Latest research: Hornbills sent to school, exposed to turtle pigeon hunting

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Latest research: Hornbills sent to school, exposed to turtle pigeon hunting

Join us for a snappy summary of the progress published in our magazine Bird Conservation International. Highlights include the complexity of reintroducing hornbills into the wild, the truly devastating extent of European lovebird hunting, and a newly identified moulting site for spoonbilled sandpipers.

Southern Ground-Hornbill: Taught to be Wild

We’ve all felt like the new kid in school at some point in our lives. But imagine what it must feel like to be a captive-reared Southern Ground hornbill Bucorvus Leadbeateri released into a savage population with a social hierarchy as complex as any high school. Reintroduction programs have been tested for this endangered species – the largest hornbill in the world – since 1995. However, with such a long-lived, intelligent, gregarious species of delayed sexual maturity, small changes can make a big difference. This latest study analyzed various reintroduction programs across Africa and found that adult survival was heavily influenced by the time of year the birds were released and how much socializing they had previously with other captive Southern Ground Hornbills . The most successful birds were housed in “bush schools,” where social learning was led by an experienced, wild alpha male. It turns out that not only people benefit from a good mentor.

Southern Ground Hornbill, Copyright Andy Adcock, from the Surfbirds Galleries

The European lovebird hunt is not sustainable

It is hard to believe that the European turtledove streptopelia turtle, which was once common in its range, is now critically endangered. So how did a widespread symbol of love and loyalty, famous in the popular Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, become one of the fastest declining birds in Europe? The threats are twofold: habitat loss through intensive agriculture and overhunting. In this new article, the researchers calculated that the current hunting level along the bird’s western migratory flight path is more than double the sustainable level. Currently the species can be legally hunted in ten EU countries, but even without considering illegal killing, it is clear that governments will need to change their regulations in order for this species to survive. Otherwise, it could soon exist alone in stories.

Critical moulting site for “Spoonie” identified

Having a day with bad hair is stressful enough, but moulting is one of their most vulnerable times of the year for birds. Shedding feathers after the breeding season can affect a bird’s ability to fly and stay warm and dry – not to mention the energy required to breed smooth new plumage. It is therefore of crucial importance that birds can go through this inconspicuous phase of life in peace with plenty of food and resting places. Now scientists have found that the southern Jiangsu coast in eastern China is a critical moulting site for the spoonbill sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (critically endangered) and the spotted greenshank tringa guttifer (critically endangered). Since the Wadden Sea in the Yellow Sea region has been rapidly drained for development in recent years, this finding confirms the timely decision to declare this area a World Heritage Site.

Subscribe to Bird Conservation International, BirdLife’s quarterly peer-reviewed journal, at www.cambridge.org/bci/subscribe