Friday December 6, 2013
I just added a new profile to the Habitat Encyclopedia. Please visit the new Forest Biome profile page to find out about this unique region and its many animal inhabitants.
The forest biome includes terrestrial habitats that are dominated by trees and other woody plants. Today, forests cover about one-third of the world's land surface and are found in many different terrestrial regions around the globe. There are three general types of forests—temperate forests, tropical forests, and boreal forests. Each of these forest types differs in climate, species composition, and community structure.
To find out more, be sure to read the Forest Biome profile.
Photo © Raimund Linke / Getty Images.
Wednesday December 4, 2013
In 1999, conservationists set aside 4,000 acres of cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes in southern Ecuador to protect several rare endemic species. Now, that reserve—the Buenaventura Reserve—is set to expand by another 600 acres thanks to a recent land acquisition organized by Ecuador's Fundación Jocotoco, Rainforest Trust, and American Bird Conservancy.
The Buenaventura Reserve protects 15 globally endangered bird species. Among them is the endangered El Oro parakeet, a species of parrot that was discovered in 1980 when a team of ornithologists came across the green-plumed parrot while exploring the remote cloud forests of Ecuador.
The El Oro parakeet's range is small and under threat. The species inhabits the tropical cloud forests that grow on the western slopes of the Andes between 2,600 and 4,000 feet in elevation. Its habitat is being fragmented and destroyed as land is cleared for agriculture or by logging activity. The Buenaventura Reserve protects some of the El Oro parakeet's habitat and expanding its boundaries increases the protection the rare parrot will receive.
The El Oro parakeet is not the only bird that will be protected in Buenaventura. There are more than 330 species of birds that have been identified in the reserve, 34 of which are endemic to the area. Among the birds that call Buenaventura home are cloud forest pygmy owls, grey-backed hawks, rufous-headed antbirds, grey-breasted flycatchers, and long-wattled umbrellabirds. Many migratory birds also use the Buenaventura Reserve during part of the year including Swainson's hawks, olive-sided flycatchers, black-and-white warblers, and summer tanagers.
Photo courtesy American Bird Conservancy.
More About Birds
Thursday November 28, 2013
It being Thanksgiving and all, I'd just like to pay special homage to the majestic, the spectacular, the anything-but-dainty: wild turkey.
Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are the largest and most widespread of all gamebirds in North America. They inhabit mature hardwood forests across the continent and have a particular fondness for woodlands that border open spaces such as pastures, fields, and orchards.
Wild turkeys belong to the same species as the domesticated turkey. Males have dark, iridescent plumage, a red wattle, a prominent caruncle, and a black breast tuft. Females are smaller and have duller plumage than their male counterparts.
Although wild turkeys look too big to take to the air, they are indeed capable of flight (their domesticated counterparts are not). Wild turkeys forage in flocks and use their strong feet to scratch at the ground to uncover various bits of food—nuts, seeds, berries, and insects.
In the early 1900s, the wild turkey population suffered severe decline due to habitat destruction and over-hunting. Conservation efforts to save the wild turkey began in 1935 but were slow to take hold. Then, in the 1950s, new conservation techniques were introduced and wild turkeys began a substantial recovery. Now it is estimated that the wild turkey population tops 7 million.
So, on that happy note of wild turkey recovery and resilience, I would like to wish you all the very best this Turkey Day.
Photos © John Cancalosi / Getty Images.
Wednesday November 27, 2013
Bonobos face a precarious future unless they receive better protection throughout their current range, a new study reveals. The study—conducted by scientists from the University of Georgia, the University of Maryland, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and several other groups—also revealed that bonobos actively avoid areas where humans are present. Scientists hope that by better understanding the current distribution of bonobos, as well as the factors that determine that distribution, conservationists can better select habitat critical bonobo habitat to protect.
Bonobos are one of two species belonging to the genus Pan (the other species is the common chimpanzee). Bonobos inhabit the lowland forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. Their range is restricted to areas south of the Congo River. The species faces multiple threats including habitat fragmentation, human disturbance, and poaching. Additionally, the Democratic Republic of Congo is plauged by war and political instability, making it difficult to implement and enforce any conservation efforts.
Of the bonobo's current range, less than one-third is suitable habitat for bonobos; the remainder is compromized by habitat destruction, human disturbance, and poaching. And of the habitat that is suitable for bonobos, only one quarter is protected. The bonobo is included on the IUCN Red List and is classified as an endangered species. The most recent estimates of the bonobo population suggests there are between 29,500 and 50,000 individuals.
Photo © Anup Shah / Getty Images.
More About Bonobos and Chimpanzees