SOCIETY FOR THE CONSERVATION AND STUDY OF CARIBBEAN BIRDS -
Media Release - 1 October 2010

INTERNATIONAL CELEBRATION OF BIRD MIGRATION
LAUNCHED IN THE CARIBBEAN

 

This October, conservation leaders, researchers, and nature enthusiasts from across the Caribbean will join forces to celebrate and promote public awareness surrounding the incredible phenomenon of bird migration. Each year millions of birds, representing hundreds of species, travel between North America and the Caribbean and back. The program, lead by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB)[1] is the third celebration of what is known as International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) [2]. The Society, the largest organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean, will coordinate month-long Caribbean-wide activities centered on Saturday October 9trh which will mark the zenith of events.

Approximately 350 species of birds that breed in North America migrate each year to spend the winter in Latin America and the Caribbean. As a group they are referred to as Neotropical migratory birds, and they include 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. The Caribbean therefore shares these species with North and South America, and many spend the greater portion of each year on our islands (up to 9 months annually) compared to the time they spend outside of the region.

“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], President of the SCSCB at the launch of the festival.

In response to these unsettling trends the United States government passed the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act in 2000. Under the Act matching grants of approximately U.S. 5 million dollars to support public-private partnerships for projects, in the North and Latin America, and the Caribbean, that promote the long-term conservation of Neotropical migratory birds and their habitats are issued annually. “Because we are dealing with birds that change the country in which they live twice a year, every year, both local, regional, and international partnerships are essential components of any conservation effort,” added Sorenson.

For this year’s festival the Society chose the Peregrine Falcon as the flagship species, a powerful bird of prey that up to 1999 was on the United States Endangered Species list where it had stayed for 50 years. The primary causes for its endangerment was poisoning due to the proliferation of toxic agricultural chemicals such as DDT. Today Peregrine Falcons are on the rebound and ornithologists and bird watchers are finding them in small but apparently increasing numbers across the West Indies between the months of October and April in coastal areas, wooded lands, and even in regional towns and cities. “This is a success story that will only remain so if conservation collaborations across political and cultural borders are made and strengthened” notes Sorenson.

Levesque remarked that the idea of celebrating IMBD in the Caribbean has been in the making for years, and that all indications suggest that it will become a staple on the environmental calendar across the English, French, Spanish, and Dutch Caribbean. IMBD’s primary focus is to increase public awareness about the region’s critical role as stop-over points, breeding, or wintering grounds for the numerous species that make the Caribbean home for a part of every year. This year, the society produced a poster on the Peregrine Falcon and a Migratory Birds of the West Indies colouring book. These materials have been distributed to local coordinators all over the Caribbean to give away during their festival activities.

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: www.birdday.org.

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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

Leo Douglas, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027 USA.  Email: lrd2107@columbia.edu.  Tel: 917-569-0820.

NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) 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. Visit the Caribbean IMBD webpages here. Visit us on our Facebook pages, Caribbean Bird Festivals - CEBF & IMBD and Caribbean Birds - SCSCB. Choose "Like" to keep up with our latest news.

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/

3.  Lisa Sorenson is also Coordinator of the West Indian Whistling-Duck and Wetlands Conservation Project of the SCSCB, a public education and awareness programme on the importance and value of the regions wetlands and birds. Sorenson, an ecologist and conservation biologist, has been working in the Caribbean for 25 years.