Saturday, 24 April 2010

Pigeons of Bristol 7: Turtle Doves

In the Camargue Aviary as you enter Bristol Zoo your attention is first drawn to our flock of Greater Flamingos and Little Egrets. Many do not notice a very beautiful dove we also hold in this exhibit, the European Turtle-Dove.

These migratory relatives of the well-known Collared Dove, which breeds in the Zoo grounds, are unfortunately in serious decline as a resident in the UK, having suffered a loss of 69% in the last 30 years, probably mainly as a result of changes in agriculture, although it has probably also suffered from changes to the wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. The current estimate may be as low as 44,000 pairs in the UK.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Severn Counties talk 15th April

Last Thursday Severn Counties hosted the second talk we have had from Steve Brookes, who runs an ecotourism company called Wild Parrots Up Close ( ). A very interesting evening was had by all, as Steve had a great presentation of the birds seen on previous trips to one of the South American destinations he takes small groups of people to – in this case Ecuador.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

April Research colloquium: Rhinos of the Caribbean

This month’s talk was given by John Bendon, an artist working with the Iguana Specialist Group of the IUCN, and was an overview of the magnificent Cyclura ground iguanas of the Caribbean. We have an adult pair at Bristol of one of the largest species, the Rhinoceros Iguana of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which has a length nose to tail of over 1m and has adult males that can weigh 10kg. Last year, we bred them for the first time, producing 17 young of which 5 can be seen on-show and the remainder are being held off-show for growth studies.

There are currently at least 17 distinct species and subspecies of ground iguanas recognized, but in reality every small cay (flat coral island) or larger island harbours a local form that can often be identified, at least by DNA work. This is still only a fraction of the diversity that may have formerly existed – as with giant tortoises, human predation combined with introduced pigs, cats, dogs, and mongooses has called local extinctions, especially on small islands. At least one species, the Jamaican Iguana Cyclura collei, was believed extinct until rediscovered in the 1990’s, and despite extensive conservation work still only has a population of perhaps 100 adults in the wild, with few young surviving.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Pigeons of Bristol 6: A confusion of Fruit Doves

Scattered throughout South East Asia, Indonesia, and many Pacific islands are members of a huge group of small-to-medium sized, and usually very colourful, pigeons, generally referred to as Fruit-Doves of the genus Ptilinopus. We have two species at Bristol, the Black-naped Fruit-Dove P. melanospila (above) and the Beautiful Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus pulchellus (below). There are nearly 200 different subspecies described, with probably more awaiting description, and with an unknown number of extinct forms, especially on Pacific islands.

Unfortunately, as a result of the huge diversity of species, there has been little effort to establish breeding programmes for many of the forms currently held in the world’s zoos. Most of those held are widespread species without major threats at present, but there are numerous island endemics which are in a precarious condition and research on their husbandry and ecology is badly needed.