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Happy Reunion

By Corinne Kendall
December 20, 2011
File under: Birds, Conservation, Research, Wildlife

For the past three years, I have been adamant that it would be impossible to re-trap a tagged vulture. The birds simply go too far – spending much of the year outside of the Mara in areas where I can’t trap – too quickly and are thus difficult to locate even when a backpack is sending you their location. Today I proved myself wrong.

Lillian is a young Lappet-faced vulture that I trapped in April of 2010. She currently has the longest working GSM-GPS unit and has been reliably sending her location four times a day for the last 16 months, giving me an incredible amount of data. Lillian has become something of a favorite as I have also resighted her more times than nearly any other bird.

After the initial trapping, we relocated her on a nest and were able to see her several times during those first few months when she was returning to her little home atop a small Gardenia tree each evening. Then in June I respotted her during some surveys in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania and starting a few weeks ago I had been seeing her every few days in the Mara. …read more of Happy Reunion here

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Two Units in the Hand

By Corinne Kendall
November 30, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Birds, Research, Wildlife

When something miraculous happens you don’t really expect it to happen again, so when we found another bird with a backpack that had given up the ghost I didn’t really think we could trap it. In fact it seemed fool-harden to even try, but the Ruppell’s vulture in question was already panting from its fights at the carcass and was very very full.

The backpack in question had also slipped into a rather uncomfortable position and so I felt anxious to trap the bird not just to release it from the weight, but also from the discomfort of the unit. Plus catching it would mean one more unit that could be refurbished and thus a bit more information that we could gain about these amazing birds.

So with no further adieu we were off and chasing the bird. …read more of Two Units in the Hand here

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The Endangered Unknown: The Orange-bellied Parrot

By Peter Kleinhenz
September 26, 2011
File under: Birds, Endangered Species, Species Profiles

Some animals, it seems, got the wrong end of the deal when it comes to having a simple life. Twice every year, a bird that isn’t a great deal larger than your hand flies all the way from southwest Tasmania to the southern coast of Victoria.

The brilliantly-plumaged Orange-bellied Parrot, Neophema chryogaster, is just one example from a group of animals that is known for its awe-inspiring global trips. Most birds, however, are not in the perilous state that Orange-bellied Parrots are in.

One hundred years ago, Orange-bellied Parrots were far more common than they are today. …read more of The Endangered Unknown: The Orange-bellied Parrot here

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Snake in the Grass

By Corinne Kendall
August 23, 2011
File under: Animal Sightings, Birds, Wildlife

Marabou holding three foot snake

As I watched the squabbling vultures at a nearly finished wildebeest carcass, I noticed a Marabou stork behaving strangely. It jerked from side to side and leaned close to the ground as if about to pick something up, only to jump back again wings spread. I focused my binoculars on the bird to get a pick at what was happening.

Lying in front of the cunning Marabou lay a long slim green snake, head raised in attack as the bird reached for it again. The snake lunged but the Marabou still got in a nice bite to the back and easily avoided the fangs. Again and again the snake lunged and the Marabou ducked until finally the Marabou grabbed the snake by the head. …read more of Snake in the Grass here

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Love Bite

By Corinne Kendall
August 2, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Birds


Vultures aren’t generally known for their affection, but on rare occasions you do see acts of kindness. Merely the fact that vultures spend so much time at the carcass long after they are full is perhaps a sign of how much they enjoy each other’s company.

Allopreening, when one animal cleans another, is surprisingly common and I have know seen it between members of the same species for all five species present in the Mara. Lappet-faced vulture pairs will lovingly comb through the feathers of their mate and juvenile White-backed vultures will preen each other as they stand on a mound near a carcass waiting their turn to feed.

Today was the first time I had seen “preening” between species. …read more of Love Bite here

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It’s Vulture Time!

By Lucy Dimitrova
July 19, 2011
File under: Birds, Endangered Species, Wildlife

Egyptian Vulture © BSPB

Like my fellow blogger and wildlife enthusiast Corinne Kendall already explained a while ago (well done Corinne, you rock!), vultures play a vital role for the environment despite being among the most misunderstood creatures of all time. That misunderstanding is, just for me, a very odd phenomena.

How could anyone not like these magnificent birds? Who would not appreciate seeing them proudly  soaring in the skies of Europe, Africa and Asia? Maybe the ones, who never had the great chance to see something so amazing – a once in a lifetime experience. …read more of It’s Vulture Time! here

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The Endangered Unknown: The St. Vincent Amazon Parrot

By Peter Kleinhenz
June 30, 2011
File under: Birds, Black Market, Conservation, Habitat Loss, Species Profiles, Wildlife


There are beautiful creatures in this world, and then there are creatures so stunning in appearance that it makes one wonder if the animal evolved just to stand out.  Without a doubt, the St. Vincent Amazon Parrot, Amazona guildingii, is one of those creatures.

The St. Vincent Amazon Parrot, as its name implies, lives on the 18-mile-long island of Saint Vincent, which is located in the Lesser Antilles island group in the Caribbean Sea. On the island, these parrots spend much of their time on the lower slopes of forested volcanic ridges.

Occasionally, they venture out of these intact areas onto farms that have replaced their preferred lowland forest habitat over much of the island. St. Vincent Amazon Parrots prefer to feed on fruits and seeds and are often heard feeding before they are seen, due to their wide range of raucous calls. …read more of The Endangered Unknown: The St. Vincent Amazon Parrot here

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Bird vs. Machine: How Wildlife Forensic Science Prevents Crashes

By Laurel Neme
June 27, 2011
File under: Birds, Education, Wildlife

Photo: Bird strike damage and remains. Photo courtesy of SI Photo Services.

When US Airways Flight 1549 went down in New York’s Hudson River on that 20-degree day in January 2009, just six minutes after take-off, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles suspected the cause: a bird strike. “Hit birds,” they reported. “We lost thrust in both engines. Turning back towards LaGuardia.”

While typically the result is not as catastrophic, birds and other wildlife strikes to aircraft cause over $600 million in damage to U.S. civil and military aviation each year. How can we prevent an eight-pound bird from bringing down a 93,000-pound airplane?

To reduce the chances of bird strikes, airport authorities must first know what species are being hit. That’s where the Smithsonian Institution’s Feather Identification Lab comes in. …read more of Bird vs. Machine: How Wildlife Forensic Science Prevents Crashes here

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A Story about Birds, Money and Foul Play

By Lucy Dimitrova
June 20, 2011
File under: Animal Protection, Animal Stories, Birds, Endangered Species, Wildlife


Another threat for Imperial eagles seems to be growing, as a dead eagle was found in Southern Bulgaria on June 10th. The cause of death, according to experts from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, is poisoning.

The bird was found just under the hanging body of a pigeon, which was previously poisoned and obviously used as a bait for larger bird species like eagles and falcons.

The dead eagle, called Sofia, was one of the birds with satellite transmitters …read more of A Story about Birds, Money and Foul Play here

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Why Vultures?

By Corinne Kendall
June 1, 2011
File under: Birds, Conservation, Ecosystems, Wildlife


Someone once asked me, “So how does a nice girl like you end up studying vultures?” I usually answer such questions by explaining how important vultures are for the environment. In the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem (that spans the Kenya-Tanzania border), vultures actually consume more meat than all the carnivores combined.

Without their scavenging, rotting dead animals (or carcasses) would litter the savanna leading to disease spread and reduced nutrient cycling. In addition, vultures are declining globally at a shocking rate. In Southeast Asia, they lost 99% of the three main vulture species in just fifteen years. In Kenya, vultures have declined by over 50% in the last thirty years.

It’s not that I don’t like the more glamorous, charismatic animals – I always stop to smile at the slow swaying of an elephant or to admire the gorgeous mane of a lion, but usually I’m racing off to watch the boisterous fighting of a flock of vultures. …read more of Why Vultures? here

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