Wednesday 27 June 2007.
Wildlife researchers have photographed two rare bird species, the Recurve-billed Bushbird and the Perija Parakeet and published it for the first time. The Recurve-billed Bushbird was photographed in Norte de Santander, Colombia by Adriana Tovar and Luis Eduardo Uruena of Fundación ProAves, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) Colombian conservation partner. The species remained undetected between 1965 and 2004 due to its small range and the remoteness of its habitats, until it was rediscovered recently in Venezuela and in a region of northeastern Colombia where this photo was taken.
During an expedition into this little explored region, Thomas Donegan and Blanca Huertas of ProAves discovered a relict forest around a holy sanctuary near the city of Ocaña. In 1709, the image of the Virgin Mary was seen in a tree root that had been cut down. The event was declared a miracle by the Vatican. A small area of forest known as the Torcoroma Holy Sanctuary has been protected by Church authorities ever since and a beautiful chapel which still houses the divine image was constructed on the site.
The surviving humid forest patch is dominated by bamboo and supports a treasure chest of threatened and little-known species. The site was declared an Important Bird Area in 2005, leading to visits by ornithologists and birdwatchers. Oscar Laverde from Colombia’s National University discovered a population of the endangered Recurve-billed Bushbird there that year. In late 2006, ProAves established the 250-acre Hormiguero de Torcoroma Bird Reserve adjacent to the Torcoroma Holy Sanctuary to protect the Recurve-billed Bushbird and other endemics.
“Whenever a new bird species is found or a species that was thought to be lost is rediscovered, it gives us all hope and encouragement,” said Paul Salaman, ABC’s International Program Director. “But as more and more remote areas are being settled, the bushbird reminds us how important it is to conserve as much natural habitat as we can. Who knows what wonderful biodiversity is being destroyed before it has had a chance to be discovered?”
The Recurve-billed Bushbird inhabits dense bamboo stands in the dry-cloud forest and has been seen splitting bamboo stems with its axe-like beak to extract grubs. The bushbird and several other little-known endemics occur in relict dry-cloud forest patches on the crests of Andean mountains in an otherwise arid region. Deforestation and wildfires for agriculture and grazing have devastated these forests, resulting in a denuded landscape which suffers from extensive soil erosion.
“ProAves is conducting environmental education campaigns for children and young people in the local community of Ocaña to help protect the habitat,” said Salaman. “Due to the rapid fragmentation of the habitat and lack of bordering forests in this region of Colombia, it is vitally important that we learn more about the bushbird to plan effectively for its conservation.”
The Perija Parakeet, an exceptionally rare species which was also photographed by Adriana Tovar and Luis Eduardo Urueña, thanks to Loro Parque Fundacion, has a very distinctive blue nape and white breast, and is threatened by habitat disturbance and loss, and potentially by illegal bird traders.