Author Archives: hollyrobertson

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Updated Red List for Birds 2014

One tenth of bird species flying under the conservation radar, according to BirdLife International’s recent assessment of globally threatened birds. More than 350 newly recognised bird species have been assessed by BirdLife International for the first time on behalf of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Worryingly, more than 25% of these newly recognised birds have been listed as threatened on The IUCN Red List – compared with 13% of all birds – making them urgent priorities for conservation action.

The first of a two-part comprehensive taxonomic review has focussed on non-passerine birds – such as birds of prey, seabirds, waterbirds and owls – and has led to the recognition of 361 new species, that were previously treated as ‘races’ of other forms. The new total of 4,472 non-passerines implies that previous classifications have undersold avian diversity at the species level by more than 10%.

“Put another way, one tenth of the world’s bird species have been flying below the conservation radar”, said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Head of Science.

Species such as Belem Curassow Crax pinima from Brazil and Desertas Petrel Pterodroma deserta from Madeira have been listed as Globally Threatened. In the case of the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest Oxypogon cyanolaemus, a beautiful hummingbird from Colombia, it may already be too late, as the species has not been seen for nearly 70 years.

The new criteria for determining which taxa qualify as species have created a level playing field, by which all bird species can be assessed equally. They also bring an added precision to help us shine a light on the places most important for birds, nature and people – the areas of the planet that we need to urgently protect and save.

Click here to continue reading on BirdLife’s website.

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Proposed Parks for San Salvador, Bahamas

The Bahamas National Trust has been working with a local NGO on San Salvador, the San Salvador living Jewels, to establish a National Park system on the island to ensure the protection of the Island’s extremely diverse but also fragile ecosystems. This partnership has led to a number of critical areas around the Island being identified as part of the new park system, these 5 areas include:

Great Lake Park:
This park area includes the Great Lake on the interior of the island which will also include the mangroves up to the high water mark. There are at least 3 different types of reptiles living on the islets within the Great Lakes including the highly endangered San Salvador Rock iguana. This area, as a part of the park system, would help to also protect a number of different bird types including some herons and cormorants that nest on the interior.

Pigeon Creek Park:
This area is the only tidal body of water flowing into an inlet on the island. The mangroves and sea grass beds makes it the perfect nursery for all kinds of juvenile marine life, from groupers to starfish, stingrays to sharks and turtles. San Salvador being isolated from the Bahama Banks relies on this area as its main source of fisheries replenishment.

Grahams Harbor:
This park area with its extensive sea grass and eel grass beds as well as coral reef serve as a very important breeding ground for conch and other marine animals. It also houses a number of cays such as Green Cay – home to the largest population of San Salvador Rock Iguanas – and also Cato, Gaulin, and White Rock Cay nesting sites for migrating sea birds. San Salvador has more species of sea birds nesting on and around these Cays than any other Island in the Bahamas.

West Coast Dive Site protected Area:
For over 40 years San Salvador has been a dive community. It has been ranked as high as number 3 diving spot in the world by Dive Magazine and Scuba Magazine. Designating this site for protection ensures an increase in the fish populations within the area, which means more for the divers to see, increasing the tourist dollars to this already lucrative market, and ensuring further stimulation of the Islands economy.

Greens Bay Park:
This area protects a major iguana population on Crab Cay. Its rocky shoreline also helps to protect visiting White tailed Tropic Birds and Audubon Shearwaters. The peninsula also helps to protect the reefs from potential dangers from Storrs Lake, a salt pond should it be opened to the sea.

Best of luck to the Bahamas National Trust on this critical endeavor. We look forward to being able to promote these five amazing places as national parks!

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Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival Soars to New Heights


NEWS RELEASE May 31, 2014. Click here to download release in Word.


DATELINE — Over the past month, the 13th annual Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF) was celebrated with dozens of events on over 20 Caribbean islands. This unique festival focuses on the bird species that are endemic to — found only in — the Caribbean. Each year, events organized as a part of this festival reach more than 80,000 participants throughout the region.

The festival is led by BirdsCaribbean [1], the largest organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean. Organizations and coordinators on each island create events that reflect their unique birds and culture. The broad range of activities this year included guided bird walks, presentations in schools, art and photo contests, public lectures, radio and television shows, and outdoor events.

During the month-long festival, there were many highlights throughout the region. On Dominica, these included a bird art festival, birding field trips for schoolchildren, and a boat trip to see nesting seabirds. In Puerto Rico, a symposium was organized to highlight the role birds play in local ecosystems. Students in the Bahamas played a game to learn how different bird beaks are specialized for different foods, and students on Bermuda competed to build the best bluebird nesting boxes.

Even after over a decade, the festival continues to grow. On St. Martin, the first annual Endemic Animal Festival attracted hundreds to learn about endemic birds and other animals. St. Eustatius participated in the CEBF for the first time ever, with a day of activities including a bird walk, presentation, scavenger hunt and craft activities.

People of all ages attend the Endemic Animal Festival on St. Martin. Photo by Marc Petrelluzzi.

People of all ages attend the Endemic Animal Festival on St. Martin. Photo by Marc Petrelluzzi.

“Who pays the birds?” was the theme of this year’s festival, and festival activities explored the many benefits birds bring to both humans and nature. These benefits are numerous and diverse, from pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds to controlling agricultural pests and helping fishermen find fish. The role of attracting birdwatchers and other nature-loving tourists was of particular interest as many islands seek new markets for sustainable tourism growth.

“This year we really wanted to emphasize the environmental and economic value of birds in the region,” explains Leo Douglas, President of BirdsCaribbean. “When it comes to reducing the need for pesticides in agriculture, or helping islands tap into a nature tourism market worth billions of dollars, birds are our allies. In turn, recognizing the economic value of birds gives us an incentive to protect them and the habitats they depend on.”

The Caribbean is home to 150 species of bird that are considered endemic, or found nowhere else in the world. Many of these species live only on a single island, and many are endangered or threatened. These birds are the most unique examples of the Caribbean’s natural heritage, and they often occupy specialized niches in the ecology of the islands where they live. They may also be the key to attracting bird-loving tourists to the region.

“Over the years, thousands of students and residents have had the opportunity to enjoy and learn about local birds at CEBF events,” said Sheylda Díaz-Méndez, Regional Coordinator of the CEBF. “Raising awareness in Caribbean communities has always been the primary goal of this festival, but as it continues to grow we also find it is raising the profile of the Caribbean as both a birding destination and an international conservation priority.”

BirdsCaribbean member Andrew Dobson on the air giving a radio presentation on “Why Birds Matter.”

BirdsCaribbean member Andrew Dobson on the air giving a radio presentation on “Why Birds Matter.”

After a wildly successful 2014 festival, there are undoubtedly at least a few new bird enthusiasts out on the trail with binoculars in hand. Surely many people will look up and see a familiar bird in a new light, knowing it is unique to their island. Local coordinators will compare notes on which activities were most popular, and hopefully take a well-deserved break. Then the planning will begin for next year’s festival.

Click here to view more pictures on our Flickr page, and here for pictures on Facebook.

——– ENDS ——–

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

Sheylda N. Díaz-Méndez, Coordinadora, Festival de avesendémicas del Caribe (Regional Coordinator, Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival), Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds, Tel: (787) 458-5406, Email:
Scott Johnson (Media Relations Officer), BirdsCaribbean, Tel: 1 (242) 436-4380, Email:

1. BirdsCaribbean is the largest 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:

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Red-billed Tropicbird Breeding Colonies Threatened by Feral Cats on Saba

Feral domestic cats are recognized as one of the most devastating non-native predator species to many bird species, particularly nesting colonies of the Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) on Saba island. The species is especially prone to predation from cats and rats because it nests on the ground and eggs and fledglings are easily preyed upon.

Cats pose the more serious threat to tropicbirds because cats have only recently become a problem (since about 2000), which means the birds have had less time to adapt to this new predator. Saba Conservation Foundation together with Wageningen University Research Center of The Netherlands collected baseline data on cat and rat distribution, and cat diet and health. They also conducted 83 questionnaire interviews with Saba residents to assess their views on cats, rats, tropicbirds and the acceptability of different management options.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of Saban and 48% of expat residents valued the life of a tropicbird more than that of a single cat. The remainder considered cats somewhat more important than one tropicbird but only few (5% natives, 18% expats) considered feral cats more important than the combined sum of all their tropicbird prey. Between 70-80% of respondents thought registration, neutering and removal of cats from breeding colonies was a good idea. A significant majority of residents (80%) found euthanization to be an acceptable method for use in cat control, while 43% even thought that total eradication of all cats (domestic and feral) from the island would be a good idea.

Preliminary veterinary assessments on abandoned cats showed the animals to be in overall poor health. Based on these results and taking into account the welfare concerns of the tropicbirds preyed upon by cats, the local SPCA decided to discontinue its practice of releasing neutered unwanted cats into the wild (Trap-Neuter-Release, or TNR). Removal of 36 cats from one breeding colony increased tropicbird chick fledgling success from about 5% to 50%, which is very encouraging in terms of animal welfare, when including birds into the equation.


Feral cat about to kill and remove an early-season Red-billed Tropicbird fledgling from its nest burrow.  (December 2013, © Saba Conservation Foundation).

Feral cat about to kill and remove an early-season Red-billed Tropicbird fledgling from its nest burrow.
(December 2013, © Saba Conservation Foundation).


Click here to read the first full report from this study, including key management recommendations. For further information contact: Dr. A. O. Debrot (



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Cape Verde Shearwater in Guadeloupe – New for the Caribbean!

An exciting bird sighting was recently reported on the BirdsCaribbean Yahoo Group. As reported by Anthony Levesque and Frantz Delcroix, a Shearwater was observed and photographed at sea during a trip at about 6 km East off Désirade island. 

Immediately they saw that it was quite different from the more common Cory’s Shearwater. The photograph was sent to seabirds expert Steve N.G. Howell, who confirmed that the species is Cape Verde Shearwater, a new record for the Caribbean! Congrats, guys!
If you would like to subscribe to the BirdsCaribbean listserve and receive news like this to your inbox (and also share news) Click here and join the yahoo group.

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Save the Devil

Save the DevilSave the Devil is a documentary that shares the story of two families fighting for life. One is a family of Haitian farmers struggling daily to feed their children. And one is a family of birds on the brink of extinction living in one of the last places on earth they can hide. The bird is the Black-capped Petrel, or Diablotin as it is locally known in Haiti, which translates to the “little devil.” Click here to read more and to watch the trailer.
Black-capped Petrel. Glen Tepke, Arkive.

Black-capped Petrel. Glen Tepke, Arkive.

Diablotin was the name given to the black-capped petrel by the Caribbean islanders whose nights were commonly punctuated by the eerie calls of this now rare bird. 

The film team working on this documentary accompanied biologists and conservation partners in the field and accumulated masses of footage and interviews. Our knowledge of the Black-capped Petrel continues to grow by leaps and bounds thanks to another productive field season in Hispaniola by the International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group of BirdsCaribbean. Research highlights include continued use of radar to examine flight corridors, deployment of song meters, and deployment of three satellite tags on provisioning adults, along with continued use of nest cameras, and nest site assessments.  Hugely important too is new information on threats, from human encroachment, fires and collisions.  A fuller update with details is on the way.

What We Do

Through birds we connect you to the extraordinary places, diverse cultures and people of the Caribbean.

There are countless fascinating stories to be told through birds. Discover an island's bird life, and you will discover Caribbean heritage.

Support the CBT

The Caribbean Birding Trail is a project of BirdsCaribbean, a 501(c)3 non-profit.


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Caribbean Birdwatch

Catch up on past issues of Caribbean Birdwatch, a feature in Liat's Zing magazine that highlights the region's birding hotspots.


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