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 Haiti. 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. Locally important endemic species include Bahama Yellowthroat, Bahama Swallow, Bahama Woodstar, the endangered Bahama Oriole restricted to Andros Island (only few hundred remain), and the Inagua Woodstar—a recently split species from the Bahama Woodstar—restricted to Great Inagua and Little Inagua islands.
Audubon has been working in the Bahamas since the 1950s and has helped bring the American Flamingo back from the brink of extinction by hiring the first wardens for the country to manage the flocks, delivering the science that helped create the first-ever Land and Sea Park globally in the Exuma’s, and developing science that supported the establishment of legislation to protect birds across the country.
Today Audubon continues to support science and conservation action across The Bahamas with the Bahamas National Trust and other conservation organizations. Our focus revolves around three areas:
- Using cutting-edge science, 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.
- We will improve community education, appreciation, and engagement with the National Parks System of The Bahamas.
- 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 IBAs.
Bahamas Shorebird Initiative
Over 33 species of shorebirds that breed in the Arctic, Canada, and along the Atlantic coast of the United States 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, 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.
Limited opportunities for income generation often drive local communities to engage in activities that degrade the natural resource base. Ecotourism, specifically the niche bird-watching tourism, is one economic alternative that can raise incomes in communities living close to biodiversity-rich areas, while helping to conserve nature. There are an estimated 48 million bird watchers in the United States, of which more than 17 million are willing to travel for birding activities. In The Bahamas, Audubon has partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank, Bahamas National Trust, and the Ministry of Tourism to develop this niche tourism market in the Bahamas. This pilot project focuses efforts on empowering communities living in or around key protected areas and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas. The project has developed a bird-guide curriculum (including basic and advanced levels) for the Bahamas. We are building local capacity focused on community members and park staff, and are implementing community-education programs that support birds and the environment.