Audubon has a history of conservation work in The Bahamas, having been engaged with collaborative efforts in the country since the 1950s. To date, Audubon has helped bring the American Flamingo back from the brink of extinction by hiring the first ever wardens for the country to manage the flocks, delivered the science that helped create the first ever Land and Sea Park globally in the Exumas, and helped develop science that supported the establishment of legislation to protect birds across the country, including for the most recent designation of Joulter Cays National Park.
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas extends 760 miles and covers 95,462 square miles between the southeastern shores of the United States and the northern shores of Cuba. Included in this vast area are more than 700 islands and 2,500 cays. The distinct environment of The Bahamas gives rise to numerous irreplaceable habitats and species, including vast expanses of Caribbean pine forest that support migrating songbirds, extensive tidal flats and mangroves that support shorebirds and waterbirds, and isolated cays that support important breeding seabird populations. Of the 300 bird species documented for The Bahamas, more than 50 percent are migrants from the U.S and Canada, including Audubon’s priority species Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher. Locally important endemic species include Bahama Yellowthroat, Bahama Swallow, Bahama Woodstar, the critically endangered Bahama Oriole restricted to Andros Island (only a few hundred remain), and the Inagua Woodstar, a recently split species from the Bahama Woodstar that is restricted to Great Inagua and Little Inagua islands.
Today, Audubon continues to support science and conservation action across The Bahamas with the Bahamas National Trust, the BirdLife International partner in The Bahamas, and other conservation organizations. Our focus evolves around four areas:
- Science and Monitoring: Through the use of new and emerging technologies, we will continue to deliver state of the art science to measure conservation success and monitor bird populations.
- Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas: With the support of our science work, we will identify, expand and help effectively manage a network of National Parks and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas across The Bahamas that support Audubon’s priority bird species and other wildlife. Current focal islands identified through our science include: Andros Island, Berry Islands, Long Island, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Inagua.
- Community Engagement: We will improve community education, appreciation and engagement with the National Parks System of The Bahamas.
- Capacity Building: National Audubon and Bahamas National Trust will work together to build local conservation capacity that elevates bird conservation and supports more effective, targeted actions and improved management of National Parks and other priority areas.
Bahamas Shorebird Initiative
Over thirty-three species of shorebirds that breed along the Atlantic coast of the United States, Canada and the Artic complete a perilous migratory journey each fall to reach remote islands of The Bahamas where they spend up to ten months each year. Recently Audubon’s science teams, alongside Bahamas National Trust and other organizations, have identified the most critical shorebird sites across the country including sites that support half of the Atlantic Piping Plover population. Together, we are now working to protect critical coastal habitats, like the 92,000 acre Joulter Cays National Park, that wintering plovers and other declining shorebird species depend on. In addition, Audubon is working to improve scientific knowledge about the survival of these birds in the Bahamas and how they connect to breeding areas across the Atlantic Flyway through our Citizen Science Plover Tracking Project. We need to safeguard these near-pristine beaches and mangroves from unbridled development, the impacts of climate change, and other major threats, before it is too late.
Bahamas Oriole Conservation Project
The Bahama Oriole is restricted to a single group of islands in The Bahamas—the Andros Island complex. The oriole was formerly also found on the Abaco Island complex, however, it went extinct on those islands in the 1990s. Only one formal study of this species has ever been conducted by which estimated only 141-254 individuals remained. Alongside, Bahamas National Trust, University of Maryland and the American Bird Conservancy, Audubon is helping build the science around the species so that we can identify how to best grow the population and prevent it from going extinct.