Shorebird Recovery: Flight Connections With Brazil

Arctic-nesting shorebirds spend the majority of each year in U.S. southern states, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. For the dedicated people and organizations committed to recovering depleted shorebird populations, understanding and addressing the threats shorebirds encounter throughout migration is critical.

Many shorebird populations have been declining, or are perilously low already, including Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Red Knot, Whimbrel, and Semipalmated Sandpiper. Creating strategies to alleviate major threats is necessary to stabilize and fortify collapsing populations. Threats as universal as habitat loss, or as specific as unregulated hunting on individual Caribbean islands, all need to be addressed under a coordinated campaign to turn shorebird population declines around. This “full life-cycle” conservation approach has inspired the development of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI). Now in its third year, AFSI is showing results through the implementation of projects from northern Canada to the Southern Cone of South America.

Of all of the countries in South America, Brazil sits solidly like a big anchor on the Atlantic Flyway. Brazil’s coast is one of the longest in the world, stretching more than 4,655 miles, or one quarter of the entire coast of South America. The diverse wetland and grassland habitats of Brazil are vital for shorebirds. Unfortunately, threats to shorebirds in Brazil are creating mounting stewardship challenges, rivaling the level of threats to shorebirds in the United States.

Brazil has recently created a National Shorebird Conservation Action Plan, one of the first for any South American country. The goals of this plan include strategies to address the biggest threats in order to maintain and protect the country’s 38 species of shorebirds. The Brazilian document highlights the Brazilian local breeders as well as the long-distance migrants that leave Brazil annually to nest in North America. This plan aligns well with the goals and conservation strategies of AFSI, opening the door of opportunity for collaborative habitat management projects, establishing International Shorebird Surveys (ISS) to monitor changes in populations, and cross-border data sharing with all flyway partners. All with the target outcome of helping to stabilize shorebird numbers in the flyway.

Staff from Manomet’s Habitats for Shorebirds project and the Director of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) Executive Office will travel to Brazil at the end of February to meet with government officials and conduct two shorebird ecology, management, and conservation workshops. Our Brazilian partners who have joined us in this effort include the non-profit organizations SAVE Brasil (Association for the Conservation of Brazilian Birds), Aquasis (Association for Research and Preservation of Aquatic Ecosystems), and the government agency, National Center for Bird Conservation (CEMAVE).

The engagement with government authorities allows AFSI partners to highlight the importance of the country for the successful implementation of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative. The workshops will provide an opportunity to find and engage land managers who then will apply new knowledge and management protocols to benefit shorebirds on their National Park lands. Establishing mutually beneficial approaches to management will provide the long-term stability of shorebird populations, shared across so many borders and cultures in the entire flyway. Working together will ensure a brighter future for shorebirds.