Saturday, 30 April 2011

Variable antshrike

Thamnophilus caerulescens


Common name:
variable antshrike (en); choca-da-mata (pt); batara bleuâtre (fr); batará variable (es); südlicher-tropfenameisenwürger

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Thamnophilidae

Range:
This South American species is found widely in eastern and southern Brazil, with disjunct populations in Ceará, Pernambuco and Alagoas. From southern Brazil, its range extends through Uruguay, Paraguay, northern Argentina, Bolivia, and along the eastern slope of the Andes in Peru, as far north as the Amazonas Region.

Size:
Variable antshrikes are 14-16 cm long and weigh 20 g.

Habitat:
They are found in a wide range of densely to lightly wooded habitats, ranging from the edge of humid forest to arid woodland. They are most common in lowlands, but it is primarily found in foothills in north-eastern Brazil, and is restricted to highlands up to 2.600-3.000 m throughout a large part of its Andean range.

Diet:
Variable antshrikes mostly eat insects which they glean from foliage. They also eat some fruits and berries.

Breeding:
The breeding season is variable and both male and female cooperate in building the nest, a cup woven with twigs and plant fibres, placed on a fork in a tree. There the female lays 2-3 which are incubated by both parents for 14-17 days. The chicks are raised by both parents and fledge 12-14 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and, although the global population size has not been quantified, it is described as common. This population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction, but it is not considered threatened at present.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Malachite sunbird

Nectarinia famosa


Common name:
malachite sunbird (en); beija-flor-verde (pt); souïmanga malachite (fr); suimanga malaquita (es); malachitnektarvogel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Nectarinidae

Range:
This African species has a discontinuous distribution across East Africa, with a separate and larger popuation in southern Africa where they occur in most of South Africa, southern Namibia, and along the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Size:
Males are larger than females due to the very long central tail feather, being 25-26 cm long while the females are 15 cm long. They weigh 15 g.

Habitat:
Malachite sunbirds occur in a variety of habitats, ranging from alpine and mountain grasslands to scrubby hillsides in mountainous areas, as well as arid steppes, riverine thornbush, gardens, parks and plantations.
Diet:
They mostly eat nectar, foraging among the flowers of different plants including Aloe, Protea, Olea, Cotyledon orbiculata, Watsonia, Disa, Kniphofia, Leonotis, Tecoma capensis, Strelitzia, Glischorocolla formosa, Melianthus villosus, Buddleja salviifolia, Greyia sutherlandia, Jacaranda mimosifolia and Nicotiana glauca. Occasionally they also take arthropods and small lizars.

Breeding:
These monogamous, solitary nesters breed in September-December. The female builds the nest alone, a teardrop-shaped construction built of dry grass and plant down bound with spider web. It is usually placed in a low bush 1-2 m above ground. There she lays 1-4 eggs, which she incubates alone for 12-14 days. The chicks are cared for mainly by the female, fledging 13-17 days after hatching, but only becoming fully independent 24 days later.
Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and, although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is described as locally common in areas of suitable habitat. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Fork-tailed storm-petrel

Oceanodroma furcata


Common name:
fork-tailed storm-petrel (en); paínho-de-cauda-furcada (pt); océanite à queue fourchue (fr); paíño rabihorcado (es); gabelschwanz-wellenläufer (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Procellariiformes
Family Hydrobatidae

Range:
This species is found in the northern Pacific, breeding on the Aleutian islands off Alaska, and on islands along the coasts of British Columbia in Canada and the Pacific Northwest in the United States. They also breed on the Kuril islands off Kamchatka. Outside the breeding season they are mostly found offshore down the Pacific coast to central California on the North American side, and down to Japan on the Asian side.

Size:
Fork-tailed storm-petrels are 20-23 cm long and have a wingspan of 46 cm. They weigh 45 g.

Habitat:
They breeds on offshore islands in grassy areas, rocky hillsides or amongst trees, sometimes far from sea. They generally forage on the continental shelves, typically foraging closer to the shore whilst breeding.

Diet:
They mostly eat planktonic crustaceans, small fish and squid, also taking offal. They feed on the wing or by surface-seizing.

Breeding:
Fork-tailed storm-petrels breed in May-September. The species is monogamous and both sexes invest equally in breeding, nesting in burrows or crevices in talus slopes, but also using burrows they excavate and sometimes using side chambers of other burrowing seabirds. There the female lays 1 egg which is incubated by both parents for 44-56 days. The chicks are fed and brooded by both parents and fledge 60-66 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 6 million individuals. The population is suspected to be increasing as several islands have been recolonised following the eradication of introduced predators.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Forest fody

Foudia omissa


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Ploceidae

Range:
This species is endemic to Madagascar, being found in the eastern half of the country, from Tsaratanana south to Tolagnaro.

Size:
The forest fody is 14 cm long and weighs 15-25 g.

Habitat:
This species is mostly found in intact evergreen rain forest, and occasionally in adjacent secondary growth, from sea level up to an altitude of 2.000 m.

Diet:
The forest fody is omnivorous, taking seeds, nectar and insects. They are known to eat Sloanea seeds and nectar from the flowers of Strongylodon, Bakerella and Symphonia.

Breeding:
They breed in November-April, with both male and female building the nest on tall grasses, bushes, in trees or on the midribs of palm leaves. The female lays 1-5 eggs, which she incubates alone for 13-17 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 13-15 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and, although the global population size is yet to be quantified, the species is described as fairly common. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and hybridisation with Foudia madagascariensis.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Orange-headed tanager

Thlypopsis sordida


Common name:
orange-headed tanager (en); saí-canário (pt); tangara à tête orange (fr); zarcerito cabeciamarillo (es); orangekopftangare (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Thraupidae

Range:
These birds are widely distributed in South America, in Venezuela, Peru, Equador, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Argentina and throughout Brazil.

Size:
Orange-headed tanagers are 13-14 cm long and weigh 14 g.

Habitat:
They are mostly found in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist scrubland, and heavily degraded former forest. They may also be found in swamps, open landscapes and even within urban areas.

Diet:
The orange-headed tanager is omnivorous, taking fruits, seeds and insects which they glean from foliage.

Breeding:
These birds breed in July-November. The female builds a cup-shaped nest, using plant fibres, twigs and spider webs collected by the male. The nest is typically placed on a tree, 2-5 m above the ground. There she lays 2-3 bluish eggs with brown spots which she incubates alone for 12-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 12 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
Altough the global population size has not been quantified, this species is described as fairly common over its extremely large breeding range. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Yellow-legged gull

Larus michahellis


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Charadriiformes
Family Laridae

Range:
This species is found throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea, along the western coast of Iberia up to the Gulf of Biscay and in the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira, Azores and Canary islands.

Size:
The yellow-legged gull is 52-68 cm long and has a wingspan of 120-155 cm. They weigh 800-1.500 g.

Habitat:
This species breeds in large colonies of thousands birds on coastal cliffs and rocky islands, but also inland, including urban areas. It also nests on rocky or sandy islands, beaches, and grassy islets with bushes on streams. Outside the breeding area they are mostly found in coastal areas, often following fishing boat, inside harbours and urban areas, but also along rivers and in agricultural fields.

Diet:
The yellow-legged gull feeds primarily on fish and crustaceans, and destroys the clutches of terns, petrels and shelducks. It also frequents rubbish dumps and consumes various other invertebrates, small mammals, molluscs and lizards.

Breeding:
These birds start breeding in March-April. They form large colonies, nesting on the ground, on and between rocks, on sand or pebbles. The nest is a cup-shaped scrape, lined with grass, twigs, algae and debris. There the female lays 2-3 eggs which are incubated for 26-31 days. The semi-precocial chicks are fed by both parents in and around the nest and fledge 40-48 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range. The global population size is unknown owing to recent taxonomic splits, but is estimated to be well above 200.000 individuals. Although this species is affected by factors like oil pollution, long-lining, habitat destruction and disturbance from tourism at breeding sites, the overall population trend is increasing and the species is even considered a pest in some areas.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Red-billed leirothrix

Leiothrix lutea


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Timaliidae

Range:
This species is found in southern Asia, from India to southern China. The species has been introduced to Hawaii and Japan.

Size:
The red-billed leirothrix is 14-15 cm long and weighs 21-25 g.

Habitat:
They are found in thick underbrush in deciduous forests, from sea level up to an altitude of 2.700 m. They have been known to fly up to elevations of 4.500 m for a short period of time.

Diet:
These omnivorous birds eat fruits of various plants, including strawberry guava, thimbleberry, and sometimes overripe papaya, as well as various seeds. Their diet also includes larval and adult butterflies, moths, millipedes, and spiders. They have been known to eat mealworms and molluscs.

Breeding:
Red-billed leirothrixes breed in April-September. They nest in an open cup, composed of dry leaves, moss and lichen and placed on a horizontally forked branch. There the female lays 3-4 pale blue eggs with reddish-brown spots which are incubated by both parents for 14 days. The chicks are fed insects and sometimes fruits by both parents, and fledge 12-14 days after hatching. Each pair may raise 2-3 clutches per year.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
Although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is reported to be locally common in various parts of its very large breeding range. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and capture for the cage bird trade, with over 225.000 wild-caught individuals having been recorded in international trade since 1997. Still, this species is not considered threatened at present.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Black and white casqued hornbill

Bycanistes subcylindricus


Common name:
black and white casqued hornbill (en); calau-de-casco-preto-e-branco (pt); calao à joues grises (fr); cálao de casco blanco y negro (es); grauwangen-hornvogel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Coraciiformes
Family Bucerotidae

Range:
These birds are found in throughout West and Central Africa. The subspecies Bycanistes s. subcylindricus ranges from Sierra Leone and north-east Liberia across the Ivory Coast to western Nigeria, while the subspecies, B. s. subquadratus, ranges from eastern Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic to Sudan, Zaire, Uganda, south-west Kenya, and north-west Tanzania. An isolated population of B. s. subquadratus also exists in Angola.

Size:
This large hornbill is 60-70 cm long. Males tend to be larger than females, weighing 1.080-1.530 g, while females weigh between 1.000-1.250 g.

Habitat:
Black and white casqued hornbills are most commonly found in subtropical and tropical lowland and mountain forests, being also found in artificial landscapes such as plantations or urban areas, heavily degraded forests and dry savannas. They are present up to 2.600 m above sea level.

Diet:
These birds are mostly frugivorous, with the fruits of Ficus trees composing more than half of their diet. Overall, they are known to eat the fruits of over 41 plant genera, which they forage by hopping from branch to branch in the rainforest canopy and reaching for fruit with the tip of the bill, which they then swallow whole. They also consume birds, eggs, insects, bats, snails, lizards, molluscs, other small animal prey, mosses, lichens, and fungi.

Breeding:
They can breed throughout the year, but generally concentrate breeding during the local wet season of each part of their range. They nest in naturally formed cavities, 9-30 m high in large rainforest trees, and seal the cavity with mud pellets collected by the male. Inside, the female lays 2 white eggs, which she incubates alone for 42 days while the male delivers food to the female through a small slit, regurgitating numerous fruits, mammals, and insects. Usually only one offspring is reared, with the chick from the second-laid egg dying of starvation. The surviving chick fledges 70-79 days after hatching, but only becomes fully independent 7-10 weeks later.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be locally uncommon to common over its very large breeding range. This species is able to survive in degraded forest and open areas, which allows it to survive large scale habitat degration occuring throughout its range. However, forest degradation in Africa means that hornbills now occur in more open areas with few large trees, which makes them more prone to hunting.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Grey fantail

Rhipidura fuliginosa


Common name:
grey fantail (en); cauda-de-leque-cinzento (pt); rhipidure gris (fr); abanico gris (es); graufächerschwanz (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Rhipiduridae

Range:
Grey fantails are found throughout Australia and Tasmania, in New Zealand, New Guinea, the Solomon islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Size:
These birds are 14-16 cm long and weigh 9 g.

Habitat:
The grey fantail is found in a wide variety of habitats from forest and woodland to coastal scrub and gardens.

Diet:
They feed on flying insects, which they catch by chasing them from the edge of foliage at all levels in the canopy.

Breeding:
Grey fantails breed in July-January. Both sexes build the nest, a compact cup, usually placed in the forks of trees, made from moss, bark and fibre, and often completed with spider webs. The female lays 2-4 cream eggs with grey and brown spots, which are incubated by both parents for 14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 12 days after hatching. Each pair can raise several broods per season.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
Although the global population size is yet to be quantified, this species is described as common to locally abundant over its very large breeding range. The trend direction for this population is difficult to determine owing to the positive and negative processes affecting the species, but overall the grey fantail is not considered threatened at present.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Fawn-coloured lark

Mirafra africanoides
(Photo from Bird Forum)

Common name:
fawn-coloured lark (en); cotovia-cor-d'areia (pt); alouette fauve (fr); alondra leonada (es); steppenlerche (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Alaudidae

Range:
This African species is found in two distinct populations. The southern population is found from north-central South Africa to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, marginally extending into Zambia and Angola. The other population occurs in arid areas of eastern Africa, in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Size:
This medium-sized lark is 14-16 cm long and weighs 18-25 g.

Habitat:
Fawn-coloured larks are mostly found in desert scrub, broadleaf savanna and thornveld.

Diet:
It eats insects and the seeds of forbs and grasses, doing most of its foraging on bare sandy soil and at the bases of grass tufts. Among their prey are termites, ants, grasshoppers, antlion larvae and spiders.

Breeding:
The fawn-coloured lark breeds in September-April. The nest is a cup built of grass and rootlets, often concealed by a grass-built dome. It is typically placed in a scrape in the ground, at the base of a small shrub or grass tuft. There the female lays 2-4 eggs which are incubated for 11-13 days. The chicks are fed by both parents, fledging 12-14 days after hatching, but continuing dependent on their parents for several weeks.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
Although the global population size has not been quantified, this species is described as common throughout its very large breeding range. In the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats, the population is believed to be stable and the species is therefore not considered threatened at present.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mountain quail

Oreortyx pictus


Common name:
mountain quail (en); codorniz-da-montanha (pt); colin des montagne (fr); codorniz picta (es); bergwachtel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Galliformes
Family Odontophoridae

Range:
This species is found along the Pacific coast of North America, from Oregon to California, in the United States, and down to Baja California in Mexico.

Size:
Mountain quails are 26-28 cm long and have a wingspan of 35-40 cm. They weigh 190-260 g.

Habitat:
They are typically found in scrub-dominated communities such as chaparral or desert scrub, at altitudes of 700-3000 m. In coastal areas of northern California they may also occur near sea level. This species is also found in mixed conifer-hardwood, redwood, pine, white fir, red fir, pinyon-juniper, and hardwood forests. It may also occur in aspen stands associated with sagebrush, and in riparian and oak woodlands.

Diet:
Mountain quails are primarily herbivorous, eating acorns, pine nuts, fruits and seeds of shrubs (namely Ceanothus, Arctostaphylos, Toxicodendron radicans), bulbs, seeds and leaves of weeds, forbs, and legumes. Invertebrates form a marginal part of their diet.

Breeding:
They breed in March-June. The nest is placed on the ground, usually concealed by the surrounding vegetation and it is usually quite close to water. The females lay 6-14 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 24-25 days. The chicks leave the nest within hours of hatching and are cared for by the parents who direct them to food instead of feeding it to them. The chicks seem to eat more insects than adults and remain together with their parents in a family group until the nest breeding season.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a large breeding range and a global population of 160.000 individuals. The species suffered a large decline in the early 1900s, but hunting bans allowed the population to stabilize, with no apparent change in numbers in the last 4 decades. Although habitat destruction and fragmentation due to agricultural and construction developments may pose some threats, the species is not considered threatened at present.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Red-billed scythebill

Campylorhamphus trochilirostris


Common name:
red-billed scythebill (en); arapaçu-beija-flor (pt); grimpar à bec rouge (fr); picoguadaña piquirrojo (es); rotrücken-sensenschnabel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Furnariidae

Range:
These South American birds are found from Panama and Venezuela, through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and into western Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina.

Size:
This large woodcreeper is 24-28 cm long and weighs 34-40 g.

Habitat:
These birds are found in a wide range of dense forest habitats, including rainforests, tropical and sub-tropical dry forests, lowland forests and mountain forests. They can be found up to an altitude of 2.000 m.

Diet:
Red-billed scythebills use their long recurved bill to pick insects and other invertebrates from the trunks and branches of trees.

Breeding:
These birds use abandoned woodpecker nests or other tree holes to nest in. The female lays 2-3 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 15-21 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 19-23 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
The red-billed scythebill has a very large breeding range. Although the population size has not been quantified this species is described as fairly common, but patchily distributed. This population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Tricoloured blackbird

Agelaius tricolor

(Photo from Animal Photo Album)

Common name:
tricoloured blackbird (en); iratauá-tricolor (pt): carouge de Californie (fr); turpial capitán (es); dreifarbenstärling (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Icteridae

Range:
This species is found along the Pacific coast of North America, from southern Oregon to California and Nevada, in the United States, and into Baja California and El Rosario in Mexico.

Size:
Tricoloured blackbirds are 18-24 cm long and have a wingspan of 30-35 cm. They weigh 59-68 g.

Habitat:
These birds breed in freshwater marshes with tall emergent vegetation, in upland habitats and in silage fields. They forage in agricultural areas, particularly where livestock are present and grass is short, and show a preference for roosting in marshes. They are found from sea level up to an altitude of 1.300 m.

Diet:

An opportunistic forager, the tricoloured blackbird takes any locally abundant insect including grasshoppers, beetles and weevils, caddis fly larvae, moth and butterfly larvae, dragonfly larvae, and lake shore midges, as well as grains, snails, and small clams.

Breeding:
These birds breed in April-July. They are polygynous with 1-4 females per male. Each females build the nests alone, a shallow, open cup made with dry leaves which are dipped in water and woven around strong, upright plant stems, usually around 1 m above the ground. The nest is lined with mud and softer materials. There the female lays 3-5 eggs which she incubates alone for 11-12 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 10-14 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - EN (Endangered)
This species has a relatively small breeding range and the global population of 250.000 individuals is believed to be undergoing very rapid declines owing to loss of nesting habitat, low reproductive success in native habitats and complete breeding failure in harvested agricultural fields. Additionally, herbicide spraying and contaminated water are suspected to have caused complete breeding failure in several colonies. Because breeding success is so poor in native wetlands, protection of these habitats will not reverse population declines in the species, so conservation measures must focus on agricultural land and upland habitats as well.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Pheasant-tailed jacana

Hydrophasianus chirurgus


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Charadriiformes
Family Jacanidae

Range:
The pheasant-tailed jacana is found in southern and south-eastern Asia, including portions of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, Java, and the Philippines.

Size:
These birds are 28-31 cm long, but the during the breeding season the long tails lengthen their total size to 45-50 cm. They weigh 120-150 g.

Habitat:
The pheasant-tailed jacana inhabits marshes, ponds, and lakes with patches of floating vegetation.

Diet:
They pick insects and other invertebrates from the floating vegetation or the water's surface.

Breeding:
Pheasant-tailed jacanas are polyandrous, with females having up to 4 mates at one time. They breed in March-September, with each male building a nest made of floating vegetation. The female lays 3-4 olive to dark-green eggs in each nest and each male is responsible for incubating and rearing the young. The male incubates the eggs for 24-26 days and the chicks are able to walk, swim and forage within hours of hatching. The male protects and broods the chicks for 6-7 weeks before they become fully independent.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population of 100.000 individuals. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and degradation, but the pheasant-tailed jacana is not considered threatened at present.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Eastern spinebill

Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris


Common name:
eastern spinebill (en); melífago-oriental (pt); méliphage à bec grêle (fr); picoespina oriental (es); rotnacken-honigfresser (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Meliphagidae

Range:
This species is found in south-eastern Australia, east of the Great Dividing Range from Cooktown in Queensland to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. They are also present throughout Tasmania.

Size:
They are 13-16 cm long and weigh 11 g.

Habitat:
Eastern spinebills prefer dry sclerophyll forests, scrubland and heathland. They are also common in urban gardens, even in large cities like Sidney and Melbourne.

Diet:
These birds feed on the nectar of many plants, including the blooms of gum trees, mistletoes Amyema spp., Epacris longiflora, common heath Epacris impressa, Correa reflexa, and various members of the Proteaceae such as Banksia ericifolia, Banksia spinulosa, Banksia integrifolia, Lambertia formosa and Grevillea speciosa, as well as exotic plants such as Fuchsia. They also eat small insects and other invertebrates.

Breeding:
The eastern spinebill breeds in August-January. The female builds the nest, consisting of a small cup of twigs, grass and bark, combined with hair and spider's web, built in a tree fork, generally 1-5 m above the ground. The female lays 2-3 whitish spotted eggs, which she incubates alone or 14 days. Both parents feed the young, which fledge 14 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a large breeding range. The population size is yet to be quantified, and is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction. Still, this species is not considered threatened at present.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Red-rumped swallow

Hirundo daurica


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Hirundinidae

Range:
This species is a common, but patchily distributed breeder in southern Europe, being found from Portugal and Spain, through France, Italy, the Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and into Turkey. They also breed in Morocco. This species is also found breeding in Asia, through the Middle East, along Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China and all the way to Japan. These populations winter either in sub-Saharan Africa or in southern Asia. There are resident races in Africa in a broad belt from West Africa east to Ethiopia and then south to Tanzania, and most Indian and Sri Lanka breeders are also year-round residents.

Size:
Red-rumped swallows are 16-18 cm long and have a wingspan of 33 cm. They weigh 24 g.

Habitat:
They are most often found plains and grasslands, often in hilly areas. They tend to remain near water, nesting in rocky outcrops, under bridges and in other human buildings.

Diet:
Red-rumped swallows hunt various insects in flight.

Breeding:
These birds nest in May-July, with both sexes building the nest. The nest is a closed cup with an entrance tunnel, made of mud and saliva, and placed under a ceiling, bridge, or in a rocky outcrop. There the female lays 3-6 eggs which are incubated for 11-16 days. The chicks fledge 20-21 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has an extremely large, but patchy, breeding range. Although the global population size has not been quantified, the European population accounts for 100.000-430.000 individuals, and probably represents less than 25% of the global population. The population trend is uncertain as this species declined is areas like Greece and Albania, but these losses seem to have been compensated by increases elsewhere, notably in Spain and Portugal.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Red-bellied parrot

Poicephalus rufiventris


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Psittaciformes
Family Psittacidae

Range:
This African parrot is found in the savannas of eastern Africa, in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania.

Size:
This small parrot is 22-23 cm long and weighs 130-170 g.

Habitat:
Red-bellied parrots favour savannas, dry savannas and tropical and subtropical scrubland, especially in Acacia-Commiphora steppe woodlands. They are often found near water sources and tend to be present at altitudes of 800-2.000 m.

Diet:
They mostly feed on Ficus figs, Acacia fruits, seeds, other fruits and maize.

Breeding:
Red-bellied parrots breed in March-October. They nest in tree cavities, where the females lay 3-4 eggs. The female incubates the eggs alone for 26-28 days and the chicks fledge 10 weeks after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a large breeding range and, although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is reported to be uncommon to common. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Yellow-browed bunting

Emberiza chrysophrys


Common name:
yellow-browed bunting (en); escrevedeira-de-sobrolho-amarelo (pt); bruant à sourcils jaune (fr); escribano de cejas amarillas (es); gelbbrauenammer (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Emberizidae

Range:
This Asian species breeds in eastern and southern Siberia and winters in central and southern China.

Size:
The yellow-browed bunting is 13-14 cm long and has a wingspan of 22-24 cm. They weigh 15-17 g.

Habitat:
These birds breed in the taiga zone, preferring moist coniferous forests of spruce, pine and larch, with well developed undergrowth. In winter they are usually found in areas of thicket and bush bordering crops and forest margins.

Diet:
Adult yellow-browed buntings only eat seeds, but they feed insects to nestlings.

Breeding:
These birds breed in May-August, with the females building a well hidden nest, placed in a small spruce about 1 m above the ground, and consisting of dry grass stems with the interior lined with wool, hair or very thin stems. There she lays 3-5 greyish eggs with purple spots which she incubates alone for 10-14 days. The young are reared by both parents, and fledge 10-15 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
Although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is described as uncommon in most of its large range. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats, so the yellow-browed bunting is not considered threatened at present.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Yellow warbler

Dendroica petechia


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Parulidae

Range:
These birds breed throughout much of North America, including Alaska, northern Canada, and the northern 2/3 of the United States. They migrate south to winter in southern California, southern Florida, and south through the Brazilian Amazon, Bolivia, and Peru.

Size:
These small songbirds are 12-13 cm long and have a wingspan of 16-20 cm. They weigh 9-11 g.

Habitat:
They breed in moist, deciduous thickets, especially in willows, but also in shrubby areas and abandoned agricultural fields. In the winter they are found in mangroves, the edges of marshes and swamps, willow-lined streams, and leafy bogs.

Diet:
Yellow warblers are predominantly insectivorous, gleaning insects and their larvae, and spiders from the vegetation. In winter they also eat berries.

Breeding:
They breed in May-June. The female builds the nest, a deep cup of grasses and bark, covered on the outside with plant down and fine fibers, lined with fur or fine plant fibers. It is placed in an upright fork of a scrub or tree. There the female lays 4-5 greenish white eggs with dark spots, which she incubates alone for 10-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 9-12 days after hatching, but parental feeding may continue for 2 more weeks.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population of 40 million individuals. The population is believed to be stable, but in some areas the loss of riparian woodland habitat and extensive parasitism by cowbirds affect this species. On the other hand, in areas where grazing and herbicide use are restricted, permitting regrowth of riparian vegetation, the species may be increasing.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Eurasian nightjar

Caprimulgus europaeus


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Caprimulgiformes
Family Caprimulgidae

Range:
These birds breed throughout Europe, with the exception of Iceland, northern Scotland and northern Scandinavia. Then, through Turkey, southern Russia and the Caucasus, into Iraq and Iran, and all the way to Kazakhstan, Pakistan and western China. They winter in sub-Saharan Africa, in the western parts of the Sahel, and along the Indian ocean coast, from Somalia down to South Africa.

Size:
Eurasian nightjars are 24-28 cm long and have a wingspan of 52-59 cm. They weigh 67-78 g.

Habitat:
They mostly breed in heathland, moorland, sand dunes and young conifer plantations, requiring low, sparse vegetation to nest in. They forage on a wider range of habitats, preferring heathlands, deciduous or mixed woodlands, orchards, riparian and freshwater habitats, and gardens.

Diet:
Eurasian nightjars hunt for insects on the wing, from dusk until dawn. Their prey includes moths, flies, craneflies, beetles, and ants.

Breeding:
These breed in May-August. The nests are selected by males and are usually a shallow scrape on bare ground amongst heather or bracken. There the females lays 1-3 creamy white eggs mottled with brown and purple. The eggs are incubated for 17-18 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 16-17 days after hatching. If the first brood is produced early in the season, a second brood may be possible.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and a global population estimated at 2-6 million individuals. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction, pesticide use reducing the availability of food, disturbance and poor winter survival in their African wintering grounds. Despite this the species is not considered threatened at present.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Red-whiskered bulbul

Pycnonotus jocosus


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Pycnonotidae

Range:
These birds are native to south-east Asia, from Pakistan and India to China. They have been introduced to several countries including Australia, the United States and several Asian nations outside their native range.

Size:
Red-whiskered bulbuls are 17-23 cm long and have a wingspan of 28 cm. They weigh 23-42 g.

Habitat:
In their native range they are mostly found in lightly wooded areas, in open country with bushes and shrubs, along forest edges and in farmland at altitudes of 500-2.000 m. In their introduced range they are also found in urban areas, where they inhabit parks, gardens and areas along creeks.

Diet:
The red-whiskered bulbul feeds on fruits, berries, insects, flower buds and nectar.

Breeding:
These birds can breed all year round, depending on the part of their range. The nest is cup-shaped, and is built on bushes, thatched walls or small trees. It is woven of fine twigs, roots, and grasses, and embellished with large objects such as bark strips, paper, or plastic bags. The female lays 2-3 pale mauve eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 12-14 days. Both parents take part in raising the chicks, which fledge 13 days after hatching but only become fully independent after 3 weeks. Each pair may raise 1-2 broods per year.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and, although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is described as common to abundant. The species range has expanded due to its introduction to several new areas, but the population in its native range is estimated to be in decline following local declines and extinctions owing to hunting and trapping pressure. Overall, this species is not considered threatened at present.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Great kiskadee

Pitangus sulphuratus


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Tyrannidae

Range:
These birds are found from the southern-most United States, in Texas and Louisiana, through Central America and across South America down to Uruguay and central Argentina. They are also found in Trinidad and have been introduced to Bermuda and Tobago.

Size:
Great kiskadees are 22-25 cm long and have a wingspan of 37-39 cm. They weigh 52-68 g.

Habitat:
These birds are commonly found in open woodland, scrub, thickets, streamsides, groves, parks and towns. In the tropics, they avoid dense, unbroken forests for open habitats near water.

Diet:
These omnivorous birds often hunt from a perch, sallying out to catch their prey either in fligh or on the ground. They eat a variety of insects, like beetles, wasps, grasshoppers, bees and moths, but also small mammals, reptiles, small birds, tadpoles and small fish, being one of the few fishing passerines. They also eat seeds, fruits and berries, especially in winter.

Breeding:
The great kiskadee breeding season starts in late March. Both sexes build the nest, a dome made with sticks, grass, mosses and bark, and lined with soft materials, such as wool and feathers, with a singly entry hole on the side. The nest is located in a fork of a tree or bush, where it is firmly attached, 3-9 m above the ground. There, the female lays 2-5 creamy-white eggs with brown and grey marks. She incubates the eggs alone for 13-15 days and the chicks are fed and protected by both parents until fledging, which takes place 35 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This common and widespread species has an extremely large breeding range and a global population of 10-100 million individuals. The population trend is increasing in North America and the species is thus not threatened at present.

Friday, 8 April 2011

White ibis

Eudocimus albus


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Ciconiiformes
Family Threskiornithidae

Range:
The white ibis breeds from the United States, along the coastal region of Virginia, south and west to Louisiana, including inland South Carolina through Florida, and along the entire coast of Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, and Costa Rica.

Size:
These birds are 56-68 cm long and have a wingspan of 95 cm. They weigh 750-1.050 g.

Habitat:
The white ibis lives in a variety of coastal freshwater, saltwater and brackish marshes, rice fields, mudflats, mangrove swamps and lagoons.

Diet:
They forage in shallow, sparsely vegetated water, using their long, sensitive bill to search for its prey by touch rather than by sight. They feed on a variety of crustaceans, insects, amphibians, small snakes and small fish.

Breeding:
White ibis tend to breed in June-July, but the breeding season may vary according to food abundance. They nest in colonies, with the females builds the nest in the forking branch of a tree or bush, weaving dead twigs collected by the male together with vegetation. The female lays 1-4 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 21 days. The hatchlings are cared for constantly as they are weak and prone to overheating, and they are fed on freshwater prey such as small fish. They fledge 2 weeks after hatching but remain in the colony for at least another 40 days. They only become fully independent after 2 years.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a large breeding range and a global population estimated at 350.000 individuals. The overall population estimate is believed to be stable, but the population in the United States has increased by almost 600% over the last 4 decades.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Pin-tailed whydah

Vidua macroura


Common name:

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Viduidae

Range:
These birds occur across sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to southern Africa, where they are common across Zimbabwe, South Africa, patches of Mozambique and northern and eastern Botswana, while more scarce in Namibia.

Size:
Pin-tailed Whydahs are 12-13 cm in length, although the breeding male's tail adds another 20 cm to this. They weigh 14-19 g.

Habitat:
They generally prefer grassland, open savanna woodland, hillsides with scattered trees and bushes, sedges and rank grass along watercourses, cultivated croplands and gardens.

Diet:
Pin-tailed whydahs mainly eat grass seeds that they either take directly or uncover from the soil by scratching. They are know to take the seeds of Guinea grass Panicum maximum, water couch Paspalum distichum, Echinochloa, Urochloa and Setaria. These birds also eat filamentous algae and termite alates.

Breeding:
Pin-tailed whydahs are polygynous brood parasites, with each male assuming a territory centered on a perch, which it uses for calling and displaying. The breeding season varies across their range, but most eggs are layed in August-April. The female lays 2-4 eggs on the nest of other birds, namely common waxbill Estrilda astrild, orange-breasted waxbill Sporaeginthus subflavus, red-billed firefinch Lagonosticta senegala, bronze mannikin Spermestes cucullatus, neddicky Cisticola fulvicapilla and tawny-flanked prinia Prinia subflava. The host incubates the eggs for 11 days and rears the chicks until fledging, which takes place 17-21 days after hatching. The young may remain with the host family for at least another week before joining a whydah flock.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
These birds have a very large breeding range and they are described as uncommon. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.