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Monday, August 23, 2010

Why there aren't more birders in Mexico?

So you are a young kid in Mexico. You like birds. You've got some cool birds flying around your house. So you go to your local library to look for a book about the birds in your yard. What do you find? Probably nothing.

On my recent trip to Mexico I was doing some research in the big city library in Villahermosa, the biggest city in Tabasco. I looked on the shelf for bird books. All they had was one book...on penguins! In their reference section there were three old Time Life books on birds, but nothing that would help the aspiring kid birder identify the birds in his neighborhood!

In the smaller city library in Nacajuca, we were looking for Chontal Mayan texts and I thought I'd take a look at the bird section there.

Here's what I found.

Not a single bird book. Hardly any animal books at all, and those old black books in the middle of the section jump straight from amphibians (anfibios) to mammals (mamiferos).

Hard to get excited about birds if you can't even find a book about them. On the other hand, maybe this is a huge opportunity for the American Birding Association's Birders' Exchange Program. Do we need to get a Spanish language bird field guide into every public library in Latin America?

Is that a vision you can get excited about? Future generations of Latin American birders--and the birds they will save--are at stake!


Nate said...

Amen! My local Audubon Society just sent down a crate of Steve Howell's Birds of Mexico and N Central America and the new Garrigues Birds of Costa Rica to a community in Nicaragua where the state science museum has been doing some Swainson's Warbler work over the years.

Hopefully it'll lead to something! it's a huge void just waiting to be filled.

Birding is Fun! said...

Let's do it! I am totally game for this type of project.

Canicas said...

Why aren’t there more birders in Mexico? It's a great question, and something that I think is starting to change for the positive. Breeding Bird Surveys are starting in border states. There are more Christmas Bird Counts in Mexico each year, with increasing Mexican participation. I know of some great developing citizen science efforts in the Meso-American corridor where landowners are monitoring birds on their land, and there are some fantastic birding clubs popping up around the country. aVerAves (the Spanish version of eBird) is slowly being promoted. I am very hopeful that it is a trend that will continue.

As far as getting Spanish language field guides into every school library in Mexico, while I don’t necessarily agree that libraries are the best outlet (for example, is there value of putting a book in a library if no one knows how to use it and it just sits on the shelf? Would a better model be to get books into the hands of people doing education and outreach about birds and bird conservation?), I wholeheartedly agree that we need to get more books to Mexico. Anything we can do to get more books, and appropriate books, into libraries, schools, or anywhere people use them is something that I hope we all support.

The organization I work for (the Sonoran Joint Venture) has been distributing copies of the Kaufman Guía de Campo a las Aves de Norteamerica, along with Howell and Webb and other resources, for a number of years. We’ve probably given out upwards of 500 of the Kaufman guides (in partnership with Black Swamp Bird Observatory and other partners) at this point--to biologists, educators, newly trained bird guides, and others with an interest in birds, conservation, and/or natural history. It is not the ideal book for all of Mexico because it doesn’t include many of the tropical species, but it is an excellent resource (especially for beginning birders) regardless of where in the country you live. Most importantly, it is available in Spanish.

Organizations like Birders Exchange (BEX) and Optics for the Tropics (OFTT) have also done am amazing job of getting materials to Latin America and the Caribbean, but they need the support of birders in the U.S. and elsewhere. So let’s rally the troops! While getting a book in every library in Mexico might not be the best or the easiest strategy, getting books to everyone who wants and needs them is, and anything we can do to make that happen will support bird conservation efforts in the future.

I guess that is a really long winded way of saying count me in for any sort of project that gets more books and materials to Mexico (or anywhere in Latin America)!


More info on the BSBO effort:

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