divided the species into 50 different sub-species! Although the species as a whole is widespread some of the sub-species have very small populations which are threatened (Kishore Debnath)The Common Kingfisher eats mainly fish and insects. Several times a day they will regurgitate a pellet with the indigestible remains of their prey (Kuntal Das)The Daurain Redstart was previously known to only breed in China, Mongolia and Russia. Recently a new breeding population was discovered in Japan (Vinayak Joshi)The Demoiselle Crane breeds aross central Eurasia. Those from the west of the breeding range then migrate to Africa for the winter and the others migrate to India (Anirban Roychowdhury)An endangered Egyptian Vulture photographed in Haryana, India by Vishal MonakarThe Eurasian Jay is a woodland species, they collect acorns and bury them to eat later. However they store far more than they need and many of them will start to grow into oak trees (Asim Haldar)The breeding success of European Bee-eaters is strongly linked to weather conditions. A study in Germany found breeding success to be twice as good in warm, dry years, compared to wet and cold years (Carlo Galliani)This European Starling is in fresh plumage, once the feathers start the wear, the pale spots become less visible (Donald Bauman)Male Great Bustards are known to eat poisonous blister beetles in the mating season. These contain cantharidin, a known aphrodisiac. It is suspected that this helps makes the males more willing to court females (Lennart Hessel)A yellow morph of the Green-winged Pytilia photographed in Kimberley, South Africa. Normally the face would be red in this species (Brian Culver)Between 1985 and 2004 the population of Grey Crowned-cranes halved, they are now considered endangered (Wasif Yaqeen)A striking portrait of an Indian Eagle-owl (Prasad Sonawane)The Northern Long-eared Owl has excellent hearing, it is thought that they locate their prey mainly from sound (Zafer Tekin)A male Calliope Hummingbird showing his colourful display feathers (Jola Charlton)A Mountain Bulbul photographed in the Himalayas by Vishal MonakarA pair of Atlantic Puffins on Skomer Island, Wales (Suranjan Mukherjee)Even thought Steppe Eagles are endangered, they are still one of the most common large eagles in the world (Tauseef Zafer)Violet-backed Starlings are important dispersers of mistletoes. They eat the fruit and then regurgitate the seed which then grows into a new plant (Shantharam Holla)The White-throated Bee-eater breeds along the edges of the Saharan desert, before wintering in central Africa (Caroline Muchekehu)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

The Best of the Top 25: Part 1

Originally posted 2018-05-17 16:44:59.

Top 25 Wild Bird Brood Parasites

Brood parasites are an incredibly interesting group of birds. Instead of going to the trouble of building their own nests and raising their own young, they out-source these functions to other birds. They will lay their eggs in the nests of other breeding birds and allow them to raise their young on their behalf. They achieve this through a number of adaptations. Some species mimic the colour and shape of the host’s egg. Others have chicks with structures in their mouths which hyper stimulate the parents to feed them. The adult or chick parasite will also often kill the hosts’s chicks or remove the eggs in the nest, thus ensuring that the parasite survives. However hosts are not completely helpless to this attack, hosts have co-evolved behaviours such as abandoning a nest if it is parasitised. However some hosts are capable of raising both their own young and a parasite, without any visible cost.

Here we present 25 of best photographs of brood parasites, enjoy! If you would like to share your photographs with us, you can upload them to the Facebook page with species, location and photographer as the caption. We will announce next week’s theme this coming Sunday.

A female Asian Koel photographed in Bangalore, India. These birds commonly parasitise crows (Paneendra BA)The square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo of south east Asia parasitises babblers mainly, evicting the host’s eggs and young (Soumitra Ghosh)In India the Jacobin Cuckoo is believed to bring the monsoons, this is due to their arrival shortly before the rains begin (Vinayak Yardi)Common Hawk cuckoos parasitise babblers and laughingthrushes, as a result the fledglings call is very similar to that of a babbler (Paneendra BA)The Shiny Cowbird of South America is a generalist brood parasite, they have been recorded parasitising 240 different species (Raymond De Jesús Asencio)A female rufous morph Plaintive Cuckoo photographed in West Bengal, India (Subham Chowdhury)A rufous morph of the female Sunda Cuckoo. These cuckoos are only found on south east Asian islands, this one was photographed in Indonesia (Ananth Ramasamy)The Jacobin Cuckoo is found in India and sub-Saharan Africa. They parasitise various species of babblers across their range as well as bulbuls and fiscals in southern Africa (Dr. S. Alagu Ganesh)Female Brown-headed Cowbirds can lay up to 40 eggs in a season, damaging and removing the hosts eggs as she does (Jola Charlton)The Indian Cuckoo of India and south-east Asia parasitises drongos and shrikes (Mohit Ghatak)This Wood Duck is raising two of her own chicks as well as a Hooded Merganser chick (Teri Franzen)A Jungle Babbler feeds a Jacobin Cuckoo fledgling (Shaurya Shashwat Shukla)Black-billed Cuckoos are capable of building their own nests and raising young but they also occasionally lay in the nests of other birds (Owen Deutsch)Shiny Cowbird chicks do not mimic their host’s chicks but nonetheless their host provisions just as much for them as for their own chicks (Mann Niyati)Common Hawk-cuckoos are typically found in wooded areas, foraging in the tree tops (Radhakrishnan Sadasivam)A newly fledged Brown-headed Cowbird calls for its parents (Jola Charlton)A female Grey-bellied Cuckoo. These cuckoos usually parasitise Common Tailorbirds, the tailorbirds will abandon a parasitised clutch 20% of the time (Vishal Monakar)Male Pin-tailed Whydahs aggressively protect their territory, chasing away any other birds (Leslie Reagan)The colour of the Plaintive Cuckoos eggs depend on which host they use (Asutosh Pal)In India the Banded Bay Cuckoo parasitises the Common Iora (Panthera Tigris)An Asian Koel photographed at Hebbal Lake, India by Ravishankar PSeveral Chestnut-winged Cuckoos may be raised out of a single host’s nest, this would certainly place an additional burden on these parents (Subham Chowdhury)There are often massive size differences between parasitises and their hosts, such as this Common Cuckoo being fed by a Meadow Pipit in Ireland (Nigel Moore)A Common Hawk Cuckoo photographed in Sultanpur National Park, India (Vishal Monakar)On the third or fourth day after hatching, the Indian cuckoo chick pushes any other eggs and chicks out of the nest (Subham Chowdhury)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

Wild Birds of the Night

Originally posted 2018-04-06 18:53:41.

Saving a Crown Jewel

This article is brought to you by the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Read our other articles on the National Geographic Voices blog featuring the work of our iLCP Fellow Photographers all around the world.

Text and Photos by iLCP Fellow Krista Schlyer

On a late January afternoon the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge trails are quiet, aside from the curve-billed thrashers, Carolina wrens and black-crested titmice calling through a fresh north wind. I came here today for an hour of respite before boarding a plane back home to Washington DC. I have been here many times before, but today held a special significance. Today may be the last time I see this wild haven before it is destroyed.

Saturday, January 27, was the 75th anniversary of the creation of Santa Ana, and a thousand people came to celebrate the refuge and protest the border wall construction that would destroy it. The refuge was set aside in 1943 because agriculture and flood control measures were erasing the native habitat in South Texas. As the native landscape disappeared, so did the rich diversity of birds that had called the Lower Rio Grande Valley Home. This valley was historically a Mecca for birds, butterflies and all manner of insects, and tropical cats like the jaguar, ocelot and jaguarundi. Situated in the transition area between the tropical and temperate zones, this land is a melting pot of the north and south of the natural world.

But today, less than 5 percent of the native habitat remains. Jaguars are gone. Ocelots and jaguarundis are critically endangered. Many bird species disappeared, yet, more than 500 different species continue to cling to the remnant habitat that has been saved under the National Wildlife Refuge System and private preserves. Santa Ana is the largest and most important of those remnant islands of habitat in an ocean of human development. Its value defies measure, which is why it is often referred to as the crown jewel of the wildlife refuge system.

But Santa Ana is also the first target for border wall construction if Congress approves funding. A border wall would bisect the refuge and scrape the vegetation from a large swath of land for an enforcement zone. The decision could be made in the next 10 days.

To try to help people see the immeasurable value of Santa Ana, I wrote a poem and worked with some talented filmmakers Jenny Nichols, Allison Otto, and Morgan Heim, to make a short film called Ay Santa Ana.

There are some places in this world where life and beauty effervesce from the ground itself, places we simply cannot lose.

There are some places in this world where life and beauty effervesce from the ground itself, places we simply cannot lose. There are landscapes where lines must be drawn in the proverbial sand and we must say, no, you will not take this from the world. Not on our watch. Many such places exist in the US-Mexico borderlands, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is one. Here is a place people will lay down their bodies to protect.

Some members of Congress and even editorials in the Washington Post have suggested that sacrificing the border landscape for the sake of political compromise is worth it. I think those politicians and political writers must never have seen Santa Ana or any of the wild places and beautiful people who call the borderlands home. People are often willing to sacrifice what they do not understand.

As I was leaving Santa Ana I chanced upon a common paraque perfectly camouflaged upon the forest floor. It had been sleeping, but when I arrived it roused and looked up at me. This beautiful bird, and thousands of other species who depend on Santa Ana, and on lands all across the borderlands, are looking to us to be a voice for them. To tell those in Washington DC who would sacrifice their very futures, that the borderlands is a home, not a bargaining chip.

Please help members of Congress understand by sharing this blog and film.

The number for the Congressional switchboard is: 202-224-3121

For more information about the peril currently posed to the US-Mexico Borderlands, visit my web story: Embattled Borderlands

Originally posted 2018-02-05 14:14:30.

Top 25 Wild Birds Against Spectacular Landscapes

Wild Bird Trust presents this week’s Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs Against Spectacular Landscapes. We were truly blown away by the amazing landscape and habitat shots that were submitted this week!  Birds are excellent indicators of habitat quality, when habitats are degraded only the generalist and opportunistic species will remain in the area, others will move elsewhere. But when habitats are intact and undisturbed, specialist and sensitive species flourish and there will generally be a greater diversity of birds too. When we value birds and work to conserve them, these beautiful landscapes remain intact too!

To be in the running for next week’s Top 25 you can submit photographs on the Facebook page with species, location, and photographer as the caption. Also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for even more amazing bird photographs. If you would like to receive the Top 25 in your inbox every week, all you need to do is subscribe to our newsletter via our website!

American Kestrels perched alongside the Andes mountains of Ecuador (Melissa Penta)Bar-headed Geese eat a wide variety of aquatic vegetation, they are even able to eat plants that are considered poisonous, such as Lily of the Valley plants. This spectacular photograph was shot at the Tso Moriri lake in India (Ria Mukherjee)A pair of Common Cranes take flight on the arid plains of Little Rann of Kutch, India (Soumitra Ghosh)A study has shown that the diet of Eurasian Curlews differs between males and females. In France males were documented to eat crabs mostly and females preferred bivalves (Christian Bagnol)A Common Stonechat in Assam, India. These stonechats usually hunt insects from perches, frequently favouring one particular perch (Ashish Malhotra)A group of Greater Flamingoes take flight at sunset in Little Rann of Kutch, India (Rupa Mitra)A Greater Spotted Eagle photographed at the Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, UAE. These eagles are considered vulnerable to extinction mainly due to their wetland, forest and meadow habitat being degraded (Jobin J Valiyaparambil)A Grey Crowned Crane scans the landscape at Lake Victoria in Uganda (Elaine Henley)The Grey Heron is fairly common across Africa, and much of Eurasia, largely because they are able to use a wide variety of habitats, using any shallow waterbody available (Satyajit Ganguly)A Northern House Martin skims the water on a river in Scotland. These birds breed on buildings and rock faces in Europe and western Asia (David Main)A Common Kestrel scouts the landscape from atop a dune in the United Arab Emirates (Jobin J Valiyaparambil)The Black-rumped Flameback specialises in eating ants and are known to break into the nests of Weaver Ants- a type of ant that makes nests out of kitting together leaves (Anil Goyal)Red-crested Pochards in flight against the backdrop of the Himalayas (Anirban Roychowdhury)A Lilac-breasted Roller perched above the plains of the Maasai Mara, looking for prey (Ganesh Rao)A Little Egret flying over the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Contrary to what the name suggests, the sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake, ideal habitat for these egrets (John Parkinson)A Northern Pintail takes flight in Mangalajodi, India (Giridhar Vijay)A congregation of Northern Shovelers and Spot-billed Ducks in Pune, India (Anvita Paranjpe)A Common Ostrich photographed in Kenya by Ganesh Rao. In wetter areas these birds are quite sedentary but in arid areas they will move great distances to find food and waterA group of Painted Storks stands along the Chambal River, India (Ashok Appu)A Chukar Partridge photographed in Ladakh, India, these partridges are distributed across central Asia, they also have a thriving feral population on Robben Island, a small island off the coast of South Africa (Ria Mukherjee)Two Atlantic Puffins survey the landscape on Skomer Island, Wales (Suranjan Mukherjee)A Black-necked Stork photographed in the Kaziranga National Park, India. These birds prefer undisturbed wetland habitat, and protected areas like these are important for this species (Ahan Roy Chowdhury)A White stork crosses the skies against a magnificent backdrop of the mountains of the Sinai Desert, Egypt (Carlo Galliani)A White-fronted Chat on a beautifully lichened rock in Tasmania, Australia (Radhakrishnan Sadasivam)Eurasian Oystercatchers fly out to sea, off the coast of England. The population of Eurasian Oystercatchers is declining, largely because they have to compete with fishing vessels for food (Suranjan Mukherjee)

To be in the running for next week’s Top 25 you can submit photographs on the Facebook page with species, location, and photographer as the caption. Also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for even more amazing bird photographs. If you would like to receive the Top 25 in your inbox every week, all you need to do is subscribe to our newsletter via our website! 

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #124

Originally posted 2018-02-02 20:06:52.

To native birds’ benefit, conservationists declare South Georgia clear of invasive rodents for first time in more than 200 years

South Georgia. Photo: Carl Safina

Celebrated sea captain James Cook implanted a British flag down into the rocky, icy ground on the shore of South Georgia in 1775. When he did so, he claimed ownership of the icy, mountainous Antarctic island not only for his country’s humans, but, inadvertently, also for its rodents. From the arrival of Cook onward, ships carrying explorers, scientists, whalers, fishers and seal hunters continued to fuel the island’s exploding population of rats and mice. The rodents quickly adapted to the cold and icy conditions of their unforgiving new home—subsisting off local animals, particularly seabird chicks, which—like most remote island animals—never evolved defenses against such ruthless predation.

Wild rat. Photo: Reg Mckenna/Wikimedia commons

After more than 200 years after they first colonized South Georgia, by the early 2000s, rats and mice had munched many native species to the very edge of existence, including the South Georgia pipit, a tiny songbird, and South Georgia pintail, a duck—two birds found nowhere else in the world. But after seven years of eradication work, launched in 2011, conservation group South Georgia Heritage Trust has just announced it has completely rid the island of rodents. This, the Trust says, will provide a safer future for South Georgia’s native wildlife—especially its vulnerable native birds. South Georgia is home to the largest and second-largest king penguin colonies in the world, as well as countless other bird species, including albatross, shearwaters, petrels, cormorants, skuas and more.

Gray-headed albatross in ground nest in South Georgia. Photo: Patricia Paladines

“Thanks to the outstanding work of the passionate and committed members of Team Rat and the Board of Trustees, the birds of South Georgia are free from the threat of rodents,” said Mike Richardson, chairman of the South Georgia Heritage Trust said in his announcement. “The Trust can now turn its attention and efforts to working with the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands on conservation of a different kind: the conservation and reinterpretation of the island’s historic cultural heritage to educate and enlighten future generations about our environment.”

South Georgia Heritage Trust rolled out its rodent eradication work over four phases, from 2011 to present. For three field seasons, “Team Rat”—a group of pilots, engineers, chefs, doctors and field staff—was deployed to South Georgia. The field team prepared hundreds of tons of poisoned bait that was dropped from several helicopters cruising over the island. The hope was that the rodents would take the bait and then retreat to their underground burrows to die, out of reach of scavenging animals, like gulls, that could potentially be poisoned by eating dead rats and mice.

In 2017, two years after it dropped its final round of poison, South Georgia Heritage Trust rolled out the final phase of its project: checking the island for signs of rodents. Field staff placed thousands of wooden stakes into the ground, and tied to them wax tags and plastic cards dipped in vegetable oil or peanut butter—attractive snacks for gnawing rats—to check for signs of rodents. Two canine handlers lead three rodent-detection dogs across South Georgia. By the end of 2017, the devices and dogs exposed no signs of rats.

King Hakkon Bay, South Georgia. Photo: Carl Safina

The presence of invasive rodents on remote islands is extremely dangerous to native species. I have seen the incredible devastation rats can cause to seabird colonies on islands in the Atlantic, on Midway Atoll, in New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic, and in South Georgia.

In South Georgia, with black-browed albatross. Photo: Patricia Paladines

But I have also witnessed the benefits of eradication, the more-incredible resurgence of birds and vegetation when rats are vanquished from the same oceanic islands, including the outer islands of South Georgia; those smaller islands had already been made rat-free by the last time I visited a little over a year ago. Rats have probably driven more island-bird extinctions than any other human-introduced species. South Georgia’s pipit has now been saved from likely extinction and there will probably be hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, more seabirds nesting there in coming years.

Black-browed albatrosses in South Georgia. Photo: Carl Safina


Ecologist Carl Safina is author of seven books, including the best-selling “Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel,” and “Song for the Blue Ocean,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has won a MacArthur “genius” prize; Pew and Guggenheim Fellowships; book awards from Lannan, Orion, and the National Academies; and the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, CNN.com and elsewhere, and he hosted the 10-part “Saving the Ocean” on PBS. Safina is founding president of The Safina Center at Stony Brook University.

Originally posted 2018-05-12 01:55:49.

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