Endangered Luzon Buttonquail photographed alive by Philippines documentary
Sunday, February 22, 2009
According to Philippines feared to have gone extinct was recently documented alive by a cameraman inadvertently filming a local market, right before it was sold and headed for the cooking pot. Scientists had suspected the species—listed as "data deficient" on the —was extinct., a rare
Last month,snared and successfully caught the (Turnix worcesteri or Worcester's buttonquail) in Dalton Pass, a cold and wind-swept bird passageway in the , in , located between and mountain ranges, in Northern .
The rare species, previously known to birders only through drawings based on dead museum specimens collected several decades ago, was identified in a documentary filmed in the Philippines called Bye-Bye Birdie.
Britishand WBCP member Desmond Allen was watching a January 26 of a documentary, Bye-Bye Birdie, when he recognized the bird in a of the that lasted less than a second. Allen created a , which was photographed by their birder-companion, Arnel Telesforo, also a WBCP member, in Nueva Vizcaya's poultry market, before it was cooked and eaten.
, a Philippine news and public affairs television show aired by , had incorporated Telesforo's photographs and video footage of the live bird in the documentary, that was created by the TV crew led by Mr Howie Severino. The Philippine Network had not realized what they filmed until Allen had informed the crew of interesting discovery.
Mr Severino and the crew were at that time, in Dalton Pass to film "akik", the traditional practice of trapping wild birds with nets by first attracting them with bright lights on moonless nights. "I'm shocked. I don't know of any other photos of this. No bird watchers have ever given convincing reports that they have seen it at all... This is an exciting discovery," said Allen.
The Luzon Buttonquail was only known through an illustration in the authoritative book by Robert S. Kennedy, et al, A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. This birders "bible" includes a drawing based on the skins of dead specimens collected a century ago, whereas the otherwise comprehensiveof the does not contain a single image of the Worcester's Buttonquail.
“With the photograph and the promise of more sightings in the wild, we can see the living bill, the eye color, the feathers, rather than just the mushed-up museum skin,” exclaimed Allen, who has been birdwatching for fifty years, fifteen in the Philippines, and has an extensive collection of bird calls on his ipod. He has also spotted the, another rare bird which he has not seen in the Philippines.
“We are ecstatic that this rarely seen species was photographed by accident. It may be the only photo of this poorly known bird. But I also feel sad that the locals do not value thearound them and that this bird was sold for only P10 and headed for the cooking pot,” Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) president Mike Lu said. “Much more has to be done in creating conservation awareness and local consciousness about our unique threatened bird fauna. This should be an easy task for the local governments assisted by the . What if this was the last of its species?” Lu added.
“This is a very important finding. Once you don’t see a bird species in a generation, you start to wonder if it’s extinct, and for this bird species we simply do not know its status at all," said Arne Jensen, a Danish ornithologist and biodiversity expert, and WBCP Records Committee head.
According to the WBCP, the Worcester’s buttonquail was first described based on specimens bought in Quinta Market in, in 1902, and was named after Dean Conant Worcester.
From 1899 to 1901 he was a member of the United States; thenceforth until 1913 he served as secretary of the interior for the . In 1910, he founded the , which has become the hospital for the poor and the sick.
In October, 2004, at the request of Mr Moises Butic,CENR Officer, Mr Jon Hornbuckle, of Grove Road, , has conducted a short investigation into in , Mount Polis, and Dalton Pass, in Nueva Vizcaya.
"Prices ranged from 100for a to 300 pesos for a . Other species that are caught from time to time include and ; on one occasion, around 50 of the latter were trapped! All other trapped birds are eaten," said Hornbuckle. "The main trapping season is November to February. Birds are caught at the lights using type nets. Quails and Buttonquails were more often shot in the fields at this time, rather than caught, and occasionally included the rare Luzon (Worcester’s) Buttonquail, which is only known from dead specimens, and is a threatened bird species reported from Dalton Pass," he added.
In August, 1929, Richard C. McGregor and Leon L. Gardner of thecompiled a book entitled Philippine Bird Traps. The authors described the Luzon Buttonquail as "very rare," having only encountered it twice, once in August and once in September.
"They are caught with a scoop net from the back of a. Filipino hunters snared them, baiting with branches of artificial red peppers made of ," wrote McGregor and Leon L. Gardner. "The various ingenious and effectual devices used by Filipinos for bird-trapping include [the] 'Teepee Trap' which consists of a conical tepee, woven of split and about 3 feet high and 3 feet across at the base, with a fairly narrow entrance. 'Spring ' were also used, where a slip noose fastened to a strongly bent bamboo or other elastic branch, which is released by a trigger, which is usually the perch of the trap," their book explained.
A passage from the bird-trap book, which explains whyhad eaten these endangered bird species, goes as follows:
|Thousands of birds appear annually in the markets of the Philippine Islands. Snipe, quails, wild ducks, silvereyes, weavers, rails, Java sparrows, parrakeets, doves, fruit pigeons, and many more are found commonly. Some of these are vended in the streets as cage birds; many are sold for food. Most of them are living; practically none has been shot. How are these birds obtained? The people possess almost no firearms, and most of them could ill afford the cost of shells alone. Nevertheless, birds are readily secured and abundantly exposed for sale. In a land which does not raise enough produce to support itself, where the quest for food is the main occupation of life, where the frog in the roadside puddle is angled, the minnow in the brook seined, and the all-consuming locust itself consumed, it is not surprising (though regrettable) that birds are considered largely in the light of dietary additions.
—Philippine Bird Traps, by Richard C. McGregor and Leon L. Gardner, 1930
A global review of threatened species by the drastic decline of animal and plant life. This includes a quarter of all , one out of eight birds, one out of three and 70 percent of plants.(IUCN) indicates
The survey includes 44,838 species of wildand , out of which 16,928 species are threatened with extinction. Among the threatened, 3,246 are tagged critically endangered, the highest category of threat. Another 4,770 species are endangered and 8,912 vulnerable to extinction.
Environmental scientists say they have concrete evidence that the planet is undergoing the "largest mass extinction in 65 million years". Leading environmental scientist Professor Norman Myers says the Earth is experiencing its "Sixth Extinction."
Scientists forecast that up to five million species will be lost this century. "We are well into the opening phase of a mass extinction of species. There are about 10 million species on earth. If we carry on as we are, we could lose half of all those 10 million species," Myers said.
Scientists are warning that by the end of this century, the planet could lose up to half its species, and that these extinctions will alter not only biological diversity but also the evolutionary processes itself. They state that human activities have brought our planet to the point of biotic crisis.
In 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that the planet is losing 30,000 species per year - around three species per hour. Some biologists have begun to feel that the biodiversity crisis dubbed the "Sixth Extinction" is even more severe, and more imminent, than Wilson had expected.
The Luzon Buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri) is a species of bird in the Philippines, where it is known from just six localities thereof. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, in the highlands of the , although records are from 150-1,250 m, and the possibility that it frequents forested (non-grassland) habitats cannot be discounted.family. It is to the island of in the
Theor hemipodes are a small family of birds which resemble, but are unrelated to, the true . They inhabit warm grasslands in Asia, Africa, and Australia. They are assumed to be , and breed somewhere in northern Luzon in April-June and that at least some birds disperse southwards in the period July-March.
These Turnicidae are small, drab, running birds, which avoid flying. The female is the more brightly coloured of the sexes, and initiates courtship. Unusually, the buttonquails are, with the females circulating among several males and expelling rival females from her territory. Both sexes cooperate in building a nest in the earth, but only the male the eggs and tends the young.
Called "Pugo" () by natives, these birds inhabit rice paddies and scrub lands near farm areas because of the abundance of seeds and insects that they feed on regularly. These birds are characterized by their black heads with white spots, a brown or fawn colored body and yellow legs on males and the females are brown with white and black spots.
These birds are very secretive, choosing to make small path ways through the rice fields, which unfortunately leads to their deaths as well, they are hunted by children and young men by means of setting spring traps along their usual path ways.
Buttonquails are a notoriouslyand unobtrusive family of birds, and the species could conceivably occur in reasonable numbers somewhere. They are included in the (as evaluated by IUCN Red List of ). They are also considered as by IUCN and BirdLife International, since these species is judged to have a ten percent chance of going extinct in the next one hundred years.
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- "Report says disappearing life threatens biodiversity" — Wikinews, October 7, 2008
- "Largest mass extinction in 65 million years underway, scientists say" — Wikinews, March 8, 2006
- "Turnix worcesteri - The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(tm)" — , February 18, 2009
- Dino Balabo. "Rare RP quail spotted - on way to cooking pot" — , February 18, 2009
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- Howie Severino. "Bye-Bye Birdie in three parts" — , February 10, 2009
- Howie Severino. ""An exciting discovery" - Introducing the Worcester's Buttonquail...(found only in the Philippines)" — , February 9, 2009
- "Iwitness: Bye Bye Birdie" — , January 26, 2009
- "Desmond Allen" — , 2009
- "Luzon Buttonquail - BirdLife Species Factsheet" — , 2009
- "Lost and poorly known birds: targets for birders in Asia: 3" — , 2009
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- Ian Sample. "Nearly one quarter of world's mammals face extinction, annual 'red list' reports" — , October 6, 2008
- Sarah Clarke. "Earth in grip of mass extinction: scientists" — , March 7, 2006
- Jon Hornbuckle. "INVESTIGATION INTO BIRD TRAPPING IN NORTHERN LUZON, October 2004" — , October, 2004
- Richard C. McGregor and Leon L. Gardner. "JSTOR: Philippine Bird Traps" — , August 10, 1929