The Ecologist


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A pair of Lappet Faced Vultures feating on a buffralo carcass in Bariadi, Shinyanga, Tanzania. Photo: jjmusgrove via Flickr (CC BY).

Vultures in crisis: poachers and poison threaten nature's undertakers

Louis Phipps, Nottingham Trent University

25th October 2015

Vultures are superbly adapted creatures for the essential role they play, efficiently disposing of the mortal remains of millions of dead animals, writes Louis Phipps. Yet we humans appear to be doing our best to kill them off - creating a vast hazardous waste problem that's costing us billions. more...
Victims of the pine bark beetle: Lodgepole pines in Summit County, Colorado. They may not look pretty, but these dead trees are an ecological godsend. Photo: V Smoothe via Flickr (CC BY).

In defense of the Bark Beetle: a keystone species of Western forest ecosystems

Chad Hanson

28th October 2015

Bark beetles are invariably presented as terrible, forest killing pests, writes Chad Hanson. But in truth forest biodiversity depends on them to create the snags for insects to burrow in, woodpeckers to feed off, and countless birds and even pine martens to nest in. So when you hear politicians calling for bark beetle 'salvage' logging, send them off with a flea in the ear! more...
Pheasants reared for shooting kept on a cold and uncomfortable wire floor. Photo: League Against Cruel Sports.

Pheasant shooting begins today - and forget the rural idyll!

Toni Shephard

1st October 2015

This is the first day of the pheasant shooting season, writes Toni Shephard. But put bucolic ideas of happy birds running around in the wild woods out of your mind. Most of the birds coming under shotgun fire today have only just been released from overcrowded factory farms. Even in death they have no dignity: most are not even eaten, but end up dumped in makeshift pits. more...
Too beautiful to die by plastic: Laysan Albatross mate for life, live 60 years or more, and show their soft, sensitive side by preening each other. Photo: kris krüg / via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Ocean plastic plague threatens seabirds

Chris Wilcox, Britta Denise Hardesty & Erik van Sebille

1st September 2015

Already 60% of seabird species have plastic in their guts, often as much as 8% of their body weight. And with ocean plastic increasing exponentially, that figure will rise to 99% by 2050, threatening some birds' survival. Unless we act. more...
Fierce flames creep across moorland near Heriot, Scotland. Photo: Snipps Whispers (CC BY-NC-ND).

Britain's 'protected' moorlands go up in flames

The Ecologist

21st July 2015

A new study led by RSPB shows that more than half of Britain's most precious upland moors are suffering from burning - widely used to increase the numbers of red grouse available for recreational shooting. more...
The Dalmatian pelican suffered large declines in the last centuries due to habitat loss and degradation and persecution, but thanks to habitat management and restoration the population in Europe is recovering and the species is no longer at risk. Photo: B

One fifth of Europe's birds are in danger of extinction

The Ecologist

3rd June 2015

Conservation projects have pulled several endangered European birds back from the brink of extinction, but habitat loss, industrial farming, over fishing and climate change all represent growing threats that requires broader and deeper change in the EU and beyond. more...
A pair of Northern Bald Ibis engaged in courtship at their nest in the Palmyra desert the year of the rediscovery (2002). Photo: Gianluca Serra.

The Northern Bald Ibis is extinct in the Middle East - but we can't blame it on IS

Gianluca Serra

29th May 2015

Reports that Syria's iconic Northern Bald Ibis colony is endangered by IS's capture of Palmyra are mistaken, writes Gianluca Serra. The species is already extinct as a breeding population for reasons unconnected with IS. The war that is destroying Syria came only as the last straw for a long-dwindling species whose plight the world chose to ignore. more...
Nightingale in full song, perched in a hawthorn bush. Photo: Kev Chapman via Flickr (CC BY).

Don't let our nightingales go quietly!

Chris Rose

7th May 2015

Nightingales, famous for the entrancing beauty of their song, have declined by 90% over the last 50 years, writes Chris Rose, and are heading towards their very own silent spring. The first step to saving this wonderful bird must be for us to fully appreciate it, and the terrible loss its extinction would represent. more...
A nightingale in full song. Photo: courtesy of David Plummer Images.

Moonlit melody - the resurgent nightingales of Knepp

Hazel Sillver

7th May 2015

At the inspiring new 3,500 acre 'wildland' of the Knepp Estate in West Sussex, the nightingale is making itself at home amid the thorny thickets, writes Hazel Sillver. That's proof to any that need it that the bird's extinction is far from inevitable - if only we can muster the will to save it! It also offers a wonderful opportunity to hear its magical song ... more...
A female Blackcap caught in a mistnet on the UK's Cyprus military base. Photo: Graham Madge / RSPB.

UK allows songbird slaughter on Cyprus military base

The Ecologist

9th March 2015

The illegal killing of songbirds on the UK's military base on Cyprus has reached record levels, a study by RSPB has shown, with an estimated 900,000 birds trapped, killed and eaten in autumn 2014. more...
A California Condor near the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon. Photo: George Kathy Klinich via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Condors or lead ammunition? We can't have both

Dawn Starin

21st January 2015

The recent death of Ventana the condor in Los Angeles zoo illustrates a simple truth, writes Dawn Starin: wild condors cannot survive so long as the dead amimals they eat are riddled with lead from spent ammunition. With lead poisoning to blame for 60% of condor deaths, it's time to ban lead ammunition across their entire range - and beyond. more...
Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) by Noel Reynolds via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

The other reason I joined UKIP - to save our nightingales!

Mark Reckless MP

1st January 2015

When Tory MP Mark Reckless jumped ship to join UKIP last September, one of his reasons - missed by mainstream media - was his outrage at Medway Council's plan to build 5,000 houses on an internationally important sanctuary for nightingales, after ministers tipped the wink that they would 'green-light' the scheme. more...

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England's nightingales have suffered a 90% population crash in 40 years, but Medway Council has decided that its 'protected' SSSI sanctuary is fair game for development. Photo: John Bridges / RSPB.

Nightingales at risk as housebuilding threatens 'protected' SSSI breeding site

Robin McKie, the Guardian Environment

1st January 2015

Disaster threatens England's nightingales, already down 90% in 40 years, if ministers fail to block a plan to build 5,000 homes on SSSI breeding site in Kent. But as Robin McKie writes, the government is showing no sign of intervening, as campaigners warn of an 'open season' for development on our most important wildlife sites. more...
Isobel (Bella) and father Gil Rodrigues. Photo: Sea Shepherd / Simon Ager.

My conversion - from shearwater hunter to protector of birds and ocean

Gil Rodrigues Fortes / Sea Shepherd

23rd November 2014

For nearly 30 years, Gil Fortes was a hunter of Cabo Verde's shearwater chicks, helping to drive the bird to the brink of extinction. But following a life-changing rethink, he and his daughter Isabel (Bella), are now at the forefront of efforts to save the shearwater and rebuild its perilously low numbers. more...
The Golden Oriole is one of the birds set to benefit from the protection of the Aftrica-Eurasia Flyway. Photo: m-idre31 via Flickr.

New protection for migratory birds and their 'flyways'

The Ecologist

14th November 2014

Two new international agreements will help to save migratory birds from hunting, trapping and poisoning, and to protect their long-distance flyways. A key objective is to phase out lead shot within three years, and eliminate the toxic drug diclofenac. more...
The Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) has declined by 88% since 1995, due to multiple causes: habitat loss in Africa; disease in its UK breeding grounds, and hunting between the two. Photo: Alan Shearman via Flickr.

African habitat loss driving migrating birds' decline

The Ecologist

16th October 2014

A new report reveals huge declines in the UK's migratory birds that winter deep in Africa's rainforests. Shorter distance migrants are performing much better, with some recording big population increases. more...
A Raso Island shearwater chick looks out from its nest - a ball of grey fur, but mind the sharp beak! Photo: Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd.

Raso Island, Cape Verde - a jewel in the crown of Africa's wildlife

Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd

22nd October 2014

Shearwater chicks are cute grey furballs with beaks, writes Simon Ager, and they are all too ready to use them on pesky wildlife researchers. But Cape Verde offers abundant compensations to nature lovers - so many that its future surely lies in conserving, not exploiting its biological riches. more...
Storks are a protected species under the EU's Birds Directive. But that affords them little protection against hunters in Malta, which lies on a key migration route across the Mediterranean. Photo: Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr.

We must defend the Birds Directive against Malta's hunting lobby

Steve Micklewright, Birdlife Malta

2nd October 2014

Shocking events have taken place in Malta as hunters - angered by a temporary closure of the bird-shooting season - attacked bird watchers, writes Steve Micklewright. But with a Maltese politician taking on the role of Environment Commissioner, the real battle lies ahead: the survival of the Birds Directive. more...
Nightingale singing in a hawthorn tree. Photo: John Bridges /

Housing against nightingales - no way!

Martin Harper / RSPB

8th September 2014

A 5,000-house development has just won planning permission on a SSSI nature area in Kent which is home to over 1% of the UK's nightingales. It violates government planning policies, and ministers have the power to stop it. But will they? Yes they will, writes Martin Harper - provided enough people show they care! more...
At risk of extinction: the Bearded vulture. Photo: Joachim S Muller.

Europe's vultures face extinction from toxic vet drug

Oliver Tickell

8th September 2014

Vultures have become one of the most threatened families of birds on the planet thanks to poisoning by the veterinary drug diclofenac. Now Birdlife has discovered that it's on sale in Europe - threatening to wipe vultures out and undermine significant EU investments in vulture conservation. more...
Birds and airplanes are a poor mix - but do we need to slaughter quite so many? Photo: Eugene Zemlyanskiy via Flickr.

Airports' global bird slaughter - 100,000s gassed, shot, poisoned

Rose Bridger

18th August 2014

Airports around the world are waging a war on birds, writes Rose Bridger. It's meant to prevent aircraft bird strikes. But in fact, fatal (for people) collisions are rare - and even killing thousands of birds does little to reduce the number of strikes. Best fly less, and keep airports away from birds! more...
Walshaw Moor, near Hebden Bridge, after burning to improve grouse yields. Photo: .

Our uplands: a burning desire for action

Martin Harper

12th August 2014

Today, on the 'Glorious 12th', well-heeled folk take to the hills to shoot grouse. And to be sure there's lots of birds to kill, writes Martin Harper, England's moorlands are burnt with dire impacts on their biodiversity and ability to absorb rainfall. It's high time to end this barbaric practice! more...
Western pygmy possums use tree hollows that take decades to develop in mallee ecosystems. Photo: Lauren Brown.

Over-burning could be damaging Australia's wildlife for 100 years

Dale Nimmo, Andrew Bennett & Michael Clarke

29th August 2014

We know that Australia's dry bush has co-evolved with fire, so that means regular planned burning is a good thing? Up to a point ... some increasingly rare species depend on 'old growth' bush up to 100 years old, and over-frequent burning is putting them under long-term threat. more...
The Somali ostrich is now recognised as a separate species, but it's listed as 'vulnerable' owing to hunting, egg collecting and other threats. Photo: Steve Garvie via Flickr, taken in Kenya's Rift Valley.

A quarter of 361 newly-recognised birds are 'threatened'

The Ecologist

24th July 2014

A global taxonomic review of birds has 'discovered' 361 new species that were previously considered 'races' of existing bird species - but many of them are endangered, forcing a rethink of conservation priorities. more...
Barn swallow chicks (Hirundo rustica) at Arrábida (Quinta do Camalhão), Setúbal, Portugal. This insectivorous species is among those impacted by imidacloprid. Photo: Jose Sousa via Flickr.

It's not just the bees! 'Neonic' pesticides linked to bird declines

Helen Thompson

17th July 2014

A study published today in Nature shows a strong correlation between concentrations of a popular neonicotinoid pesticide in water, and bird declines, writes Helen Thompson. Regulators are under pressure to tighten up, but the industry still claims there's 'no substantiated evidence'. more...


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