Fernandina’s Flicker, one of Cuba’s most charismatic birds, is an example of modern ornithology’s dirty little secret - myopia that borders on blindness.https://goo.gl/4eXo09
This disability affects not only birds, but also highly talented scientists coming into their prime when an exciting array of powerful new scientific tools could be used to solve challenging ecological puzzles that desperately need to be solved. A deeply flawed system favors research on a relative handful of species living in wealthy countries while neglecting thousands of other species.
10 ‘PRIORITY’ WOODPECKERS
Cuba's Fernandina’s Flicker and Argentine scientist Martjan Lammertink are uncomfortable reminders of the funding dysfunction. As you might suspect, deforestation and removal of dead snags, agriculture and an expanding human population are common foes of most of the 42 threatened and endangered woodpeckers in the world. As a visiting fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York, Lammertink focused on the trends affecting these woodpeckers in the IUCN Red List. This is an ignoble list created with the help of scientists worldwide on which any bird species would not want to be included.
(Photo: Luis Segura / Rockjumper Birding Tours)
Based on the Red List trends, Lammertink identified 10 “priority species” of woodpeckers worldwide, and summarized extinction threats to them in a paper in the journal Acta Ornithologica. Four of the 10 are found in Latin America – the endangered Speckle-chested Piculet and the vulnerable or near threatened Fernandina’s Flicker, Black-bodied Woodpecker and Helmeted Woodpecker. (The other 6 are Asian species; the Okinawa Woodpecker, Korean White-bellied Woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Red-collared Woodpecker, Yellow-faced Flameback and Red-collared Woodpecker.)
Very little is known about the Piculet. BirdLife International says it is found in only 2 valleys in northern Peru. The danger ranking has risen steadily over the past 26 years. “There was no research dedicated to this species during that period,” Lammertink wrote. This shortcoming is what you might call ornithological blindness.
During the 26 years after 1988, Fernandina’s Flicker was the subject of 2 scientific publications. However during the same period, two vulnerable woodpecker species in the U.S. – the Red-headed and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers – were the subject of 508 scientific papers. Of course, under-funding ornithology research compromises scholarship and bird conservation, but so, too, does tunnel vision.
FERNANDINA’S FLICKER HOLDOUTS
The Fernandina’s Flicker, also known as the Cuban Flicker, is one of my top-10 birds of Cuba, all of which merit more ornithology attention. Here’s the list: http://bit.ly/CubaTop-10
The Flicker excavates nest holes in certain species of palm trees, but seems to prefer to enlarge holes that have been at least started by West Indian Woodpeckers, which was the assessment of a team of Cornell researchers that visited Cuba in 2007.
This beautiful bird with a heavily black-bared back is often seen hunting for insects, worms and seeds under palm trees. Shortages of fuel have led to massive tree-cutting for firewood. Expansion of Cuban farms had added to the deforestation. Only 14% of the island’s original forests remain. BirdLife International estimates that there are only 400 or so total pairs of Fernandina’s Flickers left, with the largest concentration in Cuba’s Zapata Swamp.
PALM TREE PREDICAMENT
In a single palm a Flicker will relinquish one nest hole to another threatened bird, the Cuban Amazon, and excavate another, sometimes in the same tree. Bird trappers and poaches have nearly eliminated Amazons (and Flickers) by pushing over or cutting its nest trees to collect the parrot chicks.
Similar massive devastation of palms is caused by hurricanes, including Hurricane Wilma. The 2005 Category-5 storm was the most intense Atlantic hurricane yet recorded at the time. With nest-hole trees already in short supply, other cavity-nesting species on the storm-ravaged island may be forcing Fernandina’s Flickers from their holes as fast as they and other woodpeckers can excavate them.
I believe that the more we watch, photograph, protect and study Fernandina’s Flickers, the better for the species, all birds, all wildlife and all humans.#Cubabirds #woodpecker #binoculars #birds #birding #birdwatching #birdlovers #naturephotography #wildlifephotography #birdphotography #ornithology #amazingbirds #birdphotos #birdingtour #birdingguides #ecotourism #beautifulbirds #amazingplacestosee #beautiful_nature