(Patrick O’Donnell, 18 March 2017)
Want to know a good recipe for tons of different bird species? Mix high mountains with abundant water, add warm stable temperatures, throw in a pinch of dry areas, and blend it in a place where different evolutionary lineages meet. The end result is southern Central America and in terms of birds, we get a bonanza of literally hundreds of bird species in a pretty small place.
Whether volcanic, tectonic, or both, the mountains are a vital part of the species equation. The slopes catch or prevent water from falling and thus produce conditions for different habitats and continue with habitat generation by lifting land to different elevations with accompanying cooler temperatures. Microhabitats also come out of this situation for an extra dose of biodiversity, including transition zones that have their own suites of adapted birds. One of those transition areas is my favorite habitat in Costa Rica because it blends the richness of lowland avifauna with some aspects of the highlands along with a local set of restricted bird species. Although the prospect of rare and little known birds is always a draw, the slightly cooler temperatures and dripping mossy vegetation of foothill forests likewise make them an attractive place to visit, and in Costa Rica, another bonus comes into play for birding foothill forests. While steep slopes and heavy rains make these interesting transition areas tough to access in many other parts of the globe, the rare combination of good roads and protected areas makes them one of the easier places to access when visiting Costa Rica.
(University of Ill College of Agricult., Consumer and Environm. Sci, January 3, 2017)
The future of the red-capped manakin and other tropical birds in Panama looks bleak. A research project spanning more than three decades and simulating another five decades analyzes how changes in rainfall will affect bird populations. The results show that for 19 of the 20 species included in the study, there may be significantly fewer birds if conditions become dryer.
The study took place in Panama’s Soberania National Park. It is approximately 100 square miles of protected rainforest in central Panama and home to well over 500 bird species. In the region, about 90 percent of the annual rainfall occurs in the wet season, typically from late April to early January. The key result of the study is that with longer dry seasons and more intense seasonal drought, there is an overall negative effect on bird populations. With climate change, there may be longer dry seasons. This is not good news for the birds.