Friday, 22 February 2013

Extinct species #5; Slender-billed Curlew.


Slender-billed Curlew, Numenius tenuirostris.

A monotypic species first named by Vieillot in Egypt in 1817.

History: The history of this bird is somewhat shrouded in mystery and no recent regular breeding, passage or wintering site is known. What was thought to be its main breeding ground in the taiga was last occupied in 1925 though the bird persisted for many years after this. It is now thought that its main breeding area may not have been in taiga habitat at all but in the steppe zone. Towards the end of the 19th century it may have been common in northern Africa particularly Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria but since then the numbers dropped dramatically. In 1964 as many as 600 to 900 birds were still being seen in SW Morocco. By the 1990s there was only one place where the birds were regularly seen in very small numbers in single figures, Merja Zerga in Morocco. They were last seen there in 1995 with any certainty.

Specimen number 92.8.3.449. Ventral view.
There was a report of 50 birds in Iran in 1994 and in 1995 about 20 birds were recorded in Greece. Since then there have been only small groups reported. According to the IUCN who consider this species to be Critically Endangered the last confirmed record was in Hungary in 2001. An unpublished survey in 20011 found no Slender-billed Curlews at historical sites along the north coast of Africa.

Specimen number 92.8.3.449. Dorsal view.
A bird identified as a first winter individual of this species incredibly turned up in the UK in Druridge Bay in 1998 and although there was much controversy at the time and indeed for some time after it was accepted by the BBOURC as Britain's first and only record of the species.

Specimen number 92.8.3.449. Left lateral view.
Extinction: Officially considered Critically endangered on the IUCN red data list as some unsubstantiated records persist, it has not been certainly recorded since 2001. It is thought that hunting in the Mediterranean region where it wintered may have affected this birds population significantly. At the same time it seems equally likely that its breeding grounds may have been in the steppe zone and not entirely in taiga as first thought. The birds disappeared from their taiga breeding grounds in 1925  but were still seen in significant numbers after that in winter even up to 1964 (600-900 individuals in Morocco). The steppe zone has been largely altered and turned over to agriculture and if it is true that the birds main breeding grounds were there then that would have had a devastating effect upon the population.

Specimen number 92.8.3.449. Head detail.

References:

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal. J. eds (1996) Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.


Moores, R.D., Amezian, M & Elbanak, A. (2011). Morocco Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius 
tenuirostris) Survey: Mediterranean Coast and northern Atlantic Coast, 06.02.2011 – 13.02.2011.
Unpublished report.


Birdlife International (2013) Species factsheet: Haematopus meadewaldoihttp://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3011  Downloaded from http://birdlife.org on 19/02/2013.

Wikipedia 16/02/2013: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slender-billed_Curlew The last photograph is available at this link.


Moores, R.D., Amezian, M & Elbanak, A. (2011). Morocco Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius 
tenuirostris) Survey: Mediterranean Coast and northern Atlantic Coast, 06.02.2011 – 13.02.2011.
Unpublished report.

No comments:

Post a Comment