BirdLife Caribbean overview
A biodiversity conservation priority
The islands of the insular Caribbean represent 17 nations and are exceptionally important for global biodiversity conservation. The Caribbean is one of the top six of the 25 global biodiversity conservation "hotspots" (as described by Conservation International). The islands support populations of endemic plants and vertebrates amounting to at least 2% of the world's total species complement.
(* Species endemic to the insular Caribbean)
Species endemism is exceptionally high within the region, yet the land area of the insular Caribbean is a mere c. 280,000 km². Birds are a relatively well-known group of species within the Caribbean, and offer an excellent starting point for objective biodiversity conservation prioritization and planning. They are also the most tangible and visible non-marine life forms within the islands and thus the most meaningful biodiversity component at the local level.
Over 560 species of bird have been recorded in the Caribbean; 148 of these are endemic. Of these regional endemics, 105 species are confined to single islands. More than 120 species migrate from their breeding grounds in North America to winter in the Caribbean. The Caribbean is the most important (and sometimes the exclusive) wintering ground for a number of North American species such as the declining Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler and Prairie Warbler. It is also the only wintering ground for globally threatened migrants such as Kirtlandís Warbler, Bicknellís Thrush and (the possibly extinct) Bachmanís Warbler.
With increasing pressure from an expanding human population (c. 35 million, growing at >2.5% per year), islands throughout the region face the continuing erosion of pristine habitats, the problem of invasive alien species, hunting, illegal trade and more. As a result, over 10% of the regionís birds (57 species) are considered globally threatened Ė these birds are indicative of the multitude of wildlife in similarly precarious states. The regionís biodiversity is at serious risk of multiple species extinctions in the short to medium term through the destruction of individual, relatively small patches of important biodiversity habitat that remain. This risk is unacceptably high and will require urgent action at the site and species level to remedy. The BirdLife Caribbean Program aims to address this urgent call for action.
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