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Migratory Birds and Forest Conservation in Western Cuba

Principal Investigator: Alina Perez (Recipient of the Association of Field Ornithologists’ 2001 Bergstrom Award.)

The unique location of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula Biosphere Reserve is one of the reasons for its importance to neotropical migratory land birds (and migrating butterflies!).  The peninsula is located at the extreme southwestern tip of Cuba and seems to function as a “funnel” for migratory birds moving to and from the Yucatan Peninsula. Its pristine habitats are important for millions of migrant songbirds that feed and rest in its forests twice a year during spring and fall migration.  Located half way between Florida and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Guanahacabibes is a “rest stop” or “stepping stone” of favorable habitat for many birds on their long, migratory voyage.

Alina Perez’s work has shown that at least 22 species of migratory warblers rest and forage in large numbers within the lush vegetation of Guanahacabibes during migration. Guanahacabibes Peninsula is of great importance to the conservation of the many N. American migrants that choose this eastern migration route.  Irrespective of the political situation in Cuba, the fact remains that many birds we enjoy seeing in our local wood lots or backyards depend on the conservation of forested habitat in Cuba during their biannual migration.

Alina’s research includes continuous monitoring of resident and migratory birds, and investigating the effects of various land management practices on their occurrence.  She also studies the behavior of birds at Guanahacabibes during migration, and helps educate the local communities to appreciate and protect their natural resources.  There are other projects planned to study the effects of various management strategies and sustainable forestry practices.  Also there is a need to develop a sustainable ecotourism program that would allow visitors to enjoy the reserve and would give the local residents an incentive to protect it.

Binoculars and other equipment are greatly needed for the success of these conservation projects at Guanahacabibes.  You can help make this possible by making a donation to Optics for the Tropics.

If you are part of a bird club or other group that would like to consider helping the Guanahacabibes Reserve through a “sister” relationship,  please contact the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory 979-480-0999 or ihartzler@gcbo.org.

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