Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Priority Shorebird Sites and Stewards in Venezuela



Shorebird census at the Los Olivitos Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Chris Sharpe.


In March of 2016, WHSRN ran a workshop on the Identification of Important Areas for Shorebirds in Venezuela. This workshop identified 20 priority shorebird areas, a dozen of which met the biological criteria to become candidate WHSRN sites. Some of these sites were already protected as wildlife refuges or recognized as Important Bird Areas (IBAs), but all of them needed help monitoring the sites for shorebirds.

And so this March, with funding from Environment Canada, WHSRN led a follow-up course: Training in Shorebird Identification and Census Methods in Priority Sites in Venezuela. The goal of this course was to train participants to carry out reliable shorebird counts, thereby increasing local capacity to monitor populations and evaluate these sites as potential WHSRN reserves.



Shorebirds at the Produsal salt flats. Mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla). Photo by Chris Sharpe.


WHSRN Director Rob Clay organized the event with Sandra Giner of the Central University of Venezuela, with logistical support from the Foundation for the Defense of Nature – Fudena. The workshop was based in La Ciénaga de Los Olivitos, a Ramsar site in Zulia, and facilitated by WHSRN consultant ornithologist Chris Sharpe.

Workshop participants helped conduct two censuses – one in the Salinas de Solar de Los Olivitos, which are managed for salt production by the company Produsal, and a second in Ciénaga de Los Olivitos Wildlife Refuge. These counts gave participants important practice conducting shorebird censuses, and generated useful baseline data for the continued evaluation of both sites. In the days following the workshop, Giner and Sharpe traveled to nearby Portuguesa to work with Alexis Araujo of the Ezequiel Zamora National Experimental University of the Western Llanos – UNELLEZ, where they conducted a dozen additional censuses in commercial rice growing areas.



Counting shorebirds in the rice fields of Portuguesa. Photo by Chris Sharpe.


The censuses discovered important numbers of shorebirds in both the Los Olivitos area and the rice fields of Portuguesa. Produsal’s salt flats stood out as a potentially important site for Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla), with more than 15,500 individuals counted, as well as for Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosos tenuirostris). More than 80 Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) were recorded at Ciénaga de Los Olivitos. As for the llanos of Portuguesa, over 700 Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) were counted on one farm. The team is confident that more comprehensive fieldwork would identify this region as a strong potential WHSRN site.

Thanks to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), three pairs of binoculars and three spotting scopes were donated to local researchers and rangers who lacked optical equipment, along with five shorebird field guides. And thanks to these WHSRN workshops, local experts and enthusiasts are continuing to evaluate priority areas in Zulia as future WHSRN reserves.

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.