Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa, by Peter Ryan
Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa, by Peter Ryan, in 2023 was revised, updated and expanded in a new edition.
[...] There are some 350 seabird species worldwide, representing just over 3% of the world's total bird species - yet they occupy over 70% of the world's surface. Despite their limited diversity, seabirds hold a special place in the hearts of many birders. Part of their attraction is the challenge they pose for humans, of getting to grips with a group of birds that is at home in one of the most inaccessible and often hostile habitats. But seabirds also have a strong inherent appeal. They are the most mobile organisms on Earth, undertaking incredible migrations. Most species breed in impressive aggregations, commuting long distances between breeding sites and foraging areas. They breed in extreme habitats, ranging from the Grey Gull nursery in the hot, arid wastes of the Atacama Desert, to the frigid Antarctic winter, where Emperor Penguins raise their chicks. Penguins are particularly popular due to their erect stance, which gives them a superficial resemblance to people. Albatrosses rival humans in terms of longevity and are renowned for their long-term pair bonds. The truly pelagic species have become icons of one of the last habitats that bear few visible imprints of human activities, while some coastal seabirds such as the gulls are familiar commensals that have learned to adapt to the burgeoning human population. Southern Africa and the adjacent Southern Ocean are blessed with a wealth of birds, close to 1,000 species occur in this region (almost 10% of all species worldwide), of which more than 100 are found nowhere else. [...]
Genetic evidence suggests that all seabirds evolved from a single radiation of aquatic birds. These diversified rapidly to fill the many vacant niches that arose some 65 million years ago following the mass extinction event that saw the demise of all non-avian dinosaurs. Within this large group of waterbirds, termed the Aequorlitornithes, there are two major groupings. One, comprising the shorebirds, gulls, terns, skuas and alcids, has at its base the flamingos and grebes. The second group contains all other seabirds as well as the storks, herons, spoonbills and ibises, with the tropicbirds (together with the Sunbittern and Kagu) at its base. The diversity of seabirds is even more impressive: 132 species have been recorded from the region, more than one-third of all seabirds, and 12 are breeding endemics. The region boasts all three species of tropicbirds, 86% of skuas, 76% of albatrosses, 61 % of penguins, 51 % of terns, 50% of gannets and boobies, 42% of storm petrels, 41 % of petrels/shearwaters and 40% of frigatebirds. By comparison, gulls (17%) and cormorants (15%) are relatively poorly represented. The alcids, which are confined to the northern hemisphere, are the only seabird family not found in the region.
Coastal seabirds are fairly easy to observe. Most cormorants, gulls and terns forage along the coast and can be observed from land. Roost sites are particularly productive places to observe a range of these species, which often roost communally at protected river mouths or rock stacks. Pelagic seabirds pose more of a challenge. Some species can be seen from the shore, typically from headlands, where they tend to pass close to land. Cape Gannets and some of the more common inshore pelagics such as White-chinned Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and Shy Albatrosses are often visible from promontories, but you need a spotting scope to get even a half decent view. [...]
Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa, by Peter Ryan.
Title: Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa
Author: Peter Ryan
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
Imprint: Struik Nature
Cape Town, South Africa 2023
ISBN 9781775848479 / ISBN 978-1-77-584847-9
Softcover, 15 x 21 cm, 160 pages, throughout colour photographs and images
Ryan, Peter im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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