Identifying critical fuelling sites for Neotropical migratory birds in northern Colombia (April 2009 – present)
Status – in progress
Many of the Neotropical migrants experiencing marked declines are long-distance migrants that winter in South America. Each spring this group of migrants must make a 3000 km journey over the Caribbean sea and Central America to reach North America and initial evidence suggests that many species complete this journey without the need to refuel, having accumulated sufficient energy reserves in South America. To accumulate such large reserves requires high food availability, which in turn implies high quality habitats – it therefore follows that destruction of such habitats in South America could be one of a number of factors affecting migratory populations. To ensure the protection of these key habitats, it is necessary to understand the migratory strategies of South American wintering species and direct protection towards sites used to prepare for migration.
In this project we examine the stopover behaviour of Neotropical migrants in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Darien of Colombia, while simultaneously increasing the knowledge base of both migratory and resident birds in these regions. The strategic position of the Sierra Nevada and the Darien, being the most northerly points on the South American coast, and given the wide range of habitats that they support, suggests that they could be vital ‘take off’ and ‘landing’ points for migrants crossing the Caribbean sea and arriving from Central America. These regions are also home to over 800 species of birds of which at least 30 are endemic – therefore increasing the case for their protection would also be arguing for the protection of more than 10% of the World’s bird species. Through intensive sampling using mist netting and transects, we intend to answer questions on the importance of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM) and the Darien for Neotropical migrants and initiate the process of defining priority stopover sites for landbird migrants in northern Colombia. Our research activities will be accompanied by education and capactiy building, aimed at raising awareness of migratory birds in key stopover regions and increasing local capacity for long-term monitoring.
For further information on the project please visit the project’s website more
Key findings and achievements
- ‘Conservation hotspots for migratory landbirds in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta’ published – this document draws on three years of field data and a detailed GIS analysis to determine in which watersheds in the SNSM conservation actions can be most effectively deployed to ensure the maintenance of migrant habitats.
- The highest diversity and abundance of migratory species in the SNSM was detected in pre-montane forest and in shade-coffee plantations, however, there were species that preferred both tropical lowland forest and montane forest.
- A comparison of several measures of habitat quality, shows that natural forest is of higher quality than shade-coffee plantations for Gray-cheeked Thrush and Tennessee Warbler on stopover.
- Species stopping over in the Sierra Nevada vary considerably between fall and spring spring migration. For example, Veery and Yellow-green Vireo stopover in high numbers during fall migration, while Gray-cheeked Thrush and Red-eyed Vireo are most abundant during spring migration.
- Recaptures of Gray-cheeked Thrush, Veery and Tennessee Warbler have revealed high rates of fat deposition, confirming the use of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as a stopover site by these species.
- During fall migration, recaptured Veery accumulated the energy necessary to fly around 2000 km towards their wintering grounds in southern Brazil in less than 10 days. These initial findings suggest lowland forest in the Sierra Nevada is of critical importance to this species.
- 46 species of Neotropical migratory landbirds recorded in the SNSM and a growing database with more than 10,000 captures and observations of migrant and resident birds.
- The most abundant migratory species during migration in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are Blackburnian Warbler, Tenneessee Warbler, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Veery, Swainsons Thrush, Yellow-green Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo
- Observations of over 140,000 migratory birds uploaded to eBird
- 30 individuals trained in bird banding techniques including 4 students from the University of Magdalena and education activities carried out with the Guachaca Secondary Rural School.
- Over a million migrants recorded annually in the Darién during 2014 and 2015, primarily raptors and swallows during fall migration. As a result the Sapzurro watchsite ranks within the top 10 sites for raptor migration globally.
- Migratory bird education curriculum launched in 2011 and implemented in three schools involving over 120 children
- Through collaborations with Keith Hobson of Environment Canada, our knowledge of stopovers in northern Colombia is being augmented further through the use of stable isotope analysis to determine the origin (the breeding grounds) of birds passing through our study sites.
Documents to Download
New! Bayly, N.J., Gómez, C., Hobson, K. & Rosenberg, K. (2016) Prioritizing tropical habitats for long-distance migratory songbirds – an assessment of habitat quality at a stopover site in Colombia. Avian Conservation and Ecology 11(2): 5. PDF
New! Gómez, C., Gómez-Bahamón, V., Cárdenas-Ortiz, L. & Bayly, N.J. (2015) Distribution of Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds along a South American elevation gradient during spring migration. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 127: 72-86.
Gómez, C., Bayly, N.J. & Rosenberg, K.V. (2014) Fall stopover strategies of Catharus thrushes in northern South America. Auk 131(4):702-717 PDF
Bayly, N.J., Cárdenas-Ortiz, L., Rubio, M. & Gómez, C. (2014) Migration of raptors, swallows and other diurnal migratory birds through the Darién of Colombia. Ornitología Neotropical 25: 63-71. PDF
Bayly, N.J., Gómez, C. & Hobson, K..A. (2013) Energy reserves stored by migrating Gray-cheeked Thrushes at a spring stopover site in northern Colombia are sufficient for a long distance flight to North America. Ibis 155: 271-283 Abstract
Gómez, C., Bayly, N.J. & Rosenberg, K.V. (2013) Seasonal variation in stopover site use – the case of Catharus thrushes and Vireos in northern Colombia. Journal of Ornithology 154: 107-117 DOI 10.1007/s10336-012-0876-5
Bayly, N.J., Gómez, C., Hobson, K.A., Gonzalez, A.M. & Rosenberg, K.V. (2012) Fall migration of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens) in northern Colombia: determining the energetic importance of a stopover site. The Auk 219(3): 449-459. PDF
González-Prieto, A.M., Hobson, K.A., Bayly, N.J. & Gómez, C. (2011) Geographic origins and timing of fall migration of Veery in northern Colombia. Condor 113 (4): 860 – 868. PDF
Gómez, C., N. J. Bayly, A. M. Gonzalez, E. Abril, C. Arango, J. I. Giraldo, L. M. Sanchez-Clavijo, J. E. Boero, L. Cardenas, R. Espinosa, K. Hobson, A. E. Jahn, R. Johnston, D. Levey, A. Monroy & L. G. Naranjo (2011). Avances en la investigación sobre aves migratorias Nearticas Neotropicales en Colombia y retos para el futuro: trabajos del III Congreso de Ornitologia Colombiana 2010. Ornitologia Colombiana 11: 3 – 13. PDF
- Bayly, N. J., C. Gómez & L. C. Cárdenas (2013) Darién migration monitoring – autumn 2012. Proyecto Cruzando el Caribe. SELVA: Investigación para la conservación en el Neotropico, Bogotá. Informe Técnico No. CEC09. PDF
- Bayly, N.J., Paez, A., Gómez, C., Mora, C. 2012. Conservation hotspots for migratory landbirds in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Project Crossing the Caribbean. SELVA: Investigación para la conservación en el Neotropico, Bogotá. Technical Report No. CEC07 PDF
- Bayly, N. J., C. Gómez & L. C. Cárdenas (2011) Darién – Migration monitoring during 2011 in the Tacarcuna Natural Reserve. Project Crossing the Caribbean. SELVA: Investigación para la conservación en el Neotropico, Bogotá. Informe Técnico No. CEC06. PDF
- Gómez, C. & Bayly, N.J. (2011) La migración de aves en la Reserva El Dorado, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Proyecto Cruzando el Caribe. SELVA: Investigación para la Conservación en el Neotropico, Bogotá. Informe técnico No. CEC05. PDF
- Gómez, C., N. J. Bayly & L. C. Cardenas. (2011). Cruzando el Caribe: Identificando sitios críticos de parada para las aves migratorias Neotropicales en el Norte de Colombia. Darién – primera migración de primavera en la Reserva Natural de la Sociedad Civil Tacarcuna. Un Proyecto de SELVA: Investigación para la conservación en el Neotropico, Bogotá. Informe Técnico No. CEC04. PDF
- Gómez, C. & Bayly, N.J. (2010) Cruzando el Caribe: Identificación de sitios de parada críticos para aves migratorias Neotropicales en el norte de Colombia. SELVA: Investigación para la conservación en el Neotrópico, Bogota. Informe técnico del primer año No. CEC03. PDF
- Gómez, C. & Bayly, N.J. (2010) Las Aves de Quebrada Valencia. SELVA: Investigación para la conservación en el Neotrópico, Bogotá. Informe técnico No. CEC02. PDF
- Bayly, N.J. & Gómez, C. (2010) Las aves de la Hacienda La Victoria. SELVA: Investigación para la Conservación en el Neotrópico, Bogotá. Reporte técnico No. CEC01. PDF
Maps (Conservation hotspots for migratory landbirds in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta)
Please note that the following maps with their accompanying methodology are in Spanish only.
- Map 1 – Priority altitudinal gradient for migratory landbirds in the SNSM and the distribution of protected areas PDF
- Map 2 – Natural forests within and outside the priority altitudinal gradient for migratory landbirds in the SNSM PDF
- Map 3: Model of human impact in the priority altitudinal gradient for migratory landbirds in the SNSM PDF
- Map 4: Model of human impact in the natural forests within the priority altitudinal gradient for migratory landbirds in the SNSM PDF
- Map 5: Loss of forest cover between 1991 and 2010 in the priority altitudinal gradient for migratory landbirds in the SNSM PDF
- Map 6: Priority level for each watershed in the SNSM for the conservation of migratory landbirds PDF
- Mapa 7: Conservation hotspots for migratory landbirds in the SNSM PDF
Rufford Small Grants Foundation: http://www.ruffordsmallgrants.org/rsg/
Environment Canada: http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=FD9B0E51-1
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/netcommunity/Page.aspx?pid=1478
Idea Wild http://www.ideawild.org/
We are currently seeking funds to continue this project for at least a further three years. If you would like to support this work please contact
Project director – Nick Bayly
Assistant director – Camila Gómez
Research assistants – Laura Cardenas, Hernan Arias, Jeyson Sanabria, Carlos Villa de Leon, Jose Vergara, Valentina Gómez