Neotropical migrants in the Tropical Andes
Each year over 340 species of bird leave their breeding grounds in North America to spend the northern winter in the Neotropics, to the south of the Tropic of Cancer. For one third of these “Neotropical migrants” their wintering range and/or important stopover sites lie within the Tropical Andes of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
This region is one of the biologically richest yet most threatened areas in the planet. Covering just 3% of the world it nevertheless holds 28% of the world’s bird species, many of them endemic, and 130 in imminent danger of extinction. However, it is not just the endemic species which are threatened with extinction. The populations of many migratory species are also undergoing marked population declines. Of the 126 migratory species that regularly occur in the Tropical Andes, 30 are considered as “Birds of Conservation Concern” (17 species of landbird and 13 waterbirds), and five species are of global conservation concern. These are the globally threatened Cerulean Warbler Dendroica cerulea, and the near-threatened Elegant Tern Sterna elegans, Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis, Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi and Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera.
To expedite the conservation of the unique biodiversity of the Tropical Andes, BirdLife International and Conservation International together with partner organizations in each country have identified a network of 455 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – sites of global significance for the conservation of birds. With support from USFWS, BirdLife has recently completed an analysis of the importance of these IBAs for the conservation of Neotropical migrants. Information for the occurrence of Neotropical migrants was obtained for 383 of the 455 IBAs, with sufficient data available to evaluate the importance of 201 of these. Particular geographic information gaps included the Colombian Amazon and central Peru.
A total of 109 IBAs were identified as important for the conservation of migratory. IBAs of conservation importance were found in all five countries, though for landbirds they were primarily concentrated in the northern Andes in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, and for waterbirds along the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and the Pacific coast of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Fourteen of these IBAs are also Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites. On-the-ground conservation efforts at these sites for migratory species would also benefit the conservation of 19 critically threatened species that are found nowhere else in the world.
However, 43 (or 37%) of all important sites are entirely unprotected, underlining the need for new site-based conservation measures to ensure the long-term conservation of both endemic and migratory species.