Plenary speakers are scheduled for the first two mornings of the conference:
Thursday 9 November – Jim Bednarz, University of North Texas
Friday 10 November – Andre Botha, Overarching Coordinator: CMS Vulture Multi-species Action Plan
Plenary title: Whatever You Do, Don’t Study Raptors! — Past, Present, and Future Explorations into the Social Ecology of Birds of Prey by a Wayward Ecologist
Plenary description: Raptors can be hard to find and difficult to observe, in part, because they occur mostly in extremely low densities, and in part, because many are found in nearly inaccessible locations (e.g., on the tops of the tallest trees or on massive vertical cliffs). Therefore, I have often given the sage advice, which I received from my mentors, to my students, “Whatever you do, don’t study raptors!” Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have not always followed the wisdom of my mentors, and I have become fascinated with the mysteries of raptor ecology certainly putting me in the situation of doing inherently-challenged science. Although I have focused the majority of my science career attempting to answer questions related to raptor conservation, for that is where at least some money can be found to support field research, I am especially fascinated by the social ecology of birds of prey. Thus, whenever I was in the field trapping, sampling, monitoring, and observing, I was also attempting to explore what factors drive and explain the social interactions of raptors. I submit that the understanding of the social ecology of birds of prey is one of the most understudied, but most exciting and intriguing areas of raptor biology. For this presentation, I will first review and discuss the most iconic form of extreme social behavior in raptors, the “cartwheel display” most often reported to be observed in eagles (e.g., Haliaeetus spp.). In this most intense aerial engagement, the participant eagles will grasp each others’ talons, violating the principles of aerodynamic flight, stall in mid-air, and engage in a spectacular “cartwheeling” plummet to earth (also called “whirling” or “talon-grapping”). Contrary to many popular and scientific reports that the cartwheel display is a romantic courtship interaction between members of a mated pair, available evidence supports that this behavior represents an aggressive interaction between two rival combatants. I will continue my exploration into raptor social ecology by providing a brief review of cooperative breeding and hunting in Harris’s Hawks (Parabuteo unicinctus), discussing sex ratio skews in birds of prey, examining sibling aggression in Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus), and delving into the unique polyandrous and social system of the Galápagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis). I will conclude the presentation by suggesting several potential avenues of future research into the provocative social ecology of raptors.
Plenary speaker biography: Jim Bednarz received his undergraduate degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from New Mexico State University. He completed a M.S. degree in Animal Ecology at Iowa State University and his Ph.D. degree in Biology at the University of New Mexico. Jim has conducted field ecological research on six continents for more than three decades emphasizing avian population ecology and conservation. Most of this work has been focused on birds of prey and Neotropical migratory songbirds. Specifically, Jim has spent more than 10 years investigating the biology of Harris’s Hawks, 8 years studying the ecology of Galápagos Hawks, and recently has been involved in ecology and conservation research on American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, Mississippi Kites, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and Swallow-tailed Kites. Jim has published over 130 scholarly works including peer-reviewed journal articles, monographs, book reviews, book chapters, conference proceedings, one technical book, and was the Editor of the Journal of Raptor Research for 5 years. He was a Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Arkansas State University with an active research lab working with over 40 graduate students for 19 years. Jim moved to North Texas and began teaching Biology, Ecology, and Environmental Sciences courses at University of North Texas (UNT) in 2013. Currently, Jim is a Lecturer and an Advisor with the Department of Biological Sciences at UNT and actively works with 10 – 15 graduate and undergraduate students on field research projects.
Plenary title: The CMS Multi-species Action Plan for Africa-Eurasian Vultures
Plenary description:In October 2015, the meeting of signatories (MoS2) of the CMS Raptors MoU, which was held in Trondheim, Norway, approved the motion to bring together representatives of Range States, partners and interested parties, to develop a coordinated Multi-species Action Plan to conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP) for submission to the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP12) to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), scheduled to be held in Manilla, Philippines in October 2017. The overall aim is to develop a comprehensive strategic conservation Action Plan covering the geographic ranges of all 15 migratory Old World vultures to promote concerted, collaborative and coordinated international actions to: (1) rapidly halt current population declines in all species covered by the Vulture MsAP; (2) reverse recent population trends to bring the conservation status of each species back to a favourable level; and, (3) provide conservation management guidelines applicable to all Range States covered by the Vulture MsAP. This presentation will review the process in terms of the drafting of the Vulture MsAP to date and will share information on the framework and strategy for adoption and implementation across all 128 range states, as well as the key areas of focus and action that has been suggested by the more than 250 contributors to this process.
Plenary speaker biography: André Botha is currently Special Projects Manager at the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa and previously managed the Trust’s Birds of Prey Programme between 2004-2016. He has been co-chair of the IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group since 2012 and was appointed Overarching Coordinator for the drafting of the Convention on Migratory Species Multi-species Action Plan for African-Eurasian Vultures which was initiated in 2015 and will be adopted by signatories at COP12 in Manilla, Philippines in October 2017. In addition, he was instrumental in the establishment of the International Vulture Awareness Day which is observed on the first Saturday of September annually and which has become a global event since it was first held in 2009. Although the primary focus of his work has been focused on vulture conservation and reducing the impact of wildlife poisoning, he was also involved in a range of research and monitoring projects focused on raptors, owls and Southern Ground Hornbills in southern Africa.