Birding in the Caribbean – Saving our Feathered Friends

Birds are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem – Birding in the Caribbean!

People vacation in the Caribbean region for many reasons. As well as the sun, sea, sand, rainforests, hiking, cuisine and entertainment many flock to the region with a pair of binoculars in hand to do some serious bird watching. According to Birdlife International, the region is home to 770 bird species, 148 of which are endemic, with 105 confined to single islands. Certainly anyone fascinated by ornithology will find themselves very happy with a birding holiday in the Caribbean.

Birds are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem and with 10,000 species worldwide their presence is a clear indicator of the integrity of biodiversity. Birds control pests, spread seeds, offer beautiful environmental soundscapes with their songs and are beautiful to look at. Given these factors they are also a rich natural resource for local socio-economic development when persons from overseas pay good money to come and see them in their natural habitats. Certainly for all these reasons, as well as their sheer intrinsic value, they are worth protecting.

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It is therefore sobering to read in the newly released directory, ‘Important Bird Areas of the Caribbean’, that only around 10% of the Caribbean region’s original bird habitat remains, and 54 of the Caribbean’s bird species are globally threatened, of which 12 are Critically Endangered.
The report mapped 283 internationally significant Important Bird Areas (IBA’s) in the Caribbean. Disturbingly though, the book reveals that 43% of these IBA’s are wholly outside formal protected areas. In addition David Wege, BirdLife’s Caribbean Programme Manager says that “Not only do almost half the sites lack any kind of protection, but a number of areas described as parks have no proper infrastructure or staff, and many lack management plans”.

This is definitely a call to action for any of us who love the Caribbean environment and its beautiful bird creatures. There are many ways to support the conservation work of Birdlife International ranging from direct monetary donations to joining local or international bird clubs and participating in campaigns. In addition, even if your visit to the Caribbean is not for the intention of bird watching, you can still choose a vacation package that benefits the environment by staying in an establishment which actively supports its local ecosystem and community.

So with the fate of our feathered friends in our hands, let’s do all we can to ensure the future of our birds and environment as a whole. I’d love to hear from anyone who is involved in a bird conservation initiative in the Caribbean region.

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