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Birds Fly into the Red

Posted on 24. September, 2010.

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BirdLife International has announced, in the 2010 IUCN Red List update for birds, the extinction of the Alaotra Grebe. Restricted to a tiny area of east Madagascar, this species declined rapidly after carnivorous fish were introduced to the lakes in which it lived. This, along with the use of nylon gill-nets by fisherman which caught and drowned birds, has driven this species into extinction.

In addition, in Asia and Australia, the once common shorebird species Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew have been upgraded to vulnerable, owing to (East Asian–Australasian) Flyway-wide declines greater than 50% over the last 25 years in the case of the Curlew. Great Knot have undergone a rapid, 20% decline in the Flyway population over 2 years correlated with the destruction of inter-tidal mudflats at Saemangeum in South Korea, once the most important stop-over site for migratory shorebirds on northward migration in the Flyway. Huge flocks of these birds once visited north-western Australia, but annual monitoring by scientists have found corresponding declines in numbers with those seen at the Saemangeum tidal flats.

“These birds were both once common visitors to our shores, but their numbers have dropped suddenly and dramatically”, says Rob Clemens, Birds Australia’s Shorebirds 2020 Technical Manager. “The population decline of Great Knots has occurred in just two years. This decline reflects the importance of the intertidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea, and emphasises that actions in one part of the world can have a profound effect in other, distant regions. It’s all interconnected”.

Data brought together by the Australasian Wader Studies Group and Birds Australia’s Shorebirds 2020 Program and Atlas of Australian Birds have been critical in informing the IUCN up-listing process.

The Australian Painted Snipe is newly recognised and has been classified as Endangered. This species has suffered primarily from wetland drainage and the diversion of water from rivers, so that many shallow wetlands never form.

With their conservation status upgraded and recognised, Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, and Australian Painted Snipe should now be afforded better protection from the issues that have made their populations dwindle.

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