Sunday, October 11, 2009

Understanding Migratory Bird Declines

The RSPB and BTO are trying to figure out why some formerly common migratory bird species have lost much of their populations.

Some of the greatest declines of birds in the UK are among migratory songbirds such as Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur, Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos and Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata. These species breeding in Europe and migrate to sub-Saharan Africa.

Recent figures suggest that more than 40 per cent of all migratory species passing between Europe and Africa have declined in the last three decades. Alarmingly, one in 10 of these are classified by BirdLife as Globally Threatened or Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

The project will involve researchers monitoring birds along a corridor stretching from Ghana’s Atlantic coast to northern Burkina Faso, spanning a range of habitats from coastal rainforest to the edge of the Sahara desert.
With migratory birds there is always a question of where a bird species is being harmed the most. A declining species could be having difficulties on its breeding range, along its migration route, or in its winter habitat (or perhaps all of the above). With some species the issues are fairly clear, but with others it takes a lot of field research to determine the precise causes. Good luck to the RSPB and BTO in solving these birds' declines.

Click through the link for a great photo of a Spotted Flycatcher.