Newly Protected Land in Guatemala Will Serve As a Winter Haven for the Wood Thrush

ABC helped purchase two parcels of land in Guatemala’s Conservation Coast BirdScape, a richly forested region that provides habitat for dozens of declining migratory species.
American Bird Conservancy is working to protect habitat for the Wood Thrush (pictured) across its full annual life cycle. Photo by Larry Master.

Thanks to funding support from American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Guatemalan conservation organization FUNDAECO recently purchased more than 1,000 acres of rainforest habitat in Guatemala's Cerro San Gil Watershed Protection Area. The land — made up of two separate 566-acre parcels — will be actively managed by FUNDAECO for the conservation of bird species including Neotropical migrants like the Wood Thrush and Cerulean Warbler

The landscape of the newly acquired property. Photo by Andrés Anchondo

“The acquisition of these two properties means the protection of some of the last primary forest on Guatemala's Caribbean coast, which is a stopover or wintering home to many of our beloved Neotropical migratory birds,” said Andrés Anchondo, ABC's Associate Director for Impact Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. “These properties will be added to FUNDAECO's network of protected areas, currently at 43,200 acres, providing prime habitat for migratory and resident birds in perpetuity.”

Guatemala's Caribbean coast is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the Western Hemisphere. It is home to more than 400 bird species, nearly 100 of which are Neotropical migrants — birds that breed in the U.S. and Canada and spend North America's colder months in Latin America and the Caribbean. The area serves as a key stopover or nonbreeding site for many familiar migratory species, including the Baltimore Oriole, Black-and-white Warbler, and Gray Catbird

ABC has recognized the area's importance to migratory birds by designating it the Conservation Coast BirdScape, a priority site for bird habitat conservation in Central America. Since 2012, ABC has partnered with FUNDAECO to secure hundreds of acres of habitat for conservation in this lushly forested and diverse region.

This work is critically important, because the Conservation Coast is under increasing pressure from human-caused threats. Between 1991 and 2010, more than 360,000 acres of natural forests in the region disappeared due to unsustainable land clearing — an area of forest cover about 2.5 times the size of Redwood National Park in California. Today, just one-third of the original forest cover is intact. To help protect the forest that remains, FUNDAECO ultimately plans to buy all of the remaining intact forest within the Cerro San Gil Reserve Watershed Protection Area. 

One species in particular that will benefit from this plan is the Wood Thrush, which has experienced steep population declines in recent years. Biologists know that the reserve is an especially important overwintering spot for the migrant, which might spend up to 8 months out of the year in the area. 

ABC has shown evidence of how powerful effective habitat conservation can be for this species. In the Appalachian Mountains, Wood Thrush numbers have stopped falling and are even increasing in habitat managed by the ABC-led Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture. The new land acquired in Guatemala helps ensure that Wood Thrushes benefiting from conservation action in the Appalachian Mountains will also find a safe place to land when they journey south.  

“We have to protect and restore the habitat of migratory birds across their full annual life cycle in North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean,” Anchondo said, “so that future generations get to enjoy migration and migratory birds as we know them today.”

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).


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