College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

New Publication on Invasive Birds to Inform Research and Management

Click here for isiZulu version

South African Research Chair in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Professor Colleen Downs and Dr Lorinda Hart, Honorary Researcher at UKZN and lecturer at the University of Namibia, have edited a new publication for the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) on the topic of invasive alien birds.

Titled Invasive Birds Global Trends and Impacts, the book’s 45 chapters – with contributions from more than 80 authors – are arranged in three parts. The first provides an account of 32 global avian invasive species, the second details the biogeographical aspects of avian invasions, and the third considers the impact of invasive species on native communities, problems associated with invasive bird management, and the use of citizen science in the study of invasive birds.

‘[This] is a major contribution to the international literature on biological invasions and CABI is proud to have published the book,’ said CABI Commissioning Editor Dr David Hemming.

The book focuses on invasive avian species that threaten biodiversity as listed in the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD), and includes some additional species. Various types of starlings, parakeets, sparrows, geese, crows, ducks, owls and more are discussed.

Designed as a “one-stop” reference volume, the first part provides useful, comprehensive information on the current invasive status of each species, including a physical description, diet, introduction and invasive pathways, breeding behaviour, and natural habitat. It also examines each species’ environmental impact, and current and future control methods. The book includes full-colour photographs and global distribution maps.

The publication was developed with a broad audience in mind. It will appeal to researchers, students, scientists, conservation managers, government officials, risk assessors and anyone directly involved in researching, managing, or drawing up risk assessments for invasive bird species, and provides relevant material for invasion ecology courses.

Rigorous scientific standards were applied to the thorough peer-review process and the book was compiled over a period of three years from conceptualisation to publication. Downs and Hart were driven to produce a foundational, consolidated review that closes knowledge gaps or corrects misinformation on globally recognised invasive avian species. The work provides a basis for future research and management strategies as urbanisation and global trade affect invasive avian assemblages, and the ecosystems they invade around the world.

They hope that this synthesised publication will serve as a basis for further studies and development of management protocols by providing examples of available and missing data for a growing body of globally invasive bird species.

Downs, who has been at UKZN for more than 26 years, has gained extensive, multidisciplinary experience working on a wide range of terrestrial vertebrates, focusing on their conservation, ecology, physiology and behaviour with changing land use. Hart, who completed her PhD at UKZN under Downs’ supervision, focuses on a broad range of research interests that cover ecophysiology, and urban and invasive ecology.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied