Wild Bird Trust presents the Top 25 Migratory Wild Birds. Approximately 40% of the world’s birds migrate, which means there a lot of birds on the move! Migration is primarily a strategy to optimize living conditions by moving to areas which are warmer and have more food. Migrant birds can be especially difficult to conserve as different countries need to cooperate to ensure birds are conserved across their range. Birds are also vulnerable on flyways as they are often hunted en masse. If birds are conserved in their breeding habitat but their wintering habitat is degraded this makes it a sink for the population as a whole. This is why international agreements such as the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Animals have been put in place- to foster cooperation between countries, allowing birds to be conserved with the big picture in mind.
We hope you enjoy our selection this week and we encourage you to submit image for next week’s Top 25- the theme will be announced on our Facebook page this weekend. You can also have a look at our Twitter and Instagram for regular bird updates!
The Black-tailed Godwit is listed as near-threatened due to various pressures on the population’s breeding grounds in central Eurasia and wintering grounds in Asia, Africa and Australia. These pressures include intensification of agriculture and degradation of wetlands (Asutosh Pal)This Black-headed Bunting was photographed in its wintering range in Bosipota, India (Sujoy Sarkar)In some migratory species there is variation in whether or not a population will migrate. For example Blue-tailed Bee-eaters in south-east Asia migrate south for the winter but Blue-tailed Bee-easters in Australasia do not migrate (Dr S Alagu Ganesh)A White Stork photographed at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania by Sharon TemplinThere are no ringing records to document the migration of Brown-breasted Flycatchers but their distribution changing from south-east Asia in the summer, to India and Sri Linka in the winter, indicate that these birds do migrate (Vishwas Thakker)Migration can be risky, as every now and then a bird will be blown off course and end up somewhere way out of their range. This happened recently to a Citrine Wagtail that was seen in Cape Town, South Africa, they normally overwinter in southern Asia! (Asutosh Pal)Common Hawk-cuckoos are mainly resident across India but populations in the higher latitudes will migrate seasonally (Kanchan Das)A Common Redshank foraging in a mangrove along the Zuari River, India (Kishore Reddy)Eurasian Wrynecks breed in central Asia where they prefer woodland habitats, whereas they prefer more open habitats in their over-wintering ranges in Africa and southern Asia (Ravi Shankar)A Great White Pelican off the coast of Namibia. Most pelicans just spend the winter in Africa but some of them have made it their home year round! (Suranjan Mukherjee)Lesser Redpolls are called irruptive migrants, their migration patterns are irregular and unpredictable, their movements are usually in relation to where food is available (Edwin Godinho)The Western Yellow Wagtail overwinters in India and Africa, in African savanas they are often associated with game animals (Bhargavi Gokarna)The Loggerhead Shrike is migratory within North America. This bird is considered Near-threatened, the reasons for this are not clear but are thought to be linked to the introduction of the West Nile Virus in the late 90s (Jola Charlton)Calliope Hummingbirds breed in north-western North America and spend the winter in Mexico. Ringing records show that these birds often return to the same sites, there is no place like home! (Tim Nicol)A Eurasian Spoonbill foraging in the Dighal Wetlands, India (Vishesh Kamboj)The Mountain Bulbul is what we call at altitudinal migrant, they move to lower altitudes in the winter to escape the cold (Deepak Sharma)A Northern Harrier in its wintering range, in Fremont, California (Sutapa Karmakar)A male Northern Shoveler in flight. This highly migratory species breeds in the northern latitudes in April and May (Vishesh Kamboj)The Peregrine Falcon is one of the world’s most widespread raptors, in the higher latitudes these raptors will migrate south to find more favourable conditions (Nishant Vyas)The Rainbow Bee-eater is native to Australia, they winter in Australasia and breed in southern Australia (Janis Otto)The name Red Knot may seem a little confusing when looking at this grey wader. This bird undergoes an amazing transformation during the breeding season where there plumage changes to a deep rufous colour (Antonis Tsaknakis)Sandhill Cranes breed in Alaska, Canada and Russia, migrating to wetlands and meadows of southern USA and Mexico for the winter (Leslie Reagan)The Siberian Rubythroat breeds in the Taiga forests of Russia (Sujoy Sarkar)This dainty little bird is a Snow Bunting, which breeds in the Arctic and over winters in central North America and Asia (Melissa Penta)The Snowy Owl became well known because of the Harry Potter films which featured a Snowy Owl by the name of Hedwig (Sharon Templin)
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!!
Once a year this west coast town holds a festival to welcome the Westland petrel back home to New Zealand after its annual sojourn to South American waters. Amid a weekend of music and revelry, festival-goers gather on the beach at sunset to watch thousands of large black seabirds assemble in the sky above the coast. The birds then fly en masse overhead toward the forest hills, as they do every night during their breeding season.
Punakaiki has good reason to be proud of these beautiful petrels, also known as a tāikos, because they’re truly a local specialty. All 4,000 or so pairs nest along this small patch of coastline. Unlike nearly all other burrowing seabird species in New Zealand, Westland petrels somehow avoided being pushed off the mainland when invasive mammals hitched a ride with humans to this part of the world (though the birds certainly struggle with predation on land, as well as with threats at sea).
I missed the Tāiko Festival by a few weeks, but I got to see something even better when I stopped through town. With the help of a conservation-minded landowner whose property holds dozens of nests, I visited the Westland petrel colony itself.
It was sunset when I parked in the driveway and followed Bruce Stuart-Menteath into the inland forest. In the gathering dusk we ascending long sets of wooden stairs that he’d built years ago to give petrel colony tours to interested parties. At one point, Bruce paused to explain something and was interrupted by a crash in the thicket off to the left. “That was a petrel,” he remarked, as we continued our climb.
At the top we sat down, and there the spectacle began in earnest.
Big dark birds were crash-landing in the forest all around us and shuffling along the ground to their burrows. Watching the dimly lit sky through a gap in the trees and ferns, we could see their silhouettes circling as they prepared for entry. One came straight at me: imagine looking at a Batman symbol (except more seabird-shaped) that gets larger and larger and then veers aside at the last instant to tumble dramatically onto the ground. I felt a whoosh of air, a brush of wings, and fortunately no puncture from that fearsome ivory beak.
After one of these landings, Bruce turned on a dim light so we could get a look at a petrel as it rested from the exertion. I had half a minute to sketch this one before it crept away toward its burrow.
Later on, another bird climbed up a stump in front of us—a customary launch pad, Bruce informed me—and spent about ten minutes contemplating an early departure back to sea. Several times it opened its long wings and flapped vigorously. But it ended up dropping back to the ground and meandering off into the bush. Apparently it would wait until the morning rush, when most of the petrels head back to the ocean under cover of darkness (to avoid the falcon, Bruce said).
We didn’t want to use too much light and disturb the petrels. But there was plenty to listen to, between the crashes and the rustlings and all manner of vocal performances, as the birds sat in their burrow entrances and loudly laid claim to their territory. Within a week or so they’d be laying eggs.
When we descended back to sea level that night, I accepted a kind offer for “tea and pudding” (that’s dinner and dessert in New Zealand) with Bruce and his partner Denise Howard. Then I camped nearby on the coast.
I emerged from my tent an hour before dawn and drove until I reached a stretch of road that Bruce had described to me. I got out of the car. Standing there with the world gradually lightening around me, I watched Westland petrels materialize in the distance above the hills and fly toward me in a wide, continuous stream. They flew over my head and past the moon with faintly swishing wingbeats, off for a day of feeding at sea.
The flood slowed to a trickle, and at last the final petrel flew over. The sun rose. I got back in the car and drove on.
Shortly after sunrise on April 2nd we successfully navigated Mir back to her mooring in Banyuwedang Bay in northwestern Bali after over three months at sea— a three months that brought us clear across the Indonesian archipelago and back, covering over 2,500 nautical miles along the way, all in the name of adventure and conservation.
Calm day on the Banda Sea. Photo by Sam Keck Scott, Biosphere Foundation
Did That Really Happen?
The crew aboard Mir made it safely back to Bali, and our long-anticipated voyage to Raja Ampat has sadly come to an end. As can happen with any slice of time, this adventure is already beginning to take on a dreamlike quality in my mind — did that really happen? Was I truly just traveling through the most biologically-diverse marine ecosystem on the planet on a 108-year-old ship? The surest way for me to verify that it wasn’t all just a dream is by closing my eyes and reliving some of the moments from these past three months, knowing full well that my imagination could never have conjured these otherworldly visions on its own — visions of looking up from eighty feet below the water at thousands upon thousands of fish circling above me in such perfect unison they appeared to be one single, gargantuan, cyclone-shaped, super-organism. Visions of standing on the bow as we slowly approached a remote island at sunrise and expecting to see pterodactyls swooping off the turrets of stone as the land came into focus to reveal steep, jagged cliff faces speckled with broad-leafed plants overflowing out of any little spot that could hold a cup of soil. Visions of being on watch late at night and looking over the side of the ship at long ribbons of bioluminescence streaming and twisting away from Mir’s hull as she cut through the otherwise pitch-black waters. And one especially wild vision of diving in a tidal “river” between two islands where the current was so strong that when everyone else grabbed ahold of a boulder to stop themselves, and I missed it, I had to dig my hands into the sandy bottom where I was dragged away from the rest of the team while “gusts” of water threatened to tear my mask from my face and it felt like I was on a gravity-free planet about to get blown into outer space, never to be heard from again. But of all the things we saw in Raja Ampat, the most spectacular was what we went there to see in the first place: the vast trove of healthy coral reefs, all of which hosted a chaotic profusion of sea life on and around them.
Fish tornado. Photo by Sam Keck Scott, Biosphere Foundation
Voyage Back to Bali
We left our final anchorage in Raja Ampat on March 10th to begin our long voyage back across those big blue spots you may have seen on maps of Indonesia. Although we were sad to leave a place we had come to love so much, our adventure in no way diminished once we did; on one of our first nights underway between Raja Ampat and Sulawesi, an electrical storm came so close to the ship that the thunder was already clapping while the lightning was still spiderwebbing pink and welding torch-white across the skies beside us, causing us to throw our hands up to our ears. The four of us who were up at the time all thought the power had gone out on the ship before realizing we had each been momentarily blinded by the flash.
We saw many of these eerie, floating fish attractors in the seas around Sulawesi. Our presumption is that these scarecrow-like paddle people have a double purpose: 1) to keep birds from landing on them so fish aren’t dissuaded from gathering below, and 2) to make them easier for the fisherman to relocate. Photo by Sam Keck Scott, Biosphere Foundation
After spending a few days diving in Wakatobi National Park off the southeastern coast of Sulawesi, we continued on to the small island of Moyo, where the Biosphere Foundation has an ongoing “Friends of Moyo” project. There, we were reunited with our hero, Sutama, and his wonderful and hilarious wife, Wayan, who flew in to meet us from Bali. We spent a week in Moyo transplanting broken corals, and adding many small moorings to the beautiful reefs off the coast of the island. Sutama led us in these efforts, while also training the local dive leaders of Moyo who are eager to carry on the critical work of protecting their reefs from anchor damage, destructive fishing practices, and pollution.
From left to right: Sutama, Dolphin, Wayan, and Nadia. Photo by Gaie Alling, Biosphere FoundationSutama and Wayan Chandra transplanting corals near Moyo Island. Photo by Kitty Currier, Biosphere FoundationLaser and Sutama tying a mooring buoy line to the rocky substrate. Photo by Nadia Low, Biosphere FoundationSutama certifying local Moyo divers: Chandra, Herwin, and Arif as Biosphere Foundation Coral Reef Stewards. Photo by Gaie Alling, Biosphere Foundation.Gorgeous waterfall on Moyo Island — it felt incredible to swim in fresh water after months of salt. Photo by Sam Keck Scott, Biosphere Foundation
While in Moyo, we also visited a local school where we met with nearly 150 students, teaching them about the detriments of plastic pollution and the importance of healthy coral reefs. We sang and danced with them, and performed the same skit that we put on in Mansuar, where once again I played a sea turtle who nearly chokes to death on a plastic bag that I mistake for a jellyfish. In Bahasa Indonesia, jellyfish is “ubur ubur,” and apparently my pronunciation of the word is so hilarious that now every time I see one of my Indonesian friends, they yell: “ubur ubur!” in a drawn-out and exaggerated accent and then burst into laughter. Just now a boat filled with Balinese dive leaders spotted me where I’m typing this and all shouted “ubur ubur!” in unison and then nearly fell overboard with delight.
Schoolchildren of Labuhan Aji village on Moyo Island, Indonesia. Photo by Gaie Alling, Biosphere Foundation
On the Horizon
We’re living at a critical moment not only for humanity, but for all life on Planet Earth — a moment when many say it’s already too late to steer us off our current crash course with environmental destruction. Coral reefs are a strong indicator of overall ocean health, and alarmingly, they are projected to be nearly gone in the next thirty years if ocean temperatures continue to rise at current trends. After seeing the spectacular underwater ecosystems of Raja Ampat, those of us aboard Mir are more motivated than ever to not sit idly by as our elegant biosphere slowly fades out, and whether it’s too late to change our species’ destructive course or not, the truth of the matter is that these reefs still exist today, and that means there’s still hope. If we lose our reefs for good, there’s no getting them back, so now is the time to act; our grandchildren won’t be given the same opportunity if we do nothing.
Mir crew, 2018. Photo by Woody Heffern, Biosphere Foundation
Though our expedition to Raja Ampat is now behind us, the work of the Biosphere Foundation is only gaining momentum; as of this week, Sutama officially became the head of our NW Bali Marine Stewardship Program where he will continue to develop programs to educate local people — including officials from the local Nature Parks, and Indonesia’s National Parks — in simple, yet effective, methods to protect their oceans. Also on the horizon is the Biosphere Foundation’s new educational center that will soon be built in northwest Bali where both local and international students can participate in our land and sea environmental stewardship programs. We hope you’ll join us.
part of the massive intact north american Boreal Forest: the Sahtu region of the Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories, Canada (Photo J. Wells)
Due to the course of human history, there are now only a handful of places on Earth that are not severely altered by the footprint of large-scale industrial activities. Those within parts of the Earth where trees are dominant are termed “intact” or “primary” forests. A few weeks ago I joined more than a hundred other scientists and conservationists for a three-day conference at Oxford University in England to discuss the issues, needs, similarities, and differences related to the science and conservation of the world’s forest landscapes that are considered intact.
The conference, Intact Forests in the 21st Century, included presentations on the issues of how best to map and identify intact forest landscapes, methods for inventory and identification of conservation values of intact forests, ways of communicating about the importance of intact forests to the public and policy makers, elucidation of the major threats and stressors that are eliminating or degrading intact forests, and strategies for achieving conservation of these forest landscapes.
Five regions of the globe have very large forested landscapes that contain large tracts of intact or primary forest: the Boreal Forest of Canada and Alaska, the Boreal Forest of Russia and Scandinavia, the Amazon Forest of South America, the Congo Basin of Africa, and the forests of Papua New Guinea and Malayasia. While this “Family of Five” forest areas are called by some the “Last Five,” it is important to point out that there are other areas of forest around the globe, some of which, while perhaps smaller at the global scale, are intact and others which are recovering from past human impacts and that need conservation attention as well.
But certainly the “Family of Five” was a major focus of presentations at the conference and the range of research and conservation initiatives that are underway in these regions is impressive. At the same time, it was clear from all presentations that there continues to be rapid loss of these last intact forest landscapes on the planet, with consequent loss of animal and plant species as well as degradation of the ability of forests to provide clean air and water, and to store away carbon pollution.
The Boreal Forest region of Canada and Alaska was highlighted for its global significance containing as it does, at least a quarter of the world’s last large intact forest landscapes that have in storage over 200 billion tons of carbon and that support billions of migratory birds and a host of mammals, fish, insects, and plants. Also highlighted was the fact that the Boreal Forest of Canada and Alaska is the ancestral homeland of hundreds of Indigenous communities whose governments are increasingly taking the lead in achieving balanced protection and stewardship of their lands and waters, and the animals and plants found there. Some of the major problems in the region were also given attention including the plight of rapidly declining Boreal Woodland Caribou populations in Canada and the opportunity for increasing protections as governments strive to achieve conservation commitments embodied in the Aichi Biodiversity Treaty by 2020. The long-term impacts to the Boreal Forest of the very large footprint of industrial forestry as well as from mining, oil, and gas; large-scale hydro, and other global industries was demonstrated as well.
As the conference reached its conclusion, delegates came together to show a global voice and vision for the world’s remaining intact forests and their conservation through an Intact Forest Declaration that attendees and others will be signing and spotlighting in coming months. By sharing our knowledge, ideas and understanding among those working for conservation across all the world’s Intact Forest landscapes, we hope we can increase the collective conservation gains for all of the Family of the Five and beyond.
Me with Tom Evans (right) of the Wildlife Conservation Society who was one of the key organizers of the Intact Forests in the 21st Century Conference. Behind us is an amazing graphic put together by two artists to encapsulate the range of presentations and messages of the conference.
North Atlantic right whales are facing a breeding and survival crisis, due in large part to entanglements in fishing gear. Humpback whales are dying in unprecedented numbers off the Northeastern U.S., some are also casualties of entanglements while others have fatally collided with ships, and the causes of death of others are unknown. Vaquitas face an almost certain extinction thanks to the use of gillnets used for fishing, which indiscriminately trap and kill these small porpoises.
North Atlantic right whales. Photo: Lauren Packard / Flickr
When President Trump had the opportunity this year to make a difference in the lives of these imperiled marine mammals, he didn’t. He wanted to cut funding in the Federal 2018 Budget for the Marine Mammal Commission, an independent government agency established by the Marine Mammal Protection Act 46 years ago, which is responsible for advising U.S. policy decisions affecting marine mammals and establishing a conservation ethic through sound science. Over the years, the Commission has helped prevent the deaths of millions of marine mammals from human activities such as oil drilling, mining, transportation, seismic blasting and fishing bycatch. Since the Marine Mammal Act has been in existence, no marine mammals have gone extinct in U.S. waters.
While the activities the Marine Mammal Commission performs are critically important to protecting millions of animals, they are not expensive to carry out. In fact, its 2017 budget of $3.4 million cost American taxpayers just one cent that year. But Trump thinks Americans’ pennies could be better spent elsewhere, on the U.S. military or building his wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Two weeks ago it looked like the Marine Mammal Commission would be slashed. But thanks to thousands of concerned people criticizing Trump’s plan in letters to the U.S. government and a few decisive budget compromises, the Marine Mammal Commission will be funded through another year. It will maintain the same budget as last year, $3.4 million, which advocates for the Commission say should be sufficient to fund its essential activities.
Pacific white-sided dolphin. Photo: Erica Cirino
“Of course, additional funds are desirable to match the increasing costs and competing interests,” said Sheri Pais, a paralegal at Perkins Coie LLP who was involved in helping the public prepare and send letters about the importance of funding the Marine Mammal Commission to the Federal government. “But, the Commission has demonstrated in the past that it has been effective at this level of funding.”
While the Marine Mammal Commission has survived another year, Trump is still working to dismantle protections for the oceans and the life they contain—putting big business interests before the health of the environment. He’s working to open coastal waters to oil drilling, overhaul rules on seismic oil exploration in the oceans and fast-track other exploitative activities associated with the petrochemical industry that imperil marine life.
Trump has quietly managed to push two bills through the committee to a vote: the Streamlining Environmental Approvals, or SEA, Act and Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy, or SECURE, Act. These bills target important aspects of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which regulates exploratory seismic blasts used to find oil and gas. Seismic blasts are known to harm and disrupt the natural activities of whales, dolphins and other cetaceans to the extent that it impairs their survival.
Risso’s dolphins. Photo: Erica Cirino
Ocean advocates urge the public to place steady, strong pressure on the Trump administration when it comes to safeguarding the health and safety of the sea. Keep tabs on Trump’s latest efforts to slash funding and support for groups and activities that protect the oceans by checking the Safina Center’s Ocean Issues webpage frequently for news, and actions you can take to make a difference.