Our region is vital for birds

Mesoamerica and the Western Caribbean are home to more than 1,200 bird species, including 340 Neotropical migratory species. The region’s forests, shade-grown crops, mangroves and Caribbean islands are vital for diverse resident birds and 5 billion migratory birds that breed in the United States and Canada but spend 6 to 8 months a year in Latin America.

For example, the 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica, which cover 12 million hectares from Mexico to Colombia, house one-third of the entire population of Wood Thrush, an iconic migratory species in decline, during the boreal winter. Mesoamerica and Cuba encompass 206 Important Bird Areas (IBA) with critically endangered species such as the Zapata Rail and the Great Green Macaw. These birds not only contribute to the region being the third most important global biodiversity hotspot, but also maintain ecosystem health, food production, ecotourism and culture in Latin America and beyond.

Birds are in crisis

Bird populations around the world are declining, with 3 billion birds lost in North America alone since 1970. Habitat destruction, climate change, pesticide use, overhunting, and wildlife trafficking all contribute to this crisis.

On a regional scale, forests are being lost to illegal cattle ranching, aggravated by drought, fires and intense hurricanes induced by climate change. If migratory birds lose their non-breeding refuges, the consequences will spread throughout the hemisphere. Addressing threats such as habitat loss in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean is crucial to saving birds across the Americas and avoiding ecological collapse.

How do we help?

1. We conserve avian stronghold

We safeguard essential bird habitats by strengthening protections, improving law enforcement, recovering illegally owned land, supporting land rights and titling for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and combating wildfires in protected areas. Our marine programs are protecting mangroves and other coastal habitats vital to shorebirds.

2. We support bird-friendly livelihoods

We partner with rural and Indigenous communities to co-develop sustainable livelihoods that benefit people and birds. Much of the remaining habitat for birds in Mesoamerica is managed by local and Indigenous communities, and reliable sources of income can increase the resilience of communities and the integrity of habitat.

3. We restore bird habitat

Estamos restaurando hábitats perdidos y degradados de aves en toda la región mediante la regeneración natural y la restauración activa en colaboración con las comunidades locales e indígenas. Nuestros esfuerzos en la Reserva de la Biosfera Maya (RBM) de Guatemala han permitido la restauración de más de 3,500 hectáreas, con beneficios documentados para más de 70 especies de aves forestales. Aprovechamos también la financiación del carbono para llevar la restauración a escala en todos nuestros paisajes.

4. Identificamos causas del declive

We are restoring lost and degraded bird habitats across our region through natural regeneration and active restoration in collaboration with local and Indigenous communities. Our efforts in the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) of Guatemala have promoted restoration of more than 3,500 hectares, with documented benefits for more than 70 forest bird species. We also leverage carbon finance to bring restoration to scale across our landscapes.

5. We reduce threats

We fight illegal trafficking of birds by generating information on criminal networks, developing multinational partnerships to coordinate information exchange, and building the capacity of governments and civil society to fight trafficking.

Our focus

Building partnerships across the hemisphere

We partner with international bird research and conservation organizations, NGOs and local universities, national and Indigenous governments and community organizations, and regional strategic partners such as the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) and the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD) to implement strategies that protect birds and their habitats. We leverage our unrivaled on-the-ground presence in critical bird areas and our long-standing, trusted relationships with regional partners.

Supporting Indigenous land and resource rights

Through decades on the ground in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, we have supported rural and Indigenous communities to manage natural resources and protect their lands, providing them with financial, technical and law enforcement support, and supporting efforts by communities to achieve legal recognition of land tenure. A core tenet of our strategy is to work with local communities to develop solutions that benefit birds and people, and the long-standing cultural importance of birds to Indigenous Mesoamerican communities means they are often enthusiastic partners in bird conservation.

Improving local capacity for bird monitoring and conservation

We work to expand and maintain local bird monitoring, research and conservation capacity in our focal landscapes. Our country programs have trained dozens of community bird guides, many of whom have become certified as bird tour guides and banders. Through partnerships with international organizations and national universities, we support members of local communities to improve their skills and earn income by guiding and participating in bird research. We also support local researchers working in our focal landscapes to publish and communicate their findings.

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WCS, the "W" logo, WE STAND FOR WILDLIFE, I STAND FOR WILDLIFE, and STAND FOR WILDLIFE are service marks of Wildlife Conservation Society.

Contact Information
Address: 2300 Southern Boulevard Bronx, New York 10460 | (718) 220-5100