Birds

Latest research: How does human disturbance affect the life of birds?

How do I save the green peacock? Leave it alone

Given the global fame of the Indian peacock Pavo cristatus, it is strange to imagine an endangered species of peacock. Unfortunately, the Green Peafowl Pavo muticus (Endangered) is something of a forgotten sibling. Previously known and prevalent in Southeast Asia, the familiar combination of hunting, habitat destruction, and human disturbance has reduced the species to a few fragmented populations. The question now is how best to protect these remaining strongholds. The researchers compared the viability of two populations that faced very different levels of threat and protection. At the HuaiKhaKhaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in western Thailand, they found the population is growing and, thanks to dedicated conservation and little human interference, is likely to last for at least 100 years. The population in Yok Don National Park in south central Vietnam – a place with high habitat disruption and significant hunting pressure – is likely to have died out before the end of this century. If we humans want to save this bird, it is clear which path we have to take.

What pollutes Europe’s farmland birds?

It’s no surprise that human disturbance is harmful to wildlife – but how exactly does that happen? A study comparing two declining species, the European Roller Coracias garrulus and the Eurasian Scops-Owl Otus Scops, on Spanish farmland found that both species suffered from stress from human activity – but in opposite ways. It has been found that nesting European rollers have the highest levels of stress hormones in areas of intensive farming. In an interesting twist, however, feeding rates were also higher, suggesting that the price paid to parents for access to the extra prey that was washed away by farming practices was disruptive. However, the Eurasian Scops Owl showed the highest loads near roads: probably because they are still used at night when the owl is awake and active.

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Bengal Florican © Dhritiman Mukherjee

The Bengal Florican needs space to display its things

Sometimes it’s not so satisfying to say that I told you. In 2013, experts predicted that the Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis (Critically Endangered) would be extinct in Southeast Asia within a decade. Recent polls on the Cambodian Tonle Sap-Au, home of the last population in the region, support this forecast, with the number of men issued over five years decreasing by 55%. Data suggests that Bengali Floricans tend to be lost to locations when grassland area falls below 25 square kilometers and that male Bengali Floricans leave their exhibition areas when grassland is destroyed. While the situation is desperate, these results also offer a glimmer of hope by showing that the species could disperse and colonize newly created suitable habitats.

Get our latest research updates in Bird Conservation International, BirdLife’s quarterly peer-reviewed journal.

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