The aquatic avifauna of Tortuguero: the findings of GVI Costa Rica, 2007-2009

Richard Bull1, *Stephanny Arroyo Arce1, David Aneurin Jones1 and Rebeca Chaverri1

Global Vision International Costa Rica, Apartado Postal 78-7209, Cariari de Pococí, Limón, Costa Rica. Email:

Presented to the XIII Mesoamerican Congress of Biology and Conservation, Belize 2009. Tortuguero, Costa Rica, is world famous for its nesting green turtles, but also for the incredible setting and diversity. The area was brought to the attention of the birding world primarily in the work of Styles and Skutch, A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica from 1989. Costa Rica is rich in avifauna originating throughout the Americas due to its location on the volcanic isthmus connecting the continents, making it an ideal place for research. The Área de Conservación Tortuguero (ACTo) region has many of the attributes which makes Costa Rica so rich in avifauna – the tropical climate and range of habitats: coastal, shore and estuarine, fresh water, lowland swamp forest, secondary growth and canopy, cleared areas and some areas of increased elevation. Birds as a study group are appealing to naturalists, enthusiasts and the public alike for their looks and relative conspicuousness, and are of particular interest to science for their often specialized anatomies and behaviors. Their ability to relocate large distances quickly, often makes them good indicator species. Tortuguero also receives many migrant species, particularly from North America, whose seasonal presence or absence can give us further indications of larger global issues, such as climate change. GVI Costa Rica are managing and coordinating a long-term study of 30 species of waterbirds, accumulating almost 7,000 records to date, and present here the results of this ongoing investigation, the intensity and longevity of which will bring increased knowledge of the study species and the greater utilization of the region. That the aquatic avifauna, with their interaction and dependency on so many of the area’s ecosystems can give early indications of the health of the region in all its diversity is a truly valuable commodity, and the continued monitoring through time is essential for greater understanding and better informed management.

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