As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

SA’s coastal birds under severe threat

Cape Town - There’s bad news, good news and some... well, interesting news about the Western Cape’s coastal birds and seabirds.

The bad news includes confirmation of the massive decline in numbers of the African Penguin, arguably the most charismatic of the coastal birds and a conservation icon, and also of migrant wading birds like the Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey Plover.

The good news – there’s a lot less of it, unfortunately – is that the population of the formerly endangered African Oystercatcher has increased substantially and its Red Data threat status has been downgraded to “near threatened”.

And the interesting news is that while the numbers of several species using our local shoreline has plummeted, the total number of birds hasn’t changed in the past three decades.

This is because the virtual disappearance of some migrant waders has been offset by large numbers of Egyptian Geese – it’s an indigenous bird, not an exotic from northern Africa as is often mistakenly presumed – and ibises, especially Sacred Ibises, explains Professor Phil Hockey, head of UCT’s Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.

“Numbers of gulls and herons have also increased, and the preponderance of large-bodied birds means that avian biomass [the combined total weight of all the birds] has increased on the shore.

“The niche occupied by waders that feed on small crustaceans associated with washed-up seaweed, once such a feature of the west coast, appears to have been taken over, at least in part, by Common Starlings [formerly called European Starlings].”

Hockey’s comments come in the “FitzPatrick Report” that is one of the features in the first issue of African Birdlife, the new magazine of conservation group BirdLife South Africa that will hit the bookshelves of selected outlets on Wednesday week.

Read on:

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