Highlights from the latest issue
July 2017 | Vol. 159, issue 3
The July issue of IBIS contains 17 full papers, three Short Communications and three Viewpoint articles.
Here are some of the many highlights in this issue.
- Using super-high resolution satellite imagery to census threatened albatrosses
Peter T. Fretwell, Paul Scofield & Richard A. Phillips
Satellite imagery is increasingly used in research and conservation, for example to assess land cover change, to model species’ distributions and to predict the impacts of changing environments. In a few cases, it has even been used to assess the size of breeding colonies of birds, such as penguins. Now, for the first time, it has been used to count birds individually. Using super-high (30-cm) resolution imagery, Peter Fretwell and colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey have been able to identify and count individual albatrosses on South Georgia and the Chatham Islands, showing that counts estimated from satellite imagery very close match those from ground surveys. This has clear implications for monitoring the populations of these threatened species on remote and difficult to access islands.
- Elevated concentrations of naturally occurring heavy metals inversely correlate with reproductive output and body mass of the Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus
Jörn Theuerkauf, Tokushi Haneda, Yuji Okahisa, Nozomu J. Sato, Sophie Rouys, Henri Bloc, Keisuke Ueda, Izumi Watanabe, Ralph Kuehn & Roman Gula
The Kagu of New Caledonia is one of the world’s strangest birds, and has no close relatives. Previous work published in Ibis indicated that some populations of this species live in areas of ultramafic soils, which contain very high levels of a number of heavy metals. Now Jörn Theuerkauf of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, and a number of colleagues from Japan, New Caledonia, Germany and the USA assess how living in such conditions affects the Kagu’s reproductive output and body condition. Following a number of Kagu families on both ultramafic and normal soil types, they show that birds on ultramafic soils ingest high levels of heavy metals through their earthworm prey, and lay down these metals in their feathers. Kagu on ultramafic soils had lower body weight, much larger territories and much lower reproductive success than birds on non-ultramafic soils. However the size of eggs and the proportion of eggs that produced chicks did not differ, leading the authors to conclude that high heavy metal concentrations do not affect Kagu directly through toxicity, but indirectly through limiting prey abundance.
- The phylogeny of the world’s bulbuls (Pycnonotidae) inferred using a supermatrix approach
Subir B. Shakya & Frederick H. Sheldon
The bulbuls comprise an ecologically important family of frugivorous, seed- dispersing birds found in Asia and Africa, for which a comprehensive phylogeny has hitherto been lacking. Using a supermatrix approach, Subir Shakya and Frederick Sheldon of Louisiana State University used existing and new sequences to produce a phylogeny of the family that includes 121 of the 130 currently recognised species. Their results support previous work in showing that the family is monophyletic and contains two major clades, one exclusively African and the other largely Asian. Two Asian genera, Hypsipetes and Pycnonotus, have expanded into Africa quite recently. The former genus appears to be a successful island-hopper, and these new results suggest that an enigmatic island genus, Thapsinillas, endemic to the Moluccas and the only bulbuls found east of Wallace’s line, in fact belongs in Hypsipetes. The authors propose a number of other changes to the phylogenetic affinities within the family.
- Female turnover rate differs between two Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis nesting areas, as revealed by DNA analysis of moulted feathers
Vidar Selås, Oddmund Kleven & Odd Frydenlund Steen
The persecution of large raptors remains a widespread problem but one that is difficult to quantify. Vidar Selås of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and colleagues used DNA analysis of moulted feathers to compare the rate of turnover (a proxy of survival) of female Goshawks at nests in two regions of southern Norway, in one of which it was thought that hunters were persecuting the species and in the other it was assumed that there was no persecution. The results suggested that turnover rates in the area of persecution were around twice those in the other area, and that nest survival rates were lower. These differences could not be related to habitat quality. Intriguingly, at new nests, which were less likely to be known by hunters, there was no difference between regions in nest productivity. These results confirmed the suspected difference in rates of persecution between the two regions.
All Viewpoint articles are free to view.
An alternative view of moorland management for Red Grouse Lagopus lagoons scotica
Nick Sotherton, David Baines & Nicholas J. Aebischer
Possible mechanisms of substrate colour-matching in larks (Alaudidae) and their taxonomic implications
Paul F. Donald, Per Alström and Derek Engelbrecht
Moffat’s anticipation of 21st century bird population dynamics theory: is variation in site quality exclusively the core tenant?
Robert N. Rosenfield
Wandering Albatross | © Richard Phillips (from article)
Kanu | Pierre Fidenci | CC-BY-SA-2.5 | Wikimedia Commons
Bulbuls | © Subir B. Shaka (from article)
Goshawk | Steve Garvie | CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Wikimedia Commons