Despite being geographically central to the Atlantic Americas Flyway for migratory birds, the Caribbean is often overlooked or underappreciated when addressing the conservation of North American shorebirds.
We analyzed 211,013 shorebird species observations in the insular Caribbean from 2010-2019, representing 78,794 eBird checklists and cumulative total of 2.1 million shorebirds of 45 species. We conclude that priority areas for shorebird conservation include Humedal Sur de Pinar del Río (Humedal Sur de Los Palacios) in Cuba, and Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic as they each likely support more than 20,000 shorebirds annually, and they host large abundances of geographic populations for particular taxa. Specifically, the former site hosts >10% of Short-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus griseus griseus/hendersoni), and >1% of Black-bellied Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola cynosurae) and Wilson’s Plovers (Charadrius wilsonia wilsonia), while the latter site supports large numbers of Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus). We also identified at least 15 additional sites that likely cross the 1% population threshold for one or more shorebird taxa. These sites may qualify for special international designations such as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas or as part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network; 11 of the 17 sites we identified do not hold either of these titles.
Data on subspecific or geographic distributions of three species, Snowy Plover (C. nivosus), Black-necked Stilt, and Killdeer (C. vociferous), are insufficient to reveal if the sites with the highest abundances were mostly comprised of Caribbean populations or migrants, but the limited information suggests that they also likely exceed 1% thresholds on several islands.
Based on our results, we recommend more extensive systematic surveys of shorebirds in the Caribbean, including research on turnover rates and movements between islands, as well as assimilation of shorebird survey data not yet included in the eBird portal.