Celebrating the Lives of Migratory Caribbean Birds

The migration of birds around the world never ceases to fascinate me. It is a wonderful mystery of nature, about which there is so much more to be learned and understood. Perhaps not many of us know, though, that some of the bright, familiar birds that we see in Jamaica around this time of year have arrived on our shores from other parts of the hemisphere. Please find below a press release from the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds on International Migratory Bird Day. If you want to learn more about the Society, see the contact information at the end of this article.

Meanwhile, we await the arrival of the American Redstart in our Kingston garden. A little late this year? Let’s enjoy, cherish and appreciate our migratory birds!

The American Redstart is a common migrant warbler to the Caribbean. Seen in all habitat types, these lively birds hunt by fanning their tails and wings, flashing their colorful patches to flush insects out of hiding places. (Photo: Glenn Hanson)
The American Redstart is a common migrant warbler to the Caribbean. Seen in all habitat types, these lively birds hunt by fanning their tails and wings, flashing their colorful patches to flush insects out of hiding places. (Photo: Glenn Hanson)

The Caribbean, with its distinctive cultures and wildlife, can seem isolated from the continental Americas, but these islands play an important part in the life cycle of many migratory birds that travel thousands of miles to visit the Caribbean each year. Coming from as far away as the Arctic and South America, these birds unite the Western Hemisphere. This October, International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) events throughout the Caribbean will celebrate these birds and the amazing journeys they make each year.

IMBD events, which take place in countries from Canada to South America, are organized in the region by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) [1]. SCSCB, the largest organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean, will coordinate month-long region-wide activities centered on Saturday October 12th which will mark the zenith of activities. 2013 marks the sixth year that the SCSCB has organized IMBD events throughout the Caribbean.

The theme for IMBD this year is the life cycle of migratory birds. Most migratory species in the Caribbean breed and nest in North America during the summer and spend the winter in warmer areas, like the Caribbean. While preserving breeding areas for these birds is important to their survival, many species spend most of the year (up to nine months) in their southern wintering grounds. By understanding the life cycle of these birds, we come to realize that each habitat along their migratory route is necessary for their survival.

In many respects, the Caribbean is one of the most important habitats for these birds. Approximately 350 species of birds that breed in North America migrate each year to spend the winter in Latin America and the Caribbean, including many species of songbirds, hawks, egrets, and ducks, among other well-known groups. Additionally a smaller number of species migrate from South America into the Caribbean to breed during the summer. Our islands therefore share these species with North and South America and are a vital part of the migratory chain that connects our hemisphere.

“Most people really don’t know that the birds that they see and love are in fact species that spend their summers and winter months in separate, far away, countries!” said Anthony Levesque, Regional IMBD Coordinator, while noting that because most birds migrate mostly during the night, their epic movements, though frequently spectacular in numbers, are often unnoticed by the public.

Unfortunately the long-term survival of about a third of these migratory species is of concern because of sustained declines in their populations over recent decades. “There are just much fewer numbers of even some of the more common and well-known species now relative to their numbers a few decades ago,” remarked Dr. Lisa Sorenson [3], Executive Director of the SCSCB at the launch of the festival. However, new regulations to manage the hunting of some migratory species have been passed on several islands this year, and many Caribbean nations have been taking steps to protect key habitats for these birds.

Another SCSCB project, the Caribbean Birding Trail (CBT) [4], aims to promote bird watching in the region amongst both residents and tourists. The CBT is a collection of important birding sites throughout the Caribbean. The project seeks to increase support for conservation of bird habitat by making birding sites more accessible and sharing the fascinating stories of our local and migratory birds.

Public activities to mark IMBD will include a diverse array of events such as bird-watching excursions, lectures, seminars, school-based art competitions, church services, and media campaigns all in recognition of the region’s still unappreciated role in one of the world most important animal migrations.

To view reports and photos of from IMBD in the Caribbean and in North America, for downloadable IMBD resources, and for updates on ongoing and planned activities, kindly visit the website of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds at: www.scscb.org, and Environment for the Americas: http://www.birdday.org.

For more information, and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Anthony Levesque (Regional Coordinator of IMBD Caribbean) Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds, Tel: +590 – 690 752 104, Email: anthony.levesque@wanadoo.fr

or Scott Johnson, Bahamas National Trust, Email: sjohnson@bnt.bs

An emaciated and famished Whimbrel arrives safely to a wetland in Saint Martin, after flying thousands of miles from its breeding grounds in Alaska or Canada.  Étang de la Barrière, Cul-de-Sac, Saint Martin. September 16, 2013. Photographer: Mark Yokoyama
An emaciated and famished Whimbrel arrives safely to a wetland in Saint Martin, after flying thousands of miles from its breeding grounds in Alaska or Canada. Étang de la Barrière, Cul-de-Sac, Saint Martin. September 16, 2013. Photographer: Mark Yokoyama

 

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds is the largest single regional organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean. It is a non-profit organization whose goals are to promote the scientific study and conservation of Caribbean birds and their habitats, and to promote greater public awareness of the bird life of the region. For more details, see: http://www.scscb.org.

2.  International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is the largest-known bird conservation and education event of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. IMBD was initiated in 1993 by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. It is currently coordinated by Environment for the America, Boulder, Colorado, under the direction of Susan Bonfield, Executive Director. For more details, see: http://www.birdday.org/birdday

3.  Lisa Sorenson is Executive Director and Past President of the SCSCB. She develops and oversees all projects and programs of the Society, including the Caribbean Waterbird Census monitoring program, Caribbean Birding Trail Project, Caribbean BirdSleuth, the West Indian Whistling-Duck and Wetlands Project, and others. Sorenson, an ecologist and conservation biologist, has been working in the Caribbean for 28 years.

4. The Caribbean Birding Trail is a newly launched initiative by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) [2] with funding from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund. The mission of the CBT is to create and promote nature-based, authentic experiences that engage visitors and locals with the unique birds of the Caribbean and connect them to the extraordinary places, diverse cultures and people of each island. The CBT is a metaphorical trail that, when complete, will include important birdwatching sites throughout the entire region; using birds as a focal point for engaging birders and non-birders with the local nature and culture that lies beyond the beach. For more information, visit http://www.caribbeanbirdingtrail.org.

 


6 thoughts on “Celebrating the Lives of Migratory Caribbean Birds

  1. I love that you did this post. I have been seeing rooks and Ravens everywhere lately and I was thinking just this morning how amazing birds are. To travel so far and with such intent. Conservation is so important!

    Like

    1. Thanks so much! You are right, conservation is vital. I am looking out every morning to see our little migratory birds, who appear in our yard every year. They fill me with wonder. They must have tiny inbuilt GPS systems! Have you ever seen a French film called “Winged Migration”? It is a beautiful documentary – can’t describe it, you would have to see it. It is really different. I will be writing a bit more on this topic, I think!

      Like

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