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Río Cruces Wetland Center takes on coordination of the Neotropical Waterbird Census for Los Rios District

Starting January 2018, Río Cruces Wetland Center will be in charge of the coordination of Neotropical Waterbird Census (NWC) for Los Ríos District. The Waterbird Censuses are a long-standing citizen-science project that began in Europe in the 1960s as a reaction to the alarming degradation and destruction of wetlands and how that impacts waterbirds. Wetlands International (formerly known as the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, IWRB) organizes them and now they have become a worldwide initiative (where Chile is part of the Neotropical region), mandated and endorsed by the Ramsar Convention, in which volunteers visit several sites to count waterbirds.

Over the years, the NWC has congregated amateurs and professionals alike, serving as a platform to inspire the public in the love and care of nature using birds as the flagship. These censuses bring people closer to the places where they are carried out as people gain deeper appreciation and knowledge of the places the visit year after year. Besides all these benefits, the NWC provide useful data to monitor the distribution and population level of the species considered, information that can be used to guide conservation actions.

These censuses have a long tradition in Chile as well. They first started on the winter of 1990 under the initiative of Prof. Roberto Schlatter of Universidad Austral de Chile. He gathered the first volunteers and established the first sites to be part of the NWC. The censuses were conducted only in winter, until 1993, when the summer version was included. Nowadays, the NWC are conducted both in summer (February) and winter (July). He was the national coordinator until 1995, when Prof. Luis Espinosa of Union de Ornitólogos de Chile (UNORCH, now AvesChile) assumed that role. Prof. Espinosa maintained and expanded the censuses, getting more people involved and reporting the results on UNORCH’s scientific bulletin (Boletín Chileno de Ornitología). He was in charge of the censuses until 2010. Currently the censuses are coordinated at the national level by Heraldo Norambuena of Red de Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile (ROC). The data is now reported to eBird and can be accessed online.

Río Cruces Wetland Center will join this effort at Los Ríos District level this austral summer hoping to bring its expertise and passion about the conservation of birds and their environments. Jorge Tomasevic, Research Coordinator of Río Cruces Wetland Center, explains:

“We are very excited to join the long tradition of counting wetland birds on Los Ríos District with the help and enthusiasm of the volunteers that have done it in the past, and hopefully, we can get more people onboard. We see this not only as a scientific opportunity, but also as a very powerful educational tool, where people value their environment by experiencing it! We are truly grateful of Inao Vasquez, Biologist, and who has organized this effort in the Region since 2014, who kindly invited us to take the lead on the ”, he said.

The first NWC coordinated by the Río Cruces Wetland Center will take place this February. Stay tuned if you want to be part of it!