Study Shows Liberia Playing Host to 615 Species of Birds


Monrovia – The ecosystems, whether they are marine, freshwater or located in native bush, involve the transfer of energy. Energy flows into an ecosystem usually via sunlight.

This light energy is used in a process called photosynthesis, allowing plant matter (flora) to grow. Flora then becomes a food source for birds, animals and insects. This transfer of energy continues as feeding relationships occur between plants and animals.

Native birds interacting with the flora in the ecosystems have a mutualistic relationship – that is, they both benefit from the relationship. While the bird receives nectar or fruit (in the form of berries) from the tree it visits, the tree benefits by having another organism carry out the process of pollination or seed dispersal. Many native trees cannot perform these processes without the intervention of birds. Birds are the primary pollinators and seed dispersers in the ecosystem.

Birds are a diverse group, and their bright colors, distinct songs and calls, and showy displays add enjoyment to our lives. Birds are very visible, quite common, and offer easy opportunities to observe their diverse plumage and behaviors. Because of this, birds are popular to many who pursue wildlife watching and monitoring activities.

A study conducted by Wulf Gatter, German scientist, on the birds of Liberia shows that Of Liberia’s 615 species, 125-130 migrate between the country and the Palearctic region. Surprisingly an equal or even higher number of African species either migrates to or from Liberia or large fractions of their populations leave the country seasonally.

Their number, according to him, is much higher than in Nigeria, with some 880 birds’ species but only 87 intra-African migrants. The reasons for this are probably to be found on the one hand in  the definition of the terms ‘local movements’ and ‘migrations’, and  on the other in the lack of long -term observation particularly for commoner species which can show considerable population fluctuations over the year.

In his book ‘the birds of Liberia’, he wrote that intra-African migration by birds is done when species numbers within Liberia, and hence within a single vegetation zone, undergo marked seasonal changes.

“The database here is particularly observations systematically collected by the author between 1981 and 1984. Various types of migration are involved, though all have their origin in the seasonal changes in the West African Climate the statement that ‘forest species are essentially sedentary is only partly correct. The bird communities of the low land forest canopy especially show significant seasonal changes.”

Study done by the German scientist also shows that Merops gularis(black Bee-Eater) in Liberia M. gularis is a good ‘Migrant, mainly disappearing before the height of the rains, and M, albicollis, in addition to it occurrence  in savannas, spends the dry season as a canopy dweller in huge numbers within undisturbed lowland forest.

Dry season migrant breeders: these birds arrive in Liberia to breed, usually from areas to the north, between the end of the rains and the height of the dry season. Their populations leave the country entirely or partly more or less in the early rains.

It is stated in his book that Rainy season migrant breeders—these birds arrive between the end of the rains and the dry season. Breeding activity in Liberia starts with the early rains many population, or at least large proportion, leave at the height of the rains for drier areas, most likely to the north.

Of the 615 bird’s species that are known from Liberia, more than 120 have their origin in the palearctic region breeding in the northern hemisphere and crossing the Sahara or adjacent Atlantic Ocean twice a year. Roughly a dozen species migrate to Liberia from tropical and Antarctic oceans, south and west of the country, and a few species.

Bird’s trade for export was widespread in Liberia in the 1990, Mandingo (Fulah) traders from Guinea (especially) transported enormous number of birds to Monrovia through Lofa and Bong Counties for shipment overseas.

The study shows that large numbers of parrots (see species account) were also smuggled across the cavalla river from Ivory Coast. Within Liberia, bird losses from overheating, thirst, crushing caused by completely inadequate methods of transportation, were high. These importations resulted in large numbers of new colonization, particularly in the Monrovia region, originating from escaped birds.

Large numbers of dead birds were given by dealers to Liberian taxidermist at the University of Liberia. These specimens eventually found their way to the USA, where they were recorded as having been obtained in Liberia, and to the Tervuuren Museum in Belgium, where many were stated to be Liberian records.

Before the Liberian Forestry Development Authority estimated 100,000-150,000 short guns existed in Liberia. Hunting was officially very much restricted, but in reality not controlled.

Study shows that birds are making major contribution to the ecosystem. Some birds transport a variety of things through the environment. For example, birds serve to spread seeds of various plants, thereby helping in plant dispersal. American robins feeding on mulberries eventually deposit the seeds to other locations in their droppings. Other seed and fruit-eating birds do the same thing.

Hummingbirds pollinate various nectar-producing plants, transporting pollen on their beaks and feathers from one flower to the next. Even animals can be spread. Some wading birds relocate fish eggs that get stuck to their legs, thereby aiding in fish dispersal to other parts of a river or marsh.

Some birds, such as the house finch, spread an eye disease called avian conjunctivitis (Mycoplasmal Conjunctivitis) through direct contact with each other or through bird feeding stations that attract them.

And, although the science is still new and uncertain, both legal and illegal transportation of birds, especially the captive raised varieties such as poultry, can and has spread Avian Influenza A (H5N1) or “bird flu” across great distances in Europe, Africa and Asia. Research is ongoing, however, the precise roles played by migratory birds in the spread of H5N1 and its transmittal to domestic poultry and humans remain uncertain and continue to be debated by experts.

If you’ve ever spent time on a summer evening looking up at the sky, you’ve undoubtedly seen swallows, swifts, and nighthawks swooping and gliding through the air. These aerial acrobats are consuming hundreds of insects, many of which we consider pests.

These and other birds consume insects such as mosquitoes, Japanese beetles, and European corn borer moths. To feed their young, birds catch huge quantities of adult and larval insects, which are high in protein for growing chicks. Without birds, many of these insects would become even greater pests, consuming agricultural and forestry crops and produce, and our own blood!