Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Advancing Shorebird Conservation in Venezuela


© Chris Sharpe

Shorebird counts in Venezuela date back to the 1970s, but over the past decade, especially with the advent of the Neotropical Waterbird Census and the completion of several theses, interest in shorebirds has been steadily increasing. Today, there is a small but dedicated group of researchers and volunteers committed to conserving shorebirds in this country.

To enrich this process, the workshop “Identification of Important Areas for Shorebirds and Monitoring in Venezuela” was carried out in Chichiriviche, the State of Falcón—near the Cuare Wildife Refuge, which is a Ramsar site and field study camp. The aim of the workshop was to compile an initial analysis of priority areas for the conservation of these birds. This 4-day event in March was organized by Rob Clay, WHSRN Executive Office Director (Manomet), and Sandra Giner of the Central University of Venezuela, with vital logistical support from Foundation for the Defense of Nature – Fudena, and facilitated by ornithologist Chris Sharpe. The 21 participants included experts from the major national universities and NGOs, together with a government representative.

© Chris Sharpe

Achievements: Regional working groups identified 20 priority sites, of which a dozen meet the biological criteria to be a candidate WHSRN site. Some of these areas are already wildlife refuges or other protected areas, and many more are recognized Important Bird Areas (IBAs). A preliminary analysis of threats, needs, and conservation opportunities was carried out for each site. Lack of control over activities that harm shorebirds was a common threat. The needs were, in general, rather modest, ranging from transport (boats and motors) to optical equipment (binoculars and scopes), as well as training volunteers to help with monitoring.

Following this analysis, experts presented techniques for counting and monitoring shorebirds, giving an overview of species-specific characteristics and best methods. Various members of the local community, including a class of tourism students, took part in this activity and accompanied the experts on a field visit to the nearby Tucurere Wildlife Reserve. They gained a new appreciation for the international nature of the ecology of these birds, many of which nest in the Arctic and fly enormous distances to reach wintering areas, like American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica) or Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Calidris subruficollis).

© Sandra Giner

At the same time, it highlighted the challenges of conserving imperiled species, particularly the rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus). In this sense, it was uplifting to present detailed information on efforts like the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI) and Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI). Equally important to remember is that many species, like Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia cinnamominus) and Snowy Plover, (Charadrius nivosus tenuirostris) are tropical residents that rely on local beaches for nesting.

What’s next? The identification of priority areas will provide a framework for future proposals for the conservation; indeed, some of the participants met outside the workshop to start drafting some. In order to facilitate exchange of information, a shared directory of shorebird publications was created, as well as groups on Facebook and Whatsapp. These mechanisms will help participants maintain the level of enthusiasm generated during the workshop and will help direct and orient efforts to conserve shorebirds in Venezuela.

For more information, please contact Sandra Giner (sandrabginer@gmail.com), Universidad Central de Venezuela - Facultad de Ciencias, Caracas, Venezuela, or Rob Clay (rclay@manomet.org), WHSRN Executive Office Director, Asunción, Paraguay.