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Wounaan Bird Count 2022: Updates from the Field

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

This has been an important year for Wounaan birdwatching. The community of Puerto Lara hosted the 5th annual Christmas Bird Count on January 5th, 2022. The CBC represents an opportunity for Wounaan communities like Puerto Lara to promote sustainable ecotourism and to document the health of their bird populations. This year, 713 individual birds were spotted, representing 117 different species.

May 14, 2022, the second internationally-recognized bird count–Global Big Day–was carried out by Wounaan birdwatchers in the communities of Rio Hondo and Platanares. Three teams counted 124 species of birds, and 1,470 individual birds. The highlights? Four new birds added to their list including a Crested Eagle! As noted on E-bird, “Always rare and infrequently seen; any day with a Crested Eagle deserves a gold star.”

Twenty-four Wounaan birdwatching guides in Rio Hondo and Platanares are training to identify birds by their scientific names as well as their English and Spanish common names and in their native language, Wounaan meu. Some guides have started to use the birdwatching app Merlin to identify birds by their calls. Increased use of technology and photography will allow for a more complete assessment of the bird populations in this important stopover for migratory birds.

With their communities, Wounaan birders are also preparing to receive and guide ecotourists. The community of Platanares operates a small birdwatching hotel, with a restaurant to provide tourists three meals a day. One guide-in-training says that ecotourism represents an opportunity to provide "an improved quality of life" for their children, and for the community, while also protecting the biodiversity of their forests. Through trail improvements and reforestation, these communities are preparing for the upcoming tourist season and demonstrating the value of native stewardship.

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