Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sociable weaver

Philetairus socius

Photo by Marco Valentini (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
sociable weaver (en); tecelão-sociável (pt); républicain social (fr); tejedor republicano (es); siedelweber (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Ploceidae

Range:
This species is found in Namibia, south-western Botswana and northern South Africa.

Size:
These birds are 14 cm long and weigh 26-30 g.

Habitat:
The sociable weaver is found in dry grasslands, scrublands with scattered trees and open Acacia and Mopane  savannas. Also in desert areas providing there are human structures for nesting.

Diet:
They feed on the ground, usually in large flocks. Mainly they take seeds, but also grass leaves, fruits, flowers and insects such as termites, ants, caterpillars, small grasshoppers and beetles.

Breeding:
The sociable weaver is a colonial, cooperative breeder, living in colonies of up to 500 birds. The breeding season depends on rainfall patterns, but in some areas is usually in August-November. The whole colony nests in a massive communal nest made of dry grasses and thorny twins, placed in a vertical branch or in a human structure. The nest can be 7 m long, weigh over 1 ton and be over 100 years old and can be also used by other species such as pygmy falcons and other weavers. Each female lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes and sometimes helpers for 12-15 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and several helpers and fledge 21-24 days after hatching, but only become fully independent 4-7 weeks later.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and is described as common to abundant. The population has increased substantially over the last century has it expanded into treeless areas where it uses artificial structures as nest sites.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Little crake

Porzana parva

Photo by H. Talpa (Wikipedia)

Common name:
little crake (en); franga d'água-bastarda (pt); marouette poussin (fr); polluela bastarda (es); kleines-sumpfuhn (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Gruiformes
Family Rallidae

Range:
This species is found breeding in eastern Europe and Asia, as far west as Poland and Hungary, with some scattered population further west in Germany, France and even Spain, and as far east as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and southern Russia. They migrate south to winter in the Nile valley, Israel, Yemen and from eastern Iraq to southern Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Size:
These birds are 18-20 cm long and have a wingspan of 34-39 cm. They weigh 35-60 g.

Habitat:
Little crakes inhabit freshwater wetlands with dense emergent vegetation, such as marshes, bogs, lakes, slow-moving rivers, irrigated fields and wet or seasonally flooded grasslands. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 2.000 m.

Diet:
They mainly feed on aquatic insects, such as water beetles, bugs, lacewings and adult and larval flies, but also seeds and aquatic plants, worms, snails, spiders and water mites.

Breeding:
The little crake breeds in May-August. They are monogamous and territorial, but pair bonds only last one breeding season. The nest is a shallow mound of plant stems and leaves, placed in thick vegetation near or over water, often in a raised tussock or platform of dead plant material. There the female lays 6-9 ochre eggs with dark spots, which are incubated by both parents for 21-23 days. After hatching the chicks stay in the nest for up to 8 days, after which they go into areas of dense vegetation where they are fed by their parents until fledging, about 50 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 100.000-1.000.000 individuals. The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends, the main threats being the destruction of wetland habitats and hunting.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Crimson-fronted barbet

Megalaima rubricapillus

Photo by P.J. Vasanthan (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
crimson-fronted barbet (en); barbudo-de-faces-vermelhas (pt); barbu à couronne rouge (fr); barbudo capirrojo (es); Malabarschmied

Taxonomy:
Order Piciformes
Family Capitonidae

Range:
This species is found in south-western India, from Goa to Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and in Sri Lanka.

Size:
These birds are 15 cm long and weigh 35-40 g.

Habitat:
The crimson-fronted barbet is mostly found in moist tropical forests, but also along rivers and streams, in coffee plantations, rural gardens and arable land. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 1.300 m.

Diet:
They mainly feed on fruits, especially Ficus retusa, Ficus gibbosa and Ficus tsiela, but will also take a wide range of insects such as grubs, termite alates, ants, cicadas, dragonflies, crickets, locusts, beetles, moths and mantids.

Breeding:
Crimson-fronted barbets breed in January-March. They nest in tree holes, which they excavated on the underside of thin branches. The female lays 2-4 eggs which are incubated for 13-16 days. The chicks fledge about 35 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and is described is reported to be locally common. The population is believed to be declining, but it is not considered threatened at present.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Golden-breasted starling

Cosmopsarus regius

Photo by Nick Athanas (Antpitta)

Common name:
golden-breasted starling (en); estorninho-de-peito-dourado (pt); choucador royal (fr); estornino de pecho dorado (es); königsglanzstar (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Sturnidae

Range:
This species is found in East Africa, from southern and eastern Ethiopia, through Somalia and Kenya and into northern Tanzania.

Size:
These birds are 30-38 cm long and weigh 45-56 g.

Habitat:
The golden-breasted starling is found in arid areas, namely dry scrublands and savannas and to a lesser extent in dry grasslands.

Diet:
They catch insects in flight and dig up termite mounds to eat termites, but will also eat some fruits and berries.

Breeding:
Golden-breasted starlings are cooperative breeders, leaving in social groups of 3-12 individuals who help build the nest and feed the young. They nest in tree holes, where they build a cup nest made of leaves, roots and other plant materials. There the female lays 3-5 pale green eggs with red speckles, which are incubated for 11-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and other group members and fledge about 3 weeks after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status -  LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as locally common. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Yellow-olive flatbill

Tolmomyias sulphurescens

Photo by Dario Sanches (Wikipedia)

Common name:
yellow-olive flatbill (en); bico-chato-de-orelha-preta (pt); platyrhynque jaune-olive (fr); picoplano sulfuroso (es); olivscheitel-breitschnabeltyrann (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Tyrannidae

Range:
This species is found from southern Mexico down to Bolivia, south-eastern Brazil and northern Argentina. West of the Andes range they are only found in western Colombia and western Ecuador.

Size:
These birds are 12,5-14 cm long and weigh 14-15 g.

Habitat:
The yellow-olive flatbill is found in dry savannas and forests, moist tropical forests, along rivers and streams, second growths and plantations. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 2.100 m.

Diet:
They typically forage by sallying out from a perch to catch insects in flight or from foliage, taking bees, ants and bugs. They also eat berries.

Breeding:
Yellow-olive flatbills breed in April-January. The nest is a hanging ball with a side entrance, made of fungal rhizomorphs and rootlets, placed hanging from a tree branch 1,5-11 m above the ground. There the female lays 2-4 white or cream-coloured eggs, sometimes with small cinnamon spots, which she mostly incubates for about 17-20 days. The chicks fledge 22-24 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 5-50 million individuals. The yellow-olive flatbill is tolerant of converted habitats and its population is thus suspected to be stable.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Silver pheasant

Lophura nycthemera

Photo by Allan Drewitt (Flickr)

Common name:
silver pheasant (en); faisão-prateado (pt); faisan argenté (fr); faisán plateado (es); silberfasan (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Galliformes
Family Phasianidae

Range:
The silver pheasant is found in south-eastern Asia, from southern China down to Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Size:
These birds exhibit a large sexual dimorphism, especially because of the large tail of the males. Including the tail, the males are 120-125 cm long while the smaller females are 60-75 cm long. The males weigh 1,1-2 kg while the females weigh 1,1-1,3 kg.

Habitat:
Silver pheasants are found in dry grasslands and tropical moist forests, especially along the forest edge, from sea level up to an altitude of 1.000 m.

Diet:
They forage on the ground, mainly taking seeds and fruits, but also some invertebrates.

Breeding:
Silver pheasants breed in March-June. The males are polygamous, often living in small groups with one male and several females. They nest on the ground, where the female lays 6-9 eggs. Some nests can have up to 15 eggs, but these a most likely from several females. The eggs are incubated for 25-26 days and the precocial chicks are able to feed themselves soon after hatching. Both sexes help the chicks find food and protect them from predators.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and is reported to be widespread and common. Some populations  are declining locally owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of hunting.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Burrowing parrot

Cyanoliseus patagonus

Photo by Aline Wolfer (Oiseaux d'Argentine)

Common name:
burrowing parrot (en); papagaio-da-Patagónia (pt); conure de Patagonie (fr); loro barranquero (es); felsensittich (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Psittaciformes
Family  Psittacidae

Range:
This species is found in central and south-eastern Argentina and in central Chile. Although most populations are resident, some birds can migrate north to winter in north-eastern Argentina and Uruguay.

Size:
These birds are 42-45 cm long and weigh 250-390 g.

Habitat:
The burrowing parrot is mostly found in dry scrublands and grasslands, and also in dry savannas, along rivers and streams, pastures, arable land and within urban areas. They require nearby cliffs made of sandstone, limestone or earth in which to excavate nesting burrows. This species is present from sea level up to an altitude of 1.800 m.

Diet:
They mainly feed on seeds, including agricultural crops, but also some fruits and berries. They forage on the ground and among the vegetation.

Breeding:
Burrowing parrots are monogamous and pair for life. They breed in October-April and form large nesting colonies of up to 35.000 pairs in inland and coastal cliff made of sandstone, limestone or earth. The nest is a deep, zigzagging burrow excavated by both sexes, which opens into a nest chamber up to 3 m deep in the cliff face. There the female lays 2-5 white eggs directly onto the sandy floor of the nest chamber, where she incubates them alone for 22-26 days while receiving food from the male. The chicks fledge about 60 days after hatching, but continue to receive food from parents for up to 4 months.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and is still common in many parts of its range in Argentina with only small range contractions reported in Córdoba. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of exploitation. Heavy hunting for the cage bird trade has had a significant impact on this species, and despite legislation to limit international trade, over 120.000 individuals have been traded legally since 1981, along with numerous others on the black market. They are also persecuted as a crop pest by farmers. Despite this, the burrowing parrot is not considered threatened at present.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Eastern bluebird

Sialia sialis

(Photo from New Jersey Birds)

Common name:
eastern blurbird (en); pássaro-azul-oriental (pt); merlebleu de l'Est (fr); azulejo gorgicanelo (es); rotkehl-hüttensänger (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Turdidae

Range:
This species is found breeding in the eastern United States, in south-eastern Canada and in Central America from Mexico down to northern Nicaragua. The more northern population migrate south to winter along the southern parts of the range.

Size:
These birds are 16-21 cm long and have a wingspan of 25-32 cm. They weigh 27-34 g.

Habitat:
Eastern bluebirds are found in open areas near trees, particularly pastures, grasslands with scattered trees, forest edges, parks and gardens, agricultural fields and also marshes and swamps. They are found from sea level up to an altitude of 2.700 m.

Diet:
They forage on the ground, mainly eating insects such as caterpillars, beetles, crickets and grasshoppers, as well as spiders. During autumn and winter they feed largely on fruits and berries, namely mistletoe, sumac, blueberries, black cherry, tupelo, currants, wild holly, dogwood berries, hackberries, honeysuckle, bay, pokeweed, and juniper berries. They are also known to sometimes eat salamanders, shrews, snakes, lizards, and tree frogs.

Breeding:
The eastern bluebird breed in March-August. The nest is built by the female, consisting of a small cup of woven grasses and pine needles, lined with fine grasses and occasionally horse hair or turkey feathers. The nest is placed in a natural tree cavity or in a nest box, up to 18 m above the ground. The female lays 3-7 pale blue eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 11-19 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 15-21 days after hatching. Each pair may raise 1-3 broods per season.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 10 million individuals. In North America the population has undergone a large increase of 30% per decade over the last 4 decades.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Straight-billed woodcreeper

Dendroplex picus

Photo by Flávio Mota (Flickr)

Common name:
straight-billed woodcreeper (en); arapaçu-de-bico-branco (pt); gimpar talapiot (fr); trepatroncos piquirrecto (es); spechtschnabel-baumsteiger (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Dendrocolaptidae

Range:
This species is found in central and northern South America, only east of the Andes, from Venezuela and Colombia south to Bolivia and Brazil as far south as Mato Grosso do Sul and Minas Gerais. It is also found in Trinidad and Tobago.

Size:
These birds are 20-22 cm long and weigh 42-45 g.

Habitat:
The straight-billed woodcreeper is mostly found in moist tropical forests, but also swamp forests, dry forests and savannas, mangroves, inland wetlands and also in plantations and second growths.

Diet:
They forage on the branches of trees and scrubs in search of various insects and other invertebrates.

Breeding:
Straight-billed woodcreepers nest in tree cavities. The female lays 2-3 eggs which are incubated by both sexes for 17 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 17-18 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as common. The population is suspected to be increasing as ongoing habitat degradation is creating new areas of suitable habitat.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Peaceful dove

Geopelia placida

Photo by Guy Poisson (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
peaceful dove (en); rola-plácida (pt); géopélie placide (fr); tortolita plácida (es); friedenstäubchen (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Columbiformes
Family Columbidae

Range:
This species is found throughout most of Australia, except in southern Victoria, southern Western Australia and Tasmania, and also in Papua New Guinea and the nearby Aru islands.

Size:
These birds are 19-22 cm long and weigh 50-60 g.

Habitat:
The peaceful dove is found in dry woodlands and savannas, scrublands with scattered trees, agricultural areas and within urban areas.

Diet:
They mainly feed on the ground, taking small seeds and sometimes small invertebrates. They also approach humans in search of scraps.

Breeding:
Peaceful doves can breed all year round, varying between different areas. The nest is a loose platform of twigs, grasses and rootlets, placed in a tree about 12 m above the ground. The female lays 2 whitish eggs which are incubated for 13-14 days. The chicks are fed crop milk by both parents and fledge 16-17 days after hatching, but only become independent 2 weeks later. Each pair can raise up to 8 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 peaceful dove is reported to be adaptable and widespread. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Purple honeycreeper

Cyanerpes caeruleus

Photo by Fayard Mohammed (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
purple honeycreeper (en); saí-de-perna-amarela (pt); guit-guit céruléen (fr); copeicillo violáceo (es); purpurnaschvogel (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Thraupidae

Range:
These birds are found in northern South America, from northern Colombia and Venezuela, south to southern Ecuador west of the Andes and south to central Bolivia and central Brazil east of the Andes. In Brazil they are found as far south as Mato Grosso, Pará and Maranhão.

Size:
The purple honeycreeper is 10,5-12 cm long and weighs 12 g.

Habitat:
These birds are mostly found in the canopy of rainforests, swamp forests and elfin forests, but also in cocoa and citrus plantations, from sea level up to an altitude of 800 m.

Diet:
They have a varied diet, including various insects as well as the nectar and fruits of various plants. Their billed is particularly well adapted to feed on the nectar of bromeliad and other similar flowers.

Breeding:
The nest of the purple honeycreeper is built by the female, consisting of a small cup made of plant fibres, suspended from a tall scrub or tree. There she lays 2-3 white eggs with brown blotches, which are incubated for 12-13 days. There is no information regarding the fledging period.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as common. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Common grasshopper warbler

Locustella naevia

Photo by Andreas Gruber (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
common grasshopper warbler (en); felosa-malhada (pt); locustelle tachetée (fr); buscarla pintoja (es); feldschwirl (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Sylviidae

Range:
This species is found breed across most of Europe, from the northern Iberian peninsula as far north as southern Sweden and Norway and as far east as central Asia, through Russia into the Caucasus, Kazakhstan and north-western Mongolia. They migrate south winter in Africa along the Sahel belt and also in India.

Size:
These birds are 12-14 cm long and have a wingspan of 19-20 cm. They weigh 11-20 g.

Habitat:
The common grasshopper warbler is found in grasslands and scrublands, in aquatic vegetation bordering freshwater lakes and marshes, and also in pastures and arable land.

Diet:
They mainly feed on adult and larval insects, such as beetles, flies and butterflies, spiders, and also some molluscs.

Breeding:
These birds breed in May-July. The cup-shaped nest is made of stalks, leaves and grasses and placed on the ground, among dense vegetation. There the female lays 4-6 white eggs with purple speckles, which are incubated by both parents for 13-15 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 10-12 days after hatching. Each pair can raise 1-2 broods per year and the young achieve sexual maturity after 1 year.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 3,4-13,2 million individuals. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction, but in several European countries the trend since the 1980s has been stable.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Australian white ibis

Threskiornis molucca

Photo by Josep del Hoyo (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
Australian white ibis (en); íbis-branco-australiano (pt); ibis à cou noir (fr); ibis blanco australiano (es); Molukkenibis (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Ciconiiformes
Family Threskiornithidae

Range:
This species is found in eastern and northern Australia, and to a lesser extent also in south-western Australia. The Australian white ibis is also found in the Solomon islands, in New Guinea, in the Moluccas and in the Lesser Sundas.

Size:
These birds are 65-75 cm long and have a wingspan of 112-124 cm. The males are larger than the females, weighing 1,7-2,5 kg while the females weigh 1,4-19 kg.

Habitat:
The Australian white ibis is mostly found in swamps, lagoons and floodplains, but also in wet grasslands, mangroves, estuaries, agricultural areas and in recent decades it has also became a successful inhabitant of urban parks and gardens.

Diet:
They feed on aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, such as crayfish, mussels and insects, as well as fishes, frogs and also human scraps.

Breeding:
Australian white ibises breed in August-May. They nest in large colonies, often together with
often with the straw-necked ibis Threskiornis spinicollis, as well as egrets, herons, spoonbills and cormorants. The nest is a shallow dish-shaped platform of sticks, grasses or reeds, located in a tree near a body of water such as river, swamp or lake. the female lays 1-3 dull white eggs, which are incubated for 21-23 days. The chicks fledge 6-7 weeks after hatching. Each pair can raise 1-2 broods per season.


Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and is described as common. The overall population trend is fluctuating, although some populations are stable and others have unknown trends.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

White-tailed goldenthroat

Polytmus guainumbi

(Photo from Flickr)

Common name:
white-tailed goldenthroat (en); beija-flor-de-bico-curvo (pt); colibri guaïnumbi (fr); colibrí guainumbí (es); bronzerücken-glanzkehlchen (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Apodiformes
Family Trochilidae

Range:
This South American species is found in Colombia, Venezuela, through the Guyanas and north-eastern Brazil and into central Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. It is mostly absent from the Amazon basin.

Size:
These birds are 9-10 cm long and weigh around 5 g.

Habitat:
The white-tailed goldenthroat is mostly found in wet grasslands and dry savannas, but also in freshwater marshes and swamps, from sea level up to an altitude of 600 m.

Diet:
They mainly feed on the nectar of flowering plants, namely Heliconiaceae, Fabaceae, Malvaceae and Rubiaceae, bt will also catch insects and spiders by hawking and gleaning.

Breeding:
White-tailed goldenthroats nest in a small open cup made of plant fibres, seeds and lichens. The nest is placed in a fork in a small tree or scrub, typically 0,5-1 m above the ground and often over water. There the female lays 2 eggs, which she incubates alone for 14-15 days. The chicks fledge 20-22 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as fairly common. There is no information regarding population trends, but the white-tailed goldenthroat is suspected to be stable.

Blue-black grassquit

Volatinia jacarina

Photo by Dario Sanches (Wikipedia)

Common name:
blue-black grassquit (en); tiziu (pt); jacarini noir (fr); negrito chirrí (es); jacarini (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Emberizidae

Range:
This species is found from Mexico down to southern Peru and northern Argentina.

Size:
These birds are 10-11,5 cm long and weigh 9-10 g.

Habitat:
The blue-black grassquit is found in grasslands, scrublands and dry savannas, and also in arable land, pastures and within urban areas.

Diet:
They mainly feed on grass seeds, but will also take some insects and berries.

Breeding:
The blue-black grassquit can breed all year round. The nest is a deep cup made of plant fibres, placed among grasses tufts or in a low scrub. There the female lays 1-3 greenish or bluish-white eggs with reddish-brown spots, which are incubated by both parents for 9-13 days. The chicks fledge 10-13 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 50-100 million individuals. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Black-tailed gull

Larus crassirostris

Photo by Tom Edelsten (Birds Korea)

Common name:
black-tailed gull (en); gaivota-do-Japão (pt); goéland à queue noire (fr); gaviota japonesa (es); Japanmöwe (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Charadriiformes
Family Laridae

Range:
This species breeds in northern Japan, extreme south-eastern Russia, Korea and north-eastern China. Some population migrate south to winter along the coasts of Japan and the East China Sea down to Hong Kong.

Size:
These birds are 46-48 cm long and have a wingspan of 118-124 cm. They weigh 440-640 g.

Habitat:
The black-tailed gull is found breeding in rocky offshore islands, sea cliffs and rocky shorelines, foraging on a variety of coastal habitats including rocky and sandy intertidal areas, tidal pools, kelp beds, seagrass beds, reefs, estuaries and also on the open sea.

Diet:
They feed on fishes, especially sand lance and Japanese anchovy, molluscs, polychaetes, crustaceans, insects and also carrion and human waste. They often follow fishing vessels in search of food and also steal food from other seabirds.

Breeding:
Black-tailed gulls breed in May-July. They form large breeding colonies and nest on sandy areas, or among rocks, in a shallow scrape that is usually lined with dry grasses. There the female lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for 24-27 days. The chicks fledge 35-40 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 1,1 million individuals. The current population trend is unknown, but is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Banded martin

Riparia cincta

Photo by Ian White (Flickr)

Common name:
banded martin (en); andorinha-das-barreiras-de-colar (pt); hirondelle à collier (fr); avión cinchado (es); weißbrauen-uferschwalbe (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Hirundinidae

Range:
This African species is found breeding from Ethiopia, through Kenya, D.R. Congo and Angola, and south to South Africa. The more southern population migrate north to winter in from Gabon and the Central African Republic to Ghana.

Size:
These birds are 15-17 cm long and weigh around 25 g.

Habitat:
The banded martin is mostly found in dry grasslands, scrubland, marshes, dry savannas and pastures. It is rarely observed over rocky shorelines or along the borders of estuaries. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 3.000 m.

Diet:
They take flying insects on the wing, by flying slowly near the ground, and often hawking prey disturbed by zebras, antelope or cattle. They are known to take beetles, moths, flies, mantid nymphs and lacewings.

Breeding:
Banded martins breed in August-March. The nest is a structure made of feathers and grass, placed in a chamber connected to a upward-sloping tunnel, which is dug into a stream bank, erosion gully or sand pit.There the female lays 2-4 glossy white eggs, which are incubated by both parents. There is no information regarding the length of the incubation period. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 21-24 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is  is described as generally uncommon, although locally common in parts of East Africa and frequent in Ethiopia. The population is suspected to be increasing owing to agricultural development.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Bell's vireo

Vireo bellii

Photo by Paul L'Etoile (Mango Verde)

Common name:
Bell's vireo (en); juruviara-de-Bell (pt): viréo de Bell (fr); vireo de Bell (es); braunaugenvireo (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Passeriformes
Family Vireonidae

Range:
This species is found breeding in the central and southern United States, from North Dakota to Ohio, south to Louisiana and Texas and also in southern Arizona, New Mexico and California, and into northern Mexico. They migrate south to winter along the Pacific coast of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

Size:
These birds are 11-13 cm long and have a wingspan of 18 cm. They weigh 7-10 g.

Habitat:
The Bell's vireo is mostly found in low dense scrublands and woodlands, especially in riparian vegetation along rivers and streams, but also in dry scrublands, coastal chaparral and forest edges, from sea level up to an altitude of 2.000 m.

Diet:
They forage on low vegetation, mainly taking insects such as caterpillars, stink bugs, wasps, bees, beetles, grasshoppers and weevils, and also some spiders and a few berries.

Breeding:
Bell's vireos breed in April-July. They are monogamous, but may switch mates between successive nesting attempts within the same season and between years. The nest is an open cup made of stems, plant fibres, leaves, paper and strips of bark fastened with spider silk. The outside may be ornamented with spider cocoons and the inside is lined with fine grass. The nest is suspended from a low branch of a small tree or scrub. The female lays 3-5 white eggs with brown or black spots, which are incubated by both parents for 13-15 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 10-13 days after hatching, but only become independent 2 weeks later. They raise 1-2 broods per season.

Conservation:
IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and a global population estimated at 1,5 million individuals. The population has undergone a large decrease of 24% per decade over the last 4 decades, main caused by the loss of riparian habitats through agricultural, logging and housing developments.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Laughing kookaburra

Dacelo novaeguineae

Photo by Richard Taylor (Wikipedia)

Common name:
laughing kookaburra (en)cucaburra-comum (pt); martin-chasseur géant (fr); cucaburra común (es); jägerliest (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Coraciiformes
Family Alcedinidae

Range:
These birds are found in eastern and southern Australia and have recently been introduced to Tasmania, south-western Australia and New Zealand.

Size:
Laughing kookaburras are 40-45 cm long and have a wingspan of 56-66 cm. They weigh 190-465 g.

Habitat:
They are mostly found in dry and open eucalyptus forests and woodlands, but also along rivers and streams, in agricultural areas and in wooded areas within urban areas.

Diet:
These birds eat insects, such as beetles and grasshopper, insects, worms, crustaceans and also small snakes, mammals, frogs and some birds. They catch their prey by pouncing from a suitable perch.

Breeding:
Laughing kookaburras breed in August-January. They are monogamous and believed to pair for life, but offspring from the previous year often help incubate and raise the chicks. They nest in a tree cavity, either a natural cavity or a burrow excavated in an arboreal termite mound, about 10 m above the ground, where the female lays 2-4 white eggs. The eggs are mainly incubated by the female, but also the male and the helpers for 24-29 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and the helpers and fledge 32-40 days after hatching.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as widespread and common.
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction, but the laughing kookaburra is not threatened at present.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mauritius kestrel

Falco punctatus

Photo by Andy Jones (Flickr)

Common name:
Mauritius kestrel (en); peneireiro-das-Maurícias (pt); crécerelle de Maurice (fr); cernícalo de Mauricio (es); Mauritiusfalke (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Falconiformes
Family Falconidae

Range:
This species is endemic to the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, where it is mainly restricted to the south-western plateau.

Size:
These birds are 20-26 cm long and have a wingspan of around 45 cm. They weigh around 110 g.

Habitat:
The Mauritius kestrel is mainly found in sub-tropical evergreen forests, but an also be seen in degraded and open areas, such as secondary forests and savannas, grasslands and scrublands. They tend to avoid agricultural areas, possibly due to a lack of isolated mature trees to use as vantage points. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 800 m.

Diet:
They mainly prey on the endemic arboreal Phelsuma geckos, but also take small birds, insects and introduced mice and shrews.

Breeding:
Mauritius kestrels are monogamous and territorial, and breed in November-March. They nest in cavities in trees or rocks, or more recently in nests boxes, where the female lays 4-5 white eggs with brown speckles. The eggs are incubated for 28-39 days and the chicks fledge about 5 weeks after hatching and stay in the natal territory until the next breeding season.

Conservation:
IUCN status - VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a small breeding range and a global population estimated at just 250-300 individuals. The current population trend in uncertain, but it may be declining after an increase detected in the last decade. Since the colonizationof the island, deforestation has reduced the forest area in Mauritius to less than 3% of the original, which as greatly limited habitat availability for this species. More recently, the main threats affecting the Mauritius kestrel are poisoning by organochloride pesticide, nest predation by introduced predators such as black rats Rattus rattus, crab-eating macaques Macaca fascicularis, Indian mongooses Herpestes javanicus and feral cats, and high rates of inbreeding due to the small population size. The introduction of exotic plants may also reduce habitat quality and climate change may affect this species through changes in rain patterns. Conservation actions such as supplementary feeding, captive breeding, construction of nest-boxes and nest protection have had some limited success in halting population declines.