BirdsCaribbean: Rescuing the Region’s Birds


It’s been a busy summer for BirdsCaribbean. It will soon be a year since Hurricanes Irma and Maria roared through, causing terrible damage to several smaller islands. The initial response from BirdsCaribbean was the shipment of thousands of bird feeders and bottles of nectar and tons of bird seed to the islands where birds, bereft of food and shelter and extremely shell-shocked, were literally starving. This herculean effort (shipping from Miami to the battered islands was quite a logistical nightmare) would not have been possible without the incredible outpouring of financial support (from as far away as Australia!) on BirdsCaribbean’s crowdfunding page. BirdsCaribbean is a non-profit organization. It is still accepting donations since although the immediate need has been met, there is much more work to be done – including funding for post-hurricane surveys and studies, equipment and infrastructure for scientists and conservationists and habitat restoration.

Young Clarendonians celebrate birds at the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) in Jamaica for BirdsCaribbean’s Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival. (Photo: C-CAM)

BirdsCaribbean has also just launched the Betty Petersen Conservation Fund to help Caribbean birds. I never met her, but have heard that Betty was a positive powerhouse and a grassroots worker, setting up a Birders’ Exchange and a special Cuba Fund. You can apply for a grant under the Betty Petersen Conservation Fund now (this applies to islands in the Caribbean Basin, including Bermuda and the Bahamas).

But somehow, with our birds, there are always sparks of joy and a feeling of achievement. The islands are rebounding, although not all at the same pace. Caribbean people, including our dedicated conservationists, scientists, forestry workers and so on, are gradually rebuilding their lives, their homes, their livelihoods. Two snippets of good news recently are that one little bird that was considered extinct since the passage of Hurricane Matthew (remember horrible, long-lived Matthew?) in 2016 has been rediscovered on Grand Bahama, primarily in one particular pine forest. The Bahama Nuthatch is a modest little bird that nevertheless has some endearing qualities, including its inclination towards “co-operative breeding” (young males help build and clean nests and feed the female sitting on her eggs). It is also one of the few bird species that use tools. You can read more about this rare bird here.

Bird relief! This awesome map by Aly Ollivierre shows the many shipments of supplies for the Caribbean’s devastated birds. It’s estimated that at least 60 species were supported by the shipments to numerous islands impacted by the two hurricanes last year.

The other good news is about the small, rocky island of Redonda. This barren place, a dependency of Antigua and Barbuda, was overrun by thousands of rats and very hungry goats. An eradication team that lived in this desolate place for two months has succeeded in getting rid of all the rats! The goats were rescued and returned to Antigua and Barbuda. Now, not only are the extremely rare Redonda Ground Dragon and Redonda Tree Lizard making a comeback (these species live only on this rock) but also the beautiful Masked Boobies that bred there. Antigua’s Department of the Environment and Dr. Robin Moore from Global Wildlife Conservation are working on plans to make the island and its surroundings a protected area.

BirdsCaribbean’s energetic Executive Director Dr. Lisa Sorenson (center) met Paula-Anne Porter-Jones and Alan Magnus at RJR studios during BirdsCaribbean’s International Conference in Kingston in 2015. Lisa, who has a deep passion for her work, was a guest on their morning show.

Enormous kudos goes out to BirdsCaribbean’s hard-working Executive Director Lisa Sorenson and to all those who helped in the “hurricane rescue” effort – including shipping companies in the U.S., bird feed suppliers, all the humans who worked hard in the islands to help the birds (despite their own personal challenges) and last but not least, the many online donors.

I’m saying thank you on behalf of our beautiful birds, of course!

If you would like to join this vibrant conservation non-profit organization go to this link. 

BirdsCaribbean is on Facebook, Twitter @birdscaribbean, and Instagram. You can also email info@birdscaribbean.org.

The tiny and extremely rare Bahama Nuthatch survived Hurricane Matthew on Grand Bahama island. Photographed in May 2018 by Matthew Gardner/University of East Anglia.

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