The Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology (WFVZ) has been conducting inventories of eggs, nests, and birds in the tropics since the 1960s in places such as Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Malaysia, Mexico, and Samoa.
In the late 1990s the WFVZ realized that Guatemala possessed some of the least well-known avifauna of any countries in the world. Guatemala is a small about the size of New York State, but its geographical location allows it to have a large diversity of regions and vegetation types, and consequently, to possess a rich avifauna. The countryside ranges from sea level to nearly 14,000 feet at Volcano Tajumulco. This country has temperatures from more than 100 degrees Farenheit in the Motagua River Valley to only 16 degrees F in the higher mountains.
Because of the paucity of information available on Guatemalan birds, Mr. Corado -- the Collections Manager of the WFVZ (a native Guatemalan) -- initiated discussions with directors of the natural resource agencies in Guatemala in 2000, including CONAP (Consejo de Areas Protegidas), the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (USAC), and the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (MHN). What resulted was an agreement signed in March 2001 for the WFVZ to conduct a 6-year project on the “Oology of Guatemala”, designed to document the distribution of breeding bird species in the country, including the timing of them breeding and the characteristics of their eggs and nests. A second part of the agreement between the WFVZ and the Guatemalan government was for the WFVZ to provide the MHN with supplies to better curate their own bird collection, as well as to provide training to MHN staff and USAC faculty and students (who would assist or work at the MHN) in curatorial techniques such as specimen preparation, since the MHN lacked trained avian science staff to curate their collection.
Fieldwork on the "Oology of Guatemala" project officially ended in 2009, and the WFVZ presented a seminar on the project to universities, museums, members and other citizens in June 2009 In addition, in 2006 a second phase of the project began, designed to monitor birds by point counts in the thorn-scrub region of central Guatemala, along the largest river in the country, the Rio Motagua. This thorn-scrub region is severely endangered due to the rarity of the vegetation type and the animals associated with it, and to threats including forest burning and conversion for intensive agriculture, overgrazing by cattle, drought, and severe pollution of the river by industrial/agricultural run-off, and raw sewage.
The WFVZ's monitoring project was designed to collect important baseline data documenting possible changes in breeding and wintering neotropical migrant bird numbers and species diversity. Monitoring also included the collection of eggs to assess the impact of water contaminants on the reproduction of thorn-scrub bird species. We hope that this information can be useful to improve not only native wildlife and plant health in the region in the long term, but also the health of the poor Guatemalans who depend on Rio Motagua for their food and water needs.
The monitoring project continued until January 2012, and we are currently analyzing the results. Our plans for the future in Guatemala include: focusing our monitoring efforts on declining species and continuing to document changes in the avifauna of the Montagua region.
If you are interested in supporting our field project, please feel free to donate or to contact us to ask how you can help! You can also support the Guatemala Project by purchasing hand-made Guatemalan items from the WFVZ Gift Store!
Be sure to check the most recent issues of our Newsletter for updates on the project!
Archived Pictures of the Guatemala Bird Project
December 2005 & January 2006
Sites of El Progreso & Guatemala
Sites of El Progreso | Guatemala
Sites of Chinautla | Coban | El Progreso | Jalapa | Peten
Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (USAC)