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Information required on Marabou Storks

June 16th, 2013 · African Raptor News

What is the Marabou Stork doing on the African Raptors site when it is not a raptor!?

Some people regard them as close allies of the vultures since they are often seen scavenging together, and this is precisely why I’ve taken the liberty of posting this request for information here. I’m hoping that raptor biologists across the continent will keep a lookout for the Marabous that we in Botswana have tagged in order to learn more about their movements.

The tags are yellow patagial tags (attached to both wings), and each bird has a unique number engraved in black on its tags. The tags are quite conspicuous as shown in the photograph, but of course they are useless unless people know what to look out for, and to whom sightings should be reported. Information should be sent to Pete Hancock, birdlifemaun@gmail.com, including the following details: date, locality (preferably with GPS co-ordinates), and tag number and colour. A digital photo would be very useful as the numbers can often be clearly seen on the image. It would be great if colleagues would use their networks to spread the word further, as we need wide coverage.

Why do we think our tagged birds will be seen outside Botswana when most southern African field guides state that the Marabou is resident and nomadic with local movements? Marabou Storks have very few breeding sites in southern Africa, there being a single colony (of about 30 breeding pairs) in Swaziland, while Botswana has the largest breeding population in southern Africa, of a mere 100 pairs. The species does not breed in South Africa or Lesotho, and there are a few minor sites in Namibia and Zimbabwe. Against this background, how does one explain the fact that in Botswana, the Marabou Stork is regularly seen in congregations of 3,000 to 5,000 birds? Could the relatively few breeding birds be maintaining a population of tens of thousands of storks? Or is it more likely that birds are coming to Botswana from elsewhere? Simple arithmetic, based on a clutch of two to three eggs per pair per annum shows that it would take a long, long time to produce this number of birds; it seems more probable that there is a regular influx of storks from further afield.

Information on the movements of Marabou Storks has important implications for their conservation. It is speculated that the central African population in Uganda and Kenya (where the species has its stronghold) may well be providing most of the storks in southern Africa.

 

Marabou Stork showing patagial tags

Marabou Stork showing patagial tags

 

Dr Glyn Maude and David Thandi about to release a tagged stork

Dr Glyn Maude and David Thandi about to release a tagged stork

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Summit to save Africa’s vulture populations from extinction

May 20th, 2012 · African Raptor News

Eleven species of vulture occur on the African continent and the populations of these species have declined considerably. The range and extent of threats facing these species is varied, but include poisoning, habitat loss, and collection for food and witchcraft.

The Vulture Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, working with the Birds of Prey Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust and The Peregrine Fund and their partners in the African Raptor Network, aimed to assess the population status of all African vulture species and identify and initiate the implementation of appropriate conservation interventions and actions to attempt to effectively address the key threats to these birds from a continental perspective. This initiative was generously sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife without Borders Programme and Sasol Limited.

The delegates of the Pan African Vulture Summit at Ilkeliani, Masai Mara

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Crowned Eagle Research in South Africa – Shane McPherson

May 20th, 2012 · Raptor Research

The Crowned Eagle research project has taken its first flight. So now one month in, here is an introduction to the research.  I have been settling in happily to the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg.  My supervisors; Prof Colleen Downs, and Dr. Mark Brown have been great people to get to know.  It is exciting to be part of a larger gathering of urban ecology studies, three of us focusing on predators.  Craig Widdows is starting an MSc on Spotted Genets, and Erin Wreford is well underway with MSc research on Black Sparrowhawks.  The success of the Sparrowhawks as they become urban exploiters is demonstrated by the impressive 53 nests that make up Erins population.
The work on these eagles in the suburban areas puts a challenging aspect to my project.  Unlike research in ‘ the wilds’, there is a prominent necessity for me to relate to many and various residents in the neighborhoods.   Thankfully, I can say that I have met only remarkably welcoming and supportive people.

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An update on Raptor Research in Ebo Forest, Cameroon by Robbie Whytock

January 23rd, 2012 · Raptor Research

Raptor research in the Ebo forest took an important step forward in 2011 on receiving funding from The Peregrine Fund, as well as the Raptor Research Foundation’s Leslie Brown Memorial Award and the British Ecological Society’s Small Ecological Project Grant scheme.  These funds are being used to survey hunter’s camps in the Ebo forest, searching for the remains of raptors and other birds. Data will be used to assess the scale of hunting raptors for food and to try and develop indirect measurements of hunting pressure.  The project was initiated in June 2011 and we hope to have completed data collection by March 2012.

A Crowned Eagle attending a chick

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Kenya celebrates International Vulture Awareness Day 2011- Darcy Ogada

November 1st, 2011 · Raptor education and outreach

“I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky, I think about it every night and day, spread my wings and fly away, like a vulture”.  Participants at Kenya’s International Vulture Awareness Day 2011 celebrations were memorably serenaded with a unique twist to R. Kelly’s ‘I believe I can fly (like a vulture)’.  Begun in 2009, International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) 2011 was celebrated by zoos and conservation organisations from Cambodia to Croatia with the aim to highlight the plight of vultures worldwide and to draw attention to the important work being done to conserve them (www.vultureday.org).

Alan Njuguna performs his "I believe I can fly" in praise of Vultures

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Spanish research shows that “ghost” Short-toed snake eagles spend the summer in Northern Africa

September 14th, 2011 · Raptor Research

Immature Short-toed Eagle

Mellone, U., Yáñez, B., Limiñana, R., Muñoz, A.R., Pavón, D., González, J.M.,
Urios, V. & Ferrer, M. 2011 Summer staging areas of non-breeding Short-toed
Snake Eagles. Bird Study DOI:10.1080/00063657.2011.598914

The importance of the non-breeding fraction of raptor populations for conservation is well recognized, but little is known on the behaviour of these “ghost” birds, especially in migratory species. The Short-toed snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus is a migratory raptor that breeds in Europe and northern Africa, spending the winter in sub-Saharan Africa. Through satellite telemetry, a group of researchers led by the Estación Biológica Terra Natura (University of Alicante) and by the Fundación Migres recorded data of seven summering events belonging to six individuals hatched in Spain. Immature Short-toed Eagles left their wintering Sahelian grounds by mid-April, and after crossing the Sahara desert, the birds settled in Morocco and Algeria, thus not returning to Europe in their second nor third summer, and [Read more →]

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Genetics reveal Katiti’s past: An article on the Seychelles Kestrel by Liz Wambui

March 22nd, 2011 · Raptor Research

A Seychelles Kestrel on a nest. Photo by Jeff Watson

Katiti in Creole, crashed to approximately eight individuals since the 1940s before the population recovered, apparently unassisted, a genetics study published in the October 2009 Biological Conservation Journal has revealed. This crash, it is thought, approached the severity of the genetic bottleneck of the Mauritius Kestrel whose numbers reduced to only four known individuals in the wild in the early 1970s. Intriguing however, is that the Seychelles Kestrel seems to have recovered undetected and without intensive intervention. Methods to measure levels of genetic diversity in ancestors have improved to allow pinpointing of major changes in a population’s history. Using genetic data from 100-150 year-old museum specimen, and comparing this with data from current populations, the study established that at one point the population crashed. And then with very little conservation effort it recovered. Nirmal Shah, Chief Executive of Nature Seychelles, was part of the study led by Kent and Sheffield Universities in the UK. A clear understanding of the recent population history of a species is important because it helps managers to anticipate problems associated with a dip in population. Island endemic bird populations generally have lower levels of genetic diversity than species with a [Read more →]

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The Status of Raptors in Ethiopia by Anteneh Shimelis

February 7th, 2011 · Discussion Forum

Ethiopia is a land-locked country located in the horn of Africa. It is the second most populous nation in Africa with over 85.2 million people and the tenth largest by area. Seventy-two species of raptors inhabit the country of which 31 are migrants and 41 are residents.  These raptors inhabit a wide range of habitats including lowland Acacia savannah and woodlands, highland forests, and afro-alpine moorland habitats. A systematic national raptor survey has not been carried out to determine population numbers and at this scale the available information is very scant. This article attempts to estimate the population status for individual species and to calculate actual population sizes for some sites such as the Bale Mountains National Park, which is well-known to the author (Shimelis 2008). While information is generally unavailable, efforts have been made to show it as a gap and existing information is reported below. The available information regarding threats is scantier than the population status data and I relied mostly on many years of field notes to provide a sensible result that shows the threats that raptors of Ethiopia are facing today. Threats were quantified as the proportion of raptor species that either are affected or are potentially vulnerable.

Ruppell's Vulture in flight - Photo: Munir Virani

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A death trap for Egyptian Vultures in Africa – by Ivailo Angelov and Ibrahim Hashim

October 14th, 2010 · Threats to Raptors

A joint expedition between BSPB (Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds) and the Sudanese Wildlife Society (25.IX-5.X.2010) has found 17 electrocuted Egyptian Vultures. The main study area of the expedition was the Red Sea coast in North-Eastern Sudan.

Electrocuted Egyptian Vulture

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Amur Falcon migration route finally plotted

September 5th, 2010 · African Raptor News

Satellite Tagged Amur Falcon (Courtesy: B. Meyburg)

Bernd Meyburg and his team has presented the first ever satellite tracking data for Amur Falcons at two conferences, one in the East (Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network conference, Mongolia) and one in South Africa (Birds of Prey Programme Conference, Kimberley). The information gathered on 7 tracked Amur Falcons most probably represents the most exciting satellite tracking data from raptors since the first long distance raptor migrants were tracked. The Amur Falcon has one of the longest raptor migrations, but is also unique because it supposedly flies a long distance over the sea. It was believed that they flew mostly over land during their return journey, but data from Bernd has shown that they fly a distance 2,500 to 3,100km over the sea in spring and do this by flying non-stop for between 2 and 3 days. Other interesting information presented include that there is quite a lot of movement between roosts in their wintering area, they have stop over points on their migration route back to the breeding grounds, and fly south of the Himalayas in northern India. They are also capable of covering huge amounts of distance in a few days and were able to travel up much of Africa in only a few days. They have now arrived in their breeding grounds and hopefully Prof Meyburg will be able to track their return route back to South Africa at the end of the year. One wonders if they will return to the same roost?

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