Date: 9/26/17 10:10 am
From: Derb Carter <derbc...>
Subject: hurricane devastation
I have been trying to learn more about the impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria on already imperiled birds on the affected Caribbean islands. First, our thoughts should be with the humans devastated by these storms. But the toll on birds has been significant and I fear even possibly final for some birds. Many of the islands are small and essentially all the trees blown down or all the leaves blown off. Normally verdant forests on hillsides are brown with no green vegetation. Individual birds that may have survived will have little to sustain them. Communication infrastructure has been devastated and information is hard to come by, and only now beginning to trickle out.

The endangered Barbuda Warbler is only found on Barbuda. A preliminary survey of the small island from which all humans have been evacuated could not locate any warblers. Dominica is only 30 miles north to south and 10 miles wide but has two endemic parrots, the spectacular Imperial Parrot (pop. ~ 200) and Red-necked Parrot (pop. ~ 1200). I think Dominica is the only country that features a parrot on its national flag, and was working hard to develop an ecotourism economy based on its preserved forests. I have yet to find any information on the fate of the parrots.

Reports are the Puerto Rican Parrots in the captive breeding facility have survived, taken care of during the storm by a young woman. I have heard no reports of the wild populations. Fortunately efforts had established three parrot populations, increasing resiliency to hurricanes but the entire island took a major hit and the largest El Yunque population took the brunt of the storm. El Yunque is also the stronghold of the endemic Elfin Woods Warbler.

In April, a Carolina Bird Club trip to Cuba observed thousands of American Flamingoes feeding in the salt lagoons at Cayo Coco on the north shore of Cuba. This area took a direct hit from Irma. I have seen video from Cayo Coco of hundreds of dead and a few crippled flamingoes. This area is also the only site for Bahama Mockingbird on Cuba and one small barrier island is the only site for a small population of the Cuban subspecies of Thick-billed Vireo.

I am trying to determine the best organization(s) working to assist the local organizations that are working to do what can be done to help recover the birds. If I find one to recommend, I will post. Of course, any assistance to help the people recover will help, especially in a country like Dominica which has a population of 70,000 and no mother country to turn to.

Derb Carter
Chapel Hill, NC

 
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