May 11, 2024 #ChileDiverse

Migratory Bird Day: "We are one of the few countries in the world that have a national framework for their conservation".

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This Saturday, May 11, marks the international day of these species, natural indicators of the health of ecosystems. Our country was the first in Latin America to develop a national strategy for their conservation.

Chile is home to 528 bird species, which represents 5% of the world's bird species. Of these, 12 are endemic: nine in continental Chile and three in the Juan Fernández Archipelago. Despite not being a country particularly recognized for its avifauna diversity, many of the birds that inhabit it only exist in our territory.

"Imagine that in such a large and diverse country, with environmental, social and economic challenges, we have managed to position bird conservation as a priority aspect of the national environmental agenda. We are one of the few countries in the world that have a national framework for bird conservation," says Javiera Ferreyra, director of Audubon Americas for Chile, a U.S.-based nature conservation organization.

Recognized species such as the emblematic Siete colores, the Loica, the Bandurria, the Carpintero, the Picaflor de Juan Fernández, among many others, are examples of birds that our country hosts throughout the year. There are also birds that find in Chile a key destination for their survival, such as the Straight-billed Curlew, which travels nearly 15,000 km just to reach Chiloé, because only there it finds the food it needs. "The great responsibility and role we have as a country to ensure more than 50% of the world's population of this species is not minor. For example, just one of the more than 20 sites in the Chiloé archipelago, a small bay, can hold 9,000 individuals of the Straight-billed Curlew," says Ferreyra.

Sentinel species: sensors of climate change

Avifauna is an indicator of ecosystem health and is a natural sensor of climate change. As sentinel species, birds not only help to monitor complex natural systems, but also to detect early threats affecting these ecosystems.

Birds also play an important role in human well-being. For example, two thirds of the woody flora from central-southern Chile to Cape Horn is dispersed by birds. In coastal environments, birds nesting in colonies play a very important role in the cycling of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which enriches ecosystems in biodiversity.

Within the Chilean territory, a great variety of avian fauna can be found.

"Birds are umbrella species, which means that if we focus our efforts on their conservation we will be directly or indirectly protecting all those natural, cultural, social and economic values that healthy bird habitats provide, something indispensable to address the triple environmental crisis: climate, biodiversity loss and pollution," says Ferreyra.

However, of all the species that inhabit the country, 115 (22%) are nationally or globally threatened and near threatened. This situation puts urgency to programs and policies to conserve and protect the birds of Chile. Therefore, our country today prioritizes the care and protection of birds through various projects in which the public and private sectors collaborate. 

National Bird Conservation Strategy in Chile

This year, 2024, marked the second anniversary of the official launch of the National Bird Conservation Strategy in Chile (ENCAChile), in which 25 institutions are working to ensure its financing and implementation. It was the first in Latin America, followed by Colombia and Mexico.

The Strategy aims to guide actions to control, mitigate and/or eradicate threats to Chile's birds and their habitats, as well as to generate the necessary conditions for their conservation. "This is the framework that allows us to address the main threats to birds in our country and the world. It is worth noting that we are talking about the world and not just Chile, as this country is a key place worldwide to ensure viable populations of migratory shorebirds and seabirds, and also for the conservation of 41% of the birds of the temperate forests of South America, which are only found here," says Ferreyra.

The National Bird Conservation Strategy was a pioneer in the region.

Among the achievements two years after the implementation of the strategy are the creation of a national bird monitoring program, the identification and prioritization of sites of importance for marine and coastal birds, reports with observations and suggestions for the sustainable development of wind energy in Chile, a market analysis of bird tourism in Chile, and an action plan for the conservation of shorebirds in Chile, among many others .

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