饟厸 Pumilo

Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Expedition to Colombia鈥檚 Alto Sin煤 Finds Dozens of Bird Species New to C贸rdoba Department

A聽recent expedition to Alto Sin煤 in the Department of C贸rdoba, Colombia, led by Sociedad Ornitol贸gica de C贸rdoba, Asociaci贸n Calidris (BirdLife in Colombia), and the National Natural Parks found approximately 30 bird species not previously documented in the department. The expedition team, which included researchers, local naturalists, and biologists, was looking for the Sinu Parakeet, one […]

A聽recent expedition to Alto Sin煤 in the Department of C贸rdoba, Colombia, led by Sociedad Ornitol贸gica de C贸rdoba, Asociaci贸n Calidris (BirdLife in Colombia), and the National Natural Parks found approximately 30 bird species not previously documented in the department. The expedition team, which included researchers, local naturalists, and biologists, was looking for the Sinu Parakeet, one of the species on Global Wildlife Conservation’s top 25 most wanted lost species list. The parakeet hasn’t had a confirmed sighting since 1949.

The expedition was the first comprehensive ornithological survey for the Alto Sin煤. Until 2016, researchers had not been able to survey species there due to Colombia’s decades-long civil conflict, which still poses a risk to conservationists and recently led to the tragic death of bird conservationist Gonzalo Cardona Molina.

The expedition team suspected that the Critically Endangered Sinu Parakeet may have been living in dense tropical forest in the Murrucuc煤 Mountains, where for years it could not be documented and studied. Although the parakeet was not found during this effort, the number of other rare and endangered birds the team saw has given them hope that the parakeet may be living in the northern sector of the Western Andes.

鈥淚t’s all good news for me,鈥 says Diego Calder贸n-Franco, a biologist with COLOMBIA Birding, who led the expedition. 鈥淥rnithologically, this has been one of the most prolific expeditions in Colombia in recent years, in an area that hasn’t been well-documented, and it showed that there is still much to be discovered there. And the local people on the expedition were some of the best naturalists I have ever met. With their help, we could still find the Sinu Parakeet.鈥

Sharpbill, copyright Diego Calderon Franco, Colombia Birding, from the surfbirds galleries

The expedition focused on searching the tropical forests of the northern slope of the Murrucuc煤 Mountains at elevations between 1,470 and 3,200 feet above sea level. During the course of the 11-day expedition, the team documented 238 bird species. As a result, there are now 589 recorded bird species for C贸rdoba in the eBird database, an online database that birders around the world use to record confirmed sightings. Before the expedition, there were 541 in eBird for C贸rdoba.

鈥淭his expedition has not been easy, but I am pleased it was possible thanks to a good mix of biologists, conservationists, amateur birders, and the local communities, who joined forces to produce the most complete exploration in the recent history of our department,鈥 says Hugo Alejandro Herrera Gomez, President of Sociedad Ornitol贸gica de C贸rdoba. 鈥淔or me, as an avid amateur birder and nature-lover, this has been no doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It gives me faith that we still have time to save these amazing places and habitats.鈥

One of the unexpected species the expedition found was a Sharpbill, a tiny, dark-spotted white-and-olive bird. This rare species has only been documented a handful of times in Colombia, with sightings in Anor铆 and the San Lucas Mountains in the Central Andes, and in the Pacific Choc贸. The confirmed sighting expanded the known range of the Sharpbill. It had never been found in C贸rdoba before.

The expedition team also found six other bird species that had not been documented in C贸rdoba in over 70 years. One of them was the Sapayoa. The small olive-and-yellowish bird had only been documented in C贸rdoba once before, in 1949. The Choc贸 Screech-Owl and the Slate-throated Gnatcatcher were two other species documented decades after their last confirmed sightings in the department. Each has only been seen in C贸rdoba once before, in the 1960s.

The discoveries adding to the list of new species for C贸rdoba didn’t stop with birds. The team found a Chocoan Lancehead, a gold-and-brown snake that has never been documented in the department before, though researchers expected to find it in the Murrucuc煤, since the mountains connect the Choc贸 region with the Magdalena and Nech铆 areas where the snake is also found.

Among the rare plants the team documented was a type of cocoa tree (Theobroma cf. cirmolinae) endemic to Colombia. It’s only the third time this beautiful tree, with tiny yellow flowers growing directly out of its trunk, has been documented in the country.

Researchers are still working to identify some species they managed to photograph on the expedition. It’s possible that as they review records and scientific literature, the number of new species for C贸rdoba could change. The expedition’s researchers are collaborating with other experts to determine if a small squirrel with brownish fur and white-tipped ears that they photographed is a new species to science.

鈥淗aving completed this expedition is very satisfying,鈥 says Luis Fernando Castillo, Director of Asociaci贸n Calidris. 鈥淔or three years, we have been thinking about this moment. First, we postponed the expedition due to the security situation in the area, and then we were forced to delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, the work is done and the results are exciting.鈥

Researchers have spent three years organizing the search for the Sinu Parakeet, and they are not giving up yet. They hope to search nearby mountain ranges in the future.

The expedition for the Sinu Parakeet was sponsored by American Bird Conservancy, Global Wildlife Conservation, Urr谩 SA ESP, Vortex Colombia, COLOMBIA Birding, Caf茅 Cordoba, and Urab谩 Nature Tours.

Carlos Vidal, Parques Nacionales Naturales
鈥淭he Paramillo National Natural Park highlights the key work that has been carried by a joint effort between local and international institutions to make a scientific expedition to the highlands of the San Jer贸nimo Mountains in the Murrucuc煤 Massif. The results are outstanding, as several of the species found are novel records for C贸rdoba and, without any doubt, I think this expedition was vital to broaden the general biological knowledge we have on the Andean sector in the south of C贸rdoba. We hope this type of activities keep happening over time, benefiting the biodiversity and the ecosystem services we found in South C贸rdoba.

Lina Valencia, Colombia Conservation Officer, Global Wildlife Conservation
鈥淭he whereabouts of the Sinu Parakeet may still be a mystery, but this expedition has not only expanded the known ranges of other species but has given us hope that it’s not too late for the Sinu Parakeet. More collaborative expeditions like this one, where multiple organizations and a diverse group of individuals, from scientists to local community members to amateur birders, are needed around the world so we can better understand and protect the wild.鈥

John C. Mittermeier, Director of Threatened Species Outreach at American Bird Conservancy
鈥淭his expedition is a fantastic example of how searches for lost species, such as the Sinu Parakeet, can lead to a wide range of exciting discoveries and benefits for conservation. Even though the team did not find the Sinu Parakeet on this particular expedition, they have added a huge amount to our knowledge of the biodiversity of this poorly studied part of Colombia, and helped to build relationships with the local community that can provide a foundation for future conservation efforts.鈥

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