A Wounaan Bird Count will show the world the biodiversity conservation the Wounaan people have practiced for generations.
- Chief Rito Ismare
The next Wounaan Bird Count is
January 5, 2021
135 different species.
1,298 total birds seen or heard.
38 volunteers, 20.25 hours, 30.60 kilometers.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, the count will be entirely completed by Wounaan birders in Puerto Lara
The second official Wounaan Christmas Bird Count took place in Puerto Lara, Darien on January 5, 2020. Congratulations to the thirty-eight Wounaan, Panamanian, and US volunteers who identified 135 species of birds and counted 1,298 individual birds! They spent the day counting Puerto Lara's birds along the road to the community, the trail to the Mirador, a path through the community, and a trail along a nearby stream. This year also incorporated a new route—one group spent the day counting birds from a boat on the estuary, leading to a more representative count of local seabirds. Overall, the teams counted 451 more birds than last year!
Highlights of the day were: a blue dacnis, a black-and-white owl, a laughing falcon, black oropendolas, blue cotingas, wood storks, keel-billed toucans, and whooping motmots. However, the most exciting moment was spotting the spectacular golden-green woodpecker—the first time one had been sighted in the area!
Today, Puerto Lara's conservation is on the map of this century-old citizen science tradition. One of six Christmas Bird Counts to take place in Panama, it is the only one in Darién Province, so far. And this year, Native Future and the United Nations Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program supported ten Wounaan birders from the communities of Rio Hondo and Rio Platanares to travel to and participate in the Christmas Bird Count alongside Puerto Lara’s birding groups, the Tangaras Azules and the Oropendolas Negras. They traveled six hours by boat to Puerto Lara, where they took part in one day of pre-count training followed by the Christmas Bird Count and post-count data compilation.
The Wounaan bird group, Oropendolas Negras, began observing and counting birdlife in July 2017. They have identified more than 268 species in Puerto Lara and have carried out four internationally recognized counts thus far - a practice Christmas Bird Count in 2018, a count for World Migratory Bird Day, and official National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts in 2019 and 2020. They are looking forward to the next Wounaan Christmas Bird Count!
The Oropendolas Negras
The Oropéndolas Negras (Black Oropendolas) is the first ever team of Wounaan bird watchers. On January 5, 2018 they carried out the first bird count in Wounaan territory.
In July 2017, ten volunteers from Puerto Lara joined Wounaan cultural experts and Wounaan National Congress leaders to learn about birdwatching from Native Future volunteers Janice Jorgensen and Robert Mesta. By the end of the three days, the community of Puerto Lara asked for more and the volunteers formed themselves into the birdwatching group, the Oropendolas Negras. Since then, on a monthly basis, they are out with Darien bird specialist, Ismael (Nando) Quiroz identifying the birds of their community by sight and sound.
Participating Wounaan are also weavers, carvers and members of their local ecotourism associations. They look forward to hosting fellow bird enthusiasts from around the world!
Wounaan, young and old, are participating in Native Future sponsored trainings to identify and count the avian biodiversity of their community, Puerto Lara. They are learning their birds in Spanish, English and in their native language Wounaan meu.
In partnership with University of Georgia ecological anthropologist Dr. Julia Velasquez Runk and Wounaan Cultural Experts, the Wounaan Bird Count is developing a Puerto Lara bird list and educational materials that will teach their children the cultural significance of their birdlife in their native language.
Panama is habitat for more than 1,000 different species of birds; at least 600 of them are found in the Darien, such as the Oropendola Negra. Already, Panama has lost 40% of its forest cover.
More than 50% of Panama's remaining tropical forests are found in indigenous territory and protected areas. Their stewardship is often the only reason much of Panama's forests are still standing.
The Wounaan community of Puerto Lara shares territory with the ecologically important and threatened Filo Tallo de Canglon Hydrological Reserve. A vast network of mangrove and Darien tropical forest wetlands that is rapidly being lost to development, Puerto Lara at its western most edge is one of its best hopes for protection.
If we want to protect rainforest biodiversity, let's invest in the people who are already conserving them.