Unique Footage of a Critically Endangered Blue Swallow Hatching

Every now and then we are afforded the chance to witness something truly amazing in nature. Zach Vincent and his colleagues came across such a chance in 2014, while filming a documentary on Blue Swallows for South African wildlife series, 50/50. Zach was searching for nests with local wildlife authorities in KZN. They came across an aardvark burrow with a nest and amazingly found a chick mid way through hatching!

Blue Swallows are distributed patchily in the grasslands of South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. They are intra-African migrants, breeding in Southern Africa and wintering in East Africa. Globally they are considered Vulnerable but in South Africa they are Critically Endangered. There are less than 40 breeding pairs left in South Africa. They breed in aardvark burrows and sinkholes in the grasslands of KZN and Mpumalanga, habitats which are being rapidly transformed for timber and agriculture.

A historic portrait of the Blue Swallow from “A monograph of the Hirundinidae” by Richard Bowdler Sharpe

Birdlife South African and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are working actively to conserve the remnants of breeding habitat in South Africa.  They have a program called the Blue Swallow Stewardship Program which encourage private landowners to conserve Blue Swallow habitat on their land. With these efforts we can hope that the Blue Swallows keep returning to South Africa to breed.

This unique footage of a Blue Swallow hatching shows a new generation of swallows entering into an uncertain world. We asked Zach what impact he hopes this footage to have and he says:

“It’s hope. It’s new life despite the odds, which are so great for tiny creatures in our world. The tiny shell helmet is a metaphor for the war the little bird would be facing its entire existence just to be able to return one day, find a mate and reproduce. I’d like the clip to spread some joy and hope! There are so many people trying their best to save the animals some would give up on.  I would like people to gain some interest into the Blue Swallow and other critically endangered yet, not big and sexy, animals.”

Zach is a film maker and producer, living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and completed his Masters degree at the University of Cape Town. His parents were in the wildlife film-making industry and Zach has followed in their footsteps, filming and producing in South Africa before moving to LA in 2014 to work on the wildlife series Ocean Mysteries.

Edited by Christie Craig

Originally posted 2018-05-30 14:16:00.

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 Birds that Scavenge

Scavenging birds play a vital role in our ecosystems, they clean up carcasses before they have time to rot. Without scavengers, rotting carcasses would become hubs for harmful pathogens. Vultures specialise in eating carrion and are highly efficient at cleaning up a carcass. But many other birds, like crows and eagles, will also scavenge if they get the opportunity. Scavengers, in particular the vultures, are facing immense challenges due to poisoning, habitat transformation and persecution. As a result 16 out of the 22 vulture species in the world are listed as ‘at risk’ on the IUCN RedList.

Here we present the Top 25 Birds that Scavenge. Thank you to everyone who contributed photographs to this week’s theme. Many of these birds are threatened with imminent extinction and your photographs bring awareness to these majestic birds. If you would like to take part in our weekly Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week, visit our Facebook page. Here you will find the week’s theme posted every Sunday, as well as instructions on how to take part. 

African Fish Eagles mainly hunt for fish but they will scavenge occasionally. In Uganda African Fish Eagles have been seen scavenging at leopard and lion kills (Preety Patel)A pair of Egyptian Vultures and a crow clean up a carcass in Taiwara, India (Vani Khanna)The face of the Hooded Vulture is usually white but when they become agitated it flushes red (Ramesh Aithal)Crested Caracaras have been known to chase vultures in flight until the vulture regurgitates their food, the Caracara then catches the meat! (Melissa Penta)An adult Bald Eagle about to steal a fish from a juvenile. These eagles are excellent hunters but will scavenge on carrion, especially during winter (Kelly Hunt)The Turkey Vulture has a very good sense of smell and will use this to locate carrion (Kishore Liju)Tawny Eagles have a broad diet which includes carrion (Sandipan Ghosh)A Steppe Eagle and Egyptian Vulture feed on a carcass in Bikaner, India (Sandipan Ghosh)Eastern Imperial Eagles are more reliant on carrion during winter, than summer (Suranjan Mukherjee)A Black Kite pursues an Egyptian Vulture with the intention of stealing its meal! (Gur Simrat Singh)A Griffon Vulture photographed in snowy Bulgaria by Marios MantzourogiannisHimalayan Vultures will usually feed at carcasses in small groups of around 5 (Gurpartap Singh)the body parts of Ruppell’s Vultures are regularly traded in central and west African markets (Marios Mantzourogiannis)Overall, the population of Griffon Vultures seems to be increasing, an encouraging trend given that the majority of the world’s vulture populations are declining (Antonis Tsaknakis)A Himalayan Vulture mid meal in Rohtang Pass, India (Prakash Chimad)A magnificent portrait of Africa’s largest vulture, the Lappet-faced Vulture (Marios Mantzourogiannis)There is a distinct pecking order at carcasses, the larger Lappet-faced Vulture tends to dominate other scavenging birds (Wasif Yaqeen)Marabou Storks eat mainly carrion, their bills are not well designed for tearing open carcasses so they wait for the predator or other scavengers, like these Spotted Hyenas to open the carcass (Bhargavi Upadhya)Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures are found in central and south America (Adriana Dinu)A Lappet-faced Vulture comes in to land in the Maasai Mara, Kenya (Subramanniyan Mani)A stunning shot of a Steppe Eagle in flight (Gur Simrat Singh)this Ruppell’s Vulture will wait for the hyenas to finish feeding before approaching the carcass (Bhargavi Upadhya)A Marabou Stork feeds on carrion on the plains of the Maasai Mara, Kenya (Kishore Reddy)A Marabou Stork waits for the White-backed Vultures to tear open a cattle carcass on the Serengeti (Teri Franzen)A pair of White-backed Vultures at a wildebeest carcass in Kenya (Suranjan Mukherjee)

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 Birds with Red Plumage

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