Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lost Guadalupe

So you may recall a while back we visited Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico - this is as close as we got to it, checking out Elephant Seals from just off the coast.


You must understand its not that we didn't want to visit its just that we were rather busy with these girls.....


Which in a way is a shame because Guadalupe offers some interesting birdwatching opportunities. Unfortunately its not as interesting as it once was. You see in addition to the seals and sealions some other mammals made Guadalupe their home over the course of the last century - the kind of mammals you don't wanna see on any unique island: feral goats and feral cats. B

guadelupe petrel

Above is a mount of the Guadelupe Storm Petrel (Oceanodroma macrodactyla) . Its extinct (probably - its hard to prove the negative that is extinction with birds that spend so long at sea). These guys used to nest on Guadelupe in burrows but the cats made that a pretty ineffective way to pass your genes on until they just dwindled and died out.

guadelupe flicker

Above is a mount of the Guadalupe flicker (Colaptes cafer rufipileus), another lost species. This one fell victim to goat decimation of its habitat. Since the extermination of the goats some (though not all species) of the plants have returned and the island has been recolonised by the mainland subspecies, Colaptes cafe cafer.

These are just two of Guadalupe's lost birds. Also lost were the Guadalupe Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii brevicauda) and the Guadalupe Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus consobrinus). The Guadalupe Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula obscurus) is currently MIA, a search in 2000 failed to find one so it may be lost already.

Perhaps the saddest tale of all Guadalupe's lost birds though is that of the Guadalupe Caracara (Polyborus lutosus). The Caracara was intentionally made extinct by man in around 1901 in the belief that it preyed on young goats (ironically the same goats who's offspring would do for the Towhee, wren, flicker and probably the kinglet). What a mess we make.


Charlie said...

Cats, goats, and people: biodiversity doesn't stand a bloody chance...I'd not heard this particular sorry, circular tale before, incidentally, I may have to steal it for 10,000 Birds :)

tai haku said...

yeah - I knew about the flicker but it was only when I saw the petrel skin next to it that the penny started to drop (I have a feeling the museum (Chicago's field) had a caracara mount too but the penny didn't drop that far!)