Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
offshorebirder

Possible extinctions from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean

7 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I have been too sad the past few days to post about this.   But Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria may have wiped out some endangered species.  With storm surges submerging hiding places and winds stripping trees bare, small birds have no options for refuge - both during the storm and for weeks or months afterwards.


I have been hearing horror stories about "no vegetation left at all" on Barbuda after Irma.  Hard to fathom how Barbuda Warblers could survive - if not the storm, then to evade predators for weeks or months with no hiding or resting places.  Not to mention drastically reduced available nesting habitat.


The island of Dominica lost a lot of forest - they have never been hit with a storm of Maria's magnitude.  Species at risk of extinction on Dominica include:  Imperial Parrot and Red-necked Parrot, which occur nowhere else.  Endemics found on other islands that were affected by one or both storms include: Blue-headed Hummingbird, Plumbeous Warbler, Forest Thrush, Red-necked Parrot, and Brown Trembler.  


Bahama Woodstars are an endemic hummingbird that lives only in the Bahamas - and Hurricane Irene stripped all flowers and many leaves from plants.  Going forward, I suspect plants will be spending precious resources on staying alive / foliage rather than regrowing flowers.  


Much of the Kirtland's Warbler population that breeds in Michigan, USA were already on the wintering grounds in the southern Bahamas.  Same for Wayne's Black-throated Green Warblers, a subspecies that has a perilously low breeding population in a few coastal swamps in North Carolina and South Carolina.  


Puerto Rico learned some hard lessons from Hurricane Hugo in 1989 - that storm killed half the world population of Puerto Rican Parrot.  They now have colonies established in multiple areas - not just El Yunque National Forest - with the help of artificial nest boxes and a captive breeding population.  


Adelaide's Warbler is endemic to Puerto Rico but I hope they survive in enough numbers for the population to rebound.


Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds in Puerto Rico do not do well at all in tropical storms - and their population has already been brought very low by the invase species Shiny Cowbirds.   


Though American Flamingos will not be exterminated by 2017 hurricanes, I have heard tragic accounts and have seen horrendous photos of thousands of dead flamingoes in Cuba's Keys (small islands along Cuba's north shore).  American Flamingos in the Turks and Cacos and Bahamas were also pummeled.


And not only birds are at risk of extinction - but also endemic island populations of lizards, insects, etc.   Here are a few research papers on the subject of hurricanes on island endemics:


Spiller, D.A., J.B. Losos, and T.W. Schoener. 1998. Impact of a Catastrophic Hurricane on Island Populations, *Science *31 Jul 1998:Vol. 281, Issue 5377, pp. 695-697


Schoener, T.W., D.A. Spiller and J.B. Losos. 2001. Natural restoration of the species-area relation for a lizard after a hurricane. Science 294: 1525-1528.


Schoener, T.W., D.A. Spiller and J.B. Losos. 2003. Variable ecological effects of hurricanes: The importance of seasonal timing for survival of lizards on Bahamian islands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101:177-181


Spiller, D.A. and T.W. Schoener. 2007. Alteration of island food-web dynamics following major disturbance by hurricanes. Ecology 88:37-41.

 

 

-- I compiled some of this info from the BIRDCHAT email discussion group / Listserv.

Edited by offshorebirder
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@offshorebirder  I really hadn't given it this much thought and thank you for making me even sadder about what's been happening on this islands :unsure:  Really, I do appreciate this post. I've been so overwhelmed with the destruction. I used to live in St. Maarten (many moons ago) and was horrified to see what's happened there. Had the chance to visit Dominica (as well as many other islands) and adored that jungly beautiful island- pulling delicious fruit right off the trees and eating it. I worry for all these places, both for the wildlife and people. Thanks again for reminding us about the perils for birds, etc that climate change is posing.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was thinking about this too, my wife lived on Dominica for a while, and we managed to see, very poorly, a couple of Imperial Parrots.  It's amazing to see the damage, hopefully things can recover quickly without too many losses.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

I've been terribly upset about this too. Those photos of the dead Flamingos on Cayos Coco and Guillermo, Cuba, were horribly distressing, especially since we were just there a few months ago and saw them in all their glory.

 

american_flamingos_2135cfx.jpg

 

A fund has been set up to benefit BirdsCaribbean which is an organization protecting birds in that area. I've donated...don't watch the video unless you want to see these beautiful birds dead and dying :(

 

https://www.razoo.com/story/Birdscaribbean-Hurricane-Relief

 

Edited by janzin
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@lmonmm and @Zubbie15 - the sad thing about Dominica is that their main tourism and economic driver was the preserved forest habitat and wildlife - rather than sandy beaches (which they largely lack) like their neighboring islands.   

 

@janzin - thanks very much for the donation link.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@offshorebirder I hope  it's not that bad!

 

I suspect plants will be spending precious resources on staying alive / foliage rather than regrowing flowers.

 

Contrary to that, often the strategy is too produce as much seed as quick as possible before dying. So instead of not flowering, they might flower as abundant as possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some good news - a survey team found 8 Barbuda Warblers on a survey on September 22:

 

http://www.birdscaribbean.org/2017/09/good-news-conservationists-excited-to-find-surviving-barbuda-warblers-on-devastated-island/

 

 

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


© 2006 - 2018 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.