CAYAYA BIRDING - Birdwatching in Guatemala

Newletter #10
30 November 2015

Owl research in Guatemala supported by CAYAYA BIRDING

Unspotted Saw-whet Owl
Los búhos neotropicales, with a contribution on owls of Guatemala by Knut Eisermann & Claudia Avendaño.

Owls belong to the least known birds in the Neotropics. CAYAYA BIRDING supported a study by PROEVAL RAXMU Bird Monitoring Program, who contributed a compilation of current data on the diversity, distribution, abundance, and conservation of owls in Guatemala: Eisermann, K. & C. Avendaño (2015) Los búhos de Guatemala. Pp. 381-434 in P. L. Enríquez (ed.) Los búhos neotropicales: diversidad y conservación. ECOSUR, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México.

Abstract.-This is a compilation of recent data on the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of owls (Strigiformes) in Guatemala, based on an extensive literature review and numerous unpublished observations. According to modern taxonomy (König et al. 2008), a total of 20 species of owls has been recorded in Guatemala; one species of the genus Tyto, Psiloscops (1 species), Megascops (4), Bubo (1), Pulsatrix (1), Strix (3), Lophostrix (1), Glaucidium (3), Aegolius (1), Athene (1), and Asio (3). Of the 20 species, 17 are resident in Guatemala. Nesting has been reported for 15 species, and it is assumed for two species. Three species are rare or accidental non-breeding visitors to Guatemala during the northern winter. The highlands are Guatemala's region with the highest species richness in owls, where 17 species have been recorded. In the Pacific and Atlantic slope lowlands 12 species have been recorded in each. Data on the presence and relative abundance of owls from 1989 to 2012 (and some from 2013) were analyzed from 102 sites. New site records were established for rarely reported species such as Bearded Screech-Owl (Megascops barbarus), Stygian Owl (Asio stygius), and Unspotted Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius ridgwayi). According to the mean of an abundance index value from 102 sites, the most abundant species in Guatemala are (in descendent order of abundance): Mexican Wood Owl (Strix squamulata), Ridgway's Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium ridgwayi), Guatemalan Screech-Owl (Megascops guatemalae), Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium cobanense), Black-and-white Owl (Strix nigrolineata), and Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). The most abundant species in the highlands were: Mexican Wood Owl, Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl, Fulvous Owl (Strix fulvescens), Great Horned Owl, Ridgway's PygmyOwl, Unspotted Saw-whet Owl, and Whiskered Screech-Owl (Megascops trichopsis). In the Atlantic slope lowlands, the species with the highest abundance index were Mexican Wood Owl, Guatemalan Screech-Owl, Ridgway's Pygmy-Owl, Black-and-white Owl, and Central American Pygmy-Owl. In the Pacific slope lowlands the most abundant species were Mexican Wood Owl, Ridgway's Pygmy-Owl, and Pacific Screech-Owl (Megascops cooperi). Guatemala has an adequate legal framework to protect owl species (32% of the country is legally protected), but conservation is not efficient, causing serious threats to owl populations. Of 17 owl species regularly occurring in Guatemala, 11 are forest specialists and six are habitat generalists. In a vulnerability assessment applying IUCN Red List criteria on a national level, one species has been evaluated as Endangered (EN), 10 as Vulnerable (VU), four as Near Threatened (NT), two as Least Concern (LC), and three species were not evaluated for being vagrants. Habitat alteration through agriculture, mining, and oil drilling has been identified as main threat. Of the remaining forests, 14% (5 500 km2) were lost from 2000 to 2010, and the pressure on natural habitat will further increase. About 36 785 km2 (34% of Guatemala) are used or planned for exploration and exploitation by the mining and oil drilling industry. This area includes about 6 960 km2 or 20% of the country's remaining forests. In addition, owls in Guatemala are threatened by direct persecution because of the common belief that these birds attract death and destruction. The network of 21 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Guatemala includes populations of all owl species. Two species have been recorded in more than 10 IBAs, 12 species in 5-9 IBAs, five in 2-4 IBAs, and one species in only one IBA. We consider the increase of the education level among the Guatemalan society as a main goal in order to protect habitat within the IBAs, and thus owl populations. A higher level of education would help to slow down population growth, increase environmental awareness, and consequently diminish pressure on natural areas.

Christmas Bird Counts

Christmas Bird Count Atitlan Volcano
Participants of the 9th Christmas Bird Count at Atitlán volcano, 15 December 2014.

This years CBC at Atitlán volcano will take place on 14 December 2015. Take a look at the results of our 2014 Christmas Bird Count at Atitlán Volcano.

Upcoming scheduled birding tours

Quetzal Tours, Guatemala

QUETZAL TOURS (Fort Collins, CO) offers a relaxed 9-day birding tour in Guatemala, 5-13 March 2016, in collaboration with Cayaya Birding. Read testimonials of previous tours and request information at Quetzal Tours' website.

Bartmeise Reisen

BARTMEISE REISEN (Germany) offers a 16-day birding tour in Guatemala focused on regional endemics, 3-18 April 2016, in collaboration with Cayaya Birding. Read reports (in German) of previous tours and request information at BARTMEISE REISEN website.

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