meet our Birds

Western

Mountain Greenbul

Green

Twinspot

Cameroon

Blue-headed

Sunbird

Yellow-whiskered

Greenbul

Red-bellied

Paradise

Flycatcher

Forest Robin

Northern

Double-collared

Sunbird

Yellow-rumped

Tinkerbird

Binomial: Andropadus tephrolaemus

Common: Western Mountain Greenbul

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Greyish-blue head and throat; bright olive-green upperparts; yellowish-olive underparts. Found at all levels of montane forest; very common in forest behind center. Song a monotonous, steady series of notes, same form repeated continuously, ‘whup-wheep-whip-whupchipup’.

Binomial: Mandingoa nitidula

Common: Green Twinspot

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Red face, black bill with red tip. Tinted orange and yellow underparts. Found in dense undergrowth at forest edges and along tracks, often near water; occasionally higher up. Song a sharp tsk, with very high-pitched whistles and trills.

Binomial: Cyanomitra oritis

Common: Cameroon Blue-headed Sunbird

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Olive-green highland species with dark glossy bluish-purple head and throat. Lemon-yellow tufts underneath. Found in undergrowth of mid-elevation and montane forest, especially in interior, along streams, and at forest edge. Song a soft tik tik tik, followed by a fast high-pitched jingle.

Binomial: Andropadus latirostris

Common: Yellow-whiskered Greenbul

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Wholly olive-green with bright yellow ‘whiskers’ on neck. Found in various forest types. Song a repeated ‘chuk’, and rapid, rattling ‘ditditditdit…’

 

Binomial: Terpsiphone rufiventer

Common: Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Rufous underparts; black head; bluish-gray bill and eye-ring. Mostly black back. Found in forest, secondary growth. Vocal and conspicuous. Calls a harsh ‘zwhee-zweh’ and short ‘tweedtweedwee tweedtweedwee’.

 

Binomial: Stiphrornis erythrothorax

Common: Forest Robin

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Common forest robin. Sooty grey above, orange breast, white belly, white spot in front of eye. Found in lowland forest. Calls: low ‘karrr’, whistled ‘whi-whiuuu’.

Binomial: Cinnyris reichenowi

Common: Northern Double-collared Sunbird

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Small bird with long, curved bill. Mostly black with red chest band and green iridescent crown. Most common sunbird around Moka Wildlife Center. Call: fast ‘chep-chep-chep…’

Binomial: Pogoniulus bilineatus

Common: Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird

IUCN: LC

Identification:

Black upperparts, yellow-lemon rump, two white facial strips, and white throat. Found in various types of open forest, especially at edges and in clearings, and woodland transition zone. Song a monotonous rhythmic series of 3-6 kok or poop notes, followed by a short pause, and then repeated.

Our work

Nearly 200 species of birds can be found on Bioko Island, including the rare Bare-headed Rock Fowl (Picathartes oreas). Bioko also has two endemic bird species, the Fernando Po Speirops (Speirops brunneus) and the Fernando Po Batis (Batis poensis), as well as at least 28 endemic subspecies. Other key species are the Mountain Saw-wing (Psalidoprocne fuliginosa) and Ursula’s Sunbird (Cinnyris ursulae). In 2011, we began a preliminary population monitoring program in the areas around our Moka Wildlife Center. This ongoing project, in addition to filling in a major information gap about the ecology around the MWC, has become one of the keystone projects of the Drexel Study Abroad Field Research in Tropical Ecology course, including students in an active conservation research project. This project has been extended to collect information about populations surrounding the newly constructed road to Ureca in association with the BBPP's Road Impact Assessment.

Road impact assessment

The goals of the current road impact study are to determine: 1) the overall effect of the road on bird species abundance and diversity, 2) if the road has created a barrier or edge effect regarding wildlife species, 3) if the road has facilitated disease transmission among wildlife species and 4) if hunting and trapping pressure have increased since the roads completion. Additionally, we conduct malaria screening to determine overall infection rates of avian malaria among bird species along the road and on Bioko in general. These results will be correlated with the island’s elevational gradient and other external variables in an attempt to establish significant relationships. Based on these assessments, we will be able to offer recommendations to the national government regarding future road construction in terms of road location, length and composition.  Additionally, we will begin to survey for other taxa such as small mammals and amphibians to obtain a clearer overall picture regarding the roads ecological impact in this once unspoiled habitat.

evolution of insular avian immune response

Charles Darwin's pioneering work on finch radiation within the Galapagos archipelago shaped much of our current perspective on island biogeography (Lindstrom et al, 2004). Although islands serve as perfect havens for species endemism, they also invite species vulnerability by facilitating reduced immunological responses, genetic diversity and parasite exposure among local taxa (Frankham, 1997; Matson et al, 2006; Whiteman et al, 2006; Lobato et al, 2017). Naïve species present within island environments are often more susceptible to introduced pathogens due to an attenuated immunological repertoire (van Riper et al, 1986; Wikelski et al, 2004; Hale and Brisk, 2007). Due to factors such as climate change and unprecedented human movement, island populations may be at higher risk to novel pathogens than any other point in history (Altizer et al, 2013; Van Hemert et al, 2014). Understanding the mechanisms shaping immunological development among insular populations may aid in the preservation of these species (Hale and Brisk, 2007; Lobato et al, 2017). Opportunely, the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa, serves as an excellent natural laboratory for studying evolution in action with interesting patterns of colonization, adaptation and speciation.

 

The goal of the present study is to improve our understanding about the evolution of island syndrome, especially as it relates to the avian immune response. Specifically, this study will examine how ecto- and endo-parasite pressure contribute to an attenuated immunological response (“island syndrome”) in three avian species that occur on the mainland and islands. This research will incorporate several steps, including quantifying the overall diversity, richness and abundance of parasitic species among focal species; examining the immunological responses of the focal species through biological assays; and completing studies of variation at MHC-1 genes to understand immune system variability among island and mainland populations of focal species. Sampling will be conducted at mainland locations in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and on the islands of Bioko, São Tomé and Príncipe. By incorporating elements from the theory of island biogeography, the proposed study will help to elucidate some of the evolutionary mechanisms affecting immunological development by correlating parasite pressure and immunogenetic diversity between island species and their mainland conspecifics.

All photos are credited to National Geographic Photographers Tim Laman, Ian Nichols, Joel Sartore, and Christian Ziegler, as well as numerous members of BBPP (staff, students, and volunteers).