DUTCH CARIBBEAN — Conservationists, politicians, and business people from more than 120 countries gathered in Ottawa, Canada last month for the BirdLife International World Congress where the 2013 State of the World’s Birds report was launched. With stylish new infographics and hard hitting facts, the report paints a detailed and easy-to-understand picture of the value of birds, what we can conclude about their current status and current threats from our latest data and how we are doing in our protection efforts.
Did you know that while birds are diverse and found in nearly all habitats of our planet 1,313 bird species (one in eight of the total on our planet!) are threatened with extinction?
Island Birds are at Higher Risk
Our six islands, which are home to over 340 total bird species, are at particular risk to invasive species, the report states: “Invasive alien animals, plants and disease-causing micro-organisms have already cause numerous extinctions, and remain a major threat to birds, especially on small islands. Three-quarters of all globally threatened bird species occurring on oceanic islands are at risk from introduced species.” (BirdLife International (2013). State of the world’s bird: indicators for our changing world. Cambirdge, UK: BirdLife International.)
Dutch Caribbean IBAs
In the early 1980s, BirdLife International created the concept of “Important Bird Areas” or IBAs. These are the world’s prioritised and irreplaceable “hotspots for birds” that correspond well with important biodiversity areas for many other wildlife families – reptiles, amphibians, mammals, plants and invertebrates. The goal of identifying IBAs is to secure the long-term conservation, sustainability and functionality of these particularly valuable sites and to ensure that they are not lost.
Dutch Caribbean Important Bird Area Species
There are currently, 23 IBAs in the Dutch Caribbean: four on Aruba, five on Curaçao, six on Bonaire, one on Saba, two on St. Eustatius and five on St. Maarten.
In 2012, researchers from the IMARES Wageningen research institute in the Netherlands teamed up with local conservationists Sam Williams, Jerry Ligon, Hannah Madden, and Kai Wulf on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius to document the most important ecological values, define IBA boundaries, pinpoint the core areas to be protected and identify threats and measures to ensure the ecological integrity of these sites (read the report here).
Of the approximately 340 total bird species recorded in the Dutch Caribbean, 68 are considered key species as they are threatened, endemic, protected by local or international law, or listed by BirdLife International as restricted-range, biome-restricted or with globally significant congregations.
The Yellow-shouldered Amazon of Bonaire has a global population estimated to be approximately 8,000 individuals (BirdLife), making Bonaire’s Yellow-shouldered Amazons critical to the survival of the species.
Saba and St. Eustatius hold a significant percentage of the world population of Red-billed Tropicbirds that may be as high as 33%-40% (Boeken, Delnevo, Madden). Recent monitoring has discovered that the islands’ populations are under significant threat due to nest predation by cats and rats.
Aruba, and in particular the San Nicolas Bay islands are a refuge for some 30,000 seabirds. In 2009 the Aruban islands contained approximately 25% of the world’s population of Cayenne Terns and 90% of the Caribbean population of Common Terns (Delnevo).
Bonaire is the only known successful breeding area for the southern population of Caribbean Flamingos, where up to several thousand individuals congregate during the breeding season (STINAPA).
Dutch Caribbean parks and conservation organisations are actively monitoring and promoting the protection of the island’s important bird species. Workshops and trainings funded by Vogelbescherming Nederland have led to the development of a regional terrestrial bird monitoring protocol as well as species management plans for the Yellow-shouldered Amazon, Red-billed Tropicbird and Audubon’s Shearwater.
Also funded by Vogelbescherming Nederland, has been the creation of beautifully-designed bird identification cards and island bird guides, which create a pathway to knowledge and understanding about our Dutch Caribbean Birds.