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Scanning the Skies in Costa Rica

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 8 Apr 2010

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The latest phase of research in Costa Rica has seen Frontier’s volunteers scanning the skies for the abundant bird species that inhabit its south Pacific coast.

In the past, volunteers were trying to identify bird species through listening alone, documenting species composition in the area only by the sound of their call. Last month, volunteers were in for a more visual treat, as they collected bird species data by both sight and sound.

Walking transects near the new campsite that has been established adjacent on the beautiful Osa Peninsula, volunteers developed their bird identification skills and produced some rewarding results. Over 70 different birds were identified to the species level, providing valuable information about species abundance and distribution in the area.

Like many of the world’s rainforest species, one of the primary threats to the birds that inhabit the Osa Peninsula is habitat loss and fragmentation. The south Pacific coastal region of Costa Rica is home to over 400 bird species and about a dozen of these species are endemic, that is to say found nowhere else in the world. Four of these regional endemics inhabit the lush tropical forests of the Osa Peninsula, and the work of our volunteers is vital in helping understand the distribution and ecology of these particularly vulnerable species.

Volunteers during this phase were lucky enough to spot and identify the Black-cheeked Ant-tanagar (Habia atrimaxillaris), one of the regional endemics found only in this part of Costa Rica, and a species classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Its dusky red breast, harsh chatter and noisy contact calls were enough to alert our keen-eyed volunteers to its presence.

In addition, Frontier’s volunteers were able to directly observe one of Central America’s healthiest populations of Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), watch Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl) defend their flower feeding territories, and see the blazing colours of the Fiery-billed Aracari (Pteroglossus frantzii), among many other species.

The recent hard work and effort of the Frontier team in Costa Rica will hopefully help to conserve the regions diverse avian species by setting up a long term bird monitoring programme.

Charlotte de Verenne

Read more about our Costa Rica Primates, Turtles and Big Cat Conservation