Europe's rarest songbird is facing extinction, despite being the most promiscuous and energetic lover in the avian world, and concerned scientists are looking urgently for ways to save it.
LONDON Europe's rarest songbird is facing extinction, despite being the most promiscuous and energetic lover in the avian world, and concerned scientists are looking urgently for ways to save it.
The male aquatic warbler is described as "continuously ready to mate" and able to indulge in record-breaking mating sessions, which in turn gives the females ample opportunity to sample and select the best mates.
However, numbers have slumped to less than 20,000 in the past century -- a decline of 95 percent -- and its range has shrunk from continent-wide to isolated strongholds in eastern Europe as humans have ravaged its habitat.
"It is officially listed as 'vulnerable' and it faces the prospect of extinction unless things get better," Ed Parnell of BirdLife International told Reuters Thursday.
Scientists from across the continent are meeting in Spain for the first top-level international conference to save the songbird, whose habitat is disappearing as marshlands are drained and farmland is expanded.
The male bird plays no part in nest-building or raising chicks and spends most of its time hunting for willing females and mating at length.
"In contrast to most birds, which get the business over in a mere one to two seconds' sexual contact, aquatic warblers spend up to 35 minutes copulating," according to one paper at the conference in Palencia, northern Spain.