Sunday, July 30, 2006

Iraq records a critically endangered bird

One of the rarest birds in the world, the Northern Bald Ibis has been satellite tracked to extreme western Iraq during its migration south from the breeding grounds of the tiny remenant population of 13 birds in Syria (discovered in 2002) to Yemen. The name of the male bird tracked through Iraq is Salam (Peace). Hopefully, this name will be prophetic for both the birds and Iraq.

The bird was recorded in Iraq on the morning of July 18th having flown 207 km from its breeding grounds in Palmyra, Syria since the day before. The bird is currently in Western Yemen along with two other tagged birds.

The fact that there are more Northern Bald Ibis in capitivity than in the wild highlights their tenuous hold. Another small wild population exists in Morocco.

The bird once found throughout Europe and the Middle East has experience a spectacular decline. A colony in Turkey dropped from 600-800 pairs in 1954 to 6 pairs in 1980. It was last wild birds nested in 1989, when the remaining few birds were captured for a captive breeding program.

I previously had the Northern Bald Ibis listed as extirpated on the Iraqi list. I've happily changed the Bald Ibis status on the Iraqi checklist from extirpated to rare visitor. Historically there were a few colonies in Iraq. I couldn't find any references, save a map in the IUEP Action Plan for the Northern Bald Ibis.

After going undiscovered for so long in Syria, perhaps there is a chance that other relict colonies exist in Syria and maybe even remote areas of Iraq.

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