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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

South Korea Pushing Birds to Extinction

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Are Its Days Numbered?
Photo Credit: Peter Ericsson

I recently came across an article on the Saemangeum land reclamation project on the Reuters web site. The article details the mindless habitat destruction on wetlands on the west coast of South Korea, and its decimating effects on migratory shore birds that feed there. Some of the birds, such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Spotted Greenshank, are critically endangered.

Here is an exerpt from the article:

SEOUL (Reuters) - A huge South Korean land reclamation project has destroyed wetlands, killed migratory birds and pushed endangered species toward extinction, a report obtained at the weekend said.

The Saemangeum land reclamation, completed in 2006 on the west coast and covering about 400 square kms (155 sq miles) -- about seven times larger than Manhattan -- has removed one of the largest feeding grounds on the Yellow Sea for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds who pass by each year, it said.

"Within Saemangeum, (we) recorded a decline of 137,000 shorebirds, and declines in 19 of the most numerous species, from 2006 to 2008," according to the study by conservation groups Birds Korea and Australasian Wader Studies Group that will be released at an international Ramsar convention on wetlands this week in South Korea.

Read the entire article here.

Spotted Greenshank
Photo Credit: i-owen

Some Additional Reading Suggestions

Here is a link to another article in the BBC explaining the impact of the development project on migrating birds.

Here is a link to an article in the Korea Times which lays out the government's short-sighted objectives and hopes for the project. Apparently South Korea wants to create a business haven similar to that of Dubai.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Endemic Birds of Taiwan: Update

Taiwan Fulvetta, Alcippe formosana, formerly a sub-species of the Streak-throated Fulvetta, Alcippe cinereiceps.
Photo Credit: pseudolapiz

This summer, the International Ornithological Congress (IOC) issued a major update to their world birdlist (Gill, F., Wright, M. & Donsker, D., 2008. IOC World Bird Names (ver. 1.7)). According to the press release, the updated list "[includes] changes of names, additions of newly described species as well as proposed splits and lumps...". As such, the IOC presently recognizes 10,354 extant species of birds in the world.

Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus musicus
Photo Credit: K.K. Kuo, Birding in Taiwan

As a result of these recent changes, Taiwan has gained six endemic species, bringing the total number of endemic species to 22. Not all authorities concur with the IOC changes. For example, the Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, which is recognized by the American Ornithological Union (AOU) and the American Birding Association (ABA), accepts only 15 endemics for Taiwan. The remaining seven species are considered endemic sub-species.

Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, Garrulax ruficeps
Photo Credit: K.K. Kuo, Birding in Taiwan

The list of endemic birds follows:

Taiwan Endemic Species (recognized by IOU and AOU)

Collared Bush Robin, Tarsiger johnstoniae
Mikado Pheasant, Syrmaticus mikado
Rusty Laughingthrush, Garrulax poecilorhynchus
Steere's Liocichla, Liocichla steerii
Styan's Bulbul, Pycnonotus taivanus
Swinhoe's Pheasant, Lophura swinhoii
Taiwan Barwing, Actinodura morrisoniana
Taiwan Blue Magpie, Urocissa caerulea
Taiwan Bush Warbler, Bradypterus alishanensis
Taiwan Partridge, Arborophila crudigularis
Taiwan Whistling Thrush, Myophonus insularis
Taiwan Yuhina, Yuhina brunneiceps
White-eared Sibia, Heterophasia auricularis
White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Garrulax morrisonianus
Yellow Tit, Parus holsti

Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, Garrulax ruficeps
Photo Credit: Chi Liu

Endemic Species (recognized by IOU only)

Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis
Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, Garrulax ruficeps
Taiwan Barbet, Megalaima nuchalis
Taiwan Fulvetta, Alcippe formosana
Taiwan Hwamei, Garrulax taewanus
Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus musicus
Taiwan Wren-Babbler, Pnoepyga formosana

Taiwan Wren-Babbler, Pnoepyga formosana
Photo Credit: John&Fish's Photostream

The five contested species were prososed by Nigel Collar of BirdLife International in a recent research paper entitled A partial revision of the Asian babblers (Timaliidae). The full paper can viewed at Dr. Collar's website.

Taiwan Hwamei, Garrulax taewanus
Photo Credit: K.K. Kuo, Birding in Taiwan

Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush was forerly considered a sub-sepcies of the White-throated Laughingthrush, Garrulax albogularis. The Rusty Laughingthrush was formerly one of three sub-species of Rusty Laughingthrush. It will retain both its English and Latin names, the other two sub-species were reassigned. Similarly, the Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler was formerly a sub-species of the Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler. While it retained its Latin name, its common name was changed as indicated. The Taiwan Hwamei was formerly a sub-species of Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus. The Taiwan Wren Babbler was derived from the Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Pnoepyga albiventer. Lastly, the Taiwan Fulvetta was derived from the Streak-throated Fulvetta, Alcippe cinereiceps.

New Species: Nonggang Babbler

Nonggang Babbler
Image Credit: Jiang Aiwu

A New Species of Babbler (Timaliidae: Stachyris) from the Sino-Vietnamese Border Region of China
Zhou Fang and Jiang Aiwu


Since 2004, we have surveyed birds in the southwest Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China. Many times during February, July, and October 2005 and January 2006, we observed, in Nonggang Natural Reserve of Guangxi, a species in the family Timaliidae that has never been recorded before in China or Southeast Asia. Nonggang Natural Reserve is located in the Sino-Vietnamese border region at 22°13′–22°34′N, 106°42′–107°05′E, 18 km southeast of the Vietnamese border. On 21 January 2006, we captured two individuals. Subsequent investigation showed that the specimens belonged to a previously undescribed species, which we designate Stachyris nonggangensis, the Nonggang Babbler.

Access full article at the The Auk 125(2):420–424, 2008