• The San Juan Daily Star

Atlas on breeding birds of Puerto Rico published


The Puerto Rico Breeding Bird Atlas includes the contributions of 344 volunteer observers from the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society Inc. who made more than 45,500 individual observations of terrestrial and aquatic birds from 2004 to 2009.

By John McPhaul

jpmcphaul@gmail.com


The International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), which is attached to the U.S. Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, published a new atlas on breeding birds in Puerto Rico, which constitutes the first effort of its kind in the Caribbean and the neotropics of the American hemisphere.


Dr. William Gould, director of the IITF Caribbean Climate Change Center and co-author of the publication, said The Puerto Rico Breeding Bird Atlas provides information on the breeding season and geographic distribution of 130 species of breeding birds in Puerto Rico, its satellite islands and associated cays.


The atlas, authored by scientists Jessica Castro Prieto, Joseph M. Wunderle Jr., José Salguero Faría, Sandra Soto Bayó, Johann D. Crespo Zapata and William A. Gould, had the contribution of 344 volunteer observers from the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society Inc. who made more than 45,500 individual observations of terrestrial and aquatic birds in the period from 2004 to 2009.


“These species of birds are part of the richness of Puerto Rico’s biodiversity,” Gould said. “The more knowledge we have about their distribution and behavior, the more able we are to maintain breeding bird populations in light of a changing climate and threats to vulnerable habitats.”


“The results of the volunteer effort … can serve as the basis for future comparisons of bird responses to changes in land use and climate in Puerto Rico,” Wunderle Jr. said in the preface.


The 325-page atlas contains four chapters in which the authors introduce the birds of Puerto Rico, their characteristics, previous studies, objectives and the study methodology. In addition, they address the issues of changes to habitat and avifauna, the implications of climate change for breeding birds in Puerto Rico, and in a postscript they discuss the need to study the impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria to learn more about it how the storms influenced the distribution and reproduction of birds.


The description of each of the 130 bird species was detailed in 244 pages illustrated with photos, maps, tables and graphs. Also included were 17 pages of bibliographic references, an appendix with the names of all the volunteers who worked in the effort and another with the list of bird species in the atlas, including 73 native residents, 26 exotic, 16 endemic, 13 subspecies endemic and two native and migratory birds.


Among the birds described are some better known names such as the ladybird, the nightingale, the Puerto Rican woodpecker, the forest guaraguao and the white-winged sandpiper.


The atlas can be obtained free of charge in electronic form at the link: FS.USDA.Gov/treesearch or in print form at the IITF library, which is located at the South Botanical Garden, 1201 Ceiba Street, Río Piedras.