Friday, 31 December 2010

Eastern phoebe

Sayornis phoebe

Photo by Danny Bonilla (Pine Barrens Animals)

Common name:
eastern phoebe (en); papa-moscas-fibi (pt); moucherolle phébi (fr); mosquero fibí (es); weibauch-phoebetyrann (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Tyrannidae

Range:
This North American species breeds in most of the eastern half of the United States and in southern Canada all the way west to the Rocky mountains. They winter in the south-east of the United States and in Mexico.

Size:
The eastern phoebe is 14-17 cm long and has a wingspan of 26-28 cm. They weigh 16-21 g.

Habitat:
During the breeding season they are most often found in semi-open country, open woodlands and farmland, primarily near water. In migration and during the winter, they are generally found around woodland edges, woodland clearings, and in bushy fields.

Diet:
During Summer they mostly eat flying insects, but also spiders and millipedes. In the winter fruits and berries become an important part of their diet.

Breeding:
Eastern phoebes nest in May-July. The nest is an open cup, cemented with mud to a wall close to a ceiling, typically under a bridge, cliff or eave of a building. The nest is made of mud mixed with green moss and some leaves, lined with fine grass stems and hair. The female lays 2-6 white eggs which are incubated for 16 days. Both parents feed the young until fledging, which takes place 16-18 days after hatching. Most pairs raise two broods per year.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
With a population currently estimated at 16 million and a very large breeding range, the eastern phoebe has undergone a large population increase of 17,5% per decade in the last 40 years. The species is not threatened at present.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Collared crescent-chest

Melanopareia torquata

Photo by Hugo Viana (Flickr)

Common name:
collared crescent-chest (en); tapaculo-de-colarinho (pt); cordon-noir à col roux (fr); pecholuna brasileño (es); rotnacken-bandvogel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Rhinocryptidae

Range:
These birds are mostly found in inland central Brazil, in Pará, Piauí, Goiás, Bahía, Minas Gerais, São Paulo e Mato Grosso do Sul. They are also found in northern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia.

Size:
The collared crescent-chest is 14,5 cm long.

Habitat:
They are mostly found in cerrado habitat, the dry savannas of South America, in areas with dry grasslands and scattered bushes.

Diet:
These birds are known to be insectivorous but their diet is yet to be described in detail.

Breeding:
They build a globular nest with a side entrance, often on a tussock o grass. The nest is woven with dry grasses and the dry leaves of trees and bushes. The female lays 2 greenish-blue eggs, which are incubated for 15-18 days by both parents. The chicks stay in the nest for 12-14 days after hatching, being cared for by both male and female.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and described as fairly common, but patchily distributed. It is not considered threatened at present.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Japanese woodpecker

Picus awokera

Photo by Koji Taji (Oriental Bird Images)

Common name:
Japanese woodpecker (en); pica-pau-japonês (pt); pic awokéra (fr); pito japonés (es); Japangrünspecht (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Piciformes
Family Picidae

Range:
This bird in endemic to Japan, being found from Honshu, south to Shikoku, Kyushu, Yakushima and Tanegashima. It is also present in the offshore islands of Tobishima, Awashima, Sado and Tsushima.

Size:
The Japanese woodpecker is 30 cm long and weighs 120-140 g.

Habitat:
These birds are found in woodland habitats, both in mixed and coniferous forests, at altitudes of 300-2000 m.

Diet:
They collect insects from the bark of the trees.

Breeding:
Like all woodpeckers, they make a hole in a tree where they nest. There the female lays 2-5 eggs which are incubated for 11-14 days. Both parents will feed the chicks and fledging takes place 18-30 days after hatching.

Conservation
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
Although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is reported to be fairly common across its considerably large breeding range. The species is not considered threatened at present.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Swallow-tailed kite

Elanoides forficatus

Photo by David Brassington (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

Range:
This American species is found from the south-east of the United States, along Central America and into South America down to Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, southern Brazil and northern Argentina. The northern birds migrate south and may be found in the Caribbean during migration.

Size:
This medium-sized raptor is 50-64 cm long and has a wingspan of 122-130 cm. They weigh up to 600 g.

Habitat:
They are only found in forested habitats, often lowland forests along rivers. They are also common in open pine woodland.

Diet:
Although mostly insectivorous, taking large insects in flight. They are also known to hunt small reptiles, amphibians, small birds and eggs, and small mammals.

Breeding:
Swallow-tailed kites start breeding in March. Both male and female build the nest on a tree top, often near water. The nest is made of twigs, sticks, hay and dead moss. The female lays 2-4 white eggs with cinnamon spots, which are incubated by both parents for 28 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 36-42 days until fledging.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
These birds have a very large breeding range and a population of 150.000 individuals. The population is believed to be stable, with northern populations showing an increasing trend. the main threat to this species is habitat loss, but they are not considered threatened at present.

Monday, 27 December 2010

European roller

Coracias garrulus

(Photo from Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Coraciiformes
Family Coraciidae

Range:
These birds breed in the Palearctic, from north-west Africa and Iberia in the west, along the Mediterranean basin and north-east to the Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states. They are also found breeding in Turkey, through Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, all the way to China and southern Siberia. They winter in Africa in two separate regions from Senegal east to Cameroon and from Ethiopia west to Congo and south to South Africa.

Size:
The European roller is 29-32 cm long and has a wingspan of 52-58 cm. They weigh 120-190 g.

Habitat:
They are found in warm, dry, open country with scattered trees, preferring lowland open countryside with patches of oak Quercus forest, mature pine Pinus woodland with heathery clearings, orchards, mixed farmland, river valleys, and plains with scattered thorny or leafy trees. It winters primarily in dry wooded savanna and bushy plains.

Diet:
The European roller is mostly insectivorous, hunting large insects including Orthoptera and Coleoptera. They also take spiders, small reptiles, rodents and frogs.

Breeding:
They start breeding in May. The nest is a cavity in a tree or old building, but they also use nest boxes where available. The female lays 4-7 white eggs which are incubated for 19 days. After hatching the young stay in the nest for 28 days, being fed by both parents until fledging. pairs without a clutches will often help defend the chicks of another pair.

Conservation:
IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
Although they have a very large breeding range, the population has undergone a moderately rapid decline. The global population is currently estimated at 200.000-700.000 individuals and the main threats are loss of habitats due to agricultural intensification and pesticide abuse, both limiting the availability of food. During migration they are hunted and hundreds, perhaps even thousands are shot for food every year in Oman and India.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Great tinamou

Tinamus major

Photo by Anthony Villaume (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Tinamiformes
Family Tinamidae

Range:
The great tinamou is found in Central and South America, from Mexico in the north, down to Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, the Guyanas, Suriname and in northern and western Brazil.

Size:
These birds are 43-44 cm long and can weigh up to 1,1 kg.

Habitat:
They live in tropical and sub-tropical forests, namely rain forest, lowland evergreen forest, river-edge forest, swamp forest and cloud forest, at altitudes of 300-1500 m.

Diet:
The great tinamou searches the forest leaf litter in search of seeds, fruits and small animals including insects, spiders, frogs and lizards.

Breeding:
These birds are polygynandrous. The female will mate with a male and lays 3-4 large, bright blue or violet eggs on a ground nest of rudimentary scrapings in the buttress roots of a tree. The male is then responsible for incubating and rearing the young, while the female starts nests with up to 6 other males. the eggs are incubated for 17 days and the male will take care of the young for 3 weeks after hatching, before moving on to find another female.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
Although the population is suspected to be in decline due to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of hunting. However, the current population size of 500.000-5.000.000 individuals and their very large breeding range justify that the species is not considered threatened at present.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas white-eye

Zosterops natalis

Photo by Jeff Blincow (Christmas Island Wildlife)

Common name:
Christmas white-eye (en); olho-branco-de-Natal (pt); zostérops de Christmas (fr); anteojitos de la Navidad (es); weißstirn-brillenvogel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Zosteropidae

Range:
This species in endemic to Christmas Island. It has been introduced to Horsburgh island, in the southern Cocos Islands. 

Size:
These tiny birds are 11-13 cm long. They weigh 10-11,5 g.

Habitat:
It is found in all forested habitats on Christmas Island up to an altitude of 360 m. It also occurs in suburban gardens and weeds fields in abandoned mine sites.

Diet:
They are mostly insectivorous, often seen hunting small Hemiptera, namely scale insects. They may also eat nectar and small fruits.

Breeding:
The Christmas white-eye mostly breeds during the wet season in November-May. They build a small open cup in a bush, where the female lays 2-3 pale blue eggs. The incubation time is 13-15 days and the young are fully fledged after 11-16 days. The parents continue to care for the young after fledging, for up to 2 months.

Conservation:
IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
Although the species is abundant in Christmas Island, their breeding range is very small and their population is estimated at 20.000 individuals. They are threatened by habitat loss and the introduction of exotic species.

Friday, 24 December 2010

American flamingo

Phoenicopterus ruber

Photo by Jim Legault (Birding in Rio Lagartos, Yucatan)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Phoenicopteriformes
Family Phoenicopteridae

Range:
These birds are found in Central and South America. They are present in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, in Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas and northern Brazil. They are also found in the Caribbean, in the Bahamas, Hispaniola, Cuba and Turks & Caicos. Finnaly, they also breed in the Galápagos islands.

Size:
American flamingos are 120-140 cm long and have a wingspan of 150 cm. The males are larger than females, the first weigh 2,8 kg while the latter weigh 2,2 kg.

Habitat:
These birds are mostly found in saline lagoons, mudflats, and shallow brackish coastal or inland lakes. Locally, they also use mangrove areas.

Diet:
American flamingos use their curved bills to strain food particles from the water, including protozoans, diatoms, algae and other lake organisms. They also take worms, molluscs, small crustaceans, insect larvae and even aquatic plants.

Breeding:
American flamingos breed in May-August. Females lay 1 chalky white egg, which is incubated for 28-32 days. The young remain with the parents for up to 6 years, when they reach sexual maturity. These birds may live up to 40 years.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and an increasing population currently estimated at 260.000-330.000 individuals.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Australian raven

Corvus coronoides

Photo by Ken Havard (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
Australian raven (en); corvo-australiano (pt); corbeau d'Australie (fr); cuervo australiano grande (es); Neuhollandkrähe (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Corvidae

Range:
This Australian species is found in south-west Australia, along the southern coast of the country, and in eastern Australia

Size:
These birds are 46-53 cm long and have a wingspan of 100 cm. They weigh 650 g.

Habitat:
This species is found in all habitats present within its range with the only exception being the most arid areas of western Australia. They are common in urban areas.

Diet:
The natural food of the Australian raven includes carrion, insects, seeds, fruit, small reptiles, nestlings and eggs. They are also well adapted to eating rubbish and scraps in urban areas and have been observed feeding on nectar from Eucalyptus flowers.
Breeding:
They breed in July-September. They nest in tall trees, building large and untidy bowls or platforms of sticks lined with grasses, barks, and feathers. The female lays 3-6 pale green or bluish-green eggs with brown and blackish markings. The eggs are incubated by the female alone for 20 days. The young fledge 45 days after hatching, but remain with the parents for another 4 months.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
Although the population size has not been quantified, the species has a large breeding range and is described as common throughout this range. The species is not threatened at present.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Water pipit

Anthus spinoletta

Photo by James Wood (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Motacillidae

Range:
They breed in mountainous areas of central and southern Europe, through Turkey and the Caucasus, into the mountains of northern Iran and Turkmenistan, and all the way to southern Russia, Mongolia and China. They winter along the the coasts of south-west Europe and the Mediterranean, in the lowlands of north-east Africa and Arabia, and in Pakistan, north-west India and southern China.

Size:
The water pipit is 18 cm long and has a wingspan of 26 cm. they weigh 23 g.

Habitat:
They breed in alpine meadows. During the winter they use a range of wetland habitats, including coastal areas, estuaries, marshes, river banks, wet meadows and rice fields.

Diet:
The water pipit feeds primarily on insects and larvae, as well as some plant material.

Breeding:
The nest of the water pipit tends to be situated on the side of a steep bank or in a hollow, well concealed by overhanging vegetation, and is made from surrounding vegetation by the female. Females lay 2 clutches per year, each consisting of 4-5 eggs, which are incubated for 15-16 days. The chicks are fed large arthropods by both parents until fledging, which takes place 14-15 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
With a very large breeding range, a population estimated at 10-100 million, and no evidence for any declines or substantial threats, the species is not threatened at present.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Zebra dove

Geopelia striata

Photo by J.J. Harrison (Wikipedia)

Common name:
zebra dove (en); rola-zebrada (pt); géopélie zébrée (fr); tortolita estriada (es); sperbertaube (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Columbiformes
Family Columbidae

Range:
This species is native to south-east Asia, from southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok. It may also be native to the Philippines. Since this species is a popular cage bird, they have been accidentally introduced in several other areas, especially islands, including Laos, Boeneo, Sulawesi, Hawaii, Tahiti, New Caledonia, the Seychelles, the Chagos archipelago, Mauritius, Réunion and Saint Helena.

Size:
This small dove is 20-23 cm long and has a wingspan of 24-26 cm. They weigh 50-62 g.

Habitat:
They are mostly found in scrubland, farmland and other open habitats in lowland areas. They are also common in parks and gardens.

Diet:
Zebra doves feed on grass seeds where the ground is bare in open spaces among thorn scrub, roadsides, paths, and in gardens. They also eat insects and other small invertebrates.

Breeding:
Within their native range they breed in September-June. The nest is a fragile platform of twigs, leaves and grass blades, usually located in a tree or scrub close to the ground up to an height of 4 m. They may also nest on the ground. The female lays 1-2 white eggs which are incubated by both parents for 13-18 days. The young leave the nest within two weeks and can fly well after three weeks.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
The population has not been quantified. Although the species is the target of trapping for commercial purposes, they are still common throughout most of their native range. They also adapt well to the human made habitats so habitat change is not a threat to this species.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Azores bullfinch

Pyrrhula murina

Photo by Carlos Ribeiro (Flickr)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Fringillidae

Range:
The Azores bullfinch is endemic to the island of São Miguel in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. They are only found in the mountainous areas of the eastern part of the island, in Serra da Tronqueira and Pico da Vara.

Size:
These birds are 15-17 cm long and have a wingspan of 25 cm. They weigh up to 30 g.

Habitat:
The species appears entirely dependent on the trees of the native laurissilva forests, at altitudes of 300-700 m. In the Summer they prefer more open areas, while in the Winter they go deeper into the forest.

Diet:
This species is mostly herbivorous, consuming a range of seeds, fruits and flower buds from native plants. They are also know to eat fern sporangia and fronds, and moss tips. They may occasionally hunt small invertebrates, namely Hemiptera.

Breeding:
The Azores bullfinch breeds in May-August. The nest, placed in a low tree, consists of an outer layer of twigs and an inner layer of rootlets, grass and moss. The female lays 3-5 eggs which she incubates alone for 12-14 days. The young typically fledge from mid-July onwards.

Conservation:
IUCN status - EN (Endangered)
Although the population is not currently declining, there are just 1300 individuals spread over an extremely small breeding range. The species was abundant until the early 1900s, when it was considered a pest of fruit orchards. It became rare in the 1920s due to hunting and deforestation. Presently, the main threat is the spread of alien invasive plant species that limit their food supply. Predation by introduced rats and mustelids may also be affecting nesting success.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Northern saw-whet owl

Aegolius acadius

Photo by Ian Maton (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Strigiformes
Family Strigidae

Range:
This North American species breeds from southern Alaska in the north, down along the Pacific coast, throughout southern Canada and the northern states of the United States and in the western half of the United States down to northern Mexico. The northern populations winter in the eastern half of the United States down to Florida, and in Mexico.

Size:
This small owl is 18-21 cm long and has a wingspan of 42-48 cm. They weigh 75-110 g.

Habitat:
They inhabit both coniferous and deciduous forests, with thickets of second-growth or scrubs. They mostly breed in forests where woodpeckers create cavities for nest sites. The nesting sites are usually in swampy or wet, rather than dry areas, and riparian habitats are also used.

Diet:
These nocturnal predators mostly hunt small mammals, including mice, shrews, voles, squirrels, moles, bats and flying squirrels. Small birds are sometimes taken, including swallows, sparrows, chickadees and kinglets. Frogs, insects and crustaceans may also be taken in some parts of their range.

Breeding:
The northern saw-whet owl breeds in March-July. They usually nest in natural tree cavities or woodpecker holes, but can also use nest boxes. Nests are often in dead trees at heights of 4-6 m. The female lays 3-7 white eggs, which she incubates alone for 21-28 days, while being fed by the male. The chicks fledge 4-5 weeks after hatching and may continue to be fed by the parents for several weeks after leaving the nest.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
With a population of 2 million and a very large breeding range, this species is not threatened at present.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Blue-breasted cordonbleu

Uraeginthus angolensis

Photo by Ian White (Flickr)
Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Estrildidae

Range:
This species is mostly found in Africa south of the Equator. They range from the north of South Africa up to Angola, Congo, D.R. Congo, Tanzania and Kenya. They are also found in the São Tomé and Príncipe archipelago.

Size:
The blue-breasted cordonbleu is 12-13 cm long. They weigh around 10 g.

Habitat:
They are found in Acacia thorn bush savannah and in sparse woodland near water. They are often seen around the edge of water holes and river banks. In some parts of their range they are common in human settlements.

Diet:
The blue-breasted cordonbleu mostly eats seeds taken directly from grass inflorescences. These may be supplemented with termites and caterpillars.

Breeding:
They may breed year-round, but mostly in December-May. The nest is a small round ball with a short spout like entrance, built from green, flowering grass stems and feathers, and typically placed in the foliage of a bush or tree. The female builds the nest alone but the male helps to collect nest materials. Each clutch consists of 2-7 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 11-12 days. The chicks are fed green grass seeds and termites by both parents and fledge after 17-21 days. They may continue to be fed by the parents for another 2 weeks.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
The species has a very large breeding range and although there is no reliable population estimate, they are described as common or locally abundant. They are not considered threatened at present.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Kakapo

Strigops habroptilus

(Photo from Topbiologia)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Psittaciformes
Family Strigopidae

Range:
The kakapo is endemic to New Zealand. They are now extinct on their original range and occur
only in a few small islands off the coast of new Zealand, namely Codfish, Chalky, Anchor and Maud.
Size:
This large parrot is 58-64 cm long and weighs up to 4 kg. These birds are flightless so the wings are small and not functional.

Habitat:
The species can use a variety of habitats, including tussocklands, scrublands and coastal areas. They also use forests and areas of avalanche and slip debris with regenerating and heavily fruiting vegetation.

Diet:
This nocturnal bird is herbivorous, mostly eating native plants, seeds, fruits, pollen and even the sapwood of trees.

Breeding:
The kakapo has a lek breeding system. The males loosely gather in an arena where they dig one or more saucer-shaped bowls where they display, using sound to attract the females. The males and females meet only to mate, no pair bonds are formed. After mating the female returns to her territory and lays 1-3 eggs on the ground, under the cover of plants or in cavities such as hollow tree trunks. The female incubates the eggs for 30 days and feeds the young for 3 months until fledging. The young may remain with the mother or several months after fledging and may be fed sporadically for up to 6 months.

Conservation:
IUCN status - CR (Critically Endangered)
The species almost went extinct, mostly due to predation by exotic species, like cats, rats and mustelids. Now extinct in most of New Zealand, the last 124 individuals are confined to 4 small islands and the focus of strong conservation measures that allowed the species to survive. Although the population is now stable or even increasing slightly, the very low population size, the very restricted breeding range and the potential threat of new introductions of predator justifies the critically endangered status.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Przevalski's rosefinch

Urocynchramus pylzowi

Photo by Martin Hale (Oriental Bird Images)

Common name:
Przhevalski's rosefinch (en); pintarroxo-de-cauda-rosa (pt); bruselin de Przhewalski (fr); pinzón de Przhewalski (es); rosenschwanzgimpel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Emberizidae

Range:
The species is endemic to the mountains of western China

Size:
This small finch is 13 cm long and has a wingspan of 17,5-20 cm.

Habitat:
The Przhevalski rosefinch is a resident of high altitude alpine scrubs, between 3000-5000 m above sea level.

Diet:
Their diet mostly consists of small seeds from a variety of plants.

Breeding:
The female builds the nest in a bush, using dry grasses, leaves, hair and feathers. The clutch of 3-6 eggs is incubated mostly by the female for 13-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents until fledging, 13-14 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
Although the population size has not been quantified, it is believed to be stable as there are no evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Three-toed jacamar

Jacamaralcyon tridactyla

Photo by João Quental (Tree of Life)

Common name:
three-toed jacamar (en); cuitelão (pt); jacamar tridactyle (fr); jacamará tridáctilo (es); dreizehen-glanzvogel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Galbuliformes
Family Galbulidae

Range:
The three-toed jacamar is endemic to south-east Brazil, from northern Minas Gerais south to north-west Paraná.

Size:
These birds are 17-20 cm long and weigh 17,5-19 g.

Habitat:
They are found in subtropical or tropical dry forests, and in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, mostly near river banks. They can also be found in degraded areas where the native vegetations has been replaced by plantations, namely Eucaplytus.
Diet:
They forage on small insects in flight, showing a preference for small cryptic Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera. Birds also take Diptera, Odonata, Homoptera, Hemiptera and Isoptera.

Breeding:
Three-toed jacamars breed in September-February. They nest in cavities excavated in earth banks and there is evidence that females are responsible for most of the excavating. They are possibly colonial, as up to 20 holes have been recorded in same bank. Each clutch consists of 2-4 eggs which are incubated by both parents.

Conservation:
IUCN status - Vu (Vulnerable)
With a restricted breeding range and a declining population estimated at as little as 1000 individuals, the species is threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation and is currently considered vulnerable.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Alpine swift

Tachymarptis melba

Photo by Daniele Occhiato (PBase)

Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Apodiformes
Family Apodidae

Range:
The alpine swift breeds in the Iberian Peninsula, in southern and Alpine Europe through France, Italy, Switzerland, the Balkans and Greece. Also in Mediterranean Africa and through the Middle East into Asia Minor, India and the Himalayas. They winter further south, both in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Indian sub-continent.
Size:
These large swifts are 21 cm long and have a wingspan of 55 cm. They weigh 100 g.

Habitat:
They are mostly found breeding in cliffs in mountainous areas, in rocky habitats in deep ravines, but also in the centre of large cities like Istanbul. They often hunt over wetland habitats such as rivers, swamps and seasonally flooded grasslands.

Diet:
They eat flying insects and spiders caught in flight. The honey bee Apis mellifera is one of their major preys.

Breeding:
Alpine swifts build their nest in colonies, in a suitable cliff hole or cave. Both the male and the female make a shallow cup of stems and grass, fixed with saliva. The breeding season is in April-June, during which one clutch of 1-4 eggs is laid. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs for 20 days, and both parents rear the chicks until they are ready to fledge when they are 50 to 70 days old. They are old enough to breed at the age of 2-3 years
Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a total population estimated at 1-4 million.The population is suspected to be stable and there is no evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Black crake

Amaurornis flavirostris


Common name:
black crake (en); franga-d'água-preta (pt); râle à bec jaune (fr); polluela negra africana (es); mohrensumpfhuhn (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Gruiformes
Family Rallidae

Range:
This African species is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, except in very arid areas.

Size:
The black crake is 19-23 cm long and has a wingspan of 25 cm. These birds weigh up 125 g.

Habitat:
They occur on a variety of wetland habitats, requiring moderate vegetation cover and some degree of permanent flooding. Suitable habitats include flowing and still inland freshwaters, the margins of coastal lagoons and estuarine waters, ponds with floating vegetation and the interior of dense or extensive reedbeds, as well as dense undergrowth in boggy forest clearings, or the margins of swampy forest streams.

Diet:
They mostly eat worms, molluscs, crustaceans, adult and larval insects, small fish, small frogs and tadpoles. They also hunt the eggs and nestlings of weavers and herons, and eat seeds and other parts of water plants.

Breeding:
The black crake is monogamous. The nest is built by both sexes, a deep neat bowl placed on the ground, made up of figs, straw and leaves, often under a bush for protection. Each clutch consists of 2-6 cream or white eggs with brown spots. The eggs are incubated for 13-19 days by both parents, sometimes assisted by the young from previous broods. The precocial chicks leave the nest in 1–3 days, but are fed by parents and helpers for 6-12 weeks.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
Although this species is suffering from the loss of their wetland habitats, they have a very wide breeding range and a minimum population of 1 million, so the species is not considered threatened at present.